After three days in the tomb Jesus rose again conquering death, proving he was who he said he was, and offering us new life in him.
Last week we looked at Luke 19 and the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. We talked about how much things could change in the course of a week... from folks celebrating the arrival of the King of Kings, to calling for his death just a few days later.
Jesus was crucified. Executed in the most barbaric of forms. And as he breathed his last, he cried out “It is Finished!”
Jesus’s death paid the debt of men’s sin. For all those who believe in Him by faith, there is reconciliation. The relationship between God and man that is broken because of our sinful nature is made whole again through faith in Christ... and that healing – that renewed and reconciled relationship – is possible because of the cross.
But The Work of The King doesn’t stop at the cross. Christ was crucified on a Friday, and died for our sins. He was laid in a tomb, which was sealed and guarded. There he remained on Saturday, but on the third day, Sunday, something truly amazing happened. Something which quite literally changed the course of world events.
We’ll find a description of these events in Luke 24. It’s Sunday morning. Some of the women who had been with Christ and witnessed his crucifixion had prepared to go back to His tomb to care for his body. This is what happens next:
Luke 24:1-12 (ESV) - 1 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. 2 And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. 5 And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” 8 And they remembered his words, 9 and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, 11 but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12 But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.
They were going to care for the body of Jesus. This would have happened before Sunday, but Saturday had been the Jewish Sabbath, and by law they needed to wait.
When they didn’t find Jesus, they were “perplexed”, confused until two messengers of God – Angels – showed up to tell them what had happened: He has risen!
The angels reminded the women of Christ’s words. He had told them that he would “must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.”. This was all promised and foretold. And now it had come to pass as a promise fulfilled – as a proof of Christ’s divinity and purpose. He is who He says He is, and He’s accomplished what He’s set out to do in providing us forgiveness, salvation, and redemption.
The women, of course, receive this Good News – the Gospel – with excitement. And they do what they SHOULD do – they go tell others! They return to the eleven closest disciples of Christ, and the other followers of Jesus who had gathered following His death, and they relate the tale. They share news of his empty tomb, and the angels, and the word of His resurrection.
And what happens? Exactly what you’d expect! They don’t believe. They consider it an “idle tale.” Their fear over the death of their leader, and confusion about what they should do next gets the best of them, and they just brush aside the truth of the glory of God’s redemptive plan.
The women are speaking the truth of God’s word, and the men are too hard headed to hear it. Pastor Mike mentioned this last week.
There was one exception though... And that was Peter. He was curious. Something stirred his heart. Perhaps it was because he had denied Jesus publicly three times before his death, and he just didn’t want to make that mistake again. Perhaps it was something else. But he had to be sure, and scripture says he wasted little time, and RAN to the tomb. He saw the burial cloths laying there, but no body. And it was at that point he knew the resurrection of Jesus was true, so he “marveled” at what happened. In other words, he had an inner excitement, something which changed him and forged him for what would come next.
THE EMPTY TOMB is the first and clearest reason to hope in Christ’s Resurrection.
It’s not the only reason though.
As we read on in this chapter, and in the other Gospel accounts of the resurrection, we see that the resurrected Jesus appeared to the rest of his disciples, and to larger numbers of people as well.
In short, He made himself known to His people. He proved his point. For example, He allowed Thomas, known for his doubting, to examine the wounds on his hands and side to show it was truly him. Jesus also ate food to show that he was truly alive, and not some spiritual manifestation or hallucination.
People today may or may not believe that Jesus rose from the dead. However, that doesn’t change the fact that a great deal of the folks in the first century believed it. Jesus appeared to many people in different places! In fact, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:6:
1 Corinthians 15:6 (ESV) - 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.
1 Corinthians was written a few decades after Jesus’ death. So, why would he mention this? Specifically, why would he mention “most of whom are still alive?”
Basically, he was saying to the reader “If you doubt me, go ask them.” If you don’t believe what I have to say, or what the other Apostles have to say, go talk to the hundreds of other people who are primary sources: witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus.
Even the NON-CHRISTIAN, secular historians of the day recognize there were a great number of people who saw the resurrection as a real, literal event. An event which changed history.
That’s why: The many APPEARANCES OF CHRIST the second reason to hope in the Resurrection.
In the same 1 Corinthians 15 passage, Paul says of himself:
1 Corinthians 15:8–9 (ESV) - 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
Paul, under the name of Saul, was a Pharisee, a member of the conservative and legalistic ruling class of the Jewish elite. He was well trained in theology and Old Testament bible. And in addition to being a zealous Jew, he was also a Roman citizen... He had power and prestige in his circles. A good life.
However, he was vehemently anti-Christ. He fought against the early church, and persecuted Christians. He participated in the deaths of early Christian leaders, and was an enemy of the Gospel. So how did he change?
He met Jesus. Literally. On the road to Damascus. And when Christ called him to a life of faith, and Gospel mission, it all changed.
He gave up his antagonism towards Christians for a life of making disciples of Jesus.
He gave up persecuting the church for a life of building the church.
He gave up murdering folks for a life of being shipwrecked, jailed, hungry, and at times alone... But all so that he could plant churches and see the message of Christ proclaimed.
A man like that doesn’t change without God changing him. A transformation like that doesn’t happen without a larger mission and purpose consuming him. His mission was serving His King. THE KING OF KINGS.
Of course, Paul wasn’t the only Apostle who lived a radical life for Christ.
With the exception of John who died after a long life of service to the Lord...All of the other Apostles died as martyrs, killed for their commitment to the faith and the mission of God.
Why would these men boldly and fearlessly, devote their lives, and their DEATHS, to a mission they knew was false? I’m here to tell you: they wouldn’t. They only lived with such courage because they had seen and personally interacted with the risen Christ. They knew the truth of the Gospel of Jesus, and they were not ashamed or afraid of the consequences of following him.
That’s why TRANSFORMATION OF SAUL and the life-long COMMITMENT OF THE APOSTLES are another good reason to hope in the Resurrection.
Because of their faithfulness, the message of Christ spread. It spread across the Ancient Near East, and to Europe and Northern Africa. And in the generations to come, it’s spread even further, across much of the developed world. It’s here, entrusted to us.
Just as the early disciples once were, WE have been entrusted with the Gospel. With the truth of Christ’s LIFE, his DEATH, and his RESURRECTION.
My hope and prayer, this morning, is that you would see the glory of Christ... And value him above all else.
That you would recognize Him for who He is, the King of All Kings, who earnestly desires to save His people. To restore, renew, and reconcile His relationship with His people.
And to offer His people NEW LIFE through the power of His resurrection.
Paul puts it this way:
Philippians 3:8–11 (ESV) - 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
Paul told the Philippians that knowing Christ, and sharing in His resurrection – that is, experiencing new life and eternal hope because of the Work of The King – surpasses the worth of all other things.
That he was willing to look at all the other things in his life – his material possessions, his citizenship, his education, his job as a tentmaker... all of that... and count them as loss... To consider them as rubbish. Something you’d throw away. Not that they have no value... But that in comparison to Christ and the life of mission and blessing He died AND ROSE AGAIN to bless us with, that’s their eternal value.
May we, too, like Paul, and the Apostles, and generations of faithful Christians before us, come to that same level of passion for the Work of The King in our lives. That we would follow Him with wreckless abandon. That we would passionately pursue Him and His redemptive purposes in all things.
And that we would keep the power of His resurrection at the forefront!