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Why Jesus?

Part 4: After 3 Days

Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church

(6/23) Today we continue our sermon’s series "Why Jesus" answering 6 common questions about Jesus. We’ve looked at him as the Bread of Life, As a Man, a Kernel of Wheat, and now After 3 Days. This morning we’re going to consider the question "Did Jesus Rise from the grave? It’s an important question. Important because we wonder what happens to us when we die? It is a very common question that maybe even some of you have, but as Christians we believe that death is our enemy. That’s what the Bible says. We hate death. That’s why we buckle up… That’s why we drink bottled water... We want to live… we don’t want to die… but eventually death wins and all of us die; because death is the result of sin. We all sin. So we all die. So the big question is what then? What happens after we die? To answer this important question let’s start reading from Mark 8:22-31…

"They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man's eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, "Do you see anything?"

He looked up and said, "I see people; they look like trees walking around."

Once more Jesus put his hands on the man's eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. Jesus sent him home, saying, "Don't go into the village."

Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, "Who do people say I am?"

They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets."

"But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?"

Peter answered, "You are the Christ."

Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.

He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again." (NIV)

The resurrection is a fact upon which the Christian faith is built. Christianity is rooted in this fact. So much so, that in 1 Corinthians chapter 15, the Apostle Paul jokes that if Jesus is still dead then we’re just a bunch of pitiful fools (1 Corinthians 15:19). If Jesus is still dead, there’s no reason for us to have any hope beyond the grave. If death wins there is no Good News beyond that. And so for us as Christians, if the resurrection of Jesus could be disproved, you literally pull the carpet out from under our feet and the entirety of our faith falls apart.

So today we’ll look at three different lines of evidence answering the question "Did Jesus rise from the grave?" We’ll look at what the Bible says. We’ll look at what we can infer (or assume) based on the facts. And we’ll look at what is supported by history.

1. What the Bible says…

I will begin by telling you that Jesus repeatedly, forcefully and clearly said, "I’ll die. I’ll be buried. And three days later I’ll rise again; conquering death like no one else ever has or ever will." This is something he said very often and you’ll see I have the references in your notes (Matthew 12:40, 27:63; Mark 9:31,10:34, 14:58; John 2:19).

But you know some people say Jesus didn’t die. But if he didn’t die then we have a bigger miracle then just a resurrection. I mean he was falsely accused… beat up by a mob… he was flogged… and then they took six inch spikes and pounded them into his wrists and feet… they crucified him… they saw him breathe his last… and just to make sure they took a spear and punctured his heart. So he’s really dead right? You’re really dead if you have a hole in your heart. You know there is no back up. It’s not like having dual fuel tanks on your pickup truck. Once it’s gone, it’s gone, that’s all you got.

Okay, so Jesus died like a criminal. And he was buried in a rich man’s tomb. The Prophet Isaiah said, "He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth" (Isaiah 53:9). So Jesus was a flat broke, homeless, carpenter, but when he died a rich man named, Joseph of Arimathea, stepped forward, took Jesus body, and laid it in his own tomb. As a result everyone knew where his tomb was. It wasn’t an unknown location.

Jesus was laid to rest in that tomb wrapped in the burial linens and spices. A large stone was rolled over the opening… there was the seal of the Roman government on it… there were guards like the Marines or the Navy Seals posted outside. This was official state business. Jesus was dead and buried.

But just days later he rose from the grave. He did. And within weeks or months after his resurrection, Christians started putting together a creed… a statement of faith… about the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. This public proclamation was put together when the eye witnesses were still alive… long before there was time for myth, legend, or folklore to develop… right after Jesus resurrection… this creed was put together and it’s mentioned in First Corinthians, Chapter 15. And there we read, "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" (1 Corinthians 15:3-5).

The account of the resurrection of Jesus is very historical… it’s factual… and it’s verifiable. The Bible says that "After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God" (Acts 1:3).

2. What we can assume…

Now that is just a little of the Biblical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus. But let’s see what we can assume… what we can infer by the response of those who were there… from the indirect evidence. What I am saying is this. I want to show you all the changes that took place after the resurrection… changes that are only explained by the resurrection of Jesus… changes that never would have happened if Jesus was still dead!

First is the total transformation of the disciples. Before the resurrection of Jesus they were cowards. They were not ultimate fighters. They were ultimate chickens, that’s what they were, right? They were cowards. They didn’t fight… they didn’t want to get hurt… they didn’t want any trouble.

And perhaps the greatest example of this is Peter, who as Jesus was on trial, was watching from the shadows. A young gal comes up to him and says, "Hey, aren’t you one of the followers of Jesus. And he’s like "Oh, no, no, no, I don’t know him. I never met the guy." So he denies Christ when confronted by a teenage girl.

Yet when Peter meets the risen Christ, suddenly his voice drops… he enters into spiritual manhood… and all of a sudden he’s a courageous, bold, Bible preaching, persecuted Peter. So the question is how do you explain the transformation of the disciples? Men like Peter don’t suddenly get courageous and die for the lie. It just doesn’t happen.

Second if you think that disciples lied and made up the story of the resurrection. You have to answer the question of motive, right? When we lie, we tell lies that are to our advantage, right? I’m mean that’s what online dating is all about… You photo shop yourself. You say "I’m witty and funny..."

Lie’s get us more fame… more pleasure… more money… more of whatever it is we value. We tend not to tell lies that get us killed. We don’t make up those kind of lies. Lies are only to our advantage. And 11 out of the 12 disciples were murdered for proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus Christ as historical fact. Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t tell lies that get me murdered. I tell lies that might get me another sandwich… maybe some favor… but not murdered!

