The Resurrection Changes Everything (Luke 24:1-12)Written by admin on Apr 21, 2019 in - No Comments
There is no audio for today’s sermon.
I invite you to turn with me in your Bibles this morning to the Gospel of Luke. Our passage for this Easter Sunday will be Luke 24:1-12. If you do not have a Bible with you this morning, or if you’d like to follow along in the translation I will be preaching from, I encourage you to make use of one of the pew Bibles where you can find this passage located on page 884.
All around the country today—all around the world even—Christians are greeting one another with the words, “He is risen. He is risen, indeed.” It is difficult to know exactly when and where this well-known Easter greeting first began, but there is a good chance it was inspired by a verse from this very chapter of Luke. If you have your Bibles open to Luke 24, look down with me to verse 34, and notice what it says; it says, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!”
Well, regardless of where and when this greeting first began, the reason we greet one another in this way that emphasizes Jesus’s victory over death because the resurrection is what Easter is all about. In fact, the resurrection is what the Christian faith is all about. That’;s right, without the resurrection, there’d be no Christian faith. Without the resurrection, we’d be doing something else this morning. And we certainly wouldn’t be gathered here talking about some man named Jesus who was arrested and killed by the Romans 2,000 years ago.
But, we are here this morning, aren’t we? And the reason we are here is because Jesus has risen, he has risen indeed. You see, if we read our Bibles carefully, we will discover that the resurrection of Jesus is the doctrine upon which our whole system of belief stands or falls. The Apostle Paul tells us this in 1 Corinthians 15. In 1 Corinthians 15:14 he says that “if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” And in 1 Corinthians 15:17, he says, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.” So, we can’t get away from the importance of the resurrection—without it our hopes are vain and our faith is futile. Yes, without it, we are wasting our time today.
But, as important as the resurrection is, what I have noticed, even in my own preaching sometimes, is that we tend to focus more on the cross and what was accomplished for us there, than we do on the resurrection and the hope that it gives to us as Christians. And so, on this resurrection Sunday, I want to speak about the Good News of Jesus Christ, through the lens of the resurrection. Not that the cross is unimportant, not that we do not need the cross, but today, I want to leave Good Friday behind, and focus on the good news of Resurrection Sunday. I want us to go away from here today with a greater appreciation and understanding of the resurrection and its significance in the lives of believers. I want us to really understand that Christianity truly does stand or fall based on whether or not Jesus was raised. Yes, I want us to see that the both the death of Jesus AND the resurrection of Jesus were equally necessary events in God’s redemptive plan. The death of Jesus and the resurrection of Jesus are inseparable realities in the gospel message. And most of all, I want us to see how, for us as Christians, the resurrection changes everything.
The truth is, I am afraid that for many of us it is so easy to stop at the cross and what Jesus accomplished for us there, that we really don’t understand the significance of the resurrection. And so, this morning I want to point out five reasons why the resurrection matters.Yes, I want to show you just how important the resurrection really is and how it really does change everything for us as Christians. I want to show you why we cannot think or believe that the resurrection is something we can take or leave. Yes, I want to show you why the resurrection is one of those non-negotiable items for us as believers. That is the main thing I want to accomplish in this sermon.
But I also realize that there may be some people here this morning who, not only could take or leave the resurrection, but who also say, “There is just no way. There is no way you can expect me to believe something like that could have actually happened. There is no way a man could be brutally beaten, crucified, stabbed through the heart with a spear, pronounced dead by professional executioners who knew very well what dead was, and after having his body placed in a tomb for three days, come back to life. Science doesn’t allow stuff like that to happen. It is just a story, a nice story, but just a story and there is no way I am ever going to be able to believe that.”
Listen, if that is you, I want you to know that I can understand how you feel. The reality is, this is really a crazy story! Nothing like this has ever happened before and, until Jesus returns, nothing like this is ever going to happen again. And so if you are struggling this morning to believe that someone could die and be raised from the dead, I understand. Because, again, looking at this from a human perspective and through a completely scientific lens, it is impossible to believe. And, honestly, it confuses me when Christians are astounded that not everyone believes these things about Jesus. This stuff is hard to believe. Impossible in fact, unless God himself convinces you that it is true. So even with all the evidence I am about to present you with this morning, I also know that unless God opens your eyes to the reality of what I am saying, it is always going to seem like foolishness to you.
But, it is my hope, that God might use my words today as instruments to open your heart and mind to the reality of the gospel message. And that is why I want to briefly review some of the evidence we have that supports the resurrection as an actual historical event. This is not going to be an exhaustive presentation of all the evidence, but just a few things to consider for anyone struggling to believe that Jesus actually rose from the dead.
