Intro: I want evidence. I want proof! That is the cry of so many concerning the call to believe what the Bible teaches. They want something to hang their hat on. What can you show them? Is there someplace we can go to validate what the Bible says and what we believe? I am confident to go where the apostles and early Christians went to find evidence for their faith. They went to the empty tomb of Jesus.
- Luke 24:1-6 Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. 2 But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. 3 Then they went in and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 And it happened, as they were greatly perplexed about this, that behold, two men stood by them in shining garments. 5 Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but is risen!
- Let me state quite dogmatically, I am a Christian because Jesus rose from the dead. But I am not alone in this. It was on this basis that Thomas called Jesus “My Lord and my God” in John 20:28. We will notice that the early church, and specifically the apostles, rested all of their teaching on the fact of the resurrection. We will consider all these passages more as we study through this in the month of October.
- The resurrection is the central fact of Scripture and embodies the uniqueness of Christianity. This is illustrated in the oft told, perhaps apocryphal, story of a Moslem and a Christian discussing the relative value of Mohammed and Jesus as prophets. The Moslem said, “We can make a journey to Mecca to view the grave of our prophet. All you Christian’s have is an empty tomb.” The Christian’s reply: “Exactly.”
- The fact that the tomb of Jesus is empty has changed the world. If Jesus is truly the Lord of glory, as we have been considering all year, then His reported resurrection is crucial to His identity and work.
I. What does the Resurrection Prove? I want to explore the testimony of the resurrection. There are necessary consequences to our faith if Jesus rose from the dead.
A. It Proved Jesus’ Identity. When the Pharisees requested a miraculous sign so they could believe on Him (even though they had no intention of it) Jesus referenced the sign of Jonah… Matt 12:39-40 – “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
1. Who did Jesus claim to be? Jesus made several claims that seem outrageous coming from a simple carpenter’s son: Jesus claimed…
- to be the Christ, the Son of God (Matt 16:16-20)
- to be sent by God (John 8:42)
- to be one with the Father (John 10:30)
- to deserve honor equal with that given to the Father (John 5:23)
- to have authority to forgive sins (Matt 9:2-6)
- to be King (John 18:37)
- to be Lord of the temple (John 2:14-22)
- Lord of the Sabbath (Matt 12:8)
- and Lord of angels (Matt 24:31).
a. All these claims were put on the line when Jesus was put to death. But when God raised him from the dead, they were shown to be true. Jesus was indeed who he claimed to be. He was “and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead. (Romans 1:4)
2. In connection with the veracity of His identity, His resurrection gave authority to His words. If He rose from the dead, then He was Lord. The risen Christ declared that he had been given all authority in heaven and on earth in Matt 28:18. This was the focus of the first gospel sermon in Acts 2. Jesus was raised to sit at the Father’s right hand. – Acts 2:32-36 – This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses.33 Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear. 34 “For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself: ‘The LORD said to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand, 35 Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.”’36 “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
a. Jesus’ resurrection was the centerpiece of apologetic preaching in the first century. It was THE proof that Jesus was the Lord. Acts 4:10 – 10 let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. Acts 10:40-41 40 Him God raised up on the third day, and showed Him openly,41 not to all the people, but to witnesses chosen before by God, even to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. Notice how Luke describes the NT church in Acts 4:32-33 32 Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. 33 And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. And Paul says that if it is not true then his preaching is in vain and our faith is also vain (I Cor. 15:14).
3. When Jesus rose from the dead, as He promised He would, He gave certainty to all of His promises. Many men make promises that their unexpected death keeps them from honoring. But Jesus was not hindered in this way.
a. Consider Acts 1:9-11 – Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. 10 And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, 11 who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.”
- He had promised them earlier that he would see them again, but they failed to believe Him then. John 14:1-4 Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. 2 In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. 4 And where I go you know, and the way you know.” John 14:18-20 – I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. 19 “A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also. 20 At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. We can believe Him when He tells us He is coming back.
B. The Resurrection was testimony to Jesus’ Power over Satan. There was a war not visible to the human eye undergirding the events of the crucifixion and resurrection. Jesus won a decisive victory.
1. God had prophesied in Gen. 3:15 that the Seed of woman would crush the head of the serpent who had lead her into sin, but that the serpent would bruise His heel in a great confrontation. One major purpose for the incarnation of Jesus was to set up a confrontation between God and Satan in order to bring Satan and his confederates to a crushing defeat. “The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil” – 1 John 3:8. He became a human being so “that through death he might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil” – Heb 2:14.
