It is resurrection day! [P] Hallelujah! Do you know why we are here on a Sunday; say, as opposed to a Saturday or Friday? Because Jesus rose on a Sunday, the first day of the week! That is the reason why Christian worship takes place on the first day of the week. We don’t come together on Friday to commemorate His death; nor Saturday, as the Jews did; but on Sunday, the day Jesus rose from the grave. Resurrection is central, core to the whole of Christian faith. Without resurrection it is NOTHING! This is how Paul put it: [1 Corinthians 15:14-19 If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, (liars!) because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied!] The resurrection of Jesus is the issue of contention, the thing on which everything hangs. Look, you will have to go a long way to find someone who denies that Jesus actually existed as a person here on earth as a historical figure. And, of those that acknowledge His existence, you will find none that say He didn’t die. The existence and death of Jesus are not called into question – the two things that are, are: His Divinity; that He is God; and the other is that He came alive again after he died. The resurrection is the bone of contention. This stems way back, both Jews and Gentiles stumbled over this issue: This is Paul before Jews: [Acts 23:6-7 Paul began crying out in the Council, “Brethren, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees; I am on trial for the hope and resurrection of the dead!” As he said this, there occurred a dissension between the Pharisees and Sadducees, and the assembly was divided.] It is an issue that causes division – you are in one camp or the other. And this is Paul before Gentiles in Athens: [Acts 17:32 Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some began to sneer, but others said, “We shall hear you again concerning this.”] It is the issue that divides. You fall one side or another on the issue of Jesus rising from the dead. They knew this very early in the church and enshrined this issue in their tradition. In the Greek Orthodox Church, on Easter, people greet one another with the words “Christ is risen!” [P] to which they receive the response “He is risen indeed!” [P] Another early tradition instituted in the church, in fact before the New Testament was completed; was the congregational reciting of creeds. Statements of what they believed. The Apostles’ creed states: [P] “I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth and in Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, our Lord who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead and buried; The third day he rose again from the dead, He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.” They ensured that the resurrection was there. The resurrection is central to the Gospel. Now I don’t want to introduce a return to liturgy, but I thought that we might try confessing a creed together. It is good to affirm what we believe, there is a strength in holding the truth together. Relax, this is not a creed composed by men, by the church authorities, it comes straight from Scripture. Paul said to the Corinthian church: [1 Corinthians 15:3-4 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,] Paul goes on to cite eye-witness evidence – the evidence of over 500 eyewitnesses. This is verified truth! Fact! It actually happened and is well attested. A literal bodily resurrection – not some: “the spirit of Jesus still lives on today” – in His teaching, in His philosophy, in His followers. No the corpse that was in the grave came out as a living walking breathing eating body. Paul said that this is of prime importance. So let’s have a go at saying together this fundamental statement of truth. The world denies that Jesus rose again but [P] “we believe: that Jesus died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” All I have added is “we believe” So if you do believe it then say it with me….. There is something in unitedly affirming what we believe. This is the truth that will be assaulted and called into question – yes, even in large portions of the so-called church. We confessed that Jesus arose on the third day according to the Scriptures, so I thought that it would be salutatory to have a look at that Scriptural record of the actual event. One of the things that gets me about the resurrection of Jesus is that although He told His disciples repeatedly that He would die and rise again, yet not one of them was expecting it! But the strange thing is that the religious authorities, who did not believe in Him, did heed what He said: [Matthew 27:62-64 Now on the next day, the day after the preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered together with Pilate, and said, “Sir, we remember that when He was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I am to rise again.’ “Therefore, give orders for the grave to be made secure until the third day, otherwise His disciples may come and steal Him away and say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last deception will be worse than the first.”] They didn’t believe that He would rise, but they were aware of Jesus saying that He would. But not one single follower of Jesus was expecting Him to rise from the dead – not one! Surely, if you love and trust someone, you will believe what they say. If Rhoda says that she will pick me up at work, I will be expecting her to come. She might be a bit late but she will come. She won’t be mean enough to say she’d come and then go off and do something else. I won’t get on my bike and make my own way home (I did once but that was due to a miscommunication). How could His beloved followers not be expecting Him to rise?! He told them that He would! But they didn’t expect it at all or even hope for it. And we can be the same – Jesus said repeatedly that He would come again; are we expecting Him? – simply taking Him at His word? We see this total unpreparedness of Jesus’ followers for Him to be raised in one of my favourite accounts after the resurrection. Let’s have a look at it in Luke 24 [P]. The thing is that their unbelief, their totally not expecting a resurrection, authenticates what took place. It was not as the chief priests and Pharisees thought, that the disciples would engineer a pseudo-resurrection, fake a resurrection on the third day. They were totally thrown by Jesus death, they are left reeling. Their world fell apart; this is the last thing they expected. It just shows how our preconceived notions can stand in the way of us seeing what God is doing. Picking it up at: [Luke 24:13-43 And behold, two of them (that is followers of Jesus) were going that very day to a village named Emmaus, which was about seven miles from Jerusalem (a couple of hours walk). And they were talking with each other about all these things which had taken place (that is the death of Jesus, the end of their hopes and dreams – depressing stuff. They were despondent). While they were talking and discussing, Jesus Himself approached and began travelling with them. But their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him. (They actually saw the resurrected Christ with their very own eyes! – they saw but they did not believe – truth isn’t found through our senses but by faith.) And He said to them, “What are these words that you are exchanging with one another as you are walking?” And they stood still, looking sad. (the One they loved had died, they were in mourning with no hope or expectation of anything more. They were miserable.) One of them, named Cleopas, answered and said to Him, “Are You the only one visiting Jerusalem and unaware of the things which have happened here in these days?” And He said to them, (playing ignorant)“What things?” And they said to Him, “The things about Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word in the sight of God and all the people, and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to the sentence of death, and crucified Him. “But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. (They had place their hope in Jesus, they were disciples, His followers. They saw Him as Redeemer, the One who was going to solve all their problems and restore the nation to its former glory) Indeed, besides all this, it is the third day since these things happened. “But also some women among us amazed us. (They weren’t expecting this) When they were at the tomb early in the morning, and did not find His body, they came, saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said that He was alive. “Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just exactly as the women also had said; but Him they did not see.” (They knew all the facts: that Jesus was from God; that He died, He was placed in the tomb but was no longer in it. [P] They had the eye-witness accounts of some women who had been told by an angel from heaven that He was alive. They had this testimony of an empty tomb confirmed to them by others who went to check it out. The Law required truth to be verified by multiple witnesses: Paul cited over 500 eyewitnesses! The resurrection is verified fact by hundreds of confirming witnesses who saw Him alive with their own eyes. How do we know Jesus rose? – we have reliable eye-witness testimony. These two on the road had all the facts; the truths that we affirmed together this morning: that Jesus died, was buried and rose again. Furthermore they had the prediction of Jesus Himself telling them that He would die and rise again. Why did they not believe?! They were totally not expecting Jesus to be alive! This concept was totally inconceivable to them – so much so that when they had the plain evidence of it before them they still could not admit it as a possibility. What more could there be that would convince them? What would it take? Well, if they actually saw Him alive with their own eyes …. But they were! They themselves were eye-witnesses! They still did not accept that Jesus was alive! This was something that not one of the followers of Jesus was expecting or even admitting to the remotest possibility of happening. Jesus was dead! It was over! What more could Jesus do to convince them? You can hear the exasperation in His voice:] And He said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! (For them to believe it was going to take a Divine act – revelation. Eye-witnesses, being told was not sufficient, nor was seeing with their very own eyes the truth standing before them. Where was the truth to be found? Jesus directed them to what the prophets had spoken – to the record of Scripture. [P] That is where you will find the truth! “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” That is where the truth is! Peter, in person, saw Jesus transfigured but He said: [2 Peter 1:18-19 We ourselves heard this utterance made from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain. So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention.] Do you long to have seen Jesus here on earth, Peter says the record of Scripture is more sure! How do we know that Jesus rose again?: the Bible, God’s Word tells us. But even that was not sufficient.) “Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures. (Jesus explained the Scriptures to them – that is