He Is Risen

Easter 2023  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  41:29
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Easter Sunday celebrates the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is hard to determine which is more important: Easter or Christmas? Without one, the other is meaningless. Both are critical to the Christian faith. If Jesus was not born of a virgin, he was not the Son of God. That is an important doctrine. But if Jesus did not rise, then he is not who he claimed to be. Of all the things we believe about Jesus, the resurrection of Jesus is the central doctrine of the Christian faith. Without the resurrection of Christ, Christianity falls apart. The apostle Paul is writing in detail about the resurrection and its implications if true and if untrue in 1 Corinthians 15. There were some people in the church in Corinth claiming there is no resurrection of the dead. Paul had to write to correct this teaching and provide clarification on the most important matter in all of Christianity.
Today I want to give you a few reasons why we believe Jesus really is risen.

Jesus predicted his own resurrection.

Jesus had just fed the 5000. He and his disciples travel to Caesarea Philippi, where Peter gives his famous confession of Jesus as the Christ. This is all in Matt 16. Verse 21 says,
Matthew 16:21 NASB95
From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day.
The second time was right after the Transfiguration in the next chapter. The disciples were unsuccessful in exorcising a demon from him. Jesus does so, and after this event he says in Matt 17:22-23
Matthew 17:22–23 NASB95
And while they were gathering together in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men; and they will kill Him, and He will be raised on the third day.” And they were deeply grieved.
The third time Jesus and his disciples were on their way up to Jerusalem for Passover. Matt 20:17-19 says,
Matthew 20:17–19 NASB95
As Jesus was about to go up to Jerusalem, He took the twelve disciples aside by themselves, and on the way He said to them, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn Him to death, and will hand Him over to the Gentiles to mock and scourge and crucify Him, and on the third day He will be raised up.”
So Jesus claimed to be God and predicted his own resurrection of the dead, which the disciples either did not believe, or misunderstood. I think this is evident by the fact they were not waiting outside his tomb Sunday morning for him to come walking out. If I was a disciple of Jesus and I knew for a fact he was going to rise from the dead, I would have been at the tomb to meet him.
Jesus predicted he would rise from the dead. But is this enough to believe he did?

The resurrection of Jesus is rooted in eyewitness testimony.

Paul bases his argument not on a fairy tale, but on what others saw, heard, and experienced.
1 Corinthians 15:3–7 NASB95
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles;
It should be noted that Paul is not providing a comprehensive list of every person who saw Jesus after he rose from the dead. Other eyewitness accounts include:
Appearing to Mary Magdalene (John 20:10-18)
Appearing to Cleopas and his companion on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35)
Appearing to the eleven apostles at various times (Luke 24:36-49; John 20:19-23, 24-31, John 21; Acts 1:4-8)
We need to remember the gospel writers wrote their gospels independently of one another. Matthew and John were eyewitnesses of the ministry of Jesus. They followed him everywhere for three and a half years. Mark was a close associate, especially of Paul. Luke is a historian, who gathered his information from eyewitness reports.
Then Paul includes himself.
1 Corinthians 15:8 NASB95
and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.
This refers to his Damascus road experience recorded in Acts 9.
There are all these witnesses to the resurrected Jesus that provides evidence or suggest that he in fact rose from the dead. Notice though that the list of witnesses from 1 Corinthians contains at least 500 people. Let’s just assume for a moment that all 500 of them were disciples of Jesus prior to his death. It is possible that all 500 of them got together and concocted one of the greatest hoaxes of all time, but not probable. Do you know how hard it is to get 500 people to say the same thing if it is not true? Even a handful of the smartest criminals cannot get their stories straight.
The one that sticks out to me is James. He was Jesus’ half brother. James did not believe his brother was God. Yet in the book of Acts James is a leader in the Jerusalem church. He later writes the book of James in the New Testament. He goes from being a nonbeliever when his brother is crucified to being a leader in the church in Jerusalem. James was willing to trade his Judaism for Christianity. What would have been a strong enough motivator for him to make that change? Seeing his brother alive after having been crucified a few days earlier.

The tomb of Jesus was empty.

The disciples of Jesus began preaching the resurrection of Jesus in the same city he was crucified. If the tomb had not been empty, and Jesus’ body were still in it, the claim that Jesus rose from the dead would have been easily dismissed. But this is not what happened. Matthew 28:12-15 says,
Matthew 28:12–15 NASB95
And when they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, and said, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came by night and stole Him away while we were asleep.’ “And if this should come to the governor’s ears, we will win him over and keep you out of trouble.” And they took the money and did as they had been instructed; and this story was widely spread among the Jews, and is to this day.
Think about this for a minute. As controversial a figure as Jesus was (and still is), it would be in everyone’s best interest to see if Jesus was still in the tomb. Nobody would have forgotten where this tomb was. All they had to do was roll back the stone, produce a body, and Christianity would have been dead before it got started.
Notice what the enemies of Jesus are attesting to. There is no body in the tomb. They are having to concoct an explanation for a lack of body, not an empty tomb. There is no alternative explanation for the resurrection of Jesus in the first century other than the disciples had stolen the body.

The resurrection of Jesus became the central message of the early church.

Almost every book in the New Testament speaks of the resurrection of the dead. The book of Acts is filled with references to the resurrection of Jesus . Most of the New Testament books claim Jesus rose from the dead. The book of Acts has over 20 references to Jesus having risen from the dead. At the very least, the New Testament authors were thoroughly convinced of what they saw. They preached this message until their deaths, which were all at the hands of those who rejected their message. All the apostles except maybe John were executed for preaching the resurrection of Jesus.
If the apostles stole the body, they were lying. If they were lying, they really knew where the body of Jesus was and that there was no resurrection. While dying for what they believed was true is not enough to suggest the resurrection is true, it speaks to the level of sincerity that the apostles truly believed what they claimed they saw. When you press someone on something they know is not true, the usual outcome is they will give in and reveal the truth. A lie can only be maintained for so long. If one knew he was facing certain death for a lie, he either has really good reasons for maintaining the lie, or he has to believe that the lie is not a lie at all, but true.
The apostles gained nothing in the grand scheme of things for preaching the resurrection of Jesus. If they were wrong, they were blasphemous according to Judaism. They didn’t even gain the power many claim they were seeking. If Jesus did not rise from the dead, it would seem the apostles received an early death. But if Jesus did rise, they had everything to gain.
In fact, Paul explains the outcomes both if Jesus did not rise and if he did rise.
1 Corinthians 15:12–19 NASB95
Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.
So if Jesus did not rise from the dead,
The preaching of Christianity is worthless.
Christians misrepresent God.
Nobody rises from the dead.
We are still in our sins.
There is no hope of seeing loved ones who have passed away.
Christians are the most pitiable people on the face of the earth.
Paul’s argument continues in verse 20,
1 Corinthians 15:20–24 NASB95
But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming, then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power.
Because Jesus rose from the dead,
The resurrection of those who believe is guaranteed.
We are members of a kingdom in which Christ rules.
We receive new, incorruptible, imperishable bodies.
1 Corinthians 15:50–58 NASB95
Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory. “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.
The resurrection of Jesus offers us great hope. It is a hope for eternal life. It is a hope for belonging to a kingdom whose king is righteous and just. It is a hope for a new incorruptible and imperishable body. It is a hope for being made new so we can enjoy the goodness of God for eternity.
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