1. Women Witnesses
The first thing I would like to point out is something we can see right here in Luke 24. In Luke 24:1, it says, “But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared.” And if you look back the end of the previous chapter—Luke 23—you will see that the individuals Luke is talking about here was a small group of women who had become followers of Jesus. According to Luke, these women had not only witnessed the crucifixion, but also witnessed the burial of Jesus’s body in the tomb. Yes, in Luke 23:50-52 we see that a man named Joseph of Arimathea was given permission to remove Jesus’s body from the cross and place it in a tomb. And in Luke 23:55 we see that this group of women who had followed Jesus from Galilee, also followed him all the way to the tomb. And Luke tells us in verse 56 that after seeing where his body was laid, these women left the tomb to gather spices and ointments so that they could give him a proper burial.
But then, in Luke 24:2, we see that when they returned to the tomb where they saw Jesus’s body placed, what they discovered is that the stone blocking the entrance had been rolled away and that Jesus was no where to be found. Remember, they had seen his dead body and where it had been laid, but now, it was gone. And, as you might expect, they were perplexed. That is how Luke describes it in verse 4. He says, “While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel.” And he continues on saying,
5 And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” 8 And they remembered his words, 9 and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. (Luke 24:5–9 ESV)
And Luke even goes so far to give us the names of these women who found the empty tomb and had this Easter morning encounter with these two angels. In verse 10, he says, “Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles.”
Now, the reason this is significant, and the reason I think it is good evidence for the truthfulness of Luke’s story about the resurrection of Jesus, is that if you were going to fabricate a story in the first century, you would not have used women as your main witnesses to the resurrection. This was a much different time and place than where we live today. And during these days, the testimony of a woman carried very little weight. So, if you were going to make up a story about the resurrection of Jesus, you would have used male witnesses. You would have left out the women. Because when you use women as your witnesses, you just have another battle to fight. And so, because Luke’s Gospel does not shy away from using women as witnesses, that lends weight to the authenticity of his story. Again, if you were going to make something up, this would not be the way you would do it. It makes no sense, and it must, therefore, be true.
2. No One Really Questions the Empty Tomb
Now, the second thing I would like to say about the historicity of this story is related to the fact that no one has ever really questioned the empty tomb—and particularly not anyone who as around when all of this went down. In fact, in Matthew’s account of this story, we learn that when the Jewish chief priests learn that Jesus has risen from the grave as he promised, they didn’t deny that it had happened, but instead made up a story and bribed the Roman soldiers who were guardian the tomb to help spread it (see Matthew 28:11-15). Yes, in Matthew 28:11-15 we learn that after giving “a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers” the priests told them to tell anyone who asked that the reason Jesus’s body was missing is because his disciples came by night and stole him away while the guards had fallen asleep. And Matthew tells us that the soldiers “took the money and did as they were directed. And this story has [thus] been spread among the Jews to this day.”
So again, when the chief priests heard that the tomb was open and Jesus’ body was gone, they didn’t deny that the tomb was empty, because it clearly was. But, what they did was come up with a story that reason it was empty is because Jesus’s disciples came and stole his body. Yes, the same disciples who fled in fear for their lives just a few days earlier while Jesus was being crucified—those same cowardly disciples, supposedly devised a plan, that would have included navigating around or overpowering the Roman soldiers who were guarding the tomb making sure nothing like this would happen. That’s what the chief priests would want you to believe. But, that’s just crazy and not at all believable.
No, the fact is, the tomb was empty and everyone knew it. The problem was no one could agree why it was empty. Nothing like this had ever happened before. Even Jesus’ disciples, who were told this would happen, had a hard time believing it. But the fact is, the tomb was empty and no one could deny it. And proposing that the disciples took his body, was really a stretch. They abandoned Jesus at the first sign of trouble and were still hiding like scared little kids.
3. Scared disciples who after seeing the resurrected Jesus turn the world upside down
But, it was these same scared disciples, the ones who had fled in fear when Jesus’s was arrested, who after seeing Jesus’ resurrected body, and after receiving the Holy Spirit, would find themselves willing to boldly preach the truth—that Jesus rose from the dead just as he promised. They would preach boldly in the face of beatings and arrests and even all the way to their deaths. And this is the third piece of evidence we have that the resurrection of Jesus was a real historical event. Yes, this completely unexpected change of heart in the previously terrified disciples is strong evidence that they really did see the resurrected Jesus.
