Sunday when the church gathers, it remembers that He rose on the first day of the week, and that’s why we meet when we do.
The significance of the resurrection
The resurrection is not just one element in the Christian story; it’s not just one feature of Christianity–it is the main event. The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave is the greatest event in history.
It is the major moment, the major reality in redemption. It is the cornerstone of gospel promise. It is the primary theme of worship and praise because the resurrection is the source of eternal life for believers; because He lives, we live also. Without the resurrection, the cross, the death of Christ, would be meaningless. Without the resurrection, the cross would be powerless.
If Christ is not raised, says the New Testament, then your faith is worthless and you are still in your sins…if Christ is not raised.
The resurrection is not a postscript. The resurrection is not an epilogue. It’s not an appendix at the end of the story. It is the climactic high point of the work of Christ, of the saga of redemption, of the purpose of God to save His people.
Because the resurrection is so important, it is a major theme in the New Testament. For example, all four gospel writers (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) tell the story of the resurrection.
No description of the actual event of the resurrection
You heard me read the mingling of four gospels and when you listened to it, you knew it was a seamless story, every part fitting with every other part. Even with those histories, it must be noted that there’s one part missing. Matthew doesn’t describe it. Mark doesn’t describe it. Luke doesn’t describe it. And John doesn’t describe it, and the part that’s missing is there is no record of the actual event of the resurrection. There is no description. We know what happened leading up to the resurrection.
We know what happened in response to the resurrection. We don’t know anything about the resurrection, as to the phenomenon itself. It is, of course, supernatural. It is incomprehensible. We know it happened because of the results. The fact is attested by ample, massive evidence that Jesus rose from the dead. But there is no attempt on the part of the gospel writers to explain to us the inexplicable. We could actually go to any of these four accounts, but for this morning let’s look at the shortest account, that’s the account of Mark.
Mark ends in verse 8 (an explanation as to why)
Mark’s gospel actually ends at verse 8, chapter 16, verse 8. There are some other verses added from verse 9 to 20, but they were not a part of the original text. The abrupt ending of Mark left some people with the idea that they needed to complete the story and so they added to the Scripture. There will be a note in your Bible indicating that this is added and does not appear in the early manuscripts.
The 4 gospels tell the same story
They all give the record that He was buried and that He was buried on Friday, that He was buried in a tomb and that tomb was sealed with a stone, and that tomb was guarded by Romans. They all tell us that, however, on Sunday that stone was removed, that guard had vanished, that tomb was empty, and angels explained what had happened. And then Christ began to appear to His followers, first to the women, and then the disciples, and then to hundreds. They all tell the same story.
Where the evidence for the resurrection lies
So when you come to the resurrection and you want to know the validity and the reality of the resurrection, it isn’t the actual supernatural event that gives us the proof we need, it’s everything going on around it. That’s where the evidence lies.
The first is the testimony of the empty tomb. Now let me just stop before I get into it and say this: that’s a very convincing argument. An empty tomb is a very convincing argument. There is no record anywhere in the Scriptures or outside the Scriptures to indicate that anyone found Jesus in the tomb after Sunday morning. There is no testimony to that effect. All testimony is to the fact that the tomb was empty.
Repeatedly through His ministry, in the beginning, in the middle, and in a flourish of repetitions at the end He said He would die and He would rise the third day.
How the ancient world identified their days of the week
“When the Sabbath was over.” Let me stop there and remind you of this, that Jewish days were counted from sunset to sunset, sunset to sunset. We count days from midnight to midnight. They counted them from sunset to sunset. Perhaps a more obvious way to count if you didn’t have mechanical clocks, of course. So the Sabbath day, like any day, would end at six or sunset. At sunset, Sabbath had ended, Sabbath is over.
Luke says it is the first day of the week. They didn’t have names for days. There’s no equivalent for Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, etc. They simply spoke of numbers with reference to Sabbath. The third day before Sabbath, the second day after Sabbath, that’s how they identified their days.
The women who ministered to Jesus
When Jesus was doing His ministry in Galilee, which lasted a long, long time, well over a year, He collected male disciples, for sure–the ones we’re so familiar with and many other followers among men.
But He also collected many, many women. Many women followers who ministered to Him, who cared for Him in ways that you would assume women would care for Him, providing for His needs. And this collection of women followed Him down to Jerusalem for the Passover. They were there at the triumphal entry. They were there during the week as He taught in the Temple. They were there at a distance looking at the cross, when, by the way, with just the exception of John, all of His male disciples had fled. They were there. Luke includes a woman named Johanna and says there were many other women.
Matthew includes the wife of Zebedee, the mother of James and John. So there’s this group of women who are there, and they happened to be there watching when Jesus was buried.
Go back to verse 46. “When Joseph brought a linen cloth, took Jesus down off the cross, wrapped Him in the linen cloth, laid Him in a tomb which had been hewn out in the rock, rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses were looking on to see where He was laid.”
