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John 20:1-18

Jesus is Alive

  • Matthew Dodd
  • Sunday Night Messages
  • April 12, 2020

It has been rightly said that Christianity stands or falls on whether Jesus Christ was resurrected from the dead. The Apostle Paul did as well when he wrote…

1 Corinthians 15:14, … if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain, and so is your faith.

But how can we be certain that Jesus Christ was truly raised from the dead since His death took place almost 2,000 years ago? In John 20:1-18, we are going to study the post-resurrection appearance accounts of Jesus Christ and discover life-changing answers to this question, answers which confirm Jesus is Alive.

  • Sermon Notes
  • Scripture

Jesus is Alive

John 20:1-18 


ILLUS – Former atheist, now defender of the Christian faith, Josh McDowell, was once asked by a student from the University of Uruguay, “Why can’t you refute Christianity?”

1. It has been rightly said that Christianity stands or falls on whether Jesus Christ was resurrected from the dead.
2. The Apostle Paul did as well when he wrote…

1 Corinthians 15:14, … if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain, and so is your faith.

3. But how can we be certain that Jesus Christ was truly raised from the dead since His death took place almost 2,000 years ago?
4. We are going to study the post-resurrection appearance accounts of Jesus Christ and discover life-changing answers to this question, answers which confirm Jesus is Alive.

John 20:1-18


1. Ever since the first Sunday after Jesus was crucified and buried, “Conspiracy Theories” have been concocted to argue against the most important event in human history, the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

2. But before we can be certain that Jesus Christ was truly raised from the dead, we must answer another important question, “How do we know the Gospel accounts are reliable?”

3. Scholars have developed a standard for determining authenticity, standards similar to what detectives use to determine if a witness is credible.

a. Early Testimony – How soon after the event in question was the eyewitness testimony recorded?
o Less time equals greater credibility.
o Scholars agree that it takes at least 120 years for myths or distortions about a person or an event to develop and spread.
o After 120-years, eyewitnesses or those who knew the eyewitnesses are no longer alive and able to answer questions or refute challenges to the person or event in question.
o The Gospels were written between 15-30 years after Christ’s resurrection.
o This increases the credibility of the Gospels because not enough time had elapsed for a myth to develop.
b. Eyewitness Testimony – Eyewitness testimony is stronger than second-hand testimony. When more than one independent eyewitness testifies about an event, there is strong support that the event occurred.
c. Embarrassing Details – Details which may embarrass an eyewitness or potentially weaken one’s argument increases credibility because people typically try to make themselves “look good.”

ILLUS – Social media

d. Unsympathetic Sources – If testimony affirming an event is given by a source who does not sympathize with the person, message, or cause, then authenticity increases. Why? Typically, people are biased against their enemies, not for their enemies.

I. Eyewitnesses Confirmed Jesus is Alive

A. Jesus’ first two appearances were to women

1. John states that, “Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came early to the tomb, while it was still dark, and saw the stone already taken away from the tomb.” (1-2)
2. Matthew 28 states that there was “a severe earthquake” because “an angel of the Lord had descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone” from Jesus’ tomb. (2)

NOTE – Why did the angel roll away the stone?
• The angel did not roll away the stone to let Jesus out.
• Jesus had already been raised from the dead.
• The angel rolled away the stone to let people enter the tomb to see it was empty because Jesus is alive.

3. Mary Magdalene and some of the other women who followed Jesus visited His tomb to prepare His body for burial. (Matthew 28:1)

4. Mark’s Gospel records that they were saying to each other, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” (Mark 16:3)

5. But when they arrived, they discovered something significant had happened.

a. The soldiers had fainted, overcome by fear when the angels appeared.
b. The stone had been rolled away.
c. And the tomb was empty.
6. Then angels told the women that Jesus had risen from the dead just as He said. (Matthew 28:5-7)
a. The women ran back to tell the apostles, but they thought the women were speaking “nonsense”. (Luke 24:11)
b. Finally, Peter and John ran to the tomb and discovered their report was true.
o The stone had been rolled away.
o The tomb was empty.
o And only the linen-wrappings used to wrap Jesus’ body and the facecloth used to cover His head were in the tomb. (John 20:4-10)
7. Now, according to the Gospels of John and Mark, Jesus first appeared to Mary Magdalene. (John 20:14-18)

Mark 16:9, Now after He had risen early on the first day of the week, He first appeared to Mary Magdalene, from whom He had cast out seven demons.