How in the world do you go from running scared and hiding out in fear to boldly confronting the Jewish religious leaders and proclaiming that Jesus has died for our sins and risen from the dead? How did they get the courage to tell the Jewish people that they had killed their Messiah? How did they go from being cowards to people who were willing to die (and did die) for what they were claiming? Well, the best explanation for why they had this change of heart is because they saw the resurrected Jesus with their own eyes. Yes, friends, the resurrection changes everything. No one is willing to die for a lie. But it is very reasonable that someone would be willing to die to save the lives of others. People do it all the time. And that is what the disciples did. They were willing to die because they had seen the risen Lord Jesus and now believed everything he said. And, they were willing to die so that we too could know the truth and be saved from the punishment for sin, which the Bible tells us is eternal destruction.
4. Over 500 people saw him at one time
And, just in case the witness of his small group of disciples is not enough evidence for you, let me remind you that it was not only the disciples who saw the risen Jesus. No, in 1 Corinthians 15:6, the Apostle Paul tells us that Jesus appeared to more than five hundred Christians at one time. And he goes on to say that most of those 500 were still alive. In other words, “Don’t take it from me. Ask them for yourselves.”
How do we believe anything in this world that we cannot see with our own eyes? Well, we believe because other people tell us. If it is someone I really trust, their testimony alone is good enough for me. If there are a few people, who I know, but not very well, and they all tell me the same story, then most likely I am beginning to believe it is true. But if more than 500 people tell me they saw something, no matter how miraculous it is, it is going to be difficult to deny that regardless of whether or not I know them well enough to trust them. And this is exactly what Paul was saying to the Corinthians.
Friends, juries are often willing to end someone’s life on the testimony of even one eyewitness that they do not know. And here we have over 500 eyewitnesses that Jesus rose from the dead. What jury could walk away and believe they were all lying? Well, not one. And yet, so many people today refuse to accept this as evidence into the trial that is going on in their mind about Jesus. So you tell me what is the most reasonable thing to conclude based on this evidence. I personally think it is pretty clear.
Five Reasons Why the Resurrection Matters
And so I hope I have demonstrated that there is actually plenty of solid evidence that Jesus’s resurrection was a real historical event. There is much more that could be said—whole books have been written on this topic. But, for the sake of time, I need to leave it at that and move on to the second part of my sermon.
As I said in the beginning, I still believe that sometimes, even when we have no problem accepting the resurrection as a real historical event, we still miss the importance of the resurrection in our own lives. As I was saying earlier, to hear us talk, we sound satisfied with the cross and what was accomplished there, and we never seem to get to the importance of the resurrection—we don’t understand how it fits into the “hope” equation of Christianity. And so I would like to conclude today’s sermon by quickly pointing out five reasons why the resurrection matters. Again this is not an exhaustive list, but it is hopefully enough to help us refocus on the importance of the resurrection within the Christian faith.
1. If Jesus were not raised, the disciples would not have believed, and none of us would be in this room this morning.
The first thing I would like to say regarding the importance of the resurrection is that, if Jesus were not raised, the disciples would not have believed, and none of us would be in this room this morning. As I said earlier, it was seeing and touching the resurrected Jesus that changed everything in the minds of the disciples. It was then that they were able to look back on all the things Jesus said about his death and resurrection and put the pieces together. It was this new found confidence in all of this that helped enable them to go out into the world and turn it upside down with the gospel. Again, the resurrection changed everything. Not just for these disciples, but for the whole world. And the fact that we are here this morning, two thousand years later, is proof of that.
Without the resurrection, the story of Jesus would have been little more than a blip in history. The disciples had all run away scared. Despite his claims that he would rise, they believed that Jesus was dead and there was no hope. And, it was not until they saw the resurrected Jesus with their own eyes that they were able to believe and thus bold enough to go share what they had seen with others. So that is the first reason the resurrection matters. It matters because seeing the resurrected Jesus brought about a completed turnaround within the disciples—a turn around that has changed the whole world.
2. Jesus Said He Would Rise
The second reason the resurrection matters is that Jesus said he would rise. And, if Jesus did not rise, he was a liar, not a Lord. He was a false prophet who cannot be trusted. Several times in his life Jesus promised that he would rise from the dead. And if he did not rise, he is a liar. He is not someone you should follow. So you can’t be comfortable following Jesus without the resurrection. You can’t be satisfied by just what he accomplished on the cross. If he died on the cross, and did not rise, he was and is a liar.
In Luke 9:22, Jesus said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”
In Matthew 17:9, Matthew tells us that as Jesus and his disciples were coming down from the mountain of transfiguration, he commanded them by saying, “Tell no one the vision, until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.”
