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The Light of the Resurrection
I know you have been disappointed in the past, but have you been devastated to the point of total despair? I’ve had disappointments. A surprise get away with Jean to Santa Barbara on the train–then that AM Matthew throws up, is sick and we can’t go. Walking into a doctoral oral exam, only to be unknowingly shocked with a totally unjust rewrite staring me in the face.
But those are disappointments–I’m talking about the worst defeat, darkest night, lost your job, health, family, wealth and you have nothing but devastation. Have you felt the pain of Job? Lost your family, health, everything? Or a David, who had to drool in his beard not to be killed–plus his own son Absalom betrayed him and replaced him as king? I’m speaking about the darkness of devastation.
If you have tasted or come close, then you can fully understand Easter Sunday. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the shining light that cured the devastating darkness of the crucifixion on Friday. You only understand the light of Easter Sunday when you embrace the pitch blackness of crucifixion Friday.
All the hopes of the eleven and all those Jesus impacted were crushed by the unjust, cruel crucifixion of Christ. All they saw was unrighteous, politically jealous and hateful men torture their Lord, mentor and their friend. Little did they know that was God’s plan all along. Peter said it in Acts 2:23, “This Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.”
Jesus Christ didn’t have to die, He chose to die for sins. The only way to be forgiven now and get to Heaven later is for you to give your entire life to Christ so His actions on your behalf can save you from your sins. And we know Christ alone can give you life now and life forever in Heaven, because He beat death–He rose from the dead. How did it happen?
Turn in your Bibles to Luke 24–Matthew, Mark then Luke. Take the outline found in your bulletin and look at exactly what happened that first Easter morning. In Luke 23, Jesus willfully chose to die for our sins. He was God and man in one body with no confusion and couldn’t die unless He chose to die. He did it because your sin and my sin had to be paid for. The wages of sin is [what?] death–someone perfect had to die in our place.
Joseph of Arimathea, a godly member of the Jewish counsel, sought to place Jesus in his own unused family tomb and prepare Christ’s dead body for burial, which caused a conflict. The women who minister with Jesus didn’t know Joseph of Arimathea, nor did they trust Nicodemus. They were both Judeans and both associated with the leaders who conspired against Jesus. Yet both went to great personal expense to prepare Christ’s body for burial.
In spite of that, the women were determined to do the burial preparation themselves. So the women went to their homes to prepare their own spices and perfumes–but because they had to place Jesus’ body in the tomb before sunset on Friday, before the beginning of the Sabbath, they ran out of time and weren’t able to finish preparing the Lord’s body for burial. They merely viewed the body of Christ wrapped and laid in a tomb, but they had to wait for Sunday to finish. So it’s Sunday morning and they are in for a shock.
#1 The Resurrection really HAPPENED
Matthew 28:2 tells us how it happened–an earthquake, then an awesome angel rolled the tombstone away. The Roman guards fainted from fear, then ran away. Now look at Luke 24:1, as the women returned to the tomb to finish preparing His body in verse 2, they didn’t expect to find the tomb unguarded, the stone rolled away and the body of Jesus missing.
While they stand in the tomb in verse 4, two angels appear and state Jesus has risen from the dead just as He said He would. One angel tells the women, “Go find the disciples and especially Peter…” who would need to know this the most—“tell them all, ‘Jesus has risen.’”
Now Mary is in this group. Mary Magdalene runs to tell the eleven apostles. Mary is fast–she’s younger, more zealous–she does pilates? When she arrives, verse 11 says, “And these words appeared to them [the disciples] as nonsense, and they would not believe them.”
But after their initial skepticism, verse 12 says, “But Peter [and John] arose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen wrappings only; and he went away to his home, marveling at that which had happened.” John 20 tells us Peter and John race to the tomb–John won, even though Peter stepped into the tomb first.
Mary Magdalene is not far behind them (crossfit?) as she heads back to the tomb for the second time. Peter and John see the empty linens used to wrap Jesus body, but there is no body. After careful investigation, Peter and John head back home, while Mary continues back to the tomb with the other women not far behind. Mary is about to see the light–zeal pays off.