where the truth is found! But they still did not know that Jesus was alive despite eagerly listening to this exposition of the Scriptures by the Master.) And they approached the village where they were going, and He acted as though He were going farther. But they urged Him, saying, “Stay with us, for it is getting toward evening, and the day is now nearly over.” (Their hearts had really warmed to this man. They delighted in His insight into the Scriptures, the sense He made of all they had read before. They wanted to hear more. They wanted more fellowship with this Man, to be with Him. So they pressed Him to stay.) So He went in to stay with them. When He had reclined at the table with them, He took the bread and blessed it, and breaking it, He began giving it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; and He vanished from their sight. (they had the facts, they had perfect exposition of the Scriptures, heard the truth that was written in them; and still they did not know that Jesus was resurrected. Now their eyes were opened! What had happened? It was revelation! [P] Insight given to them from above! Hallelujah! Yes, we need to know the facts, the truth, the doctrine. Yes, the truth is found in Scriptures but what we also need, added to that, is the revelation of the Holy Spirit – for God to open our eyes. That is how we know that Jesus is alive. That truth in the Scriptures has to be made real to us – and that is the work of the Holy Spirit. Look, I was brought up in a Christian home, I knew the Bible, I read it every day – but then one day God spoke personally to me, and I knew it! He was real, alive, a personal revelation! My Dad used to say: “We all need a revelation of Jesus! It is not enough to know the facts, you have to know Him. Real! Alive! Resurrected from the dead! Living today! Alive forevermore! With us! In us! Look we can be walking all through our life and although we are seeing, our eyes are closed. We need to have our eyes opened spiritually! Robin has been teaching from Ephesians that we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realm! But I walk around and what I see is: that my bike has a puncture, the lawn needs mowing, the downpipes need painting. We need to have our eyes opened to the spiritual reality! It is not Pollyanna, pie in the sky – it is the true reality of the way things truly are! And my eyes are closed to it! Paul prayed for the Ephesians: [Ephesians 1:16-19 making mention of you in my prayers; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, [P] so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.] It is a matter of the heart – a spiritually perceptive and responsive heart. [Romans 10:10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.] We need to see Jesus, see Him alive. Not make believe, psyching ourselves up, but seeing things as they really are. Back to Luke:) They said to one another, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?” (It was revelation, it was the Holy Spirit illuminating the Scriptures. That was the: “burning in their hearts”. The Bible made precious little sense to me until I was filled with the Holy Spirit, then it becomes the most thrilling book there is. The Wesley brothers had been missionaries to America yet with no true personal knowledge of Jesus themselves; then they were at a Moravian meeting at Aldersgate, London, when they say that their “hearts were strangely warmed” – they knew the Scriptures, were ordained in the ministry; but that night the Holy Spirit made those Scriptures real to them! They met up personally with the risen Lord Jesus! Hallelujah! And your life is never the same! Praise God! It is my prayer that as you study the Scriptures that our hearts may burn within us as Jesus Himself, the risen LORD, speaks to us through His Word.) And they got up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, (I have a little smile to myself; they said to Jesus: “for it is getting toward evening, and the day is now nearly over” because they wanted Him to stay, but now there is time enough to return to Jerusalem and tell everyone! The day wasn’t nearly over after all. Jesus was alive! They had seen Him! They were excited! They were thrilled! They were bouncing off the walls, they had to tell everyone! They couldn’t turn in for the night, people had to know! They couldn’t keep this to themselves. This was astounding, amazing, wonderful! What a turn-around from those sad depressed people who left Jerusalem to those who returned, they were now overjoyed. I bet that trip back to Jerusalem passed in no time. The record clearly shows that this was the last thing they expected but now they were completely certain of the fact that Jesus was resurrected, alive and living in a body among them) and they found gathered together the eleven and those who were with them, saying, “The Lord has really risen and has appeared to Simon.” (there had been another eyewitness to the resurrected Jesus by this time) They began to relate their experiences on the road and how He was recognized by them in the breaking of the bread. [P] (That was when they recognized Jesus, when He broke the bread. Before then their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him. There was something that took place when Jesus broke the bread. Now these two were not at the last supper, they were not of the twelve disciples, so there was no déjà vu, a reminder of Jesus saying that this bread was His body given for them. But perhaps there was a revelation to them of the significance of that meal even although they were not there – later Paul had a revelation of it. Perhaps it