“HE IS RISEN”
Sermon by Don Emmitte, Grace Restoration Ministries
SOME BACKGROUND… While there are resurrection accounts in all of the Gospels, Luke’s narrative is divided into three episodes, which are combined in such a way as to form a connected literary unit. However, it is only in the first episode where we find parallels with the others. Even then Luke is distinctive. At two significant points we find variation from Mark’s account of the empty tomb. In Mark the angel tells the women to go to the disciples with the instruction that Jesus will meet them in Galilee (cf. Mark 16:7); and, he also reports the fear of them women keeping them from saying anything further about the resurrection (cf. Mark 16:8). Of course the Markan account presupposes the women overcome their fear and tell the disciples or the Gospel would have never gone forward. The key in this, however, is that there is great reason to place our complete trust in the accounts. They simply could not have been so different in these minor reports had they been purposefully manufactured.
The remaining stories are found only in Luke. They are set in Jerusalem or in the immediate vicinity. The motifs are different from the other Gospel accounts. In Luke the action in the life of Jesus moves from Galilee to Jerusalem, which then becomes the center from which the early church begins. It is only in Acts that we see the other appearances over the forty-day period between the resurrection and the ascension. With that in mind, let’s look at the text for today:
On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” Then they remembered his words. When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened. (Luke 24:1-12 NIV).
Arthur Schopenhaver, the classic pessimist, was forced to admit to the joy of the resurrection when he wrote: “Every parting gives a foretaste; every coming together again a foretaste of the resurrection.” AND AS SIMPLE AS IT IS TO SAY, IT IS THE FOUNDATIONAL TRUTH OF OUR HOPE; IT IS THE CORNERSTONE OF OUR JOY IN A WORLD OF SORROW!
I like the story of the young twelve-year-old boy, wearing tattered jeans, a dirty t-shirt, and worn sneakers standing in front of the store display window looking at a picture of the crucifixion of Jesus. A man dressed in a business suit stopped and looked over his shoulder. The little boy said, “That’s Jesus, mister; I know all about him.” The man said, “Where did you learn all about him?” and walked on a bit further. The boy ran after the stranger and said, “That’s not all, mister. He’s resurrected. He is alive!” “How do you know that?” the man asked. “’Cause he’s here in my heart!”
In that simple testimony the little boy summed up the very essence of our faith! As we celebrate this glorious Easter day, others all across the world join us, in a thousand different languages, shouting with joy He Is Risen! However, the real question for us is simply, “So What?” What difference does the resurrection really mean to us?
THERE ARE THREE ESSENTIALS FOR US TO CAPTURE TODAY…
FIRST, HE IS RISEN (v. 6).
That is to say He REALLY is risen! Jesus’ resurrection is not just a beautiful story. It is not a myth or legend developed to provide a happy ending to a tragic story. It is an historical fact. We have too many validations of it. In the Scripture we find seven different accounts by different writers, in different situations. The testimony of adverse witnesses, even those who would not want to affirm the truth of Christianity, but simply had to admit he was risen; and He was seen by many witnesses after his resurrection.
Even with all of this there are still those today in our ultra-rational, scientifically motivated world, who would challenge us to “prove it.” Well, let’s use the so-often touted logic of the world. Let’s consider the alternatives to the bodily resurrection of Jesus. After all, logic demands that we reason through the alternatives, step-by-step. Ultimately there are only three alternatives to the resurrection.
1. First, some would say he did not actually die. Through history this has been known as “the Swoon Theory.” They would say that Jesus did not actually die on the cross; rather, he simply “swooned,” or fainted. He was merely unconscious when they took his body down from the cross and placed in the tomb. Later he awakened out of this coma and came out. The disciples merely claimed his resurrection.
