The Resurrection of our Lord really happened.
Sermon text for Easter Sunday:
11. but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb
12. and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus' body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.
13. They asked her, "Woman, why are you crying?" "They have taken my Lord away," she said, "and I don't know where they have put him."
14. At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.
15. "Woman," he said, "why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?" Thinking he was the gardener, she said, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him."
16. Jesus said to her, "Mary." She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, "Rabboni!" (which means Teacher).
17. Jesus said, "Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, `I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'" Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: "I have seen the Lord!" And she told them that he had said these things to her.
Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies;
Many people today, including some Christians, don’t realize that Easter is the MOST IMPORTANT holiday of the year. It is also the highest festival of the church year because Easter is the celebration of THE RESURRECTION OF OUR LORD. You will hear people saying and you will read in bulletins, “He is risen! He is risen indeed!” The word “resurrection” means “to bring back to life”; and today we celebrate that Jesus Christ, the Son of God and our Lord, went to the cross where He died for us and our sins, and on Easter morning rose from the dead and opened the gates of heaven for all who believe that He is their Lord and Savior. Jesus Himself says, (John 14:19) “…Because I live, you also will live.”
Sadly there are people who don’t believe that Jesus rose from the dead – spirit AND BODY; and many don’t believe He rose at all! A Christian can be saved even if he doesn’t believe that everything in the Bible is true. If a Christian doesn’t believe that angels are real beings, or that Adam and Eve and Jonah and the whale are true stories, he can still be saved. But the RESURRECTION of Jesus Christ, that He rose from the dead, MUST be believed. It is the central doctrine (teaching) of the Christian faith. God tells us through St. Paul, (I Cor 15:17-18) “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost.” St. Paul is saying that, if Jesus did not rise from the dead –spirit and body, then nobody’s sins are forgiven and there is no way to get to heaven to be with God. You can see why the resurrection of Jesus is such a very important truth.
Jesus really died.
Many people don’t believe that Jesus rose from the dead, whether they are people from the past or people today in the 21st century, and try to come up with reasons and theories why the resurrection didn’t happen. Let’s take a look at some of their theories and why they are not true.
One is the SWOON theory. These people say that Jesus didn’t really die; He just fainted. After they put Him in the tomb, He “came to” and left the grave, and everybody believed He rose. But the Bible is very clear that eyewitnesses saw that Jesus was really dead! From the Gospel of St. Mark (15:44-45), we read “Pilate was surprised to hear that He was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died. When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph.” St. John tells us (John 19:33-34), “when they came to Jesus and found that He was already dead, they did not break his legs. [They broke the legs so the person would suffocate and die] The man who saw it has given testimony … so that you also may believe.” Jesus did not faint, He really died and rose again in three days as He said He would.
Another is the THEFT theory. These claim that someone stole the body to make it look like He had risen. But that wasn’t possible because after the body was put into the tomb, guards were placed and the tomb was sealed; there was no way to steal the body. Both the Jews and Pilate wanted to make sure nobody could take the body.
There is the HALLUCINATION theory. They say all the people who say they saw Jesus after He had risen, were just “seeing things”. But the disciples not only saw Jesus, but they also ATE with Him and even TOUCHED Him.
Finally there is the FRAUD theory. These people claim the resurrection was just a “made up” story to trick and deceive people. First of all, the Jews could have easily proved if it was just a trick. Also how many people would let themselves be persecuted and even die – just to trick somebody? No, the witnesses who saw the crucifixion and resurrection were not lying; the things they saw really happened they way they said they did.
Even in Jesus time, many did not believe that He rose from the dead such as the Sadducees who were a religious sect that believed only the things they saw with their own eyes. Even today we have Christians and churches that doubt the resurrection. Even among the Lutheran denominations, the ELCA church [a very liberal church body] teaches that the resurrection is adiaphora. If a member wants to believe Jesus rose from the dead, it’s his choice; if he doesn’t want to believe it, that’s all right too. If it doesn’t make any difference, then why did Jesus suffer all the humiliation and eventually death on the cross? If the Resurrection didn’t really happen Jesus would have gone through all that pain and suffering for nothing.
