He is ALIVE! (or… The Staggering Implication of Easter)
Read – John 10:7-11
Key Verse – The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly (John 10:10 NKJV).
Key Thought – Jesus died that we might live. In His resurrection, we gain eternal life.
It’s not possible, is it? That death can be swallowed up in life? It’s pretty unbelievable. Isaiah said, Who has believed our report? (Isaiah 53:1 NKJV)
Indeed, who can believe such a thing?
Kathy and I watched an Easter movie the other day. It’s one I’ve seen before and always find interesting, because it’s different. It is called “Risen” and approaches the entire story from the perspective of a Roman tribune who was commanded by Pilate to find the body of the Lord after it went missing on Resurrection Sunday. There is a scene where Flavius, the tribune, finally locates the disciples and enters the room where they are. The risen Jesus is there with them. Flavius knew Jesus’ face, for he had watched Him die on the cross. He is stunned beyond measure at what he is seeing, and finds himself sinking to the floor in disbelief. As he stares in wonder at Jesus, he says four words that probably any of us would say, and probably many of you are saying even now, “How can this be?”
Indeed, how can it be? It’s impossible, right? The dead don’t come back to life, do they?
But Jesus did!
You know the story, don’t you?
– Jesus had been arrested by His enemies, tried in a series of mock trials before both the Jews and the Romans, beaten and scourged by the Romans, rejected by the Jews who chose the murderer Barabbas over Jesus when given the choice, and finally led away to be crucified.
– He hung on the cross for 6 hours and then died.
– He was taken down from the cross by Joseph of Arimathea, who donated the tomb he had prepared for his own burial, and Jesus was laid therein.
– A huge stone was rolled over the door.
– The Jewish leaders, still not satisfied even though He was dead, demanded the tomb be sealed and guarded. It was. But it wasn’t enough to stop what happened next.
– Jesus laid in that tomb the remainder of Friday, all of Saturday and the beginning of Sunday, and then, on that third day, the stone flew away from the opening, and Jesus stepped forth – alive. ALIVE.
– The soldiers guarding the tomb saw Him alive.
– The women who came to the tomb early that morning to tend to the body saw Him alive.
– The disciples hiding and cowering for fear saw Him alive.
– At one point, over 500 people saw Him alive at the same time.
Jesus had been dead, and was now alive. Jesus had been entombed, and had stepped out of that tomb, alive.
That’s what happened. It is not a myth, nor a fable, nor a fairy tale. It is not something human authors invented or made up. It is a fact of history that cannot be denied.
This thing really happened. (SAY THAT WITH ME)
B.F. Westcott said, “Taking all the evidence together, it is not too much to say that there is no single historic incident better or more variously supported than the resurrection of Christ.”
“John Singleton Copley, one of the great legal minds in British history and three times High Chancellor of England, wrote, ‘I know pretty well what evidence is, and I tell you, such evidence as that for the resurrection has never broken down yet.'”^[Green, Michael P., editor, “1500 Illustrations for Biblical Preaching,” p. 304.]
Dr. Gary Habermas said there are two pieces of evidence necessary to prove the resurrection really happened. “First, did Jesus die on the cross? And second, did he appear to later to people? If you can establish those two things, you’ve made your case, because dead people don’t normally do that.”^[Strobel, Lee, “The Case for Christ,” p. 336.]
This thing really happened. And that leaves us with a pretty humongous implication – HE. IS. ALIVE. (SAY THAT WITH ME) Let your brain cogitate on that fact for a minute.
In the text I read to you earlier, Jesus gave us a pretty good explanation of what all this means. He said, I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly (John 10:10 NKJV).
Death was not the goal.
Friday, it looked like things had ended in death. After all, that was the goal of crucifixion wasn’t it? Volumes have been written describing the horrible death that resulted from this method of execution. People didn’t live through it. Usually it was a long and lingering death, sometimes taking days before the victim would finally breathe his last. In Jesus’ case, however, it took just 6 hours. The gospel of Mark tells us that it was the third hour when they crucified him (Mark 15:25). And Matthew says that from the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit (Matthew 27:45,50). The third hour mentioned by Mark would be 9:00 in the morning, as the Jews reckoned time from sun up to sun down, or starting at 6:00 AM. The sixth hour would therefore be noon, and the ninth hour would be 3:00 in the afternoon. Jesus hung on the cross for 6 hours, and died. Six hours was long enough for Jesus to pay the penalty of every sin you and I would ever commit, and the sins of the whole world to boot.