#2 The Resurrection was SEEN by many
The bodily resurrection of Christ is not a series of events that when put together cause us to conclude/presume/surmise there must have been a resurrection. No, the resurrection was an eyewitness event. There are hundreds who say, “We saw Jesus personally and unmistakably.” The New Testament writers were not making this up–they saw Christ, touched Christ, ate with Christ and talked to the risen Christ and they all willingly died to defend that historical fact.
Friends, would you die for a lie? No way. If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, then every single one of the disciples died for a lie. Some were crucified, some were drawn and quartered, some were shot with arrows, others crucified upside down, even boiled in oil. Yet each one died professing they had personally witnessed Jesus risen from the dead. That is what the Bible says about the resurrection. Look at who some of the witnesses are.
First Mary Magdalene is the first to see Christ
Mary heads back to the tomb and she’s crying because somebody stole the body of Jesus. John 20:11 says, “Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping; and so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb.” When she looks in, she sees two angels where the feet and head of Christ would have been and they ask her why she’s crying. She says, “Because someone has taken the Lord’s body.”
But as she says this, she turns around toward the door and sees the gardener. So she asks Him where the body is and He says to her, “Mary.” And with a gasping cry, Mary replies, “Master!” and grabs him with the jaws of death. After a long hold, Mary once more returns to the disciples (spin class?) to tell them the good news–Jesus is risen.
In John 20:18 she says, “I have seen the Lord.” Mary had been saved out of a life of horrible sin, since Christ had cast seven demons out of her. Do you know why Jesus appeared to Mary first? To demonstrate His love to an ordinary believer. Your past doesn’t matter once you’ve been forgiven and washed.
She didn’t recognize Jesus at first, because He had a glorified body–similar in appearance but supernaturally better enough to not allow immediate recognition. And since only God can open the eyes and ears of the spiritually dead, it was only as she hears the Lord say, “Mary,” then she knew Jesus was alive.
But Mary is not alone–the other women were not far behind, heading back to the tomb. The second to see Christ alive.
Second The OTHER women see the RISEN Christ
Matthew 28:9 says as these women returning to the tomb sought to dress the dead body of Christ for burial, it says, “And behold, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshipped Him.”
I love this seen. They’ve been to the tomb, they returned to the disciples, now they’re headed back to the tomb and there He is! After a tender greeting (was it, “Hi, ladies!” or, “Surprise!”?) and they do what I have always pictured myself doing. They grabbed ahold of Jesus’ feet and worshiped Him. After a moment, Jesus lovingly pries them loose and the ladies go tell the disciples this good news.
About this same time, the guards of the tomb are telling the religious leaders an angel had opened the tomb and when he did, they saw Jesus’ body was gone. But instead of believing, instead of checking out what was really going on or letting the truth be known, Matthew 28:11 says the religious leaders devised a deceitful plan to stop the truth by paying the guards a large sum of money to lie.
This lie states that the cowardly disciples, who all deserted Jesus on Thursday night, suddenly grew brave, attacked and overcame crack Roman troops who would be sentenced to death if anyone broke the seal of Rome on the tomb, then stole the body of Jesus so they could not claim that Jesus rose from the dead–yeah right. You can’t stop the truth.
Third Peter MEETS the resurrected Christ
The third appearance of Christ was to Peter on Easter Sunday afternoon. We don’t know exactly when–but later, when the Emmaus disciples return, the first thing the apostles say to the Emmaus two in Luke 24:34 is, “The Lord has really risen and has appeared to Simon.” And 1 Corinthians 15:5 says He appeared to Cephas (that’s Peter).
When you’ve sinned so badly and you think God doesn’t want anything to do with you, remember this. Before the tomb is cold, Jesus sought out the one who denied Him three times. The Lord appears to the one with the greatest guilt, the one with the broken heart, the one in greatest need of forgiveness and restoration. If you say, “I don’t deserve God’s love,” let me help you. You don’t. God seeks out those who want to be right with Him, even though they think it is impossible.
