We Can Be Absolutely Certain that Jesus Arose from the Dead!
Dear heavenly Father, as I approach You in worship this day, I do so in the name of Your Son, my resurrected Lord and Savior. His blood has washed away my sins, and His life assures me that I too will live! Instill within my heart this day an even greater joy as I listen to Your Word, offer You my praise, and lay before You my petitions. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
We have the hope of eternal life through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Even though we may have to endure various trials in this life, we may do so with confidence that we will receive by God’s grace the end of our faith—the salvation of our souls!
Jesus appeared to His disciples on Easter Sunday evening and again the following Sunday evening. He assured them of His resurrection and commissioned them to proclaim a message that gives life through His name.
Text: Acts 2:14a, 22-32
But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them… “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know—Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it. For David says concerning Him: ‘I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for He is at my right hand, that I may not be shaken. Therefore my heart rejoiced, and my tongue was glad; moreover my flesh also will rest in hope. For You will not leave my soul in Hades, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption. You have made known to me the ways of life; You will make me full of joy in Your presence.’ Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses.”
In Christ Jesus, our risen Lord and Savior, dear fellow redeemed:
Good Friday afternoon after our worship service as I was traveling by car to an appointment, I listened to a rather heated conversation on talk radio between a talk show host and a woman who called in to his program. The talk show host was Jewish, while the woman who called in claimed to be a former Christian. Ironically, the talk show host was defending the historicity both of Jesus’ life and His passion, while the former Christian claimed that Jesus never really existed and His passion never actually occurred! She claimed that it was all a fictitious story manufactured by religious leaders to gain mind control over gullible people who ultimately would believe it!
The fact that Jesus really lived and that He was crucified and died at the hands of the Roman government are indisputable historic facts, confirmed certainly by the Biblical text, which is all the evidence that we really need, but also by numerous non-biblical, ancient historians. To deny the historic life and death of Jesus Christ is to deny reality! But, what can we say about Jesus’ resurrection? There are many people, like the Jewish talk show host who will defend the historicity of Jesus’ life and death, but who do not believe in His resurrection. There are also many preachers and professors today, who claim to be Christians, but who deny the physical resurrection of Jesus. They do so, in general, because they reject the idea of the miraculous altogether and claim that they cannot rationally accept that which they do not understand and have not experienced. My dear friends—the apostle Peter assures us that WE CAN BE ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN THAT JESUS AROSE FROM THE DEAD! As he explains in our text—Jesus’ death and resurrection were preordained by God, foretold by David, and witnessed by himself and many others! We, therefore, need not doubt this most important event in human history!
Our text is part of Peter’s sermon on Pentecost. He was preaching to a large crowd of people, who were in Jerusalem to celebrate the religious festival of Pentecost. They had gathered outside the upper room in which Jesus’ followers had been assembled, because they had heard a “mighty rushing wind” and had come to see what was going on (cf. Acts 2:2). They had been listening to these same disciples speak in their own languages concerning the “wonderful works of God” performed in connection with Jesus (cf. Acts 2:7-8, 11). Peter began his sermon by first explaining what was happening—an ancient prophecy of Joel was being fulfilled as the Holy Spirit enabled God’s children to proclaim His wonderful truths (cf. Acts 2:16-21). He then addressed them with the first words of our text: “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know—Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.”
Notice how Peter used God’s law to point out to his listeners their role in Jesus’ recent death—“You have taken (Jesus) by lawless hands, have crucified, and put (Him) to death!” Even though many of those listening to Jesus may not have been present at the time of Jesus’ arrest, trial, crucifixion, and death, Peter held them personally responsible. That is true for each of us too! Even though we were not there, it was because of our sins that Jesus died. It is truly as if we had been present in the garden to grab Jesus and arrest Him, or present in the Praetorium of Pontius Pilate to scream out, “Crucify Him,” or there at Calvary with hammer and nail in hand to crucify Him!
Notice as well, however, that Peter informs his listeners both then and now that this occurred “by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God!” Jesus’ death was part of God’s eternal plan to save all of mankind from sin. The centerpiece of that plan of redemption was the sacrifice of Someone and something so precious that atonement would be made for the sins of the whole world. That Someone was Jesus and that something was His holy, precious blood! The writer to the Hebrews tells us solemnly that “without shedding of blood there is no remission (of sins)” (9:22b), but then he proclaims concerning Jesus: “He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption” (9:12). Jesus’ death was preordained by God, as was His resurrection. Peter states that Jesus’ resurrection had to happen, because death could not hold back the Lord of life! Remember, Jesus is “the resurrection and the life” (Jn. 11:25). He made that claim and demonstrated that it was true by raising Lazarus from the dead! He laid down His life, but then, as He predicted, He took it back again! (cf. Jn. 10:17-18). WE CAN BE ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN THAT JESUS AROSE FROM THE DEAD! As Peter explains in our text—Jesus’ death and resurrection were preordained by God!
