Monday, April 13, 2009

The Empty Tomb

I wanted to share notes from Easter service with anyone who still reads here! :)

1 Corinthians 15:13-19 (NLV)
…if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless. And we apostles would all be lying about God — for we have said that God raised Christ from the grave. But that can’t be true if there is no resurrection of the dead. And if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins. In that case, all who have died believing in Christ are lost! And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world.

That’s Paul writing to the Corinthians in his first letter to them.

There is nothing so central to our faith, the faith of anyone who claims to be a Christian, than the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The empty tomb is where Christianity truly begins. The resurrection of Jesus Christ and Christianity itself stand or fall together.

I’m sure you know, millions upon millions of people on this earth today, entire nations of people, don’t believe it happened. They believe in the historical Jesus but not the resurrected Jesus. And the internet is filled with sites that try to explain away the evidence of the resurrection story.

Dr. Simon Greenleaf, the Royal Professor of Law at Harvard University, a man credited with building the Harvard University Law School and who later became the Dane Professor of Law at Harvard, was convinced the resurrection story was a myth. He set out to disprove it once and for all using the rules of evidence he helped establish in his book A Treatise on the Law of Evidence. When he finished his investigation after examining all the evidence, he came to the exact opposite conclusion and emphatically stated,

“It was IMPOSSIBLE that the apostles could have persisted in affirming the truths they had narrated, had not JESUS CHRIST ACTUALLY RISEN FROM THE DEAD, ...”

He concluded that according to the jurisdiction of legal evidence the resurrection of Jesus Christ was the best supported event in all of ancient history!

Acts 1:3 says:
“After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.”

What else could have changed those cowardly men who fled Jesus on the night he needed them the most, after spending three years traveling thousands of miles with him, not long after all vowing to die for him? Remember, after Jesus died nearly every one of his followers went back to doing what they were doing before meeting him. It was like three wasted years. They rolled back the clock.

So, what could have changed them from fleeing cowards to desolate martyrs?

The Holy Messiah coming back from the land of the dead. The single greatest event in all of history!

In the book of Acts we have a record of how Christ’s first church began. The details capture an amazing and faith-filled time. It was a time for action. His resurrection lit the fire and with the promised Holy Spirit given to each baptized person, God’s personal seal of approval, the men and women who followed Christ began to spread the word like crazy when they realized he was alive again. They saw him beaten and crucified and then, over the next four or five weeks, they saw him alive. That’s how Christianity began.

It began with the empty tomb.

We are very fortunate to have approximately 11 examples in Acts of verbatim testimony where our first century brothers were preaching about the Good News...basically, how they spread the church.

For example:

  1. We have Peter preaching to the Jews at Pentecost exactly 50 days after the Crucifixion

  2. Peter and John before the Sanhedrin

  3. Stephen, before getting stoned to death, explaining himself in front of the Sanhedrin

  4. Peter preaching to Cornelius and his family

  5. Paul in Athens at the meeting of the Aeropagus

…to name a few of the better known cases.

In 10 out of those 11 instances they preached about Christ being resurrected from the dead. The only one who didn’t was Stephen - likely because he didn’t get the chance. The last thing he said was “and now you have betrayed and murdered him” and bam, lights out, they were stoning him death.

What is our life in Christ today if we don’t constantly consider and speak about his resurrection? It is our foundation. Christ is Risen!

That’s where the Good News starts.

1 Thess 4:14-18
We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words.

Resurrection is the real deal. As Adam was the firstborn among the living, Jesus was the firstborn among the dead.

And resurrection is not just for those who live for Christ. It is for everyone. And that’s a scary thought…

In the book of Daniel, chapter 12, he talks about resurrection for everyone. He says in verse two,

“Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.”

Do you know what he goes on to say about this very scary thought? It’s fulfillment began in the book of Acts. In verse three he says,

“Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.”

The resurrection of everyone is a scary thought if we don’t do something about it.

So what is Easter really all about?
• The Empty Tomb!
• The Resurrected Lord.
• The Living Sacrifice!
• Our Hope and Joy and Sure Reward!

It’s where Christianity begins. Where mankind had it’s first chance to rise from the dead in hope of everlasting glory.

It’s where we get the power to take one more step in life, to overcome, to persevere, to focus on saving the souls of others too.

Consider how we (like our first century bothers) can personally share about his resurrection with others, serving them with the truth of Jesus and this amazing new life we have in him.

Romans 4:25 distinguishes between the two:

"He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification."

We can bring that justification to others. Christ is risen! Let’s get started!


Peggie said...

I have been blessed with your comments on
other blogs that I frequent and I thought I would
drop by and see your blog.
This was a good day to do it, because "The Empty Tomb"
was another blessing. Thank God that tomb was empty!!

When I first read the Bible all the way through for the first time, (in my early 20s)
and read in the Old Testament references to the Messiah and then those same things were fulfilled
in the life of Jesus, I thought "How can anyone think He is not the Messiah?"

He Lives!

Missy said...

Thanks, Peggie, and welcome!

These were close to verbatim notes on a sermonette I listened to on Sunday given to those on the children's teaching team. Although I am still working on the "Berean" follow-up, I found the lesson very enlightening.

The fulfillment of the OT prophecies brought me to same conclusion!

Do you happen to be Jim's wife by any chance? I remember he mentioned a "Peggie" once.


Paul G said...

Good post Missy!
We rejoice in the resurrection of our Lord and because He is risen we have been born again from our spiritual death and have been made alive in Christ Jesus our Lord.

About Adam; I don't think he is the firstborn among the living, because Adam was not born of women.
Adam was created by the Lord 'fully adult' and perhaps did not have a bellybutton like the rest of mankind.


Peggie said...

I think you are talking about Jim
(agent4him) and his wife is named Peggy I believe. I am married to a Jim, but not that
Jim. (I think my Jim
and I may be old enough to be his parents.)
I prayed for your sister Laurie and will continue.

Missy said...

Oops, sorry about the mix-up, Peggie! Thank you so much for prayers for my sister.