- Sermon Notes
The Resurrection and the Life
August 8, 2021
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?”
McDowell answered, “For a very simple reason: I am not able to explain away an event in history – the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
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. Tonight, we’re going to examine the post-resurrection appearance accounts of Jesus Christ and discover life-changing answers to this question, answers which confirm Jesus Christ is “The Resurrection and the Life.”
a. We will learn that the Gospel accounts contain credible eyewitness testimonies for the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
b. We will discover that Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection fulfilled Old Testament prophecies and were not fabricated by His followers in order to keep His legend and movement alive.
c. We will learn how to refute challenges to the resurrection by looking at the lives of those who were radically changed when our resurrected Lord and Savior appeared to them, a list of eyewitnesses that includes a skeptic and a persecutor of the church.
d. Finally, it is my prayer that your faith will be strengthened so that you may boldly proclaim the miracle of Christ’s resurrection and that you will feel more equipped to defend the resurrection against those who claim there is another explanation for the empty tomb.
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 standards 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 an eyewitness’s 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 10-30 years after Christ’s resurrection.
o This increases the credibility of the Gospels because not enough time had elapsed for a legend or 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 in question 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.”
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.
Transition – How do the Gospels measure up to these standards for credibility? Very strong on all four points.
I. Eyewitnesses Confirmed Jesus’ Resurrection
A. Jesus’ first two appearances were to women
1. Matthew states that “as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week” 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. (28:1-3)
2. Some of the women who followed Jesus visited His tomb to prepare His body for burial (1).
3. 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)
4. But when they arrived, they discovered something had happened.
a. The soldiers had fainted, overcome by fear when the angels appeared. (Matthew 28:4)
b. The stone had been rolled away.
c. And the tomb was empty.
5. The angel told the women that Jesus had risen from the dead just as He had said. (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 face-cloth used to cover His head were in the tomb. (John 20:4-10)
6. Now, according to the Gospels of Mark and John, Jesus first appeared to Mary Magdalene.
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.
7. This means that Matthew 28:9 records the second appearance of Jesus to the other women in the group 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? Credibility Standard Three: Embarrassing Details.
• 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. Perhaps, they were still asleep.
• And 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 Christ’s disciple.
• 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 Lord 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 and buried.
o Conspiracy? No. Embarrassing details.
• Second, the women went to the tomb with spices and asked who would roll the stone away because they also thought Jesus was still dead.
• Third, in that day and culture, women were treated like second-class citizens; their testimonies did not have much weight in a court of law.
• 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” disciples.
• But by declaring that Jesus appeared first to Mary Magdalene and then to the other women, God strengthened the credibility of the Gospel accounts.
APPL – The story of Christ’s birth is filled with embarrassing details as well.
• He was born in a manger and 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. (Mark 16:9)
• 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. He 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.
Transition – But it does not stop with these two post-resurrection appearances. The Bible declares that there were multiple eyewitnesses to Jesus Christ’s resurrection.
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 only 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 Christ appeared to His half-brother James.
(1 Corinthians 15:7)
APPL – Why were these post-resurrection appearances recorded? Multiple eyewitness accounts increases credibility so that people will believe Jesus Christ 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, For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures
1. God’s Word says the Christ must suffer (Cross) before glory (Crown).
2. After Adam and Eve rebelled in the Garden, God declared that the Christ would suffer.
Genesis 3:15, And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head and you shall bruise him on the heel.
3. 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.
4. Isaiah also prophesied about the death of Christ 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. The suffering and death of Christ was part of God’s sovereign plan.
B. Jesus rose according to the Scriptures
1 Corinthians 15:4, . . . and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.
1. David also 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, 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!
Transition – What impact did the post-resurrection appearances have upon Jesus’ disciples?
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. In fact, 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 had risen from the dead.
a. If they knew the resurrection was a lie, they would have confessed the lie to save their own lives.
b. One Bible scholar noted that “Liars make terrible martyrs.”
c. But they willingly 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 – Can the Stolen Body Conspiracy theory be refuted? Yes.
• In fact, two of the eyewitnesses play a key role in refuting this and all other resurrection conspiracy theories.
• Who were they?
• They were the Apostle Paul and James, the half-brother of Jesus.
• Why are they important?
• Before they became born-again Christians, they were Unsympathetic Sources, Eyewitness Credibility Standard Four.
• 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)
• Why are they important?
• Because a skeptic and a persecutor would not 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.
• Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life 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
Mark 16 NASB
1 When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of [a]James, and Salome bought spices so that they might come and anoint Him. 2 And very early on the first day of the week, they *came to the tomb when the sun had risen. 3 They were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone from the entrance of the tomb for us?” 4 And looking up, they *noticed that the stone had been rolled away; for it was extremely large. 5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting at the right, wearing a white robe; and they were amazed. 6 But he *said to them, “Do not be amazed; you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified. He has risen; He is not here; see, here is the place where they laid Him. 7 But go, tell His disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see Him, just as He told you.’” 8 And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had gripped them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
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. 10 She went and reported to those who had been with Him, while they were mourning and weeping. 11 And when they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they refused to believe it.
12 Now after that, He appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking along on their way to the country. 13 And they went away and reported it to the rest, but they did not believe them, either.
14 Later He appeared to the eleven disciples themselves as they were reclining at the table; and He reprimanded them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who had seen Him after He had risen from the dead. 15 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16 The one who has believed and has been baptized will be saved; but the one who has not believed will be condemned. 17 These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; 18 they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not harm them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
19 So then, when the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. 20 And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them, and confirmed the word by the signs that followed.