Why Did Christ Need to Rise From the Dead?

Title: Why Did Christ Need to Rise From the Dead?

[Audio http://ab86qw.bay.livefilestore.com/y1p9QuZMhywz0TnXl_1Pr69tAuASy430xxiad8F202Y-fNxb02HK_pixCEwzprmQaAnzd38G-l621eL0LwVkoERlZTdspA9ZHwE/4-12-09whydidchristneedtorisefromthedead.mp3%5D

Text: Matthew 20:17-19, Psalm 16:8-10, 1 Corinthians 15:1-6, 12-20

Date: April 12th, 2009

The Enlightenment philosopher David Hume is credited with forming the strongest argument against the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Let me show how ridiculous this is. According to Hume, the resurrection contradicts the firm and fixed laws of nature, and since uniform human experience confirms the laws of nature concerning dead people – that they don’t rise to life again, therefore, the wise person will believe universal human experience and the laws of nature and disbelieve in the resurrection, that is, that somebody, Jesus, rose from the dead. So, according to Hume, we don’t even have to look at the gospel accounts or investigate into the historical evidences for the resurrection of Jesus because we already know that such a thing like the resurrection contradicts natural law and universal human experience (each of us and everyone we know has never seen a resurrection from the dead), so we can rule it out as impossible from the start. But here’s the problem with Hume’s argument: if Hume is consistent with his own philosophy, he’d have to deny his own eye witness experience if he had been an apostle and Jesus appeared to him after having been dead. Why? Because according to the laws of nature and universal human experience dead people don’t come back to life, so then nothing would justify a wise person believing in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, even if he were to see it first hand and in person. But surely there is something wrong with a philosophy that rules experience out ahead of time, or even goes so far as to force one to deny one’s own experience to the contrary. Following Hume, if one of the disciples were following this same philosophy he’d have to conclude, “I’ve just seen Jesus alive after he was crucified, dead and buried, but since that contradicts the laws of nature and universal human experience, it just can’t be. So I really didn’t see Jesus come back from the dead because that’s simply impossible, as everyone knows from experience.” But such thinking is nonsense. The bottom line is this – the resurrection of Jesus, although very unusual, is possible and because there is such an abundance of evidence in the Bible for it actually occurring, a wise man or woman should believe it. I don’t have time to go into all the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ this morning, but what I’d like to do is talk about why Jesus had to rise from the dead? Why was it important for Jesus to come to life again after he was dead? He had already died for our sins on the cross. He had already paid the penalty for our sins and was punished in our place. He had already given us his righteousness in exchange for our sins. So why did Jesus need to rise from the dead? Is the resurrection something added on, something non-essential to the whole plan of salvation? No. And there are a number of reasons why Jesus had to rise from the dead. Let’s talk about three.

First, Jesus had to rise from the dead to fulfill ancient prophecy. Psalm 16:8-10, “I have set the Lord always before me because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay.” Peter the Apostle explains this Old Testament prophecy in Acts 2:29-32, “Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay. God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact.” Even the Apostle Paul sees Jesus as the fulfillment of the Psalm 16:8-10 prophecy by explaining it again in Acts 13:32-37, “We tell you the good news: What God promised our fathers he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus. . . . The fact that God raised him from the dead, never to decay, is stated in these words, . . ‘You will not let your Holy One see decay.’ For when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his fathers and his body decayed. But the one whom God raised from the dead did not see decay.” The prophecy is that there would be a Holy One whose body would not see decay. Obviously when we die our bodies all eventually decay in the grave, but in the case of Jesus, his body never did decay because it was raised to life after three days and ultimately ascended into heaven at the end of 40 days, thus never experiencing decay. The whole point of both Peter and Paul’s argument is that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Psalm 16 prophecy. So then we see that Jesus had to rise from the dead on Resurrection Sunday in order to fulfill Old Testament prophecy. Last week I talked about the fact that Jesus needed to die on the cross as an atoning sacrifice for our sins to fulfill Old Testament prophecy, specifically Isaiah 53; now this week, we see again, Jesus needed to rise from the dead in order to fulfill another Old Testament prophecy. Sadly, Jesus’ own people, the Jews, overlooked both prophecies during his time. The Jews continue to overlook these prophecies today as applying to Jesus, although it’s hard to imagine these prophecies applying to anyone other than Jesus. We can feel confident about the resurrection of Jesus Christ because of the prophecy contained in the Old Testament. It was foretold long ago beforehand and was fulfilled only in the person of Jesus Christ. It was important for Jesus to rise from the dead if for no other reason than fulfilling prophecy. But there are other reasons why he had to return to life. Let’s look at another.

