“14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.”
(I Corinthians 15:14-19, ESV)
•An Easter Sermon
•The Historical Resurrection
• The question that needs answered
•Christ lived, died, or rose again
•Or he didn’t
• There is no debate over whether Christ lived and died
• Few seriously argue that He actually existed
• Few seriously doubt that He lived, and died
•In our own time we find many argue against the Gospels
• Yet scholars agree with their historical reliability
• They were either eye witnesses themselves, or talked to eye witnesses
• If this is true, then we should be able to see the historical evidence in the Gospels themselves
• What is the evidence?
• We have telltale signs
• Consider the names in the Gospels
• If the Gospels were written in, let’s say, Egypt we would expect Egyptian Jewish Names
• Yet we find the names match those in Judea
“And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction. 2 The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; 3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4 Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.”
(Matthew 6:1-4, ESV)
Historical Evidence (2)
•So it is not only the names of people, but also the names of towns
•Third is the flora
• Zacchaeus was a wee little man
• A wee little man was he
• He climbed up on a ______________ Tree
• Not only this but fig trees (Matthew 21), and the description of grass for the feeding of the 5000 (John 6:10)
Historical Evidence (3)
•The Fourth point is the crucifixion
• “There was darkness over the land” (Matthew 27:45, Mark 15:33, Luke 23:44)
• There were two years when the Passover began on Friday
• 30 A.D. and 33 A.D.
• In 33 A.D. there was a solar eclipse which occurred in the right time frame in the right place
• This information is given because the Gospels are often claimed to be bias or unreliable
• Yet, we find the information to be very reliable
Historical Evidence (4)
•Examples, the apocryphal gospels
• The Gospel of Thomas…Mary…James etc.
• They lack any of this kind of information
• When it comes to place names, there is usually only one name mentioned…Jerusalem
• This is what we’d expect from someone writing without all the information
• The same is true with the name Jesus
• They rarely use the name, “Jesus” opting instead for “Savior” or “Christ”
• You’re more likely to forget names as time goes on
• So when it comes to the Gospel we find them to be historically reliable
Historical Evidence (5)
•Some will say, “Of course Christians write such things!”
• All because Christians wrote these accounts it doesn’t make them false
• They wanted to get the facts straight
• Still, most don’t recognize we do have evidence outside of Christian sources
• Josephus (37-100 AD), Thallus (5-60 AD), Tacitus (56-117 AD), Mar Bar-Serapion (70-?AD), Phlegon (80-140 AD)
• They all speak of Jesus in some way and when combined give us the following information
Historical Evidence (6)
• Jesus lived in Judea
•He was a virtuous man
• He had wondrous power
• Could Predict the future
• Was “wise king” of the Jews
• Accused by Jewish leaders
• Crucified by Pilate during the reign of Tiberius
• Darkness and an Earthquake occurred
• Reportedly rose after death
• Superstition spread about Him
Taking Away Skepticism
• It is at the crucifixion when we cease agreeing
• Jesus died, and that is the end of the story
• What about the resurrection?
• They come up with interesting theories
•They say, “The disciples made it all up!”
• Our Response: The women were the first to come to the tomb, not the men
• Why make themselves look lost, even ignorant?
• Likewise, a woman’s testimony meant little, if anything, in the first century, why include it?
Taking Away Skepticism (2)
•The term “Resurrection” meant something different
• No first century Jew had considered the resurrection of a single person
• Enoch/Elijah were translations (they went to heaven without dying)
• Lazarus was a resuscitation (He was brought back to life, but then died again)
• Christ was a true resurrection (He died, and was raised into immortality)
• His disciples were juts as shocked as everyone!
•What if He wasn’t raised?
• The problem? The tomb was empty
“11 While they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place. 12 And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers 13 and said, “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ 14 And if this comes to the governor's ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” 15 So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story has been spread among the Jews to this day.”
(Matthew 28:11-15, ESV)
Taking Away Skepticism (3)
•Clearly the body was stolen!