And at the end of that 6 hours… when the ninth hour came and went, anybody examining Jesus could easily conclude He was dead. The Romans examined him and determined He was dead. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, both Jewish believers, retrieved His body from the cross and entombed it in Joseph’s tomb. They wrapped the body like a cocoon in strips of cloth, impregnated with perfume. That process would have given ample opportunity to examine the body and determine that it was, indeed, dead. As they laid the corpse in the tomb, rolled the stone over the entrance of the tomb and hurried away to their Sabbath observances, there was simply no doubt in anybody’s mind that Jesus was dead.
Somewhere in my library I have a book entitled “The Passover Plot.” Of course maybe I threw it away because it was too ridiculous to deserve a place on the shelf. The author of this book (and others like it) proposed the theory that Jesus wasn’t dead, only unconscious, and that He then revived in the coolness of the tomb. Apparently, a few hours recuperation in the dark cool tomb was enough for Him to overcome the results of scourging and beating and crucifixion, and the loss of nearly every drop of blood from His body. It was enough for Him to become like Houdini, and slip out of the sticky cocoon that had his arms and legs immobilized, and it was enough for Him to gain enough strength to push aside a stone that several women together knew they could not collectively budge. Well… you know what I’m going to say to that – HOGWASH. The author of “The Passover Plot” made the same mistake many make even today when they try and explain away what happened on Easter Sunday – Jesus was dead in that tomb. People then could tell if a man was dead, just as we today can tell if someone is dead.
There was no doubt in anybody’s mind when Friday came to an end, that Jesus was dead.
Saturday, the reality of death must have been overpowering.
I wrote about the experience of losing my wife Beth in a book entitled “MY Grief Observed.” Many of you have read it.
On September 18th, my wife died. It was sudden. There had been no warning. Beth was healthy and happy one minute, and the next she was gone. A week later I sat down in my empty house for the first time, post funeral. The frenetic acctivity of the days since her death had been all that occupied my mind, but now that was over. And there, in the silence of that once-so-joyful home, the realization came crashing over me like breakers. She had died. She was dead. She was gone. I looked across the quiet room at the empty chair where she had so recently sat. Grief crushed me. tears fell. I have never felt more alone. (Johnson, William E., "MY Grief Observed", p. 4.)
Such must have been the experience of the disciples on Saturday. All the activity of Fridaywas over… the whirlwind chaos of the crucifixion… the frantic preparation of His corpse for burial… the hasty placing of that body in the tomb before the onset of the Sabbath… all that was over now and there was only the silent sadness of Saturday. They awoke that day to a feeling similar to what I and others have felt at such a loss – a crushing and agonizing realization – He had died. He was dead. He was gone.
But death was not the ultimate reason He came, life was!
LIFE was the plan.
We often talk about the fact that Jesus was born to die. Some have even suggested that the “swaddling cloths” Mary wrapped Jesus in at His birth were a foreshadowing of the strips of cloth that would be wrapped around Him in His burial.
But death was the MEANS to His goal, not the goal itself. LIFE was the goal – your life… my life.
I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly (John 10:10 NKJV).
For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost. (Matthew 18:11 NKJV)
For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. (John 3:17 NKJV)
He died to pay your debt… to make a way for you to be saved… so that you might have LIFE!
He said, I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep (John 10:11). He died… gave His life for the sheep, so they could live!
He said, I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly (John 10:10 NKJV).
His goal was life – your life – ABUNDANT life… eternal life… everlasting life… never ending life… forever life… complete life… perfect life… LIFE, such as none of us can imagine living.
My friends, this is the staggering implication of His resurrection!