Fourth The Emmaus disciples WALK with Christ
Two disciples, Cleopas and another disciple, are headed east into the sunset in verse 13, “And behold, two of them were going that very day to a village named Emmaus, which was about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 And they were conversing with each other about all these things which had taken place.”
These men are just ordinary followers of Christ–they’re not a part of the twelve superstars, but both are extremely discouraged. The tragedy of Christ’s brutal crucifixion was not an event they expected. But something epic is about to happen in verse 15. “And it came about that while they were conversing and discussing, [an animated and heated discussion] Jesus Himself [emphasis] approached, and began traveling with them. 16 But their eyes were prevented [passive—it is God that prevents them] from recognizing Him.”
Cleopas and Unknownicus (as I call him) don’t recognize Christ–YET. Here He is, the risen God-man, walking up behind them. Verse 17, “He said to them, ‘What are these words that you are exchanging with one another as you are walking?’” (What are you all talking about?) They say Jesus was tortured, then crucified unjustly today.
So Jesus chides them for not believing His teaching. In verse 25 to 27, “O foolish [not understanding] men and slow [or dull] of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory? 27 And beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.”
Do you know what I would have done? I would have said, “It’s me! Tah-dah. Look at my hands and feet–let me give you a noogie. I’m real, I’m alive! Made ya look.” But Jesus doesn’t do that. He teaches them the Bible–the living and active Word of God. This book changes lives. The Spirit uses God’s Word alone to cultivate true faith in the heart.
Romans 10:17 says, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” To know God, you need to know the Bible. So what did Christ potentially teach the Emmaus men? He quoted passages like Isaiah 53:5. Speaking of Christ, 700 years before He was born, Isaiah writes, “But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.”
The two disciples are captivated by His bible teaching. And before they realize it, they’ve arrived at Emmaus. Verses 28 and 29, “And they approached the village where they were going, and He acted as though He would go farther. 29 And they urged Him, saying, ‘Stay with us, for it is getting toward evening, and the day is now nearly over.’” And He went in to stay with them.
They say, “No way are we letting this guy go!” He’s explained our pain away. They insist Jesus stay with them and . . . He does! Then when they sit down to eat, verse 30, “And it came about that when He had reclined at the table with them, He took the bread and blessed it, and breaking it, He began giving it to them.”
Ordinary people, having an ordinary meal, but they are about to see that with Jesus, nothing is ordinary. Miraculously, verse 31 says, “And their eyes were opened and they recognized Him.” They realized it’s the risen Christ. And that moment, their mouths drop open, verse 31 adds, “and He vanished from their sight.”
Jesus opened the Scriptures to them, then He opened their eyes. Now they know He is risen. They saw Jesus for who He really is–have you? Jesus isn’t a cosmic lawyer arguing to keep you out of Hell. Jesus is not the divine therapist to make you feel good. Jesus is not a genie who gives wishes. Nor is Jesus the cosmic counselor to talk you through your trials.
Jesus is God, your Creator–you’ve rebelled against Him. He will judge and condemn you unless you turn from your sin and depend on Him by faith alone with your entire life. Most churchgoers who call themselves Christians know about Jesus, they’ve had an experience with Jesus, but they don’t personally, intimately, actually know Christ.
When you truly meet Jesus, it is relational and intimate, not religious or merely intellectual. Jesus radically changes a life. As 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “If any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”
Can you hear the Emmaus men talking to each other? “That was Jesus! He is alive! He is risen! Verses 32 and 33, “They said to one another, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us? He’s the Messiah who had to die for our sins. And now, He’s alive.’”
Then in verse 33, they immediately went back to Jerusalem to tell all the other Christ followers–but before they can get a word out, look what happens in verse 34. The others say, “The Lord has really risen, and has appeared to Simon.” Mary and the women have seen Jesus, the Apostle Peter has talked with Jesus and now the men from Emmaus have walked with Jesus.
The women were comforted, Peter the denier was forgiven, and the Emmaus men had their questions answered from the Bible. So what do Cleopas and Unknownicus do? Verse 35, “They began to relate their experiences on the road and how He was recognized by them in the breaking of the bread.”
