By Pastor Glenn Pease
When Jesus Christ entered the stage of human history He entered it to stay, and even when evil men and satanic forces nailed Him to a cross, and sealed Him in a tomb, it was not the end; not even the beginning of the end, but only te end of the beginning, for He made that cross a symbol of love and redemp;tion, and that tomb a symbol of life and resurrection. On that first Easter morning the greatest act that ever took place on this earthly stage was performed. How great was it, and how important was it? So important that the Bible says, if it did not happen your faith is vain, and there is no hope, and you are yet in your sins. It was so important that from the start the Apostles fearlessly claimed it, and forcefully proclaimed it. Atheists and skeptics have done all they could to try and disprove it, for if they could all of Christianity would collapse, but so overwhelming is the reality of the resurrection that Christians welcome investigation. Many who set out to disprove it have become committed believers. There are just three things we want to consider in this message. First we want to-
I. EXAMINE THE RECORD OF THE RESURRECTION. vv. 5-8
Why did John believe? What evidence did he have here that told him of the reality of the resurrection? We need to try and think like he must have thought. Could robbers have stolen the body? This would be a logical question. But John would conclude that no robber would neatly fold the grave clothes as they were. And friend would not have stolen the body, for they would not have unrapped the body there. The evidence indicated that Jesus must have did this himself.
Who but the Son of God would rise from the dead and then neatly fold up His grave clothes? He did not just let them fall in disorder, but He folded them neatly, and thus revealed that it was the Lord of all order that was at work here. Nobody else would have bothered with such a trivial matter, but nothing was too small for it to matter to Jesus, and John knew that.
Mary is seen weeping at the tomb because the body of Jesus was gone, but little did she realize that she would really have something to weep about if the body had still been there. She would then have a god like the gods of the world who always end up in a tomb somewhere. She was suffering the grief of Good Friday yet as she stood before the empty tomb which represented the glory of Easter morning, and of the Risen Redeemer. She was bewailing her loss when she could be beholding her Lord. She was like the masses who still live in the darkness of a world with no hope when the light of eternal hope is right at their fingertips in the Living Lord.
Mary, however, did not stay in the dark, for Jesus revealed Himself. He spoke her name and Mary entered the dawn of a new morning, and Easter glory was born in her heart. Her Savior was alive, and had conquered death, just as he said. Anyone who will listen and turn to the Living Christ today can still hear Him say "Come unto me and rest." Anyone can enter into the Easter message and receive Jesus as Savior and have the hope of eternal life with Him. Next we want to-
II. EXPLAIN THE RESULTS OF THE RESURRECTION.
Mary became the first witness of the resurrection, and she became the apostle to the Apostles. But they were too sad to believe her good news. They were the saddest group of men the world has ever seen. The walls of life had collapsed on them, and lay in ruins at their feet. The one they put all their hope in was crucified and buried. It was over and they were in despair.
That evening Jesus himself came to them and this group of discouraged, disappointed, and defeated disciples became dynamic and determined to devote their lives to delivering this good news to the lost world. They turned the world upside down and changed the course of history. Nothing but the reality of the resurrection could explain this sudden change from fear to faith; from pain to praise; from sorrow to service, and from self-centered cowardice to Christ-centered courage. Men do not face torture, burning at the stake, being torn in two, fed to lions, and all manner of persecution and suffering for the sake of a fairy tale, or for anything they were not so sure of they would be willing to die for its reality.
Some skeptics know that they must have seen Jesus alive to have such a motivation, but they come up with things like the swoon theory. It says that Jesus revived in the coolness of the tomb, and so they did see him alive again. This is foolishness, for he would be so weak that he would need long nursing back to health, and likely never make it but die in the attempt. They would know how unlike God he was then, and how he did not conquer death in any meaningful way different than others who have survived. A man half dead, and staggering from a tomb, and then needing a great deal of care would not inspire the conviction that death had been conquered. This theory cannot explain the zeal of the disciples to proclaim the reality of the resurrection. Jesus had to show He was mighty in His victory over death to convince His disciples, and motivate them to sacrifice their lives to share it with the world. Third we want to-
III. EXPERIENCE THE REALITY OF THE RESURRECTION.
There is little profit if we examine the record and explain the results, but do not experience the reality of the resurrection. This is the heart of the Gospel, for we can know Jesus and the power of His resurrection. Men can live without feet, fingers, and many other parts of the body, but not without heart. You can know the facts of Easter, and not know the faith of Easter, and this leaves you with a corpse religion, for the heart is gone. If you meet your greatest foe, which is death, and all you have is the facts of Easter, but not faith in the Lord of Easter, you are fighting with an unloaded gun. You are on a bridge that only goes part way across the river that separates time from eternity, and a bridge that stops short of the other shore is not any better than no bridge at all.
The reality of the resurrection must be more than a fact you believe in. It must be a force that motivates you like it did the disciples. It must be a reality that determines your whole perspective on life, and your actions and goals. This can only be by asking the Resurrected Savior to come into your life as Lord, and to reign in you. Those who will receive Jesus as their Living Lord will experience the reality of the resurrection, and enter into the joy of Easter, which means we have eternal life in Him.