Second, Jesus had to rise from the dead in order to be a pattern for us. 1 Corinthians 15:12-20, “But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there in no resurrection? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” Let me repeat that last sentence: “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” In other words, Jesus Christ is the pattern of things to come, eventually, for all those who are saved. The Apostle Paul goes on to teach even more about the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15 and explains that we die a natural body but later will shall be raised with a spiritual body. That doesn’t mean we’ll be a ghost or pure spirit. Next door from here in Lily Dale the country’s largest Spiritist community exists. Spiritism teaches that it’s possible to visit with and talk to departed spirits, the souls of persons who have died. So over there they spend their time trying to contact and communicate with these departed spirits. We know from the Bible that it is strictly forbidden to communicate with departed souls, so we must believe that most of what takes place in Lily Dale is either outright fraud or demonic occultism. Either way, it’s bad news for anyone who does it. Let’s continue to discourage anyone thinking of visits that place in order to contact the spirit of the dead. But Spiritism also claims to see ghostly apparitions, ephemeral images of persons who have died. Again, these are probably demonic spirits deceiving gullible people who are engaging in practices the Bible forbids, but even if these ghosts were indeed departed souls, they don’t provide a pattern for us living today because the Bible says that ultimately we will have bodies – spiritual bodies, but bodies nonetheless – and not just be ghosts floating around. So we see that Jesus had to rise from the dead in order to provide us with a tangible pattern of what we are to look forward to in the future. There is life after death and this life consists of existence in a spiritual body similar to the one Christ had after his resurrection. Now the Bible doesn’t explain all the details of what life will be like in a spiritual body, but it goes give us enough information to assure us that we just won’t be floating around without a body. Jesus needed to rise from the dead to be our pattern for the future.

Third, Jesus had to rise from the dead to help our faith. 1 Corinthians 15:1-6, “Now brothers I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers . . . and last of all he appeared to me also.” I guess if we were untouched by sin, if we possessed a totally pure heart, if we had a perfectly clear mind, if we could focus 100% of our attention on God at all times, we might not need such a thing as the resurrection to help our faith. But we aren’t like that and we need supernatural evidences and miracles to confirm our faith in God. It has always been that way. Think back to the Old Testament accounts of giants of the faith such as Abraham and Moses and David, to name a few. Where would they be without God’s miracles in their life? Would they, could they believe in God without his supernatural activity? Probably not. It’s the same with us. Could we trust in Christ for our salvation without the resurrection? Probably not. Without the resurrection there would always be lingering doubts about the promises Jesus brought with him and taught to people. He claimed to be the Way, the Truth and the Life. But how could we trust his teaching or any of his teachings if he didn’t confirm it by fulfilling his predictions of rising from the dead? Where would the disciples be without the resurrection? Exactly where they were before the resurrection – confused, scared, discouraged and depressed. That’s where we’d all be without the resurrection because as humans we need supernatural helps in order to believe the words of God. Imagine the New Testament complete as it is today, except no mention of any resurrection from the dead by Jesus. Without the resurrection there probably would be no Christianity, no New Testament and no church, but just imagine if there were some kind of faith without the resurrection. It certainly wouldn’t be a very powerful faith. It might be one of many religions in the world, but it wouldn’t be the worldwide Christian faith that we know today. There would be no Easter celebration every year, no positive and solid hope for life after death, or life in heaven with God. There might be a desire for life beyond the grave but there certainly wouldn’t be powerful evidences for such a hope. But with the resurrection we can have solid and sure hope for life beyond this life. With the resurrection of Jesus we can believe whole-heartedly in all the promises of Jesus taught in the New Testament. With the resurrection we can believe without reservation in forgiveness and salvation. The resurrection gives us a mighty assurance that we wouldn’t have without it. So Jesus had to rise from the grave in order to give us something to believe in, something to hope in, something to put our faith in. The miracle of the resurrection helps our faith.

Where do you stand with God today? Are one of the millions and millions of people in the world that simply has a vague and general belief in God this morning? You are correct, there is a God, but there’s more to it than believing in one God. James in the New Testament says believing in God is good, but not anything special – even the Devil and demons believe in God, and fear him! No. There is more to it than mere belief in God. We are called to put our whole-hearted trust in Jesus the Savior for our salvation. We are asked to believe that Jesus paid for our sins on the cross and underwent judgment for sins in our place. We are called to believe that the when we give Jesus our sins he gives us his righteousness in exchange; we are made righteous through faith in Christ. We are asked to confess and repent of all our sins and give control of our life over to God to do his will. We are able to do all these things and more because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Are you a solid believer today, this Easter morning of 2009?Are you living out your faith? Are you loving as Jesus teaches you to love? Are you living as Jesus teaches us to life? Or is your faith simply a mental activity, where you affirm certain truths and agree with certain statements about God, Christ, the Bible, etc.? Christian faith is more than believing truths from the Bible – it is that, but it’s a lot more. It’s also about living out those truths in the context of a spiritual community called the church. Are you living out the truths of God in your life on a daily basis? Nobody is perfect, but are you trying? When you fail are you confessing and repenting of your sins? Are you learning from your mistakes and growing more mature? Why not commit yourself anew to God this Easter 2009? Christ has done all the “heavy lifting” for you – he suffered and died for you on the cross and rose for your salvation, now the only thing you need to do is receive his work on your behalf. You can’t earn a spot in heaven with God; you can only receive what’s been given to you. Are you humble enough to admit that you can’t work it out on your own, in your own strength, that you need help, you need God’s assistance? Some people fail to come to God simply because they are too proud; they won’t accept help from anybody, even God. Are you humble enough to take what God is offering you today and embrace it and live with it? God is calling us all to receive and embrace his love and forgiveness this morning no matter where we are at in life. He is calling us all to trust ourselves into the hands of God now and forever more. Can you do that this morning?

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