How Jesus Rose From the Dead is Important

Title: Easter Message, Part 4, 07, How Jesus rose is important

Text: Luke 24:36-49

Time: April 8th, 2007

Today is Easter Sunday 2007. It’s a strange Easter because there is snow covering the ground and its cold outside. Usually it might rain or it might be windy, but it doesn’t usually snow, and it usually isn’t below freezing, but that’s what it is today. Today we remember and celebrate Jesus rising from the dead. This week I wrote an article for the local paper The Jamestown Post-Journal explaining how important it is to believe in the bodily or physical resurrection of Jesus as opposed to just some kind of spiritual or non-material resurrection. Why did I take the time to write about such a subject? Because it’s Easter time and because a lot of people are confused about the resurrection of Jesus on this point. The latest instance of this kind of confusion came last month when I was watching the Discovery Channel’s airing of the documentary called, “The Lost Tomb of Jesus,” in which the producer was telling the audience that his program doesn’t in any way challenge the Christian belief in the resurrection of Jesus. The television interviewer asked how it couldn’t help but challenge the Christian belief in resurrection, since the point of the documentary is that the bone box of Jesus had allegedly been found, the box that Jesus’ bones had been stored in after his death. How could the bones of Jesus not be seen as a challenge to the Christian belief in the resurrection of Jesus, since if they had found his bones or bone box that would have to mean that he had not risen from the dead and had not ascended into heaven. In response to that question, the documentary film producer answered that Jesus’ resurrection could have been a spiritual not physical resurrection. Or in other words, the spirit of Jesus rose from the dead even though his body didn’t. Well, that answer didn’t satisfy the television interviewer asking the questions and it doesn’t satisfy a real Christian either. The Bible says the Jesus rose from the dead bodily, physically, not just spiritually. It’s wasn’t just his soul that came alive after his death, it was also his body came alive as well. That’s what makes the resurrection of Jesus such a miracle. In the Post-Journal article I wrote that only the resurrection of the complete or whole Jesus could serve as the foundation for the Christian faith. Lots of people have claimed to see a ghost or spirit; that’s not uncommon. But the testimony of the disciples was that they saw Jesus, the complete Jesus, not just his ghost or spirit. We need to make sure we believe and teach others that Jesus rose from the grave bodily not just his soul survived death. Why is this such an important thing? Because it makes all the difference between a truly supernatural miracle from God that the disciples saw and the reported visions of people seeing ghosts or spirits that people claim, which are fairly common. The resurrection of Jesus was a special, unique event that confirms him as Savior, not just a common, typical event that others have experienced. Luke 24:36-49 (read) teaches us to draw the distinction and make note of it. So let me point out three important reasons why we must believe in the full, bodily resurrection of Jesus and not accept that only his soul could have lived. It makes a big difference in the kind of faith we believe and live.

First, The Old Testament prophesied and Jesus promised the bodily resurrection. Luke 24: 44, “He said to them, ‘This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.’” So Jesus appeared to his disciples and showed them that he was alive, not just as a ghost but as a bodily risen man. Remember in another place Thomas doubted so Jesus invited him to touch the wounds in his hands and side? That convinced Thomas that it really was Jesus because he felt the flesh wounds. Jesus rose from the grave bodily not just spiritually. Both body and spirit, or body, mind and spirit. The whole Jesus rose from the dead, that’s the greatness of the miracle. And Jesus had been telling the disciples all along that he’d die and rise from the dead, but they were so unbelieving or un-comprehending of it that they let it pass in one ear and out the other. So Jesus reminds them of the fact that he’d told them about all of this ahead of time and sure enough it was so. But what about the Old Testament prophecies about the bodily resurrection of the Messiah? Can we site any specific passage that speaks of the bodily resurrection of Christ? A famous one is Psalm 16:10, “Because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay.” It’s pointed out in the New Testament that David, the author of this Psalm, died and his body buried; it saw decay. So he must have been speaking of the Messiah to come whose body would rise again never to see or experience the decay of death. And that’s exactly what the disciples saw and report, that Jesus rose from the dead bodily. The producer of the documentary “The Lost Tomb of Jesus” says he found the bone box of Jesus, he says that they buried Jesus’ bones in there for safekeeping. That’s impossible because there were no bones to bury since Jesus rose bodily from the grave and ascended bodily into heaven. There are no lost bones of Jesus, there is no bone box of Jesus because there are no bones to be lost and no bones to be stored in a box. According to the Old Testament the Messiah’s body would not see decay, which means his body would never lay moldering in the grave. Remember the old song that goes, “John Brown’s body lies a moldering in the grave?” Well, that may be true for John Brown but it’s not true for Jesus. Jesus rose physically on Easter morning and that’s what we celebrate here and now. The disciples saw Jesus and he wasn’t a ghost, he was a real person with a body walking around. Yes, he was a new person with a resurrected body, but it was a real body nonetheless. So don’t ever let anybody tell you that Jesus just rose from the dead in spirit but not in body. No.