8. This means that Matthew 28:9 records the second appearance of Jesus to the other women in the group later that Sunday morning.

Matthew 28:9, And behold, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him.

APPL – Why is this important? Embarrassing Details.
• First, remember the apostles were not present to help take the Lord’s body down from the cross to prepare it for burial.
• Joseph of Arimathea asked Pontius Pilate for the body and took it down with the help of Nicodemus.
• Together they prepared Jesus’ body for burial while some of the women who had followed Jesus watched from a distance.
• It is also important to note the apostles were not the first ones to get up early in the morning to finish preparing Jesus’ body for burial.
• In fact, they did not even come with the women to help them roll stone away. Likely, they were asleep.
• The truth is they were in hiding; afraid, depressed, and defeated because they had forgotten what Jesus had told them repeatedly; that He would die but would also rise again three days later. (Matthew 16:21; 17:23; 20:19; 26:32)
• They should have remembered the words of our Savior and been the first ones at the tomb to witness the greatest event in human history.
o But they were not because they thought Jesus was still dead.
o Conspiracy? No. Very embarrassing details.
• Second, the women went to the tomb with spices and asked who would roll the stone away because they also thought that Jesus was still dead.
• Third, in that day and culture, women were treated like second-class citizens; their testimony was not admissible in court.
• So, if the Gospel writers wanted to avoid any questions about the resurrection, they would have cleaned-up their accounts and said that Jesus first and only appeared to His faithful, loyal, “male” apostles.
• But by declaring that Jesus appeared first to Mary Magdalene and then next to the other women, God strengthened the credibility of the Gospels.

APPL – By the way, the account of Jesus’ birth is also filled with embarrassing details.
• He was born in a manger. His first bed was a feeding trough for farm animals.
• His first worshippers were dirty, despised shepherds.
• Then after His resurrection, His first worshipper was a former prostitute who had been possessed by seven demons.
• But God is not afraid of the truth. Rather, God uses the truth to send a message to us all.
• What is God’s message? Jesus is not a Messiah for the rich and famous only. Jesus is Savior for all.

John 3:16, For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.

B. Jesus appeared to over 500 eyewitnesses

1 Corinthians 15:5-8, He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as it were to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.

1. According to the Apostle Paul, Peter was Jesus’ third appearance; a one-on-one meeting which must have brought great comfort to Peter since he had denied the Lord three times just a few days earlier. (1 Corinthians 15:5)

2. That Sunday afternoon, Jesus’ fourth appearance was to two disciples who were on their way home to Emmaus. (Mark 16:12-13; Luke 24:13-32)

3. That same evening, Jesus appeared for the fifth time to the ten Apostles in the Upper Room; but Thomas was not with them. (Luke 24:36-43; John 20:19-25)

4. A week later, Jesus appeared for the sixth time to the eleven Apostles. There Thomas confessed his faith in Jesus when he famously declared, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:26-28)

5. And over the next 32 days, Jesus appeared four more times to His disciples before He ascended into heaven from the Mount of Olives. (Mark 16:19-20; Luke 24:50-53; Acts 1:9-12)
a. Jesus appeared for the eighth time to over 500 people on a mountain in Galilee. (Matthew 28:16-20; 1 Corinthians 15:6)
b. For the ninth appearance, Jesus appeared to His half-brother James. (1 Corinthians 15:7)

APPL – Why were these post-resurrection appearances recorded? Multiple first-hand eyewitness accounts increase credibility so that people will believe Jesus is alive and place their faith in Him for the salvation of their souls.

John 20:30-31, Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.

II. God’s Word Predicted Jesus’ Death and Resurrection

A. Jesus died according to the Scriptures

1 Corinthians 15:3-4, For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried …

1. The Christ must suffer before He is glorified. The cross before the crown.
2. David prophesied of Christ’s sufferings almost 1,000 years before His coming.

Psalm 22:16-18, For dogs have surrounded me; a band of evildoers has encompassed me; they pierced my hands and my feet. I can count all my bones. They look, they stare at me; they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.

3. Isaiah also prophesied about Christ’s death about 700 years before it occurred.

Isaiah 53:5, 9, 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. His grave was assigned with wicked men, yet He was with a rich man in His death, because He had done no violence, nor was there any deceit in His mouth.

