Date: April 1, 2018 – Resurrection Sunday
Pastor Matthew Burt
Title: Be Living What You Believe
Text: Isaiah 26, John 20:1-18
SCRIPTURES: John 20:1-18
Wellspring Church, Springfield, Mass.
Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. 2 So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” 3 So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. 4 Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, 7 and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’[a]head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself.8 Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9 for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples went back to their homes.
11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet.13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she 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 Aramaic,[b] “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her.
BIG IDEA: Be living what you believe.
This week Pastor Burt was mildly surprised to read a lengthy article about belief in UFO’s is on the increase in America. The reasons to believe were not all that compelling but the foundational reason were that we live in an uncertain age and it seems like things are out of control and there is no hope so people are more willing to believe in extraterrestrial beings. Yet, we live in a world that seems not to believe in God’s solution.
A few years ago there were a series of books each of which started with “I believe”. Today as we leave church let us be able to say I believe in the resurrection and I show it by how I live.
“There has been no more important event in history than the resurrection of the Son of God. And don’t overlook the word history in that…sentence. Christianity is a historical religion. We believe and proclaim certain events that happened—really happened, as everyone except madmen and new Testaments scholars understand things to have happened. Easter is not about Jesus living on in his teachings o the experience of Jesus coming to life in his disciples. Easter is about a divine Galilean whose heart pumped blood again, whose lungs filled with oxygen again, and whose synapses started firing again” (The Good News We Almost Forgot, page 91)
We believe but there are many who do not. The skeptics were there on the very first day of the resurrection.
OUTLINE FOR TODAY:
Point 1:Look at the events of that “first” day
Point 2:Look at the skeptics of the first days
Point 3:Why were/are there skeptics?
Point 4: Do you believe? Do you live as you believe?
Point 1:Look at the events of that “first” day
All four gospel writers record the resurrection. When Peter preached the sermon, 3000 people said yes we believe. There is no record of any one disputing the resurrection. There are eleven separate occasions when Jesus appeared to his followers in the gospels. Then Paul tells us three times that Jesus appeared to him. Then He appeared to 500 people. In 1 Corinthians Paul adds James the brother of Jesus to the list of 500 plus people who had seen Jesus at one time. We see that Jesus has younger brothers and sisters and that they did not believe his claim and mission (Mark 3:21-, 31-35) but now Paul says that the risen Jesus appeared to him as well. Two James are mentioned in Acts 12. The first, the brother of John is slain by Herod in verse 2. Then when Peter is miraculously released from prison later in that same chapter he instructs people to tell James. James is counted among the apostles in Gal. 1:19 and 2:9. By Acts 21:18 he is called the leader of the Jerusalem church and the head of the elders. The historian Josephus reports that James was stoned to death by the Sanhedrin sometime after the year A.D. 60. William Lane Craig asks, “Now how can this be explained? On the one hand, it seems certain that Jesus’ brothers did not believe in him during his lifetime. On the other hand, it is equally certain that they became ardent Christians, active in the church. So we have all these appearances of Jesus in the early days of the church. For us today the evidence seems logically overwhelming that there is reason to believe in the resurrection.
“I know the resurrection is a fact, and Watergate proved it to me. How? Because 12 men testified they had seen Jesus raised from the dead, then they proclaimed that truth for 40 years, never once denying it. Every one was beaten, tortured, stoned and put in prison. They would not have endured that if it weren’t true. Watergate embroiled 12 of the most powerful men in the world-and they couldn’t keep a lie for three weeks. You’re telling me 12 apostles could keep a lie for 40 years? Absolutely impossible.”Chuck Colson.
Point 2:Look at the skeptics of the first days
Jesus appeared to the disciples and yet what we are told in all four gospels that on the first days and with the first news, the resurrection was met with doubt, denial and rejection. Look at what we have in these verses:
- Mark 6:11 “they refused to believe it.”
- Luke 24:11 “And the words appeared to them as nonsense and they would not believe them.”
- John 20:8-9 Even though it says that John went into the tomb and believed, he tells us himself that “as yet they did not understand the Scripture that he must rise from the dead.”
- Later in John 20 24-25 Thomas says unless I shall see…I will not believe.
- 28:16-17 At the very end of Matthew’s gospel he read that that “Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshipped him, but some doubted.”!!
They were with Jesus all this time, they had seen him, touched him, eaten with him, heard him teach and in spite of all this they still doubted. What is the source of this skepticism? They should not have been surprised. Jesus told them three different times what would happen. It wasn’t that they didn’t understand what He was saying. There were predictions of what was going to happen and still they doubted when it happened. There were also implicit and vague references as well – for example the destruction of the temple, after 3 days Jonah was spit out. There’s also the words of the Old Testament such as Psalm 16 where the scripture says you will not allow your holy one to see corruption. And yet when Jesus did come forth, they were doubtful.
Point 3: Why were/are there skeptics?
The disciples had a context that none of us have had. They saw Jesus perform miracles – they had seen people come back to life – Lazarus, the widow of Nain’s son, the daughter of Jairus. And still they were skeptical. Why wouldn’t they believe? I suggest it is the same reason people don’t believe today – their eyes weren’t opened to the truth. This thing is so outside the mental context of human beings that they couldn’t believe it. We have been taught since ages gone by that all that exists is what I can touch and feel. If I can’t test it then it doesn’t exist. We call this materialism. So there can’t be any resurrection because I can’t test it. Even if historians look at the evidence, they don’t have a construct to look at the evidence. There may be reports of a resurrection but people can’t believe it. The same is true of the apostles because their natural minds were closed. Jesus says to the two disciples He meets on the Road to Emmaus – Oh foolish ones and slow to understand. The reason they didn’t believe the news and the reason we don’t is because our eyes are closed and our minds are closed.
