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Easter Day / The Resurrection of Our Lord – Series C

Text: 1 Corinthians 15:19–26

Title: “A God Who Rises - So What?”

Date: Sunday, April 21, 2019…11:00a.m.

Pastor Steve Bocklage

 

P: “Alleluia! Christ is risen.”  C: “He is risen indeed. Alleluia!”…

If you have seen one…you have seen a bunch of them. I am talking about Infomercials. You know…those paid TV advertisements trying to sell you this thing and that other thing. They try to sell you those new things that are bigger and better and faster and cheaper and easier and more equipped to make your life a step above where it is right now! Maybe they’re right. Of course, the problem is…the product usually is not all that it is hyped up to be. In the end, if a product really does not work and it has no factual basis to its claim…it’s just junk.

         Well…the same goes for the Church. Did you know that? If this guy named Jesus of Nazareth did not actually die on a Roman cross two thousand years ago and come back to life three days later, we might as well pack it all up and go home. Everything the Church believes and teaches means absolutely nothing unless it has a basis in these important events. Justification by grace through faith alone is the declaration and promise that God has made. He has paid the price to repair or reconcile the gap between Him and us. Of course, all this depends completely on the fact that Jesus’ tomb was empty that Easter Sunday morning. Our Christian faith depends entirely on the fact that there was no lifeless body of Jesus nor anyone else in that rock solid tomb on Easter morning. If Christ didn’t rise from the dead, you are still in your sins. Whether historians believe Jesus resurrected or not, they are certain that it is a historical fact that Jesus of Nazareth died by crucifixion on a Roman cross.

So the big question today is this: What if Christ did NOT actually rise from the dead? Let us suppose for a moment that He did not…that He died and maybe His disciples stole His body as the Jews claimed. If Christ did not rise from the dead, then you and I are in a heap of eternal life trouble. Since all people are sinners, all of us deserve temporal and eternal death. Sinners need Christ’s death to pay for their sins. But His death doesn’t mean anything unless He defeated death by rising again to life! If Christ didn’t rise from the dead, it’s even worse. Not only do we have no forgiveness of sins and no promise of new life…neither do our loved ones, who have already died. If Christ did not rise from the dead, then we are truly miserable (cf. 1 Cor. 15:19) with no present and no future. We have only this life…a life full of death, pain, suffering, and hardship. If Christ did not rise from the dead, then you and I have staked our lives on a fantasy.

“But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead,” declares St. Paul, “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” (1 Cor. 15:20) An English advertising agent and freelance writer named Frank Morison was a non-Christian and quite proud of it. He went to Palestine with sole purpose of researching the resurrection story in order to disprove it. In doing so, the whole structure of Christianity would come toppling down. He searched for the chunk of evidence that would refute all the claims of Easter Sunday morning. But the more he examined the evidence of Christ’s resurrection, the more interesting and impressive he found it, and the more tired he grew of his own naturalistic and humanistic explanations. Finally, he shed his agnostic views and converted to Christianity, finding the resurrection account too difficult to disprove. He gave a briefing on the entire experience that he titled, “Who Moved the Stone?”

Dear friends…the Lord Jesus has been raised from the dead! That is a fact! Yes, there are many theories about what really happened in that tomb. Maybe you have seen some on the History Channel like the stolen-body theory or the wrong-tomb theory. There are theories where Jesus only appeared to die or the women at the tomb were hallucinating. There is even a theory named the lettuce theory where the gardener was so upset at his lettuce being trampled by curious onlookers that he moved the body.

The truth is…all of these theories fall short because they all raise more questions than answers. For instance, not one of them accounts for why the Roman soldiers guarding the tomb went along with the alleged plot. If the body was not discovered, those guards were very likely killed. All they had to do was come up with the body of Jesus…but they couldn’t do it. In fact, none of these theories ever produced the body of Jesus. How could they? Jesus is alive!

The disciples were so convinced of the fact of the resurrection that they staked their very own lives on proclaiming it. According to early Church tradition, St. John was the only inner circle disciple of Christ known to have lived to old age…and he managed that only because he was exiled to an island. The rest of them died bloody, premature deaths because of the faith. Andrew was crucified…Peter, Philip, and Bartholomew were crucified upside down…and James was beheaded. You get the idea. They would never have done this if they were making it up. They would never die for a lie.

In his book titled, “In The Fullness of Time,” Dr. Paul L. Maier, professor emeritus of Ancient History at Western Michigan University and the preacher for our congregation’s 100th Anniversary over nine years ago, writes: “Accordingly, if all the evidence is weighed carefully and fairly, it is indeed justifiable, according to the canons of historical research, to conclude that the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, in which Jesus was buried, was actually empty on the morning of the first Easter. And no shred of evidence has yet been discovered in literary sources…[in the study of inscriptions as writing]…or in archaeology that would disprove this statement.” (pg. 203)  

         Yes, Jesus Christ, the Son of God rose from the dead! That is established by the Scriptures and by clear historical testimony. But one or more of you may be thinking: “That’s great…but so what?” The “so what” is…from this fact about Christ’s death and resurrection grows all the blessings of your faith. It means you have life! “For as by a man came death,” writes St. Paul, “by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.” (1 Cor. 15:21) The fact that Christ rose from the dead means all believers in Christ will also rise from the dead. It means that if death could not hold onto Christ, then death cannot hold onto anyone who is in Christ. His death and His resurrection were given to you on that day when you were baptized and God’s triune Name was placed on you. Christ’s resurrection from the dead means the last enemy known as death will be destroyed. (1 Cor. 15:26)

On the Last Day, all believers in Christ will rise with new glorified bodies and gather around Jesus, the true Lamb of God. Victorious over sin, death, and the power of the devil, you and I will live with Christ forever. Death will no longer be a menace to us who are in Christ. That wicked weapon of the devil will have been completely removed, once and for all. Death’s sting will no longer have any power or sway over us whatsoever, for Christ has destroyed death with His own death.

As unbelievable as it seems…what happened in Jesus’ tomb that Easter Sunday morning so long ago is not junk and not a lie…and it makes a difference. Hundreds witnessed the resurrected Jesus. Just as Christ rose from the dead, we too will be brought to new life in the same way. And there is nothing that the devil or his minions of death-wielding demons can do about it because the battle has been won by the Messiah! You can rejoice with your whole being in the certainty of your resurrection to come! Ready? P: “Alleluia! Christ is risen.” C: “He is risen indeed. Alleluia!” Amen.

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