• First: The disciples would never have thought of this kind of resurrection on their own
• Second: If true, it seems self-defeating
• Third: This is exactly the kind of argument you’d expect from…a skeptic
• Fourth: The tomb was empty!
• Mass Hysteria!
• Problem: Again, they never would have imagined a person, especially the Christ, rising from the dead in this way
• Christ dying on the cross was nothing they were expecting
• Likewise there has never been a case of mass hysteria where everyone experienced the exact same thing
Taking Away Skepticism (4)
•Jesus Himself as presented
• One would expect them to make Him appear larger than life
• He would appear in shining dazzling brilliance
• Yet he isn’t described this way at all
• He is even mistaken as a gardener
• The angels appear more dazzling
• If they made it up, why write about Him in this mundane everyday kind of way?
“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day pin accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.”
(I Corinthians 15:3-9, ESV)
Taking Away Skepticism (5)
• Not originally Paul’s
• The language is different than the rest of I Corinthians
• “Peter” is “Cephas”
• All scholars recognize the significance of these verses for their historicity
• “I delivered to you…what I also received”
• Teaching and learning
• He was taught this and then proclaimed the same Gospel to others
• It, again, implies this is a very old teaching
Taking Away Skepticism (6)
• What was he given?
• The Gospel: Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and raised on the third day
• It implies the tomb is empty
•Christ appears to…
• Peter, the twelve, five hundred brothers, James, all of the apostles, and Paul
• Jesus appeared to a great number of his followers
• Paul is reminding them, “If you doubt, go ask!”
Taking Away Skepticism (7)
• The Three Named
• Peter, who denied Jesus, who eventually became the first leader of the Church
• James, who considered Jesus to be insane (See Mark 3), who became the second leader of the Church
• Paul, who was the great persecutor of the Church, who became an Apostle to the Gentiles
• What would cause these men to change their minds?
• Peter would have found another Messiah or Teacher
• James shouldn’t have been affected at all
• Paul was a devout Jew who thought he was doing God’s will through his persecution
• They each experienced the risen Jesus, and that changed them
Taking Away Skepticism (8)
• How Christ fulfills the Old Testament
• How Christ is the “Lamb of God” in the New Testament
• How the Passover Lamb was a prelude to Christ
• That the blood of Christ causes death to Passover us
• This just one example, of so many more, in which the Scriptures foretold the coming of Christ
•With all of these things we have a strong cumulative case for the historical evidence handed down through the Gospels
• We have good reason to have faith in what we believe
• Final Argument: Presence
• We know Christ is risen because of our experiences with Him, and His presence with us
• If the first point dealt with the historical, the second deals with the personal
• He lives in our hearts, he leads us by the hand, He promised to be with us
• We know Jesus is risen, because He is with us!
Personal Experience (2)
“And how do you assess this Jesus?” It seemed like the next logical question—but I wasn’t ready for the response it would evoke.
Templeton’s body language softened. It was as if he suddenly felt relaxed and comfortable in talking about an old and dear friend. His voice, which at times had displayed such a sharp and insistent edge, now took on a melancholy and reflective tone. His guard seemingly down, he spoke in an unhurried pace, almost nostalgically, carefully choosing his words as he talked about Jesus.
“He was,” Templeton began, “the greatest human being who has ever lived. He was a moral genius. His ethical sense was unique. He was the intrinsically wisest person that I’ve ever encountered in my life or in my readings. His commitment was total and led to his own death, much to the detriment of the world. What could one say about him except that this was a form of greatness?”
Personal Experience (3)
I was taken aback. “You sound like you really care about him,” I said.
“Well, yes, he is the most important thing in my life,” came his reply. “I,I,I,” he stuttered, searching for the right word, ‘I know it may sound strange, but I have to say… I adore him!”
“… Everything good I know, everything decent I know, everything pure I know, I learned from Jesus. Yes…yes. And tough! Just look at Jesus. He castigated people. He was angry. People don’t think of him that way, but they don’t read the Bible. He had a righteous anger. He cared for the oppressed and exploited. There’s no question that he had the highest moral standard, the least duplicity, the greatest compassion, of any human being in history. There have been many other wonderful people, but Jesus is Jesus….’