In Mark 9:31 Jesus says to his disciples, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.”
In Luke 18:31–33, Jesus says again to his disciples, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.”
And then in Mark 14:28, on the night before his death, Jesus tells his disciples, “After I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.”
Friends, if Jesus didn’t rise he is a liar. And a liar cannot be your Savior. If Jesus didn’t rise, we are wasting our time here. Again, the resurrection matters because our faith falls apart without it.
3. Jesus’ Resurrection Proves that everything that happened on the cross was accepted by God as the once and for all sacrifice for sins.
The third reason why Jesus’ resurrection matters is that his resurrection proves that his death was not in vain. If Jesus simply died, we could claim that he paid for our sins on the cross, but without his resurrection, we would have no confidence that his death actually satisfied the wrath of God against sinners. And so God demonstrated his approval of Jesus’s substitutionary death on the cross by raising him from the dead. Yes, when Jesus rose from the tomb God was affirming that Jesus’s death satisfied his holy justice. It was God’s way of saying, “I accept your once and for all sacrifice for the sins of many.”
But, if Jesus did not come out of that tomb, where would our confidence be that everything he said was true? How would we know today that Jesus is someone worth following? Well, we wouldn’t. If Christ was not raised, Paul would be right, our faith would be futile because we would still be in our sins. But Jesus’s resurrection gives us certain confidence that this is not true. And that is the third reason why the resurrection matters. It matter because it is proof that our sins have been forgiven.
4. Believing in the Resurrection is Necessary for our Salvation
The fourth reason the resurrection matters is that believing in the resurrection is necessary for our salvation. This is true in two ways. First we see in Romans 4:25 that Jesus was “was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” Notice here that our justification, our being declared righteous before God, hinges on the resurrection, not just the cross. So according to Paul, we are not just made righteous through Jesus’s death, but also through his resurrection. Jesus’s death without his resurrection is an incomplete salvation. We need the resurrection. It is necessary for our salvation.
And then secondly, in Romans 10:9 we are told, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” So according to this verse, in addition to confessing that Jesus is Lord, we must also believe in our hearts that God raised him from the dead. And so it stands to reason that if God didn’t raise Jesus from the dead, then we can’t believe in it and we can’t be saved. Again the resurrection is this important. It is not something we can just cast aside. It really does change everything. And it is a part of what we must believe to be saved. Yes, believing in the resurrection is necessary for our salvation. You cannot deny the resurrection and be saved—the Bible is clear.
5. Jesus’ Resurrection Defeated Death And Was the First of Many
And finally, the fifth reason why the resurrection matters, is that we are told in the Bible that Jesus’ resurrection defeated death and that it was just the first of many resurrections. That’s right, Jesus defeated death for all who trust in him to defeat death in their own lives. In other words, the resurrection of Christ gives us hope for the future. And this is the thing we miss when we believe that the goal of the Christian life is to “die and go to heaven.” We miss that the hope the Bible holds out for is different than that. The hope the Bible gives us is that in his death, Jesus has defeated death, and that one day, all who have placed their faith in him, will be raised as he was raised. That is the hope we have as Christians. That is why Jesus’s resurrection is so important. Because in changing everything, it changed the ultimate thing—death has been defeated, it has been swallowed up in victory, Jesus has taken away its sting.
Yes, friends, When Jesus rose from that tomb, he did what no man had ever done. He claimed victory over death. The Apostle Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:26 that “the last enemy to be destroyed is death.” And the way death was destroyed was by God raising Jesus from the dead. And this victory over death was not for him alone, it was also for everyone who believes that through Jesus we will be raised from the dead one day as well. In 1 Corinthians 15:52 we are told that one day “the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable.” And so, the reality of Christ’s resurrection, is the guarantee of our own resurrection.
And for this reason, the resurrection of Christ is the basis for any future hope we have as Christians. And so, we can’t just explain it away. We can’t spiritualize it and accept any notion that it was not a physical, bodily resurrection. We can’t do that and have any hope for the future. Because the resurrection is our hope for the future. It is at the core of our faith because the resurrection has changed everything.
Friends, there is one reason we are here today. We are here because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
And, brothers and sisters, if you have placed your faith in him, you can leave here today confident that Jesus defeated death, not only for himself, but also for you. His resurrection was just the first of many. And one day, we too, will rise to live with him for all of eternity in his heavenly kingdom. This is how the resurrection has changed everything. You can stake your eternity on this.
And so, if you haven’t done so before, I hope today is the day you will confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, and be saved.