recalled the breaking of the bread for the 5,000. We don’t know what it was; but there was something that took place when Jesus broke the bread. And I believe that still the breaking of the bread can be a place of revelation, when Jesus can be very real to us – it is the proclaiming of His death until He comes – a reminder that Jesus died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried and that He rose again of the third day according to the Scriptures. That He is the Passover Lamb; the spotless Lamb of God, that takes away the sin of the world. That our sin was laid on Him, and that He bore our sins in His body to the cross. There is a covenant in His blood, for the forgiveness of sins; that our sins and evil deeds, He will remember no more. We do this in remembrance of Him; of His death on our behalf. There is a revelation of God’s redemptive work here. Jesus was called to mind in the breaking of the bread. Whatever took place as Jesus broke the bread it was a Divine work, a spiritual work, a mysterious work – a revealing of the reality of the living Jesus. We all need that! While they were telling these things, He Himself stood in their midst! [P] (there was Jesus – again! Alive, right there before them!, confirming the testimony of these two. It wasn’t some story they had come up with, some hallucination caused by their grief and their inability to come to terms with what had happened to Jesus. No, there He was! We sometimes sing: “I serve a risen Saviour, He is in the world today, I know that He is living, whatever man may say. I see His hand of mercy I hear His voice of cheer; and just the time I need Him, He’s always near. He lives! He lives! Christ Jesus lives today! He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way. He lives! He lives! Salvation to impart. You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart! It is the witness of the Holy Spirit within, we know the presence of Jesus with us, Emmanuel, present with us, in our midst! There is no doubt that He is alive because He is here with me, in me! Hallelujah!) and said to them, “Peace be to you.” But they were startled and frightened and thought that they were seeing a spirit. (Do you ever think that you are slow to believe? Look at these guys! They had the testimony of the women, the word of the angel, they had the testimony of Simon seeing Him alive, then they had the testimony of these two who had seen Him in Emmaus; now Jesus Himself is there standing in their midst and they still can’t accept it – it is a phantom, a ghost, a spirit. They had real trouble accepting that Jesus was alive. When people are dead they do not come alive again – it is over! (although they had witnessed at least three resurrections: that of Jairus’ daughter, the widow of Nain’s son, and Lazarus). But this was no ordinary human. Peter had confessed that He was the Messiah, the Son of the living God. Is it remarkable that the Author of all life, the One who gave life to all that lives, can give life to His Son?! Surely that is what you would expect if He is God?!) And He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? (that is a good question to ask ourselves – there is no basis for them. But graciously, patiently, Jesus gives them further, incontrovertible evidence:)“See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” (Jesus knew their thoughts, knew that they thought that He was a spirit, wasn’t real. Jesus’ resurrection bears investigating, it stands up to the inquiry of the sceptic. Test it and see: look, touch; it is real! Later John gave this testimony in [1 John 1:1-4 What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life— and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us— what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete.] They had actually seen and touched the risen living Jesus! Jesus knew their doubts and invited their scrutiny. This fact had to be beyond all possible doubt:) And when He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet. While they still could not believe it because of their joy and amazement, (these were the most reluctant of believers! So Jesus gave them even more incontrovertible evidence:) He said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave Him a piece of a broiled fish; and He took it and ate it before them.] Despite their scepticism, despite being totally unprepared and reluctant to accept Jesus was alive; they could not get around it. Proof beyond all possible denial – Jesus is alive! [P] “He is not here, but is risen!” Hallelujah! During the Easter season of 1874, while having his devotions one evening, Robert Lowry was impressed with the events associated with Christ’s resurrection, especially with these words recorded in Luke 24:6,7: He is not here, but is risen; remember how He spoke unto you when He was in Galilee, saying, the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified, and the third day rise again. Well, Robert Lowry sat down at the little pump organ in the parlour of his home, and spontaneously the words and music of “Christ Arose” came to him:
Low in the grave He lay—Jesus, my Savour!
Waiting the coming day—Jesus, my Lord!
Vainly they watch His bed—Jesus, my Saviour!
Vainly they seal the dead—Jesus, my Lord.
Death cannot keep his prey—Jesus, my Saviour!
He tore the bars away—Jesus, my Lord!
Chorus: Up from the grave He arose,
With a mighty triumph o’er His foes;
He arose a Victor from the dark domain,
And He lives forever with His saints to reign:
He arose! He arose!
Hallelujah! Christ arose!
We serve a living Saviour! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!