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EASTER CELEBRATION: The resurrection from the Dead Print E-mail
Easter Season
Sunday, 31 March 2013

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I. Introduction:

 Glenna and I have a college friend who is dying.  Seven months ago he was diagnosed with cancer and it has been a battle ever since.  This past week the doctors did not give very long to live.  They are praying for a miracle.  I ask you to join with them in their prayers.  His name is Will.  He is a few years younger than me.  He has a wife, Angie, who has been with him through it all.  It is beyond difficult and sad.

 Yet, in a post that was put up a couple of days ago, someone described him: “Will continues to be an amazing source of strength to all of us. One of his pastors visited this evening. In his prayer, he thanked God for how Will was ministering to us through this. And, he is. In the midst of being in regular pain, having to wear a back brace anytime he’s out of bed, and being beaten down by his weeks of treatments, Will still lights up a room.”   How can that be?  How can he be hopeful and ministering to others in a time like this?  His Church came and videoed him some to report back to the flock.  One of the pastors asked him if he was angry.  He replied: “No I couldn’t be. I gave up the rights to my life when I said I was going to follow Christ.”  He belongs to Christ.  His life was bought by Christ at the cross.  When Jesus suffered under the wrath of God at Calvary and breathed His last on our behalf, He paid for Will’s redemption.  Yet, even so, how does that give us hope in the face of our own death?

 The answer to that question is found in our passage this morning.  We have seen Jesus heal the sick, cure leprosy, and raise a man from the dead.  But all of these individuals still went on to die in the end.  In fact, even when Jesus does chose to heal us in this life, we still face death.  None of us in this room can escape that.  We may think that it is far off, we are obviously not confined to a hospital room like Will, but the truth remains: death is coming.

 Yet, if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, if you have given up the rights to your life like Will, then you have no reason to fear this morning.  We celebrate Easter because death has lost its sting, it has been conquered by King Jesus.  He has won the victory over the grave.  Will has the hope of all believers, namely that Jesus can heal if He chooses, but even if He does not, death has already been defeated by our Savior.
 Perhaps you are here this morning and you think all of this is a little too much.  Maybe you are just not sure if resurrection is really possible.  Maybe you are just not convinced that Jesus really did come back from the dead.  The evidence for Jesus’ resurrection is staggering.  Books have been written to capture it all.  This morning I simply want to note the evidence for the resurrection in our passage from Luke.  We will come back in the end and look again at why this is so significant for us.

II. Evidence for the Resurrection:

 A. The first piece of evidence that we are given is the ‘realness’ of the story.  Jesus died on Friday afternoon and was buried by Joseph, with the help of the women.  Apparently the women had not been able to finish preparing the body.  Since Saturday was a day of rest, they did not go to the tomb to finish on that day.  Rather, they got up early on Sunday to take their spices.  Look at verse 1.  They were not expecting the resurrection.  They were not expecting what they found.  They were expecting to finish preparing the dead body of Jesus, which makes sense.  It is what we would expect these women to be doing.

 After they are told of the resurrection, Luke notes that the disciples did not believe their report.  Look at verses 10-11.  Why would Luke include this detail?  If Luke wanted his readers to believe in the resurrection, why would he tell us that the disciples did not believe?  He told us because it really happened.  Most people struggle to believe in resurrection.  Like the apostles they need to be sure.  They thought these women were out of their minds, maybe overcome by grief and grasping for hope.  They just did not believe at this point.  Again, it is what we would expect.  Their skepticism demonstrates the reality of the story.  Later, these very disciples will be willing to give up their lives for their belief in Christ and His resurrection.  How could they go from thinking these women were crazy to giving their lives for their belief in the resurrection?  The only answer is that either they completely were out of their minds (like they said of the women) or the evidence they witnessed for Jesus’ resurrection, namely His appearances to them, drove out all their doubt.  Their transformation from skeptics to witnesses is good evidence for the reality of the resurrection.  It is real and powerful.

 B. The second piece of evidence that we have is that the angels announce it.  Look at verses 4-6a.  The angels make it plain that Jesus has been raised.  The reason they cannot find the body is because Jesus is no longer among the dead, He is alive.  He has risen.  Death could not keep Him.  Now, a skeptic will say: ‘I don’t even believe in angels, so why should I believe in what they supposedly say?’  My answer would be to ask them: ‘If someone was going to come back from the dead, would it be a natural or supernatural event?’  The answer of course is that it is a supernatural event.  If so, then why does it surprise us that angels announce it?  They announced the birth of Christ, it makes sense for them to announce His resurrection.

