THE WONDER OF RESURRECTION (Luke 18: 31-34; Luke 24: 1-8)
I have an interest in the 2nd World War, in part because my father fought in that war and was badly injured in the battle for Caen in France
- I don’t glamorise war… it’s a nasty, brutish business
- But great acts of heroism take place… and unbelievable events… near misses, amazing escapes, and so forth
One of the amazing stories from the War concerns a soldier reported as killed in action… who appeared at the front door of his home!
- The telegram had arrived with the awful news
- The family was devastated… a ‘memorial service’ was held
- Then out of the blue… “Surprise, surprise!”
- The soldier—still very much alive—had been given some unexpected leave and decided to arrive unannounced to give his family a lovely surprise…
Well, he wasn’t disappointed… They were extremely surprised!
- The letter had stated categorically that the man had been killed in action … he was dead… that was the tragic end of the matter
- But now they could touch him… hear him… share a meal with him… It was a miracle… he was alive after all!
But imagine that you hadn’t just heard about someone’s death…but witnessed it first hand!
- You had seen him arrested… tried in a kangaroo court… beaten to a pulp… humiliated… crucified… buried
- No doubt about it at all… plenty of reliable witnesses to confirm that this Jesus of Nazareth… the prophet from Galilee… the one they called “The Way”… the one who claimed to come from God and actually was God… the one who healed the sick and transformed lives… was dead
BUT NOW A REPORT IS SPREADING THAT JESUS IS ALIVE AGAIN!
- How ridiculous can you get? He couldn’t possibly be alive…
- They saw him die… the Roman soldiers saw him die… the religious leaders saw him die… his mother and John and other women were there when he died…
- But first one and then another person make the same claim… Jesus has risen from the dead
- Are they all mistaken? Is this some sort of madness?
But didn’t Jesus say that He would be killed and rise again?
- Yes, he did… on a number of occasions
- So were his followers just slow to catch on… or lacking faith … or so overwhelmed by everything that had happened, they couldn’t accept it?
- But now they have to believe it… for though the door is locked, Jesus appears in the room!
- He speaks, smiles, reassures, teaches, commands… and disappears again!
- And his body is as good as new… except for the nail-prints in his hands… and the hole in his side from the sword thrust
IRREFUTABLE PROOF that it was Jesus
Incidentally, in sign language, reference to the person of Jesus is by pointing to the palm of each hand… the nail-prints
WHAT’S GOING ON?
- Perhaps they’re all imagining it…perhaps it’s an hallucination
- They so want Jesus to be alive… it’s understandable that they are fantasising about him
- After all, their hopes, dreams and eternal future were rooted in the person of Jesus the Messiah… and now that life is over
- Little wonder they convince themselves that a miracle has occurred… (They’ll soon get over it…)
- But over 500 people see the resurrected Jesus on a single occasion… they can’t all be imagining it!
Maybe it’s a Jesus lookalike…(his brother, say) or an imposter…
- No chance! Jesus was one of the best known personalities in the country…instantly recognisable
Maybe Jesus didn’t die at all… he only swooned and came around in the cool of the burial chamber…
- So then his disciples could have drugged the guards at the tomb, rolled away the stone… and brought Jesus out
- Perhaps the soldier at the crucifixion didn’t stick his sword into Jesus very far… just a little stab to cause a splash of blood and fool the crowd…
- Perhaps while they were waiting for Jesus to be buried, his mother whispered to him: “Just pretend to be dead. We’ll get you out of this mess”
THE TRUTH IS THAT RATHER THAN TRY TO EXPLAIN IT AWAY, IT IS EASIER TO ACCEPT THE EVIDENCE… JESUS ROSE FROM THE DEAD…
- He didn’t swoon…there wasn’t an ingenious plot to set him free
- The disciples didn’t hallucinate… or imagine it… or start a rumour about a resurrection to get their own back at the religious leaders
The resurrection of Christ is factually accurate and supported by a range of personal testimonies and the sort of evidence that would stand up to the closest scrutiny in any court of law
The most compelling proof of Jesus’ resurrection is that after timidly hiding away, the disciples begin to boldly proclaim that Jesus is alive…
- Jesus Christ is not a dead hero… or a legend… or a symbol… or a figurehead… or a religious guru… or an ideal… He is truly risen from the dead, just as he said
- And the news spreads, as the disciples leave the safety of their homes and confidently declare this wonderful truth
- So much so that the authorities start to panic… Following the crucifixion, the sky had turned black, graves had opened, reports of dead saints in the city abounded…AND NOW THIS!
- So they spread a rumour that Jesus’ body had been stolen
Persecution soon followed and has continued for Christians in different parts of the world ever since, notably in totalitarian and religiously extremist countries
But Jesus Christ didn’t rise from the dead just to create a new religion… or to give us something to celebrate each year… or an excuse to eat too much chocolate!
- It wasn’t just to fulfil prophecy or spur the disciples into action… or cock-a-snook at the religious leaders of the day
- Christ rose to show that love is stronger than death
- That death has lost its sting… and the grave has its victory
- It was to show that good will ultimately prevail over evil
- That we can trust God even when things are at their bleakest
- That He will never leave us or forsake us
- That Satan and his angels, the enemy of God, is already a defeated foe
The resurrection means something even more…
- Because Jesus is alive and will never die again, we have God’s promise that we, too, can live for ever
- Easter is not only a time of new life in the world around us… but an opportunity for YOU and ME to have new life
You might protest:
“Why do I want new life when I haven’t died yet?”
- But the Bible tells us that we have “died” because of sin… however good we feel or seem to be
- In fact, the Apostle Paul writes that you were “dead in your trespasses (transgressions) and sins… But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions”
Everyone is in the same sinful condition… The only exception in the history of the world was Jesus of Nazareth… perfect man, perfect God
- So we need to be resurrected or “born all over again”… this time by making Jesus’ new life OUR new life
- By starting afresh… by trusting in the person of the risen Jesus and what He has done for me… dying in my place… rising from the dead to offer me the chance of new life in Him
Finally, although we can have new life TODAY… there is one more resurrection (“new life”) to come…
- Jesus will be returning… not as a baby or a humble carpenter but as the one who will judge the whole earth
- Jesus said in John 5 that we shall ALL rise from the dead on that day… but our eternal futures will be different…
- On the one hand, those who have new life in Christ… on the other hand, those who are still dead in their sins
How about you and me: are we dead or alive?
The good news of the Gospel is that we can pass from death to life today and be assured of eternal life IN THE FUTURE at the final resurrection?
Then we can really enjoy a happy, life-transforming Easter