The Fact and Meaning of the Resurrection
Dear Heavenly Father, Your wondrous plan for mankind's salvation through Jesus was brought to its victorious conclusion through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Fill us all with Your Spirit, so that we may recognize the many blessings we possess by faith in Your Son. Through Your love, we have forgiveness for all our sins, the assurance of Your presence in our lives, and have been made heirs of life everlasting. Death has been swallowed up by Jesus' victory. May we ever thank and praise You all the days of our lives. Amen.
Part 1: The Fact of the Resurrection ~ Pastor Wayne C. Eichstadt
Part 2: The Meaning of the Resurrection ~ Pastor Paul D. Nolting
Welcome happy morning! Age to Age shall say:
"HELL TODAY IS VANQUISHED, HEAV’N IS WON TODAY!"
Text: Matthew 28:1-8
Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men. But the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.” So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word.
In Christ Jesus, our Risen Savior, dear fellow-redeemed:
Jesus didn’t really die. He only fainted—passed out—on the cross and when He was carried into the tomb where the air was cool and moist, He revived. So states one of the theories surrounding Jesus after His body was removed from the cross. Another theory says that there was a spiritualresurrection but not a bodily one. In other words, Jesus’ spirit rose out of the tomb, but His body just disappeared somehow...perhaps dissolved into tomb gases.
Still another theory believes that throughout His life, Jesus alternated back-and-forth between man and God. At certain times He was man and at others He was God, then back to man, and then God...etc. but never being true God and true Man at the same time. Therefore, when He died He was a man, but when He rose He was God, and then “man” simply ceased to exist.
Perhaps the reason why there are so many theories surrounding Jesus’ resurrection is because a resurrection to life defies human logic. Wherever we look, we see things dying, and none of us have witnessed a resurrection. A resurrection to life just isn’t logical, so when the women first told the disciples that Jesus had risen, the disciples thought the women were telling them stories—idle tales. We speak of “doubting Thomas” but in truth, all of Jesus’ disciples held doubt within their hearts until they had seen Jesus with their own eyes.
When we are speaking about matters of our faith and our salvation we had better be resting that faith on more than theory. We want to rest our faith and the hope of our salvation upon the rock of FACT—not theory! So this Easter morning we set out to search for the FACTS concerning the resurrection. THE FACT OF THE RESURRECTION is that JESUS LIVES INDEED!!
We begin our search for the facts in the Old Testament. In Psalm 16, God prophesied: “You will not leave my soul in Sheol, Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption” (Psalm 16:10). God announced that the Savior would indeed die and be brought to Sheol—the grave—but His body would not see corruption or decay. It would not remain in the grave!
Throughout Jesus’ life and ministry He proved Himself to be the promised Messiah through word and action. He fulfilled all of the other prophecies and this is no less a prophecy of Him which would be fulfilled. We continue in our search....
The crowds that followed Jesus and even His enemies were eyewitnesses that it was possible for a resurrection to life. Already in Jesus’ ministry, long before He Himself ever died, the crowds had seen Him raise the youth at Nain back to life (Luke 7:11ff). They had seen Him raise the daughter of Jairus back to life (Luke 8:41ff). Not long before Jesus’ own death the crowds had seen Jesus raise Lazarus back to life even after he had been dead for four days! (John 11:1ff). Even Jesus’ enemies could not deny that He had power over death and had raised the dead back to life. They had heard the reports with their own ears! They had seen Lazarus alive with their own eyes! They even plotted to kill Lazarus after Jesus had raised him because the resurrection gathered such a following for Jesus! (John 12:9-11). The crowds and the enemies alike knew that a resurrection to life was possible!
The Old Testament prophecy...the possibility of a resurrection...our search for the facts continues....
The Guards at Jesus’ tomb were the first eyewitnesses of His resurrection. Recall that on Saturday, the Jewish leaders had approached Pontius Pilate to request a sealing of the tomb and a guard. They told Pilate, “Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise.’ Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day, lest His disciples come by night and steal Him away, and say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead.’ So the last deception will be worse than the first” (Matthew 27:63-64).
So the guards were there Sunday morning when the earthquake came and the angel descended to roll away the stone and reveal the empty tomb where Jesus once had lain. The guards saw the empty tomb, they saw the events firsthand, they KNEW what they saw, they KNEW they had become like dead men from fright, they KNEW the FACTS! But they went to the chief priests and leaders of the people, told them the FACTS, and then accepted a bribe to tell the LIE that the disciples had stolen the body during the night. The guards lied and tried to cover up the truth, but their lie cannot change the truth that they were eyewitnesses to the evidence of Jesus’ resurrection to life.