2. Satan consistently attempted to disrupt Jesus’ ministry and purpose in events such as Herod’s attempt to destroy Jesus at birth, the series of temptations in the wilderness (Matt 4:1-11), and the attempts of the Jewish leaders to discredit Him. Surely His enemies viewed Jesus’ death as their consummate victory. But scriptures describe the resurrection as the judgment of Satan.
a. But even in the many instances when Jesus cast demons out of others He was already beginning the process of evicting Satan from his usurped throne. When the 70 returned from their mission they exclaimed “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.”(Luke 10:17
b. Shortly before the cross Jesus warned his disciples that a final battle with “the ruler of the world” was approaching
- John 12:31 31 Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out.
- John 14:30 – 30 I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in Me.
- John 16:7-11 7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.8 And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:9 of sin, because they do not believe in Me;10 of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more;11 of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. 9 of sin, because they do not believe in Me;10 of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more;11 of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
c. No doubt Satan was gleeful over his success in bringing Jesus under the power of death. (The serpent bruised His heel). But when Jesus emerged from that tomb, He pulled the stinger of death forever and thereby rendered the devil’s main weapon powerless Hebrews 2:14-15 14 Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.
d. Jesus’ victory was overwhelming. He completely humiliated Satan. Colossians 2:14-15 14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.15 Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it. When God rolled the stone away from that tomb He placed it squarely on the head of the serpent.
e. The risen Christ declares, “I am . . . the living One; and 1 was dead, and behold, 1 am alive forevermore, and 1 have the keys of death and of Hades” (Rev 1:17-18). This shows his complete power over death, since “Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him” (Rom 6:9) Paul says that Jesus has appeared, “abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,” (2 Tim 1:10)
f. Christ’s life, death, and resurrection are symbolically described in Rev 12:7-9 as a “war in heaven,” in which Satan as “the great dragon” and all his angels (the demons) were soundly defeated. Paul declares that when the risen Christ “ascended on high, He “led captive a host of captives” (Eph 4:8). These captives are his enemies for whom the final devastation was Christ’s glorious resurrection.
II. What if Jesus is still dead? What if there is no resurrection? That question is poignantly addressed by the apostle Paul in 1 Cor. 15, in a discussion of the whether there is any resurrection of the dead. 1 Cor 15:12-19- 12 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? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. 14 And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. 15 Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up — if in fact the dead do not rise. 16 For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. 17 And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! 18 Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.
A. Paul tells the Corinthians right off that this is no trivial question. If they reject the resurrection, it changes everything.
- our preaching is vain – The good news would be bad news, because there is nothing worth preaching about.
- your faith is empty – Faith in such a gospel would be vain (kenos) empty, fruitless, void of effect, to no purpose). A dead savior could not give life. As the words of Isaiah reflect, “I have toiled in vain, I have spent My strength for nothing and vanity” (Isa 49:4).
- We are false witnesses (liars) – every person who claimed to have witnessed the risen Christ and every person who preached the risen Christ was a liar, including Paul and the other apostles (we). If we cannot believe them on this, we cannot believe anything they said.
- You are still in your sins – The apostle points to the obvious additional result that believers would be no better off spiritually than unbelievers. Christians would still be in their sins just as much as the most wicked and unbelieving pagan.
- All those who have died have forever perished – Every saint, Old Testament or Christian, who had died would have forever perished. Their faith would have been in vain, their sins would have been unforgiven, and their destiny would be damnation
- We are the most pitiful people on the planet! – To have hoped in Christ in this life only would be to teach, preach, suffer, sacrifice, and work entirely for nothing. If Christ is still dead, then He not only cannot help us in regard to the life to come but He cannot help us now. If He cannot grant us eternal life, He cannot improve our earthly life. If He is not alive, where would be our source of peace, joy, or satisfaction now? The Christian life would be a mockery, a charade, a tragic joke.
Conclusion: When Jesus was on his way to the tomb of his good friend Lazarus he asked Martha an eternally pertinent question: John 11:25-26 – “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
The testimony of the resurrection (sign of Jonah) is crucial. IF you believe that Jesus is not dead, then you must conclude He is Lord of all. If He is Lord, then you need to obey Him.
- Acts 2:36-39 – “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” 37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” 38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”