In a flash, from dark heart to the light of joy. Now the disciples begin to realize how blind they have been. Jesus did not come to overthrow Rome or clean up the Jewish religion, but He came to Earth to take our place on the cross for our sins–to provide forgiveness. God the Father accepted the sacrifice of Christ so if we surrender our wants and exchange them in faith for God’s will, then we can be forgiven and transformed now and forever. But Jesus doesn’t stop showing Himself alive.
Fifth Ten disciples SEE the resurrected Christ
Luke 24:36, “While they were telling these things, He Himself stood in their midst.” Jesus appears, and you’d think by now they’d all be thrilled. But in verses 37 to 38, “They thought they were seeing a spirit”–they doubted. These were not people who wanted Jesus to be alive so badly they dreamt it up. No, they’re still wavering.
So Jesus stares at them and says . . . “You doubting dummies.” No, Jesus patiently proves He is risen bodily from the dead, by doing three things in verses 37 to 42. 1) by appearing to them in the midst of a locked room, and 2) by showing them the nail marks on His hands and feet, and 3) by eating some fish while they watch Him take every bite.
Then Jesus shows them His death and resurrection was His plan all along by teaching them from the Word of God, verse 44, “Now He said to them, ‘These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms [the entire Old Testament] must be fulfilled. 45 Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.”
His death, burial and resurrection were all God’s plan from the beginning, proven from the Bible. [Now hang on.] Over these 40 days, Jesus repeatedly proves his resurrection.
Sixth Jesus is witnessed by the eleven disciples
A week after His resurrection, this time with doubting Thomas in John 20:26 Jesus says, “Check-out the nail prints, Thomas”–he responds by calling Christ by his real name, “My Lord and my God.”
Seventh Seven disciples talk to the Lord by Galilee
In John 21:1 to 23, Peter gets tired of waiting and returns to his former career–he goes fishing. But Jesus shows up on the shore and reminds Peter that you, Peter, are called to shepherd My sheep.
Eighth Jesus appears to James, His half brother
First Corinthians 15:7 says, “Then He appeared to James.” James doesn’t seem to be a believer prior to the resurrection from John 7. Immediately after the resurrection, James is numbered among the believers in Acts 1:14.
Ninth Jesus appears to 500 followers at one time
Described in 1 Corinthians 15:6.
Tenth Jesus appears to eleven disciples in Galilee
On a mountain, He gives His key men and possibly 500 more the great commission to preach the Gospel to the world and make disciples of all–followers and learners of Christ. Acts 1:3 shouts, “To these He also presented Himself alive, after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days, and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God.” After this time . . .
Eleventh Jesus appears to His men in Jerusalem
Look at Luke 24:44 to 49. This is Jesus’ final recorded physical appearance before His ascension. Here again, He opens His men’s minds to understand the Bible. Jesus spent most of His time in His resurrected body, not exalting in the miraculous, but explaining the Bible.
He summarizes the main purpose of Christians–not good deeds, not programs, not singing, not church buildings, but proclaiming the good news of how you can be right with God. Then after this, Jesus proves He’s God by taking off.
#3 The ASCENSION really did happen
Look at Luke 24:50 to 53, “And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. 51 And it came about that while He was blessing them, He parted from them. 52 And they returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple, praising God.”
Like a rocket lifting off, Jesus launches straight up into the clouds, leaving the disciples craning their necks for one last look as He disappears into the sky. The ascension was a public act guaranteeing the credibility of Christ, who said He would leave, ushering the coming of the Holy Spirit, promising the giving of gifts to the Church and assuring that, just as Jesus left, He will one day literally, physically and bodily return to rule this earth.
Now Christ our high priest, the mediator we trust, the sovereign Lord is our constant companion and friend, and all of this is guaranteed by the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. He is alive. Consider what the “R” means.
First The resurrection proves biblical Christianity is true and every other religion is false
When Jesus came back from the dead, what other proof does anybody ever need? The resurrection is a big “W” in the proof column. But if He died and stayed dead, then He was a phony. So people started counting the days–Friday, Saturday, then Sunday! When Jesus explodes from the tomb, He proves He’s God.
