Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable. But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming.
Today is our communion service and as you know we do things a little bit differently. Over the last several months we have been looking at the various Miracles done by Jesus and recorded by the Apostle John. John has been building the case that Jesus must be God and must be the Messiah because no one else could do these things. Today we look at a final miracle of Jesus that John uses as his final proof of who Jesus is. According to the Apostle Paul, the #1 most importance piece of evidence for the Christian faith is the resurrection of Christ. I believe that it is due to this reality that the resurrection of Christ is one of the most attacked doctrines of the faith. And yet in some ways it is rather easy to defend the reality of the resurrection. That is what we will consider today. Everything that we have looked at in John has been building toward this climax. We saw last month that the pinnacle of John’s evidence was Jesus raising Lazarus form the dead. Jesus has demonstrated beyond all doubt that He is God and that He is the Messiah! The miracle of Christ’s resurrection is John’s crowing proof of who Jesus is. What is fascinating is that all the people involved in John’s account of the resurrection have to see to believe. John is endeavoring to convince doubters by showing how doubters were convinced. The question we will consider this morning is this:
More to the point of what we have been studying, can we know from John’s account, that Jesus is risen?
Mary is the first one to arrive at the tomb. It is still dark and she sees the stone rolled away. She runs to Peter and John and informs them that Jesus has been taken out of the tomb and His body put somewhere. This is the first hint we get that something has happened. The seal for the tomb has been broken and the body moved. There is urgency, fear, and passion here. Peter and John leave and head for the tomb. V. 4 tells us that they ran. There is no hint, no suggestion that they believe He is risen. They are convinced that the body has been stolen. John outruns Peter and arrives at the tomb first. He stoops down and looks to see the linen that Jesus had been wrapped in laying there. He doesn't go into the tomb. Ponder for a second what John must have been feeling. Not only has someone moved Jesus' body, they stripped it first. What's going on?! Why would someone do this to Jesus?! Peter arrives at the tomb and, being Peter, immediately goes inside. He too sees the linen lying there and also the head wrapping folded and placed separately. Things just keep getting stranger! In v. 8 John enters the tomb as well. Here we have the first instance where someone sees and believes.
John sees that the tomb is empty and the body is gone and this convinces him that Mary had first told them was true. Jesus' body has been moved. We know that John does not yet believe Jesus is risen because v. 9 tells us so. The other Gospels reveal that Jesus had told them at least twice that he would be betrayed, crucified, and rise again the third day. The simple reality is that they did not understand what Jesus was talking about and so they ignored it. What is fascinating here is that John states they didn't yet understand the Scripture. The death, burial, and resurrection of the Messiah had been prophesied in the OT.
For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.
This passage was understood to be Messianic. Yet the disciples and others were not expecting the Messiah to come and die for sin! So what does John believe? He believes that the tomb is empty. After they have confirmed Mary's words, they return to their homes. Many today are like John and Peter were at first, they do not believe that the tomb is empty. I want us to contemplate a question this morning.
Do you need to go see it? The tomb is still there and it is still empty. We can go and look at it and believe as John did. Is that we you need to believe? Or... Will you accept eye witness accounts of it? We can simply read and believe the Word of God. Peter said that the written Word of God is more certain than any experience that we can have! Here we have two skeptics. Two men who didn't believe that the tomb was empty are convinced when they see it! What will convince you and me? If we are already convinced, then we have another question to answer.
It means that what Jesus taught and said is true! It means that He is who He claimed to be! He is the Messiah, the I Am, the Bread of Life, the Light of the World, the Door, the Good Shepherd, the Resurrection and the Life, the Way, the Truth, and the Life!
All those who didn't believe in Jesus had to do was produce the body and everything the disciples said and taught would have fallen apart. But there was no body to produce! Jesus is alive! He rose from the dead and the tomb is empty! All that remains is for us to place our faith in Him and live in obedience to His Word. Sing with me...
John's second line of evidence is...
Mary stands weeping at the tomb. She stoops down and looks inside and is greeted with a vastly different view than the disciples had. The tomb is no longer empty! The body is still gone, but now there are two angels in white. This is a deliberate, intentional thing here! The angels and Jesus could have appeared while John and Peter were still there. But one of the facts of this account that helps to establish the truth of these claims is that it is the testimony of a woman that first affirms the resurrection of Christ. This is important because if you were fabricating a tale, you would not choose a woman to be the first one to tell it. In that society a woman's word was considered less than reliable. And yet it is this woman to whom these angels speak. They ask her why she is weeping and her response reveals that she does not yet believe in Christ's resurrection. She believes that someone has taken Jesus' body and put Him somewhere else. After she has said this she turns and sees Jesus but doesn't know it is Him! I don't think we can really blame her for not recognizing Him, she believed Him dead and His body stolen. Jesus asks her two questions. "Why are you weeping?", and "who are you seeking?" She is weeping because she longs to find Jesus, He is the one she is seeking. I love that thought. She came to the tomb to serve her Lord. To anoint His body. She is weeping because she will not be able to do that now. Do we weep over our longing for Him? Does our desire to serve the Lord bring us to tears? She sees Jesus but thinks He is the gardener and so she asks Him to tell her where He has taken the body is so she can take it back. These are assumptions that any of us would have made. Mary is not showing faithlessness, she is not being foolish, she simply did not even consider that He could have risen from the dead. But...