Peter and John were also witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection. When the women had told the disciples what they had seen, Peter and John ran to the tomb and looked inside. There they found Jesus’ grave clothes neatly laid where His body once had been. The body cloths were lying in one spot and the head cloth was folded and lying separately. It was not scene of a grave robbery in which the cloths would be twisted and strewn about the tomb. It was not the scene of a completely empty tomb as we might expect if the disciples had stolen the body. It was the scene of a resurrection to life in which the body had raised to life and left behind the clothing of death.
Jesus appeared to the women as they went on their way to tell the disciples about the empty tomb. Later, He appeared to Mary Magdalene. Easter night, Jesus appeared to the disciples behind locked doors. They too had their own theory about the resurrection—they thought Jesus was a ghost. They thought Jesus was a ghost until He ate, and they touched Him, and talked to Him and found that He was the same Jesus that had died but now was also risen bodily from the dead. One week later, Jesus again appeared to the disciples, this time with Thomas also present.
Altogether, Jesus appeared 11 times between Easter and His Ascension (Eleven times are recorded in Scripture though there could have been more which are not recorded). In one of His resurrection appearances, Jesus showed Himself alive to 500 believers at one time! These are all eyewitnesses to the FACT that Jesus rose bodily from the dead.
It is not only these who are witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection. The angels themselves are also reliable witnesses to the FACT of the resurrection. Angels are God’s messengers. The Easter angels were sent by God to pronounce: "He is Risen!" Messengers from God who are sent to bear God’s word to the earth are completely reliable, their word cannot be false.
Old Testament prophecy...the possibility of a resurrection... eyewitnesses to Jesus’ bodily resurrection...there are still more facts to gain...
During one of His visits to the disciples after Easter, Jesus appeared to them by the Sea of Galilee. They had fished all night and caught nothing. The next morning Jesus told them to cast out their nets again and then they caught a multitude of fish (John 21:1ff). This was the same miracle Jesus had done earlier, during His ministry. The same Jesus who had walked the earth, teaching, and performing miraculous deeds, was now alive!
The same Jesus who had looked upon Peter right after he had denied Jesus three times, appeared personally and separately to Peter (Luke 24:34). Jesus knew Peter needed the reassurance. Mary Magdalene had run from the tomb before she ever saw the angels or heard their message. The same Jesus whom she had served during His ministry, appeared personally to reassure her.
On Easter evening, Jesus taught the Emmaus disciples as they journeyed together. When the two men knew it had been Jesus they said, “Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked with us on the road...” (Luke 24:32). The same Jesus—the Son of God—who with His powerful Word of Truth had proclaimed the Gospel to the people, was now alive and speaking the same powerful Word—teaching in a way that no one but He could. So overjoyed were the Emmaus disciples when they understood that Jesus was alive that they immediately returned to Jerusalem that night, heedless of the time or of the danger.
Without even having to put his fingers into the nail prints on Jesus hands or to stick his hand into Jesus’ pierced side, Thomas took one look and exclaimed, “My Lord and my God!” (John 19:27).
When we compile our findings we discover that the Old Testament prophesied Jesus would rise—and God’s Word stands forever true. We know that Jesus had the power over death during His ministry on the earth, thus making a resurrection to life possible. There were many eyewitnesses to testify that the same Jesus did indeed bodily rise from the grave—He rose as true God and true man just as He had lived. Together with the eyewitnesses’ experiences came the many other proofs beyond the simple sight of a living Jesus. As Luke writes in Acts, “ He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3).
It’s not theory...IT IS FACT! JESUS LIVES! The significance of this FACT will be considered in this morning’s second meditation....
—Pastor Wayne C. Eichstadt
Text: 1 Corinthians 15:12-20
Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is vain and your faith is also vain. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable. But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
In Christ Jesus, whose resurrection is key to the gospel, dear fellow redeemed:
Our text informs us that some of the Corinthian Christians denied the possibility of a resurrection from the dead. Such denials were common in Paul’s day. The philosophers and intellectuals of ancient Greece scoffed at the idea. In Athens they “mocked” Paul after he referred to Jesus’ resurrection in a sermon (cf. Acts 17:30-32). The general Greek population, for the most part, was too interested in worldly matters to really care. Even the Sadducees, among the Jews, denied the resurrection of the dead and any afterlife, preferring to concentrate on securing the power and privileges available in this life.