But, is this really logical? Go back to the men who actually executed Jesus. These were not ordinary men. They were trained, experienced executioners. These Roman soldiers were experts in the most inhumane form of torture and execution ever devised by the human race. They had crucified hundreds of others. They knew how to make them die! And, they knew how to make sure they were dead! They did with the two thieves that were crucified on either side of Jesus. How could they have made such a mistake with the most important of the criminals they were charged with executing that day? They would have never allowed him to be taken off the cross alive. However, even if that would have somehow slipped by them in their haste to be rid of their day’s duty, Jesus could not have survived the initial preparation for burial. Over 100 pounds of ointment and spices designed for initial embalming of the body would have been placed on him and then he would have been tightly wrapped with linen like the ancient Egyptians did with their dead. Further, to be sure there would be no false rumors about this man and his possible resurrection, they rolled a great stone in front of the tomb and sealed it posting two guards in front of the it!
To say Jesus just swooned or fainted from five mortal wounds in his body with the massive loss of blood from scourging and crucifixion and then 36 hours laying in a tomb, suffering the cold and deprivation without medical attention of any kind, suddenly to regain consciousness and remove the bindings, roll back the stone from the inside, elude the guards and find some clothing to make his appearance to the disciples strong, healthy, and vigorous is an incredible fancy! Logic and reason must declare he was dead when they put his body in the tomb!
2. So, we must move to a second alternative: someone must have stolen his body away. Well, there are only two possibilities in this line of reasoning. Either his enemies or his disciples stole the body if that is the truth. Either of these is at best improbable and at worst ludicrous.
His enemies wouldn’t have stolen his body without later producing it to quell the growing declarations of his resurrection by his followers. Can you imagine them keeping silent if they could have simply produced Jesus’ body? It would have been publicly paraded down the streets of Jerusalem putting an end to all of these rumors of a resurrection! Or, to say his disciples stole the body and secretly hid it away is equally impossible to accept. Men will die for the truth; they will not die for a lie! There is no way to explain this mighty Christian movement when men were emboldened to defy authorities, facing prison and harassment, loss of family, friends, and their lives for the sake of a lie. They didn’t do what they did for a lie! They did not steal away his body!
3. There is one other possible explanation: the disciples must have imagined the resurrection; they all suffered from mass hysteria. They were hypnotized. They saw a vision or a ghost and merely thought they saw Jesus. REALLY! Now we’re stretching!
We must conclude logically that the women came to that tomb early that morning and saw an empty tomb. Mary Magdalene waited and saw and spoke with the Risen Christ! Countless others saw him later. One after another they SAW Jesus, resurrected! That being the case we cannot dismiss everything else Jesus said and taught. He is the Savior come to grant us eternal life. We are called to acknowledge him in the fullness of his divinity with full authority over our lives. That is the first meaning of Easter. If we say he is risen it demands our commitment and allegiance to him as the Son of God! There is a second affirmation.
SECOND, HE IS STILL ALIVE.
Jesus Christ is STILL alive in the world today! This is another of the great affirmations of Easter. Think of it. This same Jesus, who walked the shores of Galilee and gathered his disciples to himself, changing their lives is walking the pathways of our world today! That means the great truth is that we can also experience personally this relationship. We can also walk with him and he with us!
It is not merely that Jesus’ teachings change people. It is not his ethical code or theological concepts that transform men and women today. It is his presence that makes us different!
NOW… WATCH THIS… LISTEN… It is His presence that changes things. When he went to Zacchaeus’ house he changed that tax collector forever! When he went to the home of Mary and Martha, after their brother had died, their lives would never be the same! His presence made them new! And, the promise to us today is that his presence will make us new as well. He will come into your home, your marriage, your finances, your relationships, and your job; in every area of your life he will make it new!
I know you are asking the age-old question of “How?” We have been asking that same question for nearly 2,000 years. This transformation that preachers have been proclaiming has been elusive to many people. The reason for that is we so often attempt to add the work of Christ to some of the things we are already doing in our lives. The truth is there is nothing we can do to experience the life Jesus won for us in the resurrection. Of course he asks us to make a choice, but that choice is not to keep doing good things to get better in our lives. He wants us to choose him and him alone. He will then be free to show us his grace and forgiveness in a way that will set us free from all the shame and guilt we have so desperately tried to get rid of all our lives.