The Christian faith He taught is absolutely true and every other religious leader in the world is a fraud and every other religion in the world is a fake. Do you know what Confucius, Muhammad, Maharishi, Mary, and Buddha all have in common? They are all dead.
That is why no religion is to be stacked up against the truth of Christianity, because Jesus is alive—He is risen! He proved everything He said about life, death, salvation and eternity is true. John 14:6, the resurrection proves Jesus is the only way to be saved.
Second The Resurrection of Jesus proves mankind did not evolve nor does life end at the grave
When we stand over the casket of a loved one, no one says, “That’s it–when you’re dead, you’re dead.” No, our hearts expect a reunion. Humans are not merely advanced animals on the evolutionary chain. We give thought to eternal issues. We humans are concerned about life, truth, love, relationships and life after death.
No one fully believes all we are is graduate gorillas–no, humans are concerned about soulish issues. The Bible teaches us the reason we feel more than pond scum is because we are more than that. Life is not from the goo, to the zoo, to you. Life is more than matter plus time plus chance. Life is not a cosmic accident.
And the Bible confirms, even though God gave you existence, you rebelled against His rule–so God calls us to repent, to turn from our way to God’s way. But how do we know it is all true? The end of Acts 17:31, Jesus proved it was all true through His resurrection.
When Jesus burst forth from the tomb on Sunday, His resurrection was the unmistakable demonstration of what the nature of life is all about. Namely, life comes from God, not from a big bang. And life continues on into eternity–it doesn’t go out like a candle when you die.
And life has value. Life is a gift from God to be enjoyed in relation to God. That only happens when you are in union with Christ, who conquered death and is life Himself.
Third The resurrection proves you are so sinful you require radical internal transformation
Sooner or later you have to confront what the Bible says is true about you. Ready? You are so sinful at the core of your being that unless you get help from the outside (God), life is bleak and eternity is a terror. Does the resurrection make a difference? Yes!
When someone is killed by lethal injection, the assumption is he must have done something awful, right? When you see a blood-stained cross, then an empty tomb, you ought to be rocked to the core of your being that something that horrific had to happen to God’s Son to pay for the rebellion in our hearts toward God. Ever think about that, or are you still holding onto, “I’m basically good”?
If you accept the resurrection, if you say you believe Jesus died for sin and rose again from the dead, then with that package comes a full-on admission of our complete and total sinfulness and our need for God to rescue you from your sin and transform you from the inside out. God must do it! Romans 5:6 says to believers, “For while we were still helpless, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly.”
Have you admitted to God, and to everyone else, that you are a total moral failure before a holy God? The resurrection says you must, then turn to Christ. How? Luke 24 makes true salvation very clear–A, B, C.
A BELIEVE in your mind the truth about Christ
Verse 46 says, “And He said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and rise again from the dead the third day.’” Jesus died and rose again to provide the only way anyone can be right, resurrected in heart and forever in Heaven.
Acts 4:12 says, “There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved.” Rely completely on Christ alone! Only Jesus is alive, only Jesus has died in your place, only Jesus can forgive you, only Jesus can give you a new life.
B TURN with your will from sin to follow Christ
In verse 47 Jesus says, “and that repentance for forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name.” Jesus says here that repentance is required for the forgiveness of sins. If Christ is drawing you to Himself, He will give you the ability to repent, meaning this–by an act of your will, turn over control of your life to Christ, to turn from going your way to follow His way in the Bible, to agree with God that anything in your life that is a violation of His Word is sin and against God’s perfect will.
C CONFESS with your mouth Christ is your Master
Verses 47 and 48 say, “and that repentance for forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.” The disciples were to share this message all over the world and a real believer, not a make-believer, will openly share that Christ is their Master. They’ll say, “I follow Christ–I am a Christian.”
Have you? Will you right now? Jesus says in Matthew 10:32 and 33, “Everyone …who shall confess Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. 33 But whoever shall deny Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.” Christianity is not a private faith. When given the opportunity you’ll share with your mouth that Christ is your Lord. Today is that day! Why? Because Christ is risen! Let’s pray.