But God tells us otherwise. There was a reason why Jesus had to suffer and die and rise again. If we will just read our bibles, we will realize that we sin daily and a lot and because of this, St. Paul reminds us (Rom 6:23) “For the wages of sin is death …” Because of our sins we were all destined to die; not just physical death on earth, but also spiritual death which would keep us from being with God our heavenly Father and throw us into the fiery pits of hell forever to suffer horrible pain and torture. Jesus suffered in our place, for our sins, and died on that cross in our place so we would not have to die a spiritual death. Physical death for the Christian is simply a sleep for the body and his soul immediately goes to heaven to be with God. On the LAST DAY [when Jesus comes back for the second and last time] body and soul will be reunited [put back together] and the Christian will live forever in perfect bliss. St. Paul again reminds (Rom 6:23) “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” And Jesus Himself tells us (John 6:40) “For My Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 14:19) “…Because I live, you also will live.”
Jesus rose spirit and BODY.
The Holy Bible tells us the truth about all that happened. Many witnesses saw that Jesus really died: the centurion at the cross who said (Matt 27:54) “Surely He was the Son of God!”; from Matthew’s Gospel (Matt 27:55-56) “Many women were there, watching from a distance… Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee's sons.”; important people also saw what happened (John 19:38-39) “Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. He was accompanied by Nicodemus …”. God tells us (Matt 27:59-61) “Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb.” These witnesses show us that Jesus didn’t just faint, that nobody stole the body, or that no one played an elaborate trick. Jesus really died. The next day the chief priests and the Pharisees had Pilate put a seal on the tomb and placed a 24-hour guard to make sure no one took the body.
God tells us in the Bible (Matt 28:16) what happened on that first Easter Sunday morning, “After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; He has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where He lay.” The angel rolled away the stone so everybody could see that Jesus was gone. When they went into the tomb, the cloth they wrapped Him in was still there, in the same position that they wrapped Him. Jesus had risen from the dead – spirit and body.
There are skeptics who try to say that only Jesus SPIRIT rose, not His body; so what happened to His body? From the Holy Bible we find that many witnesses had seen Jesus after He had risen. The first to see Jesus after His resurrection was Mary from Magdala, called Mary Magdalene. Remember as Mary and the other women were going to the grave with spices, they saw the stone was rolled away from the tomb opening. When they went into the grave, they didn’t see Jesus body and were troubled about this. Two angels that flashed like lightning told them Jesus had risen just as He said He would. The other women left but Mary stayed at the grave crying. She turned around and saw Jesus but didn’t know it was Him. When He asked her who was she looking for, she said “If you took Jesus body, tell me where you put Him, and I’ll take Him away.” Jesus then called her name “Mary”. As she turned, she immediately recognized Him said “Rabboni!” [Teacher] and held on to Him. But He told her not to hold on to Him because He had to go to God, His Father. Notice that she HELD ON TO HIM; Jesus was not just a spirit or an apparition, but He was a Man of flesh and blood. Jesus rose from the dead – spirit and body. Mary ran and told the disciples that she saw the Lord, but they didn’t believe it. As the other women were going back, Jesus met and greeted them. They went up to Him, took hold of His feet, and worshipped Him. Notice that these women also HELD ON TO HIM; He was flesh and blood. The women went and told the disciples all that happened and that the disciples were to go to Galilee where Jesus would meet them. But the apostles thought it was nonsense and did not believe the women.
You can see that the disciples were not easily convinced that Jesus had risen. Shortly after this, one day two of them were walking to a village called Emmaus and talking about all that happened when Jesus joined them and walked with them. At first the disciples were kept from knowing who He was, but after they got to village, they ate with Him and then they recognized it was Jesus. The two went back to Jerusalem and told the others, but they didn’t believe them. That same Sunday evening while the eleven apostles were meeting in a room with the doors locked because they were afraid of the Jews, Jesus appeared to them while they were eating. They were startled and scared because they thought they were seeing a ghost. Jesus said to them, (Luke 24:42) “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I Myself! Touch Me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.” Then He took some fish and ate it as they watched Him. Jesus was showing them and is showing us that He rose from the dead IN SPIRIT AND BODY. The same body that died on that cross and was sealed in the tomb is the same body that rose Easter Sunday.
After this, Jesus appeared to others, and even to 500 at once. Certainly that is enough witnesses to prove that Jesus had risen from the dead as He had promised. And we can easily see from the Bible that He rose in spirit and body. But why is it so important that Jesus rose bodily as well as spiritually?
