The Resurrection

Title: The Resurrection

Text: John 20

Time: April 16th, 2006

This is Easter Sunday 2006, the day we celebrate Jesus rising up from the grave to life. If it were not for the resurrection of Jesus Christ we wouldn’t be here in church on this Easter morning. If it were not for Jesus rising to life again, we wouldn’t be celebrating forgiveness of sins and eternal salvation this morning. If it were not for Jesus rising from the grave there would be no Christianity. But Jesus did come to life again, and forgiveness is possible, and eternal life awaits in the next life. I hope you are a Christian this morning. I hope you have repented of sins and trusted Jesus as the Savior this morning, because only in being a Christian can we truly celebrate Easter. Yes, today is the day when it seems everyone is thinking of Jesus and that first Easter morning. But there is a difference between having Jesus in your head and having him in your heart. I hope you have Jesus in your heart this morning, as we celebrate Easter. I remember C.S. Lewis giving his personal testimony of how he became a Christian on Easter Sunday. He said that he was on his way to the church for the traditional Easter Sunday church service (lots and lots of people go to church on Easter out of tradition who don’t really have Jesus in their heart). He was traveling to church oddly enough in the sidecar of his brother’s motorcycle (they used to make motorcycles with little seats on the side, but they don’t any more). He says that when he got on the motorcycle he remembers very clearly that he wasn’t a Christian because he didn’t believe Jesus couldn’t have risen from the dead. So all during the motorcycle trip to church he was thinking about it, and by the time they got to the church on that Sunday morning he says that he found himself believing that it must be true. They went to the Easter church service and for the first time C.S. Lewis celebrated Easter as a believer because he came to the place where he truly believed that Jesus must have risen from the dead, and if Jesus really did rise from the dead, then he must put his faith in Jesus and trust in him for forgiveness and eternal life. Now the question that I’ve been asking myself this Easter season is this: is the death of Jesus for our sins more important than his resurrection from the dead? After all we celebrate communion once a month, some churches every Sunday, and that commemorates the death of Jesus, not the resurrection of Jesus. As the Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11:26, “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” Forgiveness of sins and the penalty of sins was paid on the cross, at Christ’s death. So why is the resurrection so important? Was it totally necessary for us and our salvation? Let’s read the resurrection account in John 20 (read). Here are a couple of points to consider.

First, without the resurrection we couldn’t know for sure what Jesus promised was true. There were a lot of teachers and religious leaders teaching all kinds of truths in the ancient world, just like today there are all kinds of religions and philosophies and teachers teaching many things. Which ones are true? Which ones are false? The problem is that it’s hard to test their teachings because spiritual teachers teach about things in the spiritual world and in the world to come. How can you test truths that can only be known with certainty in the next life? For example, the Muslims teach that a soldier killed in a holy war or Jihad will go straight to heaven and be placed in a privileged place. That’s why these terrorists are so eager to die for their religion, because they believe this kind of Jihad teaching. But how do they know it’s true? As Christians we believe that the Jihad teaching is totally false. Those terrorists who flew the planes into the World Trade Center, we don’t think of them in heaven, rather they are probably in hell for mass murder. Now whose right, Muslims or Christians? Because Jesus rose from the dead it verifies his teachings about heaven and the next life, and it corrects all the false teachings about these subjects. But if Jesus hadn’t really risen from the dead, he’d be just another teacher teaching just another truth, and there’d be no way to verify it one way or another. But because he rose from the dead, that makes everything that he taught that much more credible. Now when you are ever tempted to disbelieve something that Jesus taught, or that you read in the New Testament, just remember that Jesus knows what he’s talking about because he is the only teacher who can back up what he claims with such a fantastic proof as rising from the dead. Confucius can teach, but he can’t back it up with such a thing as rising from the dead. The Buddha taught many things, but can he prove any of his teachings by rising from the dead? No. Even the Muslim Mohammed taught many things, but can he prove them by conquering death? No. Only Jesus can teach us the truth and then back up his teachings with such a mighty miracle as rising from the dead. We don’t ever have to question the teachings of Jesus because of the resurrection. Some people question all the stories in the Old Testament, for example, like Jonah and the whale. But Jesus believed it and taught about it, and Jesus rose from the dead. So if the man who rose from the dead believed and taught all the miracles of the Old Testament, that’s good enough for me. So we can believe in all the teachings and promises of Jesus because he backs up his claims with the miracle of the resurrection.