This is one of my favorite aspects of the resurrection account. Jesus calls her name and then she turns to Him! Then she knows Him! Then she calls out to Him! This is so beautiful! This is what happens to each of us! Christ speaks to us, He calls us by name and our eyes are opened! We finally see! It is Him, it is Jesus! Our Master, our Teacher, our Savior, our Redeemer! This is the One we have been searching for! This is the relationship we have sought! This is our everything! Paul recounts a little of this transformation in Galatians.
But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood,
This is what happens! God separates us from the womb, He calls us by His grace, He reveals His Son in us and nothing is ever the same!
But here is a thought, Mary had to see Jesus, had to hear His voice before she recognized that He had risen. What convinces you? Jesus tells her not to cling to him but to go and tell the disciples that He is ascending to the Father. Mary obeys. She comes to the disciples and tells them she has seen the Lord and she recounts what He told her. As I mentioned before, in that culture this would be a ridiculous invention if someone were making up a story. For Mary to be the first to see Him strengthens the truthfulness of the account. And so it stands as John's second line of evidence. Jesus truly rose from the dead, hear the eyewitness accounts of this woman who saw Him first. The death and resurrection of Christ are the foundation of our faith. He paid the penalty for sin in His death and He brought justification when He rose from the dead. Sing with me...
John's third line of evidence is...
The other Gospel writers tell us that the disciples thought Mary was simply telling stories. But that very night, after they had all gathered and probably shut, locked, and barred the door out of fear, Jesus appeared! His first words were "Peace be with you". Before Jesus comes into our lives we are consumed with fear! Fear of death and fear of really living. But then Jesus comes in. When Jesus enters our fear-filled lives He brings peace! After He appears He shows them his hands and side. The disciples are glad when they see Him. Here it is again. It isn't until they see Him that they believe! Mary's words were not enough for them. Jesus wishes peace on them again, breathes on them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, and commissions them as His representatives in the world. The point here is that all of them were skeptics until they saw Jesus. John is presenting that something happened to change their minds! Something transformed these men from cowering behind locked doors into boldly teaching and preaching Christ! All the deniers had to do was present the body, but they couldn't because the tomb was empty. The eyewitness at the tomb saw Jesus Himself alive and risen. Now the disciples, His closest friends see Him alive! This man who turned water into wine, healed a child from a distance, healed a lame man, fed five thousand, walked on water, gave sight to a man born blind, and raised Lazarus from the dead. This man could not be kept by death! He rose and is alive! That is what John is proclaiming. But just in case some are still unconvinced. John relates how Thomas was convinced.
Thomas wasn't there when Jesus appeared to everyone. He arrives back and is told that everyone had seen Jesus while he was out. Now, Thomas showed a lot of courage being out and about while everyone else was too afraid to leave the room. But he is not convinced that they really saw Jesus. I believe Thomas doesn't want to hope. He has spent three years following Jesus, thinking that He was the Messiah. He saw Him die just a few days ago. His emotions are just too raw to accept what he is being told. And so he makes his famous statement in v. 25. Eight days later they are all gathered again with Thomas there and Jesus appears. Again He wishes them peace. When we are at our worst, doubting God's goodness doubting that He cares or even that He is real, Jesus appears. Jesus comes into our lives, right into the midst of our doubt, and He brings peace! Jesus is not harsh with Thomas as we might expect. He is understanding in v. 27. What Jesus says to Thomas is what He says to us all. I am here, it is really me, so stop being faithless, stop living in doubt, stop living in fear, believe! When Jesus says that to us we can only respond as Thomas does here in v. 28 "My Lord and my God!" You are God and I am not! You are the Master and I am only your servant! In v. 29 Jesus pronounces something incredible. All of us who have placed our faith and trust in Him making up the body of Christ...
I love this thought. We are blessed by the fact that we have never been privileged to see Jesus! This word blessed is μακάριος makarios and it means happy; fortunate. Characterized by happiness and being highly favored (as by divine grace). That may not feel like a blessing but it is. We need to stop looking for Jesus to prove Himself to us, stop seeking some sort of sign that He is who He claims to be. He has already proven it! The signs have already been given. We need to simply accept what God's Word says and live in light of it! We have never seen Jesus, and yet we believe in Him! Jesus told Thomas that we are blessed because of it. With this final event John has shown that even hardened sceptics changed their tune. They trusted in Jesus. Today Jesus is still changing the hearts and minds of hardened sceptics.
Sing with me...
Turn with me to 1Corinthians 11:26-32. This is a time for believers to remember the price that was paid. To be reminded of the penalty of sin. Taking part of communion does not save you. Simply way for us to be reminded of what Christ has done. If know Lord as savior this morning, please join in bread and juice as remember Jesus Christ. These are only symbols, represent body and blood of Savior.
Examination – verses 26-32
I want to conclude this morning with John's conclusion. The amount of things Jesus did while on this earth are too numerous to be written. But what John included in his gospel was written that we might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. and that believing we may have life in His name. Have you believed?
If not, do it now. The tomb is empty, a woman was the first eyewitness of the risen Christ, and Jesus even convinced the sceptics of His resurrection! We can trust that Jesus really did rise.
The tomb is empty! Are you looking and longing to be useful to Jesus as Mary was? Are you paralyzed by fear and doubt like the disciples and Thomas? All the amazing things we have seen recorded in this book were written down that we might believe and have life! Live for Him without fear and without doubt! Let me close with some other words of the Apostle John.
You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.