Easter 2019: Why does the Resurrection matter?

Here are my sermon notes from our Easter 2019 sermon:

Jesus’ Resurrection is not an “optional” doctrine.

Blaise Pascal was a French philosopher who lived in the mid 17th century. He is often remembered for “Pascal’s Wager” in which he argues that we all BET OUR LIVES ON whether or not God exists. If God does exist, then there would be MAXIMAL loss for the one who denied Him. But if God does not exist there will be MINIMAL loss for the Christian. Therefore, Pascal argues…the Christian faith is a “good bet”.

Regarding the resurrection of Christ however, the Apostle Paul argues the exact opposite:

(1 Corinthians 15:12–19) 12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

Paul does NOT argue: “Even if Jesus was not raised…then a life devoted to the Christian cause would still have been a life well-lived!” Instead he argues that if Christ was not raised then Christianity is a sham and Christians are “of all people most to be pitied”.

The resurrection of Jesus is the linchpin of the Christian faith.

Paul goes so far to say that if Christ was not raised:

  • Our Preaching is in vain,

  • Your faith is in vain,

  • Christian leaders have been MISREPRESENTING God,

  • Your faith is FUTILE,

  • You are STILL IN YOUR SINS,

  • Christians who have died are gone forever,

  • We are MOST to be pitied!

There are many categories of doctrines that Christians believe that we consider SECONDARY. Categories in which there is VARIANCE in what we believe: Ex. Age of the earth, The ORDER of end-times events, how exactly God exercises SOVEREIGNTY in salvation…

But regarding the RESURRECTION…there IS NO ROOM for VARIANCE.

In fact, you cannot even be a Christian unless you believe in the resurrection!

(Romans 10:9) 9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

So, why is this doctrine so critical? Here are two reasons:

Reason #1: Because Jesus said He would raise.

Jesus prophesied that He would not only die, but raise from the dead.

(John 2:19) 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”

The OT teaches us exactly how to deal with people who claim to speak for God…and predict future events.

(Deuteronomy 18:21–22) 21 And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the Lord has not spoken?’— 22 when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.

We are commanded to test prophets! If Jesus made a prediction that did NOT COME TO PASS…then He should be rejected as a false prophet.

There are lots of prophecies given in OT…and lots of false prophecies. But the majority of those prophecies foretell natural events…of the kind that an outside observer might suspect, even if he had not heard from God. Examples:

  • Isaiah prophesied that the land of Israel would be invaded by an army;

  • Ezekiel prophesied the Jews would rebuild the Temple.

  • Elijah prophesied that there would be a drought. 

  • Others prophesied that certain kings would die in battle, or by conspiracy.

But Jesus’ foretelling of the events surrounding His death and resurrection were peculiar…even amongst other prophecies.

(Matthew 20:17–19) 17 And as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside, and on the way he said to them, 18 “See, we are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death 19 and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.”

Notice here that Jesus makes [at least] seven specific predictions concerning His death and resurrection:

  1. He would be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes,

  2. They will condemn Him to death,

  3. They will deliver Him over to the Gentiles,

  4. He will be mocked,

  5. He will be flogged,

  6. He will be crucified,

and He will be raised on the third day.

Jesus did not merely prophesy that He would be killed. Even a liar could make that prophesy come true! He foretold something that COULD ONLY COME TRUE if GOD TOOK ACTION .

So the first reason that Jesus’ resurrection was necessary is because if He did not raise…it would prove Him to be untrustworthy. But not only did Jesus make these claims about himself…others confirmed that they took place.

Reason #2: Because our Bible was written by those who claim to have seen the risen Christ.

Our faith is dependent upon EYEWITNESS accounts of the RESURRECTION. Every believer today is a believer, NOT because he/she has seen Jesus resurrected…but because they believe the EYEWITNESS TESTIMONY of those who DID see Him raise. And just for the record, the first Disciples were profoundly aware of this:

(Acts 1:21–22) 21 So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.

(Acts 10:40–41) 40 but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, 41 not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.

Consequently, almost every gospel presentation that we read in the Bible includes testimony that Jesus raised from the dead. Now, if this feels tentative to you…let’s put it in perspective:

Trusting Eyewitness testimony is not just something uniquely expected of Christians. In fact, all of you MUST trust the testimony of others in order to believe ANYTHING you haven’t personally witnessed. Consider: you have not personally witnessed a single solitary historical event that took place before your were born. This means that 100% of the past events that you currently believe happened, are dependent upon your trust in eyewitnesses…or—more likely—you have read accounts of eyewitness—or MOST likely—you have read accounts of those who have compiled EYEWITNESS testimonies (i.e. biographies, documentaries, etc.)!

Trusting eyewitness testimonies is not unique to the Christian faith.

And just as we would expect—because trust is necessary—many people are skeptics. And there have been skeptics since the beginning of our faith. Consider one such skeptic in the New Testament: Thomas.

(John 20:25) 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.

Thomas says that he would not believe eyewitnesses…even though they were his closest friends! Additionally, he says that he won’t believe even if He sees Jesus! Even then his skepticism would not be satisfied until he had further proof that Jesus actually died…by touching his crucifixion scars.

Some people today think that people who lived thousands of years ago were nothing more than foolish, gullible, superstitious primitives. But skepticism is as old as mankind. Consider how people responded to Paul’s teaching on the resurrection:

(Acts 17:32) 32 Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, “We will hear you again about this.

People then responded to claims of resurrection in much the same way they do today.

Of course we are not exclusively dependent on the eyewitness accounts recorded in the New Testament. We also have external evidence that we can test against the claims of resurrection. But at the end of the day, a person must decide whether he/she will believe the eyewitnesses and the evidence or not. And belief should not be thought of as a concession. Jesus commends those who believe without seeing!

(John 20:29) 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.

Is it not remarkable…that the God-ordained means by which we can be saved is by belief…in supernatural (untestable) events? It is conceivable that God could have planned for His Son to die for sins…and not resurrect. But this was how He determined to work in history! Why?

In raising Jesus from the dead, God provided ultimate authentication of His Son.

Jesus’ rising is God’s ultimate stamp of approval. In other words, If there were two people who claimed to speak for God, and one of them was resurrected from the grave, I’m going to believe the guy who raised from the dead!

The Jews knew this! This is why they formed a conspiracy: to try to cover up His resurrection! But since Jesus was raised…this means that everything He told us…IS TRUE.

Everything Jesus promised will happen!

  1. He REALLY is the SON of God! (John 8:58, Romans 1:3-4)

  2. He is the only way to be saved. (John 14:6)

  3. He will build His Church. (Matthew 16:18)

  4. The work of salvation is finished. (John 19:30)

  5. He will return. (Matthew 24:44)