What changed? Why did they go from disbelief to belief? The same reason as for you – because God entered into their experience and understanding and opened their eyes. There is a wonderful account of Jesus healing a blind man. It is the only account of a “half way” healing. The first sight of the man was fuzzy like we had taken off our glasses. And Jesus touched his eyes again and then the man saw clearly. It’slike that when we first see Jesus; we see a good man, a prophet. And then God changes our heart and we see Jesus as our savior. Hard heartsare softened and blind eyes opened. Paradigms change.
Point 4: Do you believe?
Some people don’t and they won’t.The implications are too overwhelming. The implications are that there is a God. The reason for the death of Jesus is because when God created the world, He created a man and a woman. And He said on the day you eat from the tree of the knowledge then you will die. The implication of the resurrection is that there was death and death because of sin and sin is disobedience of God. So if I deny the resurrection, I can deny the cause of death, the sin and the creator. To deny the resurrection frees me of a whole host of things that I don’t want to deal with it. It says I don’t need a savior; I am better than the average person. The minute I accept the resurrection I accept the fact that I need a savior because I am a sinner.
Do you believe and has it made a difference?If you say you don’t believe, Pastor Burt encourages you to make sure your disbelief is based on your careful investigation into the facts of the narrative. Don’t disbelief the resurrection because someone told you it couldn’t happen – that’s dishonest. Have the honesty and integrity to study it. Then have the humility to say “oh God open my eyes – soften my heart, expand my understanding”. It’s not a nothing deal. A denial of the resurrection will mean an eternity of difference.
Do you live as though you believe? How does Christ’s resurrection benefit us?
First, by his resurrection he has overcome death, so that he might make us share in the
righteousness he won for us by his death.
Second, by his power we too are already now resurrected to a new life.
Third, Christ’s resurrection is a guarantee of our glorious resurrection.
This is our faith and hope. Alleluia, amen.
(from Heidelberg Catechism Q & A 45)
With the resurrection, we see that Christ has overcome death for His people. Death is a result of sin. The consequence of sin is death. Death came into the world because of Adam’s sin. The criminals of the Sanhedrin tied to put him to death as he sun dipped into the western sky on that darkened Friday afternoon they went home satisfied that they had accomplished their purpose. Indeed, it looked as if they had won. Surely their master in hell rejoiced at their shared victory. But on Sunday morning the earth convulsed just the the large fish convulsed and spat Jonah onto the chore, the grave burst open Because death could not keep its sinless prey. His resurrection is the necessary consequence of his sinless life.
To deny the resurrection is to deny the sinless life of Jesus. He had to be resurrected because He had no sin. He destroyed death – He rose again in order that He might share His righteousness with His people. The father accepted the gift. And then Jesus is given the right, power, authority to share His righteousness with His people. We call this imputation. He shares the righteousness that He has won with the elect.
Second, the resurrection gives the elect new life. We are not called to take the righteousness of Christ and live as we always have lived. We are translatedfrom death to life. To live in a way that we don’t fear death anymore. Our death is not some scary horrible unknown thing – it’s a transition from one reality to another because we have been given eternal life. The gift of the resurrection is that there is new power living in us
Thirdly, the elect are guaranteed a glorious resurrection.Earthly physical death is not the end. There is death and then we face judgment. Because Christ was raised, we shall be raised with Him. Christ is the first fruits of the resurrection. The feast of first fruits was right after Passover. There’s a whole harvest of those who will be resurrected as well. The unbeliever doesn’t have that hope. The unbeliever has only the dread of an eternity absent from the smile of God. The believer has the promise of eternal life with God. So there is great hope in the resurrection for you who are His people.
There are five ways the resurrection gives us hope:
- In I Corinthians 15:20 Christ is called the first fruits of “them that slept.” Immediately follows the fest of the Passover was the feast of the first fruits. Here was a day when the people brought the first part of their harvest as a gift of gratitude to God. It was a sign of the harvest to follow. Christ is our first fruit. He is the sign that there is aa harvest to follow. The believers are that harvest.
- Christ did not arise primarIly for his own sake but for the sake of his people. II Cor. 5:15, “he died for them” Here is the application: It is impossible for beleiver’s to remain dead afte they have died! This is the great cry of the the resurrection, “O Death where is your sting, O grace where is your victory?”
- Christ is called the head of the body, his People. If the head is living, what can I say of the body? The body lives too! A Living head means a living body.
- Christ lives as the bridegroom, the church, his people are his bride. Heaven is referred to asthenosphere Marriage feast of the lamb (Jesus). His resurrection means that the bride will also know a new and eternal resurrected life.
- Fifthly, his resurrection is as Lord and King (Acts 2) in order that he might reign over his people eternally in body and Soul. Romans 14:19
Do you believe in the resurrection and do you live as though you believe? The truth of Easter is that the fear of death is gone. Do you live daily with an assurance that all you need has been given to you? Do you live as though you are a new person? Do you live with the power of Christ in your life? I seek to grow more and more in conformity with Christ. Do I live with the reality of my baptism – do I prove it with my life? When you were baptized the old has been put away and the new has come. Do you live with the confidence at the prospect of facing the judge at the last day? If you are a believer in Christ you are going to hear these words “not guilty/accepted”! Or do you live with the fear of the clank of hell’s doors? Do you love the bride of Christ? Do you love His church?
Conclusion:Do you believe in the resurrection? If you don’t – today is the day to say Lord change my unbelief. Will you live as someone who believes in the resurrection?