The integrity of scripture (an example)
Mark says very early when the sun had risen. Luke says they came at the early dawn. Matthew says they came when it began to dawn. John says they came when it was still dark. All of those are true because dawn is not a static event; it is a moving event and it is dark and light at the same time. The natural descriptions given by each writer are a testimony to the integrity of Scripture. It is by every measure daybreak, and daybreak is moving through various phases. The sun, most likely, had risen over the eastern flat desert and the desert would have been bathed in the sunlight of a spring morning. But the sun had not ascended fully up over the Mount of Olives which shaded the city of Jerusalem on the east. Maybe you could see the light glow of the sun over the crest of the Mount of Olives, but the city was still in shadows until that sun appeared over the Mount of Olives and the city was lit. This is darkness, the darkness of the dawn.
Jesus tomb was sealed for a reason
They have no idea that there has been a resurrection. Matthew fills in some of the gaps. Listen to what Matthew says: “Before they arrived”…before Mary Magdalene arrived, before any of the women arrived, we read, verse 62 of Matthew 27, that…“Pilate gave permission to the Jews to seal the tomb.”
Because they said, “We remember, sir, that when He was still alive, that deceiver said ‘after three days I’m going to rise again.’ So give orders for the grave to be made secure until the third day, otherwise His disciples may come and steal Him away and say to the people, ‘He is risen from the dead,’ and the last deception will be worse than the first. So Pilate said to them, ‘You have a guard, go make it as secure as you know how.’ They went, made the grave secured, along with the guard they set a seal on the stone.”
The tomb opened
Well, “it began to dawn,” Matthew 28, “toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene, the other Mary came to look at the grave, but before they arrived, this had already occurred, a severe earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it and his appearance was like lightning and His clothing as white as snow, and the guards shook for fear of Him, and became like dead men.”
And so verse 5 says, “The women entered the tomb, they entered the tomb.” And Luke adds, “They didn’t find the body of the Lord Jesus.”
Nobody stole Jesus body from the tomb
Maybe Mary was right. Somebody stole His body. Somebody came and took Him. Did the disciples come and take Him to fake a resurrection? Well, let’s just stop for a moment at this point and say this. The whole point of all of this testimony that I’ve given you is just to let you know the tomb was empty, the tomb was empty.
We know the Jewish leaders didn’t steal His body cause they were afraid the disciples would.
We know the disciples didn’t steal His body because they didn’t know where it went.
We know the women didn’t steal His body because they didn’t know where it went either.
We know the Roman guards didn’t steal His body because that was a breach of duty that would cost them dearly.
Everybody gives testimony to the empty tomb. And there’s nobody who’s responsible to take it. Oh, it was grave robbers. Some say grave robbers. Really? The Roman guard was there to prevent grave robbing disciples or any grave robbers for that matter.
The body was there on Friday. The tomb was sealed with a large stone. The Roman guard with all of its authority and might was placed there. No one who followed Jesus Christ even believed that He would rise from the dead, so they had no motive to fake a resurrection. There is nobody to steal the body but the body’s not there. And that’s the testimony of the empty tomb.
But when they eventually got to Galilee, He showed up in Galilee as well. A wonderful account of that in Matthew 28 and a long account of that in the last chapter of John’s gospel; John 21 where He confronts Peter and asks him if he loves Him, and recommissions him. All of that happened post-resurrection in Galilee. And in Galilee, Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15,500 people saw Him.
And according to Acts chapter 1, He spent forty days with them, speaking to them of things pertaining to the kingdom of God–forty days of intimate fellowship and teaching and instruction. Massive eyewitness testimony to the risen Christ, massive.
What is the benefit of his resurrection
What is the benefit of this? Turn to Romans 4…What is the benefit of this? End of verse 25, the last verse in chapter 4 speaks of the significance of His death and resurrection. “He who was delivered over because of our transgressions”; that looks at His execution. “Delivered over” being a technical term for being handed over for execution, because of our transgressions. In other words, He died for our sins. He was then raised because of or for our justification. This links the resurrection with our salvation, with our justification. This is where we go to the benefit of the resurrection. What’s the benefit of the resurrection? The resurrection provides our justification. What does justification mean? It means that we are just before God, or righteous before God, or holy before god, or perfect before God.
“Therefore by the resurrection been justified by faith, not by works. We didn’t earn righteousness; we didn’t earn holiness; we didn’t earn perfection–it came because we believed in the resurrection of the Christ.
What does it mean to stand in grace?
What does it mean to stand in grace? We live in the realm of grace. We are treated exclusively with grace. There is no end to the grace and mercy and forgiveness that God dispenses to those who are His children who have made peace through Christ and been covered by His righteousness. We stand in grace. That’s why there’s no condemnation ever to those who are in Christ. We stand in grace. We stand in the midst of gracious, on-going, continual forgiveness.
What comes out of the resurrection?
That’s not all. We have been given the hope of the glory of God and we exalt in that; we rejoice in that.
What comes out of the resurrection? Justification by faith, peace with God, standing in grace, and the hope of glory. We live our lives in this world, anticipating the world to come, what God has prepared for those that love Him.
That’s not all.
We have something even beyond that. Down in verse 5, Hope that does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who is given to us.”
We literally are bathed in the love of God. Through the resurrection, we have been made righteous before God. Through the resurrection, we have peace with God. Through the resurrection we stand in grace. Through the resurrection, we have the hope of glory. And through the resurrection, we receive the fullness of the love of God, and He loves us to the max of His ability to love. These are the benefits of the resurrection. That’s why I say, the resurrection is the cornerstone, the main event in the Christian gospel.