I mean consider John. The only one who wasn’t physically murdered was John. He was boiled alive, but he didn’t die… so they exiled him off to the island of Patmos. Now if I made up a lie, as soon as I’m going into the fry cooker at McDonalds, that’s when I recant… that’s when I change my story, right?

How many of you know… when they went to crucify you or boil you alive, you would’ve changed your story if you’d been telling a lie. Yet, not one of the 12 disciples recanted. They all stuck to the story, even though they were scattered, abused, murdered, and killed. Not one of them recanted. But, instead they said no Jesus died and He rose from the grave. You can’t scare me. Kill me if you want.

Third you’ve got to explain the change of the day of worship. Now Jews for over a thousand years had worshiped on Saturday, because that was the day of the Sabbath, it’s one of the Ten Commandments. You obey God and you worship him on Saturday. Yet the Jews who believed in the resurrection, saw Jesus as the fulfillment of the Old Testament, and recognized it’s not just about Saturday. It’s about Jesus. Jesus who said, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and (I’ll give you Sabbath) I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28). Jesus said, "If you want rest it’s not just Saturday you need. It’s me." Saturday was just getting us ready for Jesus. Jesus has come. He has fulfilled everything. And so good Orthodox Jews stopped worshiping on Saturday, started worshiping on Sunday, because that was the day of Jesus resurrection. And so that doesn’t make any sense at all unless there was an actual resurrection.

3. What is supported…

So in addition to what the Bible says… in addition to what we can assume by the response of those who were there… let’s consider what is supported historically for the resurrection of Jesus.

One of the first and most obvious things is that Jesus tomb was not enshrined. You see in that day, like our day, when someone dies we visit their grave… we leave cards, flowers, and food… we light candles, shed tears, and remember them. In our day there are famous people like Ronald Reagan, Elvis Presley, Kurt Cobain, or Jimmy Hendrix… and you’ll find memorials at their graves where people still gather... even as you’re driving you see these places on the side of the road where there are little crosses, flowers, pictures, and stuff. Yet, that wasn’t done at the tomb of Jesus… at the tomb of Jesus there’s nothing. No flowers. No cards. No nothing. Why? He wasn’t there. You don’t go to the tomb crying, because He’s alive and well. The tomb wasn’t enshrined, because everybody knew He was alive and the body wasn’t there.

Now how about the historical evidence of those people who were from different cultures then being Christian? There is a passage that historian Edwin Yamauchi calls "probably the most important reference to Jesus outside the New Testament." Reporting on Emperor Nero's decision to blame the Christians for the fire that had destroyed Rome in A.D. 64, the Roman historian Tacitus wrote: "Nero fastened the guilt . . . on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of . . . Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome…". (Tacitus, Annals 15.44, cited in Strobel, The Case for Christ, 82).

We learn that history confirms what the Gospels tell us about the death of Jesus and second it refers to a most mischievous superstition which had spread from Judea to Rome. And what do you think that was? A resurrection?

Another comes from a historian name Josephus. Josephus was commissioned by the Roman government as a historian when eye witnesses were still alive… when he could interview them... and he wrote this famous passage called the Testimoniun Flabium and it comes from his book the Antiquities. I’ll just read to you excerpts of this fairly long section.

He says, "About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he . . . wrought surprising feats. . . . He was the Christ. When Pilate… condemned him to be crucified, those who had… come to love him did not give up their affection for him. On the third day he appeared... restored to life... And the tribe of Christians…. has… not disappeared. (Josephus, Antiquities 18.63-64, cited in Yamauchi, "Jesus Outside the New Testament", 212).

Now this is the journalistic, historical description of the person and work of Jesus, from a non-Christian saying, "On the third day he appeared... restored to life..."

What’s amazing, is that even though at first the government claimed the body was stolen; no one in subsequent days even denied the resurrection… that the tomb was empty… it was just agreed upon. They all knew where the tomb was… they knew it was empty… but how do we account for the missing body? Some said, "They stole the body." But that doesn’t account for the body coming back to life. I hate to point out the big E on the eye chart, but whether or not the body was stolen doesn’t matter because it’s alive again. There He is!

You know, that’s what happened, they couldn’t account for the facts, they couldn’t cover up the obvious. This wasn’t a Week End at Bernie’s, right? You know where Jesus is being carted around by his buddies sipping slurpees. That’s not what happened.

Jesus is not dead. Jesus is alive. And this is the most wonderful truth. This is the most unparalleled miracle. Every other religious leader is dead. Moses, Mohammad, Krishna, Buddha, and Gandhi they’re dead. They’re really dead. They haven’t come back. They haven’t conquered sin. They haven’t conquered death, just Jesus. He is distinct from and superior to everyone.

So what does this mean? This means that sin does not win, but Jesus does. This means that death does not win, but Jesus does. This means that hopelessness does not win, but Jesus does. This means that Jesus really did die for our sin and really did rise for our salvation. And we can sing to Jesus today because he’s alive. We can pray to Jesus today. And he will hear us and answer our prayers because he is alive. And we can confess our sins to Jesus today and he will forgive us and embrace us because he has defeated sin and death. He is alive and his words in John 11:25 are so wonderful. He says. "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies." That’s eternal life… life forever without sin… life forever with Jesus. That’s what it’s all about.

When we’re ready, we’re going to have communion which is where we celebrate Jesus, his death, burial, resurrection to take away our sins through his body and blood. And we’ll celebrate Jesus. And we’ll leave here empowered by the same Holy Spirit who raised Jesus from the grave, who gives us the new life, the resurrection life of the victory of Jesus. God bless you forever.

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