WE ARE GOING TO BE TALKING MORE AND MORE ABOUT THIS PROCESS IN THE COMING WEEKS. For now, let me simply say that you can know freedom with a simple prayer. IN FACT, LET ME ASK EVERYONE HERE TO BOW THEIR HEADS AND JUST REPEAT THIS PRAYER AFTER ME:
Dear Jesus, I know you have died for my sins. I know you have been resurrected to bring me life abundantly. I ask for your forgiveness in all of my failures and sins and accept the grace you have won through your death to separate them from me as far as the east is from the west. I ask that you now send the Holy Spirit, your presence, into my mind, my soul, my life to fill me with your peace and love!
THIRD, HE OFFERS LIFE.
I’VE ALLUDED TO THIS ALREADY. NOW LET’S DIG IN JUST A BIT FURTHER. Jesus wants to give you the joy of eternal life here and forever. There are three beautiful figures of speech in Scripture to describe this truth.
1. It is like coming from darkness to light. Many years ago when we were living in Huntsville, Texas, Kyle was just little guy. Our home was right on the border of the Davy Crockett National Forest. There were literally thousands of acres of forest beginning just over our fence. I had come home for supper one evening and noticed a deer just into the woods by our house. I went inside to get Kyle to show him the young doe. When we came outside it had moved a bit further into the woods, but had not run off. We climbed through the fence to get a better look. The doe just slowly walked a bit further into the woods and we followed as quietly as possible. This went on for a little while. The deer was moving deeper into the woods and we were following. Before I knew it, we were pretty turned around. Truthfully we were lost. Now, I’m sure I could have found my way out eventually, but it was getting dark and I really needed to get home quickly. I knew there was a highway cut through the opposite edge of the forest that would eventually take us back to the house, but that would require at least an hour or more of a walk. So, the thought came to me that we could make our way to the road and then hitchhike back closer to the house. This was the mid-70’s, so I wasn’t too worried about hitching a ride! I set my direction and soon we came to the highway. By that time, I had Kyle on my shoulders. He was tired from walking through the woods. I walked to the shoulder of the road and stuck my thumb out! The first few cars just sped by without even slowing, much less stopping to pick us up. Kyle said, “Daddy, I don’t think they know who you are. And, it’s getting dark!” Someone finally did stop and pick us up. They drove us back to our house and the sun had set. It was dark. Mary was worried and came to the door asking where we had been. Kyle simply phrased it, “We were lost!” Had we stayed in the woods any longer, the darkness would have overwhelmed us. We’d have been lost a lot longer than we were! Can I tell you two things? First, Jesus knows who you are; and, second, the sun never sets in his presence! He will light the way! He takes us from darkness into light!
2. It is also like going from imprisonment to freedom. I shall never forget the first time I preached a chapel service in a state prison. As I walked through the guard towers and high fences topped with razor wire, entering the building I was greeted by the warden who was a member of my church at the time. The door closed with a loud electronic snap and a clang of metal on metal. It was a sound that I shall never forget. I turned to the sound and must have appeared startled. The warden asked, “Did you have any trouble getting in?” I answered, “No. They were expecting me.” He said, “Don’t worry preacher. I told them to let you in, and I’ll tell them to let you out. After all, it’s a lot easier getting in than getting out!” WE ALL HAVE FOUND IT EASY TO GET INTO OUR PRISON OF SIN AND DEATH, BUT JESUS HAS MADE IT POSSIBLE FOR US ALL TO GET OUT!
3. And, last, it is like coming from death to life. I wish that I could tell you a story form my life that really illustrates that truth. However, I’ve not crossed that threshold yet! When I do, I know this… Jesus will be there to greet me. Death will be nothing more than an old friend who welcomes me home.
Isn’t that what you want in your life today? Don’t you want life in your home, your marriage, your job, in every part of your existence? Just like God brings evidence of the life of spring through the flowers of nature, so he will bring evidence of life to you as you trust in the greatest miracle of all time… the resurrection!
To contact Don Emmitte please visit www.gracerestoration.org