St. Paul’s strong response that “Christ is risen from the dead” settled the debate over the reality of the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ within the church for nineteen centuries. Oh yes, the world has long denied, doubted, and disregarded the fact of the resurrection and its meaning, but it has only been in this last century that widespread denial and doubt has once again entered the church. Theologians and pastors, influenced by the modern denial of the miraculous, suggest that Jesus did not physically arise from the dead, but that rather just his memory lives on.
Dear friends, one cannot deny the miracle of the resurrection without denying the whole of Christianity. St. Paul made that clear two thousand years ago. As we have already been assured, the fact of Jesus’ resurrection is beyond dispute. It is true, even as St. Paul asserts in our text. The question now is WHAT DOES JESUS’ RESURRECTION MEAN? St. Paul tell us that Jesus’ resurrection means that our message is true, our faith is valid, and our future is secure!
Yes, our message is true! Those who deny the reality of Jesus’ physical resurrection, believe that they can pick and choose from the Bible what they want to believe without damaging the gospel message overall. This is not true. St. Paul writes, “If Christ is not risen, then our preaching is vain....and we are found false witnesses of God!” The physical resurrection of Jesus is the core of Christianity. God’s sent His Son to become Man. Jesus, the God-Man, lived a perfect life and suffered an innocent death for us. He accomplished all that God desired and said on the cross just before dying, “It is finished” (Jn. 19:30). The work of redemption was completed and would have the ongoing result of securing for us all the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.
What then does Jesus’ resurrection mean? It means that God accepted Jesus’ work—His life and His sacrifice. St. Paul told the Romans, “Jesus Christ our Lord...was...declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (1:4). The gospel message would mean nothing without the resurrection, for it would mean that God had not accepted Jesus’ work. It would mean that Jesus was not who He claimed to be. If Jesus was not raised from the dead, He was just another religious charlatan. But having been raised from the dead, Jesus was declared to be God’s Son by God Himself. The gospel message of God’s love was thereby confirmed. We can rest assured that everything written in the Scriptures—everything we have been entrusted to share with others is true! That is what Jesus’ resurrection mean!
It also means that our faith is valid! To deny Jesus’ physical resurrection from the dead is to deny the successful completion of His redemptive work. Then we would need to deal with and atone for our sins on our own. This the Scriptures say is impossible. Consequently what St. Paul says in our text would prove true, “If Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!”
Human beings like to think that they can make up for their own sins. They like to believe that if they try hard enough and are basically pretty good people, they will be fine when they stand before their God on Judgment Day. But when the Bible speaks to us about morality, it does not speak about “trying hard” or being “pretty good.” No, the Bible demands perfection, “You shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Mt. 5:48). How close to perfect is good enough? The Bible says, “Whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all” (Jam 2:10). At this point, human beings begin to chaff. They begin to get uncomfortable, for their hearts condemn them. They begin to view God as unfair—demanding the impossible. They begin to say that they will not believe the Bible—that such thinking is just a matter of opinion. Yet, the Bible is clear—we are to be perfect and all in reality stand condemned before God.
The physical resurrection of Jesus, however, resolves the problem for us. “The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sins” (1 Jn. 1:7). “He who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mk. 16:16). What are we to believe? We are to believe in Jesus as our Savior from sin and as our one and only source of eternal salvation. Jesus’ resurrection assures us He is alive. Truly, Jesus’ resurrection makes our faith valid!
Finally, Jesus’ resurrection means that our future is secure! The denial of Jesus’ resurrection leads inevitably to a denial of the final resurrection of the dead and life everlasting. The denial of Jesus’ resurrection means that this world and this life is all that there is. If such is actually the case St. Paul concludes, “Those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.”
Yesterday, we laid to rest the mortal remains of a dear brother in Christ, Bert Doring. In his funeral message, Pastor Eichstadt pointed our eyes ahead to the glories awaiting Bert and all of us because of Christ and in view of our faith. If Jesus did not rise, that message is not true. Jesus, before ascending into heaven, instructed us to serve one another, to think of others before ourselves, to share this world’s goods generously with others—all of which requires needless and foolish sacrifice if we have no future beyond this world. What idiots we Christians would be, if our hope of life everlasting is not true!
St. Paul’s response, however, is “Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.” My dear friends, Jesus’ physical resurrection from the dead assures us of our own resurrection from the dead. Jesus’ physical resurrection from the dead assures us of the truth of Jesus’ promise that He is preparing a place for us and will return to take us to Himself to live in heaven with God forever (cf. Jn. 14:2-3). What does Jesus’ resurrection mean? It means, my dear friends, that our future is secure! Christ is risen! Hallelujah! Amen!
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting