Did Jesus REALLY come back from the dead?
I want to introduce you to Mr. Ben Thompson. Ben is the Lead Planter for City Campus Church, a new church plant to be located near the Ohio State University campus. Ben, what’s happening on April 14? What’s happening next week? How can we help you? So you need resources and manpower! Maybe this Easter basket will help! Dig down deep! You’ll find something really good! Ben, here’s a check for $5000 to help C3 feed hungry children in and around Columbus, Ohio! One more question! What kind of church is City Campus Church? Ben, thank you for coming! I also want to thank you for coming. Happy Easter! Maybe you have the same question when it comes to Westerville Christian? Just what kind of church is this? First of all, a church is not a place as much as it’s a people! So…
We are people who love God, which means we believe He exists and rewards those who earnestly seek Him! We don’t believe “willy-nilly!” We don’t believe a groundhog named Phil can determine whether or not we have an early spring. We do believe there is a God who knows us and loves us and we love Him by staying true to his word. After all, faith in God is taking Him at His word! We are people who love people! And that’s not easy, but it is the most tangible evidence on whether or not a church really loves God. African village, PB and Did you notice our Easter Basket Shopping carts? The reason you see these carts is because people are hungry! We’re collecting can goods for the Westerville Area Resource Ministry! Why? Because we love people! But, despite our best attempts at loving God and loving people – we often mess up! Bon Jovi sings, you give love a bad name! Sometimes I do give love a bad name primarily because I choose to be selfish! All people are prone to selfishness. WCC is full of people who are all flawed and imperfect. I know - I’m the head imperfection! Maybe you know the answer to this or maybe you don’t - what allows a person to experience heaven is not perfection but forgiveness! A store manager overheard a clerk saying to a customer, "No, ma'am, we haven't had any for some weeks now, and it doesn't look as if we'll be getting any soon." Alarmed by what was being said, the manager rushed over to the customer, who was walking out the door, and said, "That isn't true, ma'am. Of course, we'll have some soon. In fact, we placed an order for it a couple of weeks ago." Then the manager drew the clerk aside and said, "Never ever say we don't have something. If we don't have it, say we ordered it and it's on its way. Now, what was it she wanted?" "Rain! She wanted rain!”[i] Some things we humans just can’t pull off on our own! What enables us to go to heaven is not perfection, but forgiveness! At Westerville Christian we are a people who believe forgiveness is found in the person of Jesus Christ! He lived; died for sins he did not commit and came back from the dead! At Westerville Christian we are a people who are totally convinced that Jesus came back from dead! My son Sam told me about an iPhone app called National Geographic’s Weird but True Facts! Here are a few: You can use Gatorade to clean your toilet! That just seems wrong! A vending machine in Singapore gave away a free soda to anyone who hugged the machine! A US ice cream shop sold insect flavored ice cream. I’ll take one scoop of lady bug and one scoop of mosquito! Ostriches can swim but they can’t fly! The ostrich is proof that God has a sense of humor! Goats snack on poison ivy! That gives a whole new meaning to a scratchy throat! Here’s one more! Turn in your Bibles today to John 21:14. We give away Bibles at WCC! Do you need one? You can also use your smartphone or iPad to access the Bible - just download the You Version Bible app! (New series - ForGIVEness) John is an Apostle and a close friend of Jesus! He writes this gospel, 1-2-3 John and Revelation! Look at John 21:14!
I’m sorry, I don’t know how else to say it, but that’s just weird! There’s another weird but true fact! Someone died, but is now no longer dead and is now making public appearances! May I ask? Where are you at today when it comes to the “weird but true” resurrection of Jesus Christ?
Forgive me for lumping us all into two categories, but I can only determine two categories! The categories are: I believe it and here’s why! I don’t believe it and here’s why! You really can’t “I kinda, sort of believe” this one! Jesus either came back from the dead or he didn’t! I believe he did! May I present to you three reasons from John 21 why I think Jesus really came back from the dead! Go back to John 21 and find verse 1! (Read vs. 1) Here’s Reason #1: The Bible said it happened! Specifically, John the Apostle said it happened. (Read vs. 1 & 14) The Bible claims to be the Word of God! Psalm 119:89 says Your word, O Lord, is eternal… 2 Tim. 3:16 All Scripture is God-breathed… Aren’t you glad it does? Why would you trust a book or a God who said anything less? Did you hear about this bowl? This bowl was purchased in 2007 at a garage sale in New York State for $3 and was sold at auction for $2.2 million on March 19. This bowl may appear common but in reality it is a 1,000-year-old Chinese “Ding” bowl from the Northern Song Dynasty. Only one other known bowl exists and it’s been sitting in the British Museum in London for the last 60 years. The previous owners displayed this very bowl on their mantelpiece with no idea of its real value.[ii] “Honey, where can I put these Doritos for basketball game? Oh, use that white bowl sitting over the fireplace! It’s no big deal! I’m sure its dishwasher safe!” They might want to reconsider that! Where are you today when it comes to the Bible? If you think its common – if you have concluded it’s just another book – please take another look! You are holding in your hands the authoritative word of God and what would John gain by lying?
There’s a 2nd reason why I believe Jesus really came back from the dead! It’s the Apostle’s response! Find verse 2 in John 21! Six apostles are with Peter.[iii] Seven total. Judas is gone. That makes 8. The other four - Matthew, James, Simon and Judas (Thaddaeus) are OUT! But seven are right here! Do you have any idea what’s happens to these seven? There is a Christian mission agency in South Asia called Asian Access or A2. The agency speaks with people who are predominantly Hindu! Before a person accepts Christ and is baptized several questions are asked. They want people to know what they are getting into. Questions like: 1) Are you willing to leave home and lose the blessing of your father? 2) Are you willing to lose your job? 3) Are you willing to be beaten rather than deny your faith? 4) Are you willing to go to prison? 5) Are you willing to die for Jesus?[iv] Wow! No one has ever asked ME questions like that! May I ask you something? Why die for a lie? Why suffer for a fraud? If you knew something was a lie! You couldn’t - you wouldn’t go on! The Apostles would have gone fishing permanently if Jesus had stayed dead! Listen to Peter in 2 Peter 1:16. Listen to John in 1 John 1:1. They saw Jesus ALIVE and it changed them. Go back to our list in verse 2! May I introduce to you Blue Jackets super fan Dancing Kevin Schroeder! “Greg, I could have gone all day without seeing Kevin’s belly! That was a disturbing image!” That’s nothing compared to this! Look again at verse 2!
Four of the seven are crucified, speared or beheaded. Two are executed. John is exiled on a rock island alone! You don’t do that for someone who said he would come back but didn’t! But there’s more! A third reason why Jesus really came back from the dead! Find verse 3 in John 21! (Read 3-5a - Friends!) May I make an observation? Jesus did not appear before his perceived enemies. I would have. I would have visited Caiaphas. I would have! I would have been darting in and out of rooms. Walking through walls – he would see my face in his wine glass! I would have spoken with Pilate. You didn’t believe in me! Your wife even had a dream telling you to back off, but you didn’t. I would have gone to Herod and said, Well, what do you think of me now? I’m back!” Do you see once again how unqualified I am to be the Savior of the world?
Back to verse 5. (Read 5&6) What do you call an event that appears to be contrary to the laws of nature? A miracle! That’s not supposed to happen! Catch all those fish! C’mon. Something’s fishy here! Why do I believe Jesus really came back from the dead? Because Jesus in one word is miraculous! He did miracles and he is a miracle. Have you ever heard of Josephus? Josephus lived from A.D 37 to A.D 100. He is the author of perhaps the most significant extra-biblical writings of the first century! Josephus said, “Now, there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works – a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He was Christ; and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive again the third day…[v] Which camp do you fall in – that miracles are possible or impossible – that everything must be observable and repeatable? Find verse 7 in John 21! (Read 7-11) Why does John say 153? Because he was there. Someone counted the fish in the net and all 7 are staring at Jesus on the shore! Go back to John 20:30! (Read 30-31) Right now – are you currently experiencing LIFE? Watch this! (2013 The Easter Gift Video)
If Jesus did come back from the dead – that’s huge right? That means there’s not another event in all of human history that’s greater or more significant! The tomb was empty! Which means the sun will come up tomorrow. If it doesn’t, we’ll be in heaven. The tomb was empty! Are you? Is your life empty? Does your life add up? It won’t until you make Jesus your Lord and call him your friend! I would LOVE to talk to you about what that really means! Come thank God that sin & death are defeated and that life can be abundant, full & filled with purpose all because the tomb was empty!
[i] http://www.gcfl.net/March 23, 2013
[iii] Mark E. Moore, The Chronological Life of Christ, 676
[iv] Outreach Magazine, Toolkit/7 Questions for New Converts, Spring 2012
[v] William Whiston, The Works of Josephus, 480