Billy Graham said, “The resurrection is our great hope! The resurrection blasts apart the finality of death, providing an alternative to the stifling, settling dust of death and opens the way to new life.” (Graham, Franklin, “Billy Graham in Quotes,” pp. 296-297.)
I cannot help but think of a passage I read in Lee Strobel’s book “The Case for Christ.” Strobel interviewed various people in his attempt to discredit the resurrection, but in the end, hearing the testimony of all those he’d interviewed, the opposite occurred, and Strobel became a believer. A movie was recently made about his journey to Christian. One of the people he interviewed was Dr. Gary Habermas, who spoke of his experience losing his wife to cancer in 1995. Habermas said,
I sat on our porch. My wife was upstairs dying. Except for a few weeks, she was home through it all. It was an awful time. This was the worst thing that could possibly happen. But do you know what was amazing? My students would call me - not just one but several of them - and say, "At a time like this, aren't you glad about the resurrection?" As sober as those circumstances were, I had to smile for two reasons. First, my students were trying to cheer me up with my own teaching. And second, it worked. As I would sit there, I'd picture Job, who went through all that terrible stuff and asked questions of God, but then God turned the tables and asked him a few questions. I knew if God were to come to me, I'd ask only one question: "Lord, why is Debbie up there in bed?" And I think God would respond by asking gently, "Gary, did I raise my Son from the dead?" I'd say, "Come on, Lord, I've written seven books on that topic! Of course he was raised from the dead. But I want to know about Debbie!" I think he'd keep coming back to the same question - "Did I raise my Son from the dead?" "Did I raise my Son from the dead?" - until I got his point: the Resurrection says that if Jesus was raised two thousand years ago, there's an answer to Debbie's death in 1995. And do you know what? It worked for me while I was sitting on the porch, and it still works today. It was a horribly emotional time for me, but I couldn't get around the fact that the Resurrection is the answer for her suffering. I still worried; I will wondered what I'd do raising four kids alone. But there wasn't a time when that truth didn't comfort me. Losing my wife was the most painful experience I've ever had to face, but if the Resurrection could get me through that, it can get me through anything. It was good for 30 A.D., it's good for 1995, it's good for 1998, and it's good beyond that. That's not some sermon, I believe that will all my heart. If there's a resurrection, there's a heaven. If Jesus was raised, Debbie was raised. And I will be someday, too. Then I'll see them both. (Strobel, Lee., "The Case for Christ")
That’s the staggering implication of His resurrection!
The incredible, mind-numbing, preconception-shattering, and staggering implication of Christ’s defeating death and rising from the dead is LIFE… abundant… free… life that can be mine, and life that can be yours.
Were it not for the fact that Jesus proved it possible by rising on that first Resurrection Sunday, it would seem absolutely preposterous.
But He did it. He proved it.
Life… now, I can have it. Life… now you can have it.
If you want life, you have to go through Jesus.
He’s the only One who’s ever beaten death, so you’d better listen to what He had to say on the topic. He’s the only One Who can legitimately offer life to you.
He said that He is the ONLY WAY TO LIFE.
Jesus said, I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture (John 10:9 NKJV).
Jesus said, I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me (John 14:6 NKJV).
If you want the life that the resurrection makes available, then you have to go through Jesus to get it… for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12 NKJV).
The staggering implication of the resurrection is that you and I can have life… eternal life… salvation… forgiveness from our every sin and a relationship that lasts forever with our loving Savior and God. But to get it:
You must be born again (John 3:7).
You must believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved (Acts 16:31).
You must confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead (Romans 10:9). You must believe it… and you must receive it… asking Him for it.
Oh it is my prayer this morning that all who hear these words would do just that if they haven’t already done so… that each and every one of you, whether you attend here regularly or come just once in a while, would have the life that only Jesus can give you.
“Jesus strides forth as the victor, conqueror of death, hell, and all opposing might; He bursts the bands of death, tramples the powers of darkness down, and lives forever. In Christ I died, in him I rose, in his life I live, in his victory I triumph. What more could be done than thou hast done! Thy death is my life, thy resurrection my peace.”^[“The Valley of Vision”, pp. 86-87.]
That is the staggering implication of the resurrection.