APPL – Conspiracy? No. It was all part of God’s plan.

B. Jesus rose according to the Scriptures

1 Corinthians 15:4, … and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.

1. David prophesied of Christ’s resurrection.

Psalm 16:10, For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol; neither will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.

2. Isaiah spoke of Christ’s resurrection as well.

Isaiah 53:10-11, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, and the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand. As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; by His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, as He will bear their iniquities.

APPL – During His ministry on earth, Jesus fulfilled over 100 prophecies.
• If you want to understand the Old Testament, just look for Jesus.
• He is found in the prophecies, the priesthood, the sacrifices, the ceremonies, and feasts like the Passover and the Day of Atonement.
• Coincidence? Conspiracy?
• No. It’s concrete evidence that Jesus is the Messiah because He fulfilled God’s eternal plan!

C. Jesus Christ’s resurrection changed lives

1. The disciples were transformed.
a. They went from depressed, afraid, unbelieving disciples to bold, faithful, Spirit-filled proclaimers of Jesus Christ’s resurrection.
b. They couldn’t stop talking about Jesus.

Acts 4:19-20, But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking what we have seen and heard.”

2. Many of the disciples were tortured and martyred because they would not renounce their faith in Jesus Christ and that He is alive.
a. If they knew it was a lie, they would have confessed their lie to save their lives.
b. One Bible scholar noted that “Liars make terrible martyrs.”
c. But they lost their lives in order to gain something far greater, eternal life.
3. Yet there was a conspiracy. Matthew 28:11-15 records the first one called the “Stolen Body Theory.”

APPL – Let’s be honest; what kind of help would they have been if they had tried to confront the soldiers to take Jesus’ body away?
• All of them abandoned the Lord when He was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane.
• And we know that Peter was no good with a sword plus he denied the Lord three times when asked if he was a disciple.

APPL – That said, we still need to ask, “Can the Stolen Body Conspiracy theory be refuted?” Yes.
• In fact, two of the eyewitnesses play a key role in refuting the theory.
• Who were they?
• They were the Apostle Paul and James, the half-brother of Jesus.
• Why are they important?
• Because before they became born-again Christians, they were Unsympathetic Sources.
• Paul was Saul of Tarsus, who persecuted Christians (Acts 9).
• James, the half-brother of Jesus, was a skeptic who thought Jesus had lost His mind. (John 7:5)
• A skeptic and a persecutor wouldn’t die for a lie.
• Paul would have used all the power at his disposal to make Christians reveal the location of Jesus’ body.
• James would have just walked away.
• So, their eyewitness testimony destroys the “Stolen Body Conspiracy Theory” and, I might add, all other conspiracy theories.


APPL – So, when it comes to the Christian doctrine on the resurrection of Jesus Christ, it is important to see that Christianity not talking about taking a blind leap of faith. Please look at the evidence:
• Early Testimonies and Multiple Eyewitnesses.
• Embarrassing Details and Unsympathetic Sources.
• Fulfilled prophecies and changed lives.
• Jesus is alive so there is only one right response…

2 Peter 3:15, … but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence…

John 20:1-18 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
The Empty Tomb
1 Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene *came early to the tomb, while it *was still dark, and *saw the stone already taken away from the tomb. 2 So she *ran and *came to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and *said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.” 3 So Peter and the other disciple went forth, and they were going to the tomb. 4 The two were running together; and the other disciple ran ahead faster than Peter and came to the tomb first; 5 and stooping and looking in, he *saw the linen wrappings lying there; but he did not go in. 6 And so Simon Peter also *came, following him, and entered the tomb; and he *saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7 and the face-cloth which had been on His head, not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself. 8 So the other disciple who had first come to the tomb then also entered, and he saw and believed. 9 For as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead. 10 So the disciples went away again to their own homes.
11 But Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping; and so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb; 12 and she *saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying. 13 And they *said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She *said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.” 14 When she had said this, she turned around and *saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus *said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing Him to be the gardener, she *said to Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” 16 Jesus *said to her, “Mary!” She turned and *said to Him in [a]Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means, Teacher). 17 Jesus *said to her, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene *came, announcing to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and that He had said these things to her.


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