The Lord’s Message:  Resurrection:  The Exclamation Point on Redemption

The Lord’s Message:  Resurrection:  The Exclamation Point on Redemption
Date:  April 9, 2023
Where:  Tilghman & Sherwood UMC
Scripture Reference:  John 20:1-18

            I love to use exclamation points, especially when I am writing about God and His All-encompassing Grace.  You should use an exclamation point to express very strong feelings about the subject.  I have heard some Christians says that they do not believe in the virgin birth.  Their reason is that only Matthew and Luke wrote about Jesus’ virgin birth.  Some even say that they do not believe that Jesus bodily died on the cross, only spiritually.  They based this on a little part of a verse of scripture found in Matthew 27:50 & John 19:30 that says, “he gave up his spirit.” Some even doubt the resurrection.  Their reason is not because of what the disciples wrote (all four disciples wrote about the resurrection), but because it is too wonderful to believe.  I have to agree with them on that point, “it is too wonderful to believe,” but we have evidence to support the reality of the resurrection. 

            Let us pray.

            Even though Jesus openly talked about the fact that he was going to go to Jerusalem, where he would be tried by the high priest, turned over to the Roman authorities, die and be in the tomb for three days and God would raise Him up on the third day, the disciples still did not believe.  The Synoptic Gospels ( Matthew, Mark, & Luke) recorded Jesus saying this three times.  In John’s Gospel, it is recorded or referenced numerous times.  The disciples had been eyewitnesses to the miracles:  Jesus’ walking on the water.  Jesus calming the storms.  Jesus healing the blind, the deaf and the mute.  Jesus feeding 4 and 5 thousand people with very little food.  Even Jesus brought back people from the dead, the young man in the city of Nain that was in a casket and was going to be buried in Luke 7 and Lazarus who had been in the tomb for 4 days in John 11.   Still the disciples did not believe in the Resurrection.  Look at John 20:3-9.  Neither did Mary Magdalene.  Look at John 20:10-14.  It is only after Jesus says to her, “Mary,” does she believe.  It is only after Jesus appears to the disciples that they believe.  Now, you may be thinking that this occurred over 2000 years ago, so what evidence do we have to support that Jesus was resurrected.  Show me the proof, you might be saying. 

            I will give you that evidence.  First, did Jesus exist?  The proof of Jesus’ existence is found in the writings of all four Gospel writers.  They give us a written record to show the proof of Jesus’ existence by His life, His miracles, His death and His resurrection.  As a matter of fact, John tells us in John 21:25 that if everything that Jesus did was written down, the whole world would not have room for all the books.  You might say well, of course this evidence would be found in the Bible.  Are there secular sources?  Yes, the Romans.  The Romans kept detailed records.  These are now used by historians and archaeologists. The Roman historian at the time of Nero, Tacitus, recorded this for the reason that the emperor blamed Christians for the burning of Rome.  “Nero set up as the culprits and punished with the utmost refinement of cruelty a class hated for their abominations, who are commonly called Christians.  Christus (Roman name for Jesus Christ), from whom their name is derived, was executed at the hands of the procurator Pontius Pilate in the reign of Tiberius.  Checked for the moment, this pernicious superstition again broke out, not only in Judea, the source of evil, but even in Rome.  What was the pernicious superstition?  That Jesus rose from the dead.  So, Jesus did exist.  This is confirmed in the Bible as well as in Roman records.

            Second, the change of the disciples.  Before the resurrection, the disciples were unbelieving, fearful, timid, hopeless, and concerned for their share of Jesus’ kingdom.  Most of them were fishermen, tax collectors, and zealots.  The resurrection changed them into complete believers, full of courage, strong, full of hope and only concerned with telling others the Good News.  The church’s history records that every one of them would be martyred, except for John. , The Romans finally exiled him to the prison island of Patmos after trying to kill him by boiling him in oil.  Their testimony would change the world. 

            Third, the empty tomb.  Now, if the body of Jesus is missing from the tomb, the way to invalidate the resurrection is to put a body in the tomb.  The chief priest and the Jewish leaders did not do this. Instead, they bribe the guards.  Look at Matthew 28:11-15.  Just put a body in the empty tomb and problem solved. 

            Fourth, world history was altered.  Before and after Jesus’ time on earth, there have been men claiming to be the Messiah.  Every one of these men have tried to overthrow the ruling government.  The result is that they have been put to death and their followers have scattered.  The fact that the Gospel has spread from one end of the earth to the other is proof in the resurrection.  Even today, the Gospel continues to change lives and draw people to relationship with God. 

            Fifth, the details in the resurrection accounts.  All four Gospel writers wrote about the resurrection.  All four Gospel writers mention the women as the first eyewitnesses to the Risen Christ.  According to Jewish law of the day, a woman’s testimony was not considered as reliable.  Only a man’s testimony was considered to be valid.  Knowing this, the Gospel writers still went out of their way to point out that a woman was the first to see the Risen Jesus.  Another detail, as recorded by the Gospel writers, is the fact that upon first seeing Jesus, the people did not recognize Him.  Mary Magdalene thinks that He is the gardener in John 20:10-15.  It is only after Jesus says, “Mary,” that she recognizes Him.  The two disciples on the road to Emmaus do not recognize Jesus, until He breaks the bread in Luke 24:30-32.  We are never told why they do not recognize Him.  Also, Jesus tells Mary Magdalene not to touch Him in John 20:17, but then tells Thomas in John 20:27 to put his fingers in the place where the nails were and his hand where the sword pierced His side.  These details show that the Gospel writers did not want to leave out any details, even if those details contradicted or cause confusion.

            I believe in the virgin birth.  Jesus was fully human and fully divine.

            I believe in the miracles that Jesus performed and in His teachings.

            I believe that His body was crucified on the cross for salvation of sins.

            I believe that He rose from the grave and conquer death once and for all. Resurrection is the exclamation point on Redemption.  This has made a difference in my life and in many others, including in Russia and Ukraine. 

            In 1930s, the Communist Party sent a leader named Bukharin from Moscow to Kiev.  His goal was to convince the people to believe in atheism.  There was huge assembly gathered.  Bukharin stood up on the platform and for a solid hour brought his heavy artillery to bear on Christianity, with the hurling of arguments and ridicule.  At last, he was finished and was firmly convinced that he had put the faith of men to smoldering ashes.  He jokingly asked, “Are there any questions?”  A solitary man rose and asked permission to speak.  He was granted the request.  He stood on the platform with Mr. Bukharin not far away.  The audience was breathlessly silent as the men surveyed the crowd to the right and to the left.  At last, he shouted in the ancient Orthodox greeting, “Christ is Risen!”  The vast assembly arose as one man and the response came crashing like the sound of an avalanche, “He is Risen, Indeed!” 

            Resurrection is the exclamation point on Redemption.  “Christ is Risen!  He is Risen, Indeed!”   Amen.

April 12, 2023 9:34 am