Personal Experience (4)
“Uh…but… no,’ he said slowly, ‘he’s the most…” He stopped, then started again. “In my view,” he declared, “he is the most important human being who has ever existed.”
That’s when Templeton uttered the words I never expected to hear from him. “And if I may put it this way,” he said as his voice began to crack, ‘I…miss…him!”
With that tears flooded his eyes. He turned his head and looked downward, raising his left hand to shield his face from me. His shoulders bobbed as he wept.”
What does this resurrection mean? (1)
• It means God exists
• It means God has done something, but for what purpose?
• “Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” (John 20:17, ESV)
• There are consequences for knowing and being known by Christ
“That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” 23 But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, 24 but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.”
(Romans 4:22-25, ESV)
•What does this resurrection mean? (2)
•The death of Jesus deals with our sins being erased
• However, death would still come for us
• With the resurrection, death has been conquered
• Our justification is complete
•“We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 6:9-11, ESV)
“As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.”
(I Corinthians 15:48-49, ESV)
• Today we celebrate
• Those who have faith, and bear fruit through repentance, will inherit eternal life
• Just as He was raised, so too, we will be raised
• Know the blessings which come from the resurrection of Christ
• Those who are in Christ fall asleep for a time, only to awake into life
• From Friday-Sunday Morning the disciples lost hope
• The darkness passed!
• The light has already begun to be seen, and soon the dawn will be upon us
“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”
(I Corinthians 15:58, ESV)
• Are we most to be pitied?
• Now we can celebrate
• Rejoice because the darkness is scattered!
• Rejoice because we know He has defeated death!
• Rejoice because know that His heart beats!
If any man be devout and love God, let him enjoy this fair and radiant triumphal feast. If any man be a wise servant, let him rejoicing enter into the joy of his Lord. If any have labored long in fasting, let him now receive his recompense. If any have wrought from the first hour, let him today receive his just reward. If any have come at the third hour, let him with thankfulness keep the feast.
If any have arrived at the sixth hour, let him have no misgivings; because he shall in nowise be deprived thereof. If any have delayed until the ninth hour, let him draw near, fearing nothing. If any have tarried even until the eleventh hour, let him, also, be not alarmed at his tardiness; for the Lord, who is jealous of his honor, will accept the last even as the first; he gives rest unto him who comes at the eleventh hour, even as unto him who has wrought from the first hour.
And he shows mercy upon the last, and cares for the first; and to the one he gives, and upon the other he bestows gifts. And he both accepts the deeds, and welcomes the intention, and honors the acts and praises the offering. Wherefore, enter you all into the joy of your Lord; and receive your reward, both the first, and likewise the second. You rich and poor together, hold high festival. You sober and you heedless, honor the day. Rejoice today, both you who have fasted and you who have disregarded the fast. The table is full-laden; feast ye all sumptuously. The calf is fatted; let no one go hungry away.
Enjoy ye all the feast of faith: Receive ye all the riches of loving-kindness. let no one bewail his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed. Let no one weep for his iniquities, for pardon has shown forth from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the Savior’s death has set us free. He that was held prisoner of it has annihilated it. By descending into Hell, He made Hell captive. He embittered it when it tasted of His flesh.
And Isaiah, foretelling this, did cry: Hell, said he, was embittered, when it encountered Thee in the lower regions. It was embittered, for it was abolished. It was embittered, for it was mocked. It was embittered, for it was slain. It was embittered, for it was overthrown. It was embittered, for it was fettered in chains. It took a body, and met God face to face. It took earth, and encountered Heaven. It took that which was seen, and fell upon the unseen.
O Death, where is your sting? O Hell, where is your victory? Christ is risen, and you are overthrown! Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen! Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice. Christ is risen, and life reigns. Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave! For Christ, being risen from the dead, is become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. To Him be glory and dominion unto ages of ages! Amen.
(John Chrystostom Circa 400 A.D.)