That resurrection was also foretold by David! One of the key ways that we know the Bible is God’s inspired and inerrant Word is through the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. It should not surprise us, therefore, that Peter would cite such a prophecy to demonstrate that the resurrection was both predicted and fulfilled by God. Peter proclaimed: “David says concerning Him: #8216;I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for He is at my right hand, that I may not be shaken. Therefore my heart rejoiced, and my tongue was glad; moreover my flesh also will rest in hope. For You will not leave my soul in Hades, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption. You have made known to me the ways of life; You will make me full of joy in Your presence.#8217;”
Peter’s logic is easily understood and is irrefutable. In this prophecy David says that He would always sit in the presence of the Lord. He also says that His soul would not remain in the grave and that His body would not decay. Peter reasoned that David could not be speaking of himself, for he did die and remain dead. His grave was right there in Jerusalem. His body had decayed, just as every other dead body. David, Peter insists, had to be speaking of Someone else. That Someone else was the promised Savior, Jesus Christ! Jesus died, but was in the grave only three days. He was then raised from the dead. Forty days later He ascended into heaven to sit at God’s right hand and to sit in His Father’s presence forever, even as He rules over us here on this earth! Paul would later explain this powerful truth and its meaning to the Ephesian Christians: “He (God) raised Him (Jesus) from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all” (1:20-23).
My dear friends, the fulfillment of David’s prophecy is so important for us! Jesus’ resurrection and ascension demonstrate that God’s plan to save us and Jesus’ ability to help us are real! We can, therefore, live our lives with confidence! Yes, WE CAN BE ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN THAT JESUS AROSE FROM THE DEAD! As Peter explains in our text—Jesus’ death and resurrection were foretold by David!
Finally, they were also witnessed by Peter and many others! This is the final statement of our text: “This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses.” There is no more powerful testimony to the truth of any fact than that of an eye-witness. Peter and the other believers standing there on that first Pentecost—approximately 120 of them—had all seen and listened to Jesus after His resurrection and before His ascension. They could testify that He was risen from the dead.
The Gospel Lesson you heard earlier in this service, speaks of Jesus appearing to His disciples on Easter Sunday evening. They were confused and frightened that evening, not knowing what to believe and uncertain of what had happened earlier that day. They had reports from the women of angelic messengers and a personal appearance by Jesus. They had eye-witness accounts by Peter and John that they had seen the grave-clothes lying there empty in the tomb. Mary Magdalene claimed a personal meeting, as did Peter himself. Two of their fellow believers had rushed into that room claiming to have seen Jesus as well while walking to Emmaus. Then Jesus appeared in their midst. He showed them the wounds in His hands and His feet. He urged them to touch Him and see that He had flesh and bones. He ate in their presence. He commissioned them to preach. When all of this failed to convince the missing Thomas, Jesus dispelled his many doubts the following week and drew out of him that most precious of confessions: “My Lord and my God!” (Jn. 20:28) John’s Gospel goes on to share the accounts of Jesus’ appearances in Galilee. Paul reports that while in Galilee Jesus was seen at one point by a crowd of over 500 people at once. Jesus was definitely alive. He had arisen!
My dear friends, there are many, as I noted in the introduction to this sermon, who deny that physical resurrection of Jesus Christ. They claim that the disciples at best were hallucinating or at worst, as claimed by the former Christian on the talk radio show, simply agreed to a deception. But such suggestions do not accord with the facts. The disciples believed Jesus was dead and it took much evidence to convince them otherwise—they were not hallucinating! Every one of the apostles of Jesus, apart from John, died as martyrs. You do not die to uphold a deception! No, Jesus did arise from the dead. As Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 15, His resurrection is the foundation of our faith. It confirms the forgiveness of our sins, the truth of the gospel message we are to share, and the certainty of God’s promise of everlasting life! WE CAN BE ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN THAT JESUS AROSE FROM THE DEAD! Hallelujah, and amen!
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting
Soli Gloria Deo!