Second, bodily resurrection is a greater miracle than the survival of the soul. Luke 24:36-39, “While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.’” Jesus appeared to the disciples and at first they thought it might be the ghost of Jesus, but he corrected them and showed him his flesh and invited them to touch and examine him. Then he reminded them that a ghost or apparition or spirit has no flesh as they see he has. Lots of people have claimed to have seen an apparition or ghost. Down the street from here in Lily Dale lots of people over there claim to see ghosts. The whole spiritistic movement – at least in its early days — emphasized the appearing of phantoms or spirits during séances, but nowadays they emphasize “readings” or more mental contact with the spirits. But every once in a while you run into people who have seen visions, ghosts, apparitions, phantasms, etc. Whose to say that spirits don’t materialize at times? But that was not what happened to Jesus. He was not a ghost. That’s what the Bible says, “Touch me and see, a ghost doesn’t have flesh and bones as you see me have,” Jesus said. The bodily resurrection of Jesus is a special, unique, supernatural event that launched the Christian faith. Now I’m not belittling the survival of the soul because when I die, when you die, we want our soul to survive our body’s death and enter into heaven. I’ve been to many funerals and every funeral I’ve gone to they buried a body in the ground, I assume that when I die, when you die, they’ll bury our bodies into the ground as well. I’m also assuming that our souls will fly away to be with God in heaven. If I’ve trusted wholeheartedly in the blood of Jesus, if I’ve trusted in Jesus with my whole heart, my soul is saved. As I depart from this earthly life if somebody sees my soul or spirit, if somebody glimpses me leave this world that’s one thing. I’ve heard reports that some very godly people have seen visions or appearances briefly of departed loved ones after they die. I don’t doubt it; it’s possible. But that’s not what the disciples saw in Jesus. That’s not a big enough miracle. That’s not strong enough to launch the Christian faith. Seeing a fleeting glimpse of a departed loved one isn’t a solid enough foundation to hang one’s hope on. That’s not what the disciples saw in Jesus and that’s not what the Christian faith is based on, not on some fleeting apparition of the departed spirit of Jesus. The Christian faith is based on the bodily resurrection of Jesus, the complete and total conquest of death by Jesus on Easter morning. A great, powerful miracle.

Third, the apostles preached the bodily resurrection Jesus as the gospel. Luke 24: 40-43, “When he has said this, he showed them his hands and feet. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, ‘Do you have anything here to eat?’ They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence.” Jesus went to great lengths to demonstrate to the disciples that it was he that had risen from the dead, not just his ghost. He even went so far as to eat fish in front of them, thus showing that he wasn’t a ghost but a real bodily person. Why did he go to such measures to demonstrate that he rose bodily from the dead? Because he wanted them preaching the gospel of resurrection from the dead, not just the survival of the soul after death. Now Christianity teaches the survival of the soul after death, but that’s not all. It also teaches that at some point in the future we’ll receive back solid bodies but this time they will be glorified bodies not corruptible bodies like we have now. Christianity doesn’t teach that we’ll be floating around forever like ghosts or spirits. It teaches that at some point in the future we’ll receive new bodies, something like what Jesus had when he rose form the dead, incorruptible bodies that can never die or decay. This was the message of the gospel that the apostles set out and preached. Jesus wanted to make sure that they wouldn’t be preaching something far less than the truth. A ghostly rising isn’t the gospel. The physical, bodily resurrection of Jesus is the gospel. And that is exactly what the apostles preached and what the Christian church continues to preach today. We don’t have to hope in ghostly appearances like they do over there at Lily Dale. Those people over there pin their hopes on spirit appearances and spirit voices and spirit communications. Some folks claim to see spirits, others don’t. Some folks claim to hear spirits, others don’t. Some folks claim to feel spirits, others don’t. It’s all so subjective and iffy. I’m sure glad I don’t have to pin my hopes on somebody sometime seeing or hearing a ghost over there. I put my hopes in the risen Jesus and on the eyewitness testimony of the disciples, who saw, touched, and heard the physical appearance of Jesus. It wasn’t Jesus’ ghost or apparition. It was the real Jesus. Aren’t you glad our faith is built on the firm foundation of the risen Christ? Look at how the church started. How could it have started and survived unless those witnesses were reporting truthfully that they saw the risen Christ? The whole Christian church is impossible to explain unless it happened just as they said it did. The only explanation for Christianity today is that Jesus really did rise up from the dead just as the Bible says. There’s no reason to doubt for one minute the foundations of the Christian faith. Only the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ can account for the Christian faith. Only a supernatural miracle of this magnitude can account for Christianity. Let yourself fully believe in Jesus this Easter morning. There is no longer any reason to doubt.

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