Second, without the resurrection we wouldn’t know if Jesus had succeeded in winning our salvation. Now the disciples were discouraged after the crucifixion of Jesus on the cross. Can you imagine how his death put an end to all their hopes of God’s kingdom coming? Jesus taught all his teachings about the Kingdom of God, the Sermon on the Mount, and all the parables. Now, the value of all these teachings was in doubt. I’m sure the disciples might have thought that all these teachings were now just nice ideas. But the biggest promise of all was called into question: forgiveness of sins. If Jesus hadn’t risen from the dead, we wouldn’t know for sure that our sins were forgiven. Here’s how the Apostle Paul puts it: “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless an so is your faith. . . . And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.” 1 Corinthians 15:14,17. Now if Christ didn’t raise from the dead, even if he won our salvation on the cross, we wouldn’t know it, or we wouldn’t ever be sure of it. It’s like some of the mountain climbers who climb Mount Everest. There are always people who hike up the mountain every year that never come down. Nobody knows what happened to them, but they don’t come down, so it is presumed that they died on the mountain. Now the question their friends ask is did they make it to the top before they died or did they die on the way up? It makes a difference because it would be better for friends and loved ones to know that they had at least made it to the top of the world and died on the way down, rather than having failed to reach the top. So it’s important. But in most instances of people dying on the mountain, they don’t know if in fact they made it to the top or not. So there is always a question. There was a British climber, George Mallory, who in the 1920s climbed the mountain, but died. They don’t know for sure if he made it to the top or not. There is still a question. Now the same would be the case with Jesus. If he hadn’t risen from the dead, we wouldn’t know for sure if he had won our salvation. He said that he was going to die for our sins, to pay our sin debt, to remove us from Judgment Day, but if he hadn’t returned from the dead, if we hadn’t heard anything from him, we wouldn’t know for sure. If Jesus hadn’t risen from the dead, there is no way he could have started a church, and there is no way the disciples could have preached and continued his mission as they did. So the resurrection is important for us because it proves that our sins our forgiven when we repent and believe in Jesus.

Third, without the resurrection we wouldn’t have the faith to trust Jesus for our salvation. Without the power of the resurrection, how could the disciples or how could we today believe in Jesus? I think of Thomas who said, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands, and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hands into his side, I will not believe.” John 20:25. Of course, Jesus said to Thomas, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” John 20:29. Believed what? Believed that Jesus rose again! Thomas was saying that he had to see it for himself, see Jesus alive again, in order to believe. And Jesus told Thomas that actually seeing him alive again wasn’t necessary because many others (you and me, for example) would be blessed even though we hadn’t seen, but believed the report that others had seen. But Jesus isn’t saying that blessed are those who don’t believe in the resurrection. He’s saying that blessed are those who believe that it really happened even though they haven’t seen it, but believed in the testimony of others. The truth is that we need the resurrection to put our faith in Jesus. It’s a fact that people who don’t really believe that Jesus rose from the dead, don’t trust in Jesus for forgiveness of sins or eternal life. The resurrection helps us have faith in everything Jesus teaches us. It helps us put our faith in him personally. A lot of people say they believe in God, but the New Testament says general faith in God isn’t good enough. We have to trust our souls to Jesus for salvation. The resurrection gives us the power to do that. How do we explain the resurrection? It’s a miracle, it’s supernatural. It can’t be explained by science, because science tests things that can be repeated. The resurrection can’t be repeated, but it can be reported. And that’s exactly what happened. Jesus rose from the grave and appeared to his disciples. Then they reported it to others, and so on and so on. Two thousands years later, this Sunday, we are celebrating what happened, and it gives us the faith to believe in Jesus. I know one thing, that for me and my life, believing in the resurrection has changed my life. How? It means that with God all things are possible. It means that death isn’t the end of my story. It means that I don’t have to fear death, or that death is the end, because beyond death there is a next life. I can find peace and confidence in Jesus during this life as I get closer and closer to the next life. What about you this morning? Do you believe in the miracle of the resurrection? Let’s all pray and believe in it once again today. (pray).

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