 C.  A third piece of evidence is the fact that Luke names the witnesses.  In verse 10 Luke actually names the women who were there at the tomb that day.  They were real people with real lives.  If they were still living when Luke wrote his Gospel, then Theophilus could go and verify what they witnessed.  This is not a good way to fake an event.  Likewise, Luke also notes that Peter went and saw the empty tomb.  Look at verse 12.  It is not clear if Peter really believed at this point.  Perhaps he still had his doubts like the other apostles.  But he did see enough to marvel at what was going on.  He saw enough to know that the body of Jesus was no longer in the grave.  Later he would write: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1 Peter 1:3).  He would preach about Jesus in Jerusalem, saying: God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it (Acts 2:24).  If he had skepticism when he first went to the tomb, it would later be overcome by the evidence.  He is not some random witness.  We know his name.  We can read his testimony.  His belief is further evidence of the reality of the resurrection.

 D.  A final piece of evidence to mention is the fact that Jesus predicted His resurrection. After announcing the event to the women, the angels go on to root the event in the very words of Christ.  Look at verses 6b-7.  They reminded the women that Jesus had told them what was going to happen to Him.  Listen to His words in Luke 9: “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised (9:22).  He told them that He was going to be crucified and that three days later He would be raised.  All of this was part of the plan.  He came to die.  He came to give Himself for our sins.  He came to suffer under the wrath of God in our place.  And He came to defeat death.  He came to rise again, just like He said He would.  It is one thing to claim it after the fact, but to announce your resurrection before it happens is compelling evidence.  It was enough to convince the women.  Look at verses 8-9.  They remembered what Jesus had said and now they understood it and believed it. 

 All of this evidence is found in Luke’s telling of the resurrection.  When add to it the 500 witnesses that Paul mentions in 1 Corinthians 15, the dramatic impact that it had on the apostles (as we have noted in part), and the rest of the evidence in the New Testament, it seems we have good reasons to believe that Jesus really did come back from the dead.  Yet, why is that so significant for us?

III.  Significance of the Resurrection:

 A.  The resurrection reveals that Christ is victorious over death.  The Gospel of Luke was written so that we could be certain about who Jesus is and what He accomplished.  This passage teaches us that He could not be held by death.  He conquered death.  It has no dominion over Him (Romans 6:9).  He doesn’t just heal the sick and raise the dead temporarily.  Jesus offers life eternal.  He offers complete victory over the grave.  As Paul tells us, death has lost its sting through Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:54-57).  Not only did He rise from the dead, but all those who turn from their sins and put their faith in Him will rise as well (Romans 6:5, 1 Corinthians 6:14, 1 Corinthians 15, 2 Corinthians 4:14, 1 Peter 1:3-5, Revelation 19-22).  Our resurrection is guaranteed by the resurrection of Christ.  This is why Will can have hope, no matter what the doctors tell him.  You can have this hope as well, if you will follow after Christ.

 B.  The resurrection reveals our justification from sin.  Paul writes that Jesus was delivered up for our trespass and raised for our justification (Romans 4:25).  We have complete assurance of forgiveness because Jesus is no longer dead.  His resurrection makes it plain that the Father accepted His payment for our sins.  You can laugh in the devil’s face every time he tells you that you are still guilty.  Remind him of the resurrection and call him the liar that he is.  The resurrection is a constant source of strength in our battle against him and sin.  The power that raised Jesus from the dead is now at work in us (Ephesians 1:19-20).  So do not be condemned, do not be bullied by guilt, rejoice in the resurrection and what it means for all who believe.

III.  Conclusion:

 Luke gives us evidence to believe in the resurrection of Christ.  The rest of the New Testament tells us why it is so significant.  I challenge you to put your faith in the work of Christ.  If you have never turned from your sins and believed in Him, then I encourage you to do that today.  If you are a believer in Jesus, then I challenge you to be confident in the resurrection and to live out its significance for your life.  You have no reason to fear.  Sin has been paid for at the cross.  Death has been defeated through the resurrection.  You have complete victory in Jesus.  So live like it.  Live in victory over sin.  Live in victory over the fear of men and the fear of death.  And do not waist a moment spending your life for the glory of the One who has given us victory over the grave by conquering it through His death.  Amen.

1 These quotes are taken from their blog: http://goteamgray.com/updates/.

~ William Marshall ~

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