Jesus is the Son of God.
As we mentioned at the beginning of this sermon, is the central doctrine of the Christian faith. If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, Christianity is no different than any of the other religions and we have no hope. All that’s left is a dark hole in the ground. But the resurrection really did happen, and we happily chant, “He is risen!”
We know that the Holy Bible is true and reliable, and from these Holy Scriptures God tells us why it is so very important that Jesus Christ rose from the dead, and that He rose SPIRIT AND BODY.
The resurrection proves that Jesus is Who He said He is, the only begotten Son of God. One time during His ministry Jesus threw the merchants and moneychangers out of the temple for turning God’s house into a market. He went into the temple, pushed over the tables and told them all to get out. Since the temple was the “Church” for the Jews, they wanted to know what gave Jesus the right to throw them out of their own temple and they demanded that He give them proof that He had the authority to clear the temple this way. (John 2:19) Jesus simply answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” The Jews thought that Jesus was speaking of the actual building of mortar and stone, but He was talking about His body which is the temple of God. Jesus was referring to His resurrection from the dead, that He was going to rise from the dead after 3 days; this sign would prove that He truly is the Son of God. As God’s Son, He had the authority to throw out of the temple anyone who wasn’t using it in the holy way God intended. God speaking through St. Paul tells us this (Rom 1:4) “regarding his Son… who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.” When Jesus rose from the dead, from the grave, the entire world will know that He Jesus is the Son of God! We will also know for sure that everything He said and taught is true. From St. John we learn this (John 8:29) “So Jesus said, "When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am [the one I claim to be] and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me.” We Christians know that whatever Jesus tells us is true and will happen!
The Resurrection proves that through Jesus all of our sins are forgiven. If we look back to the beginning of time and the earth when God first made all things including man and women, we find everything was perfect. Adam and Eve, the first people on earth, our ancestors and ancestors of all mankind, were made perfect and sinless and lived in the Garden of Eden in perfect communion with God. They did everything God wanted until one day the devil tricked them into disobeying God and they sinned when they ate that apple from a tree God told them not to touch. From that time on, this original sin is still being passed down from parent to child to this very day, causing all people and us to rebel and sin continually against God, and this sin is what keeps all people away from God and out of heaven. You and I and all people sin everyday and hour and minute [just read the 10 Commandments] and need to have these sins forgiven so that we can be with God. Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, is the only Way. St. John tells us (I John 2:2) “And He [Jesus] is the propitiation [means of forgiveness] for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” Jesus took the blame for our sins and died on that cross in our place; when God looks at us, He doesn’t see our sins, but He only sees Jesus, and God sees us as perfect and sinless. But how do you know your sins are forgiven? You don’t look or feel any different. St. Paul reminds us in the Bible (Rom 4:25) “He [Jesus] was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” We see that Jesus was raised from the dead [that’s what Easter Sunday is all about]; by this sign we know for sure that our sins are forgiven. All people who confess that they are sinners, who look to Jesus and trust in Him only, who believe that Jesus is their Lord and Savior have all their sins forgiven and know they will live forever in heaven with God.
Jesus rising from the dead also proves that there is such an event as “the resurrection of the dead”. Millions of people believe that when a person dies, his body is put in the ground and that’s the end. He lived for a while, he died and his body decayed, and he is no more. Like the wind, he came and then was gone. But remember what Jesus tells all Christians (John 14:19) “…Because I live, you also will live.” Jesus rising from the dead proves that on the Last Day our bodies will be brought to life, will be reunited with our spirit, and we will live forever with God in heaven. God assures all people (John 5: 28-29) “…a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear His voice and come out …” Inspired by God, Job of the Old Testament tells us what is going to happen; he said (19:25-27) “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end He will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes--I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” Job lived around the time of Moses so he died around 3500 years ago. And yet he said that on the Last Day, he will IN HIS FLESH see God, and WITH HIS OWN EYES. One day we too will die; our soul will go to heaven and our bodies will be put into the ground. But on that Last Day, we will stand with Job and Moses and all the rest of God’s children who were asleep in the Lord. So today because of what Jesus did on Easter, we can say as Job did, “I know that Jesus Christ my Redeemed lives, and in my flesh with my own eyes I will see Him and live in heaven with Him.” Amen.