I Believe Jesus Descended, Rose & Ascended – Part 2
Dr. Billy Graham once told Time magazine, “If I were an enemy of Christianity, I would aim right at the Resurrection, because that is the heart of Christianity.”
The founder of the Jesus seminar, Dr. Robert Funk, offers a perfect example of what Billy Graham was talking about. This is how Dr. Funk explains what happened to Jesus’ body after his crucifixion: “The tales of entombment and resurrection were latter-day wishful thinking. Instead, Jesus’ corpse went the way of all abandoned criminals’ bodies: it was probably barely covered with dirt, vulnerable to the wild dogs that roamed the wasteland of the execution grounds.”
When Thomas Jefferson wrote his version of the life of Christ, he removed all mention of the supernatural, including the miracles of Christ, the Virgin Birth, and the Resurrection. This is how the “Jefferson Bible” ends: “Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid. There laid they Jesus, and rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed.” That’s it. The end. He died and they buried him. No mention of the Resurrection.
John Dominic Crossan bluntly says, “I do not think that anyone, anywhere, at any time brings dead people back to life.” Crossan is Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies, DePaul University, Chicago and one of the most influential authors on religion in America today. Any time you see a special on T.V. about the life of Christ, he is one of the theological talking-heads you’ll see and hear.
The claim that Jesus actually rose from the dead on the third day is perhaps the greatest scandal of authentic Christianity in the face of modern secularism. Intellectual sophisticates and pseudo-Christian scholars cluck their tongues and wag their heads at those of us just silly enough to believe in the literal resurrection of Jesus Christ. “How,” they ask, “can right-thinking moderns believe in such ancient myths and stories? After all, anyone with a modicum of common sense knows that dead person simply do not rise from the dead.”
Such theological drivel is not new. The Apostle Paul dealt with the same supercilious scholars of his day. Paul leaves no room for negotiation. He writes: “But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain,” (I Cor. 15:13-14).
Christianity stands or falls on the historical validity of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The bodily resurrection of Jesus is absolutely fundamental to biblical Christianity – and the gospel we preach and believe – that its abandonment would mean the end of Christianity as revealed in the New Testament.
In Westminster Cathedral in London tomb after tomb of England’s greatest citizens lines the floor of the nave. On each tomb can be seen the words, "Here lieth the body of . . . " Then the name of some general, artist, scholar, politician or clergyman. How different it is at the tomb of Jesus. There you will not find a tombstone with the inscription, "Here lieth the body of Jesus of Nazereth." Instead we hear the words of the angel on Easter morning as our Lord's epitaph, "He is not here: for he is risen. Come see the place where the Lord did lay." To me, this is one of the most explosive verses in all the Bible. Because the tomb is empty, we can sing with assurance that great gospel hymn, He Lives. The first stanza intones:
I serve a risen Savior, He’s in the world today;
I know that He is living, whatever men 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.
These are wonderful words are they not? Isn’t it interesting that "the best news the world has ever had, came from a graveyard near Jerusalem."
Our Lord conquered death. He rose again. It's something we celebrate every Sunday. But in practical terms, what does the resurrection mean to us today?
I. THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS MAKES POSSIBLE THE PRESENCE OF CHRIST
- the great mystery of the Gospel is "Christ in us"
- out of His sovereign grace and divine mercy, God has chosen to indwell all those who call upon the name of His only begotten son
- Paul writes in Colosians 1:27-28 that this mystery was hid . . . from generations, but now is made known to his saints . . . which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:
- the resurrection of our Lord guarantees the presence of Christ in the lives of believers
- that presence is just as real as the presence of the person sitting next to you this morning
- God as always desired a presence among His people
- He frequently came to stroll with Adam and Eve in the Garden – in the cool of the day – before their fall
- He regularly came and visited with Abraham in the form of an angel
- He was with the exodus wanderers in the pillar of fire and the pillar of smoke
- He was with His prophets through the still small voice
- He was with the nation of Israel as the Shikina Glory in the temple at Jerusalem
- He walked with His disciple in the presence of Jesus
- what's the point?
A. GOD WANTS TO HAVE FELLOWSHIP WITH HIS SAINTS
- according to the passage in John’s Gospel, resurrection Sunday had come
- Jesus was alive
- our texts tells us of our Lords appearances
- Peter and John had run to see the empty tomb
- they did not know what to make of it
- Mary had excitedly told the apostles that Jesus had appeared to her
- the two disciples who had seen Jesus on the road to Emmaus had hurriedly returned to report their experience
- the burning question of the hour is: "Could this be true? Could the Master really be alive?"
- suddenly their question is answered – Jesus is in their presence!
- Peace be with you! Jesus tells them
- how do the disciples initially respond?
- they are terrified!
- at the very least they think they are hallucinating
- at the very worst they think they are seeing a ghost
- they are unbelieving and in shock until he shows them his nail-scared hands and sword-pierced side
- what is the spiritual application?
B. GOD WANTS FELLOWSHIP WITH YOU TODAY
- Jesus desires fellowship with each one here this morning
- if you are not a Christian – Jesus wants to come into your life and save you from your sin and restore your fellowship with the Father that sin broke
- if you are a Christian – Jesus wants desperately to be a regular part of your life
- ILLUS. The Catholic church has the tradition of keeping a red light burning in the sanctuary which represents the eternal presence of Christ in his church.
- every Christian is the temple of the living God
- 2 Corinthians 6:16 "What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” NIV
II. THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS MAKES POSSIBLE THE PROGRAM OF GOD
- Luke 24:44-48
- what is the program of God?
- Jesus makes it very clear in what we call the Great Commission
- Matthew 28:19-20 /"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."? NIV
A. GOD’S PROGRAM FOR YOUR LIFE IS A CONTINUOUS RECLAMATION PROJECT
- ILLUS. Every time I go to downtown St. Louis, I am amazed. Everywhere you look they are erecting some new sky-scraper or rehabilitating some old building. It’s like, “Oh, when did they put that building up?” They are constantly tearing something down in order to put up something new.
- that’s how it is with God and the Christian
- God is constantly wanting to tear down the old in your life in order to build something new
- He wants to replace your old, sin-scared character with a new Christ-like one
- He wants to replace your old selfish attitudes with new selfless ones
- He wants to replace your old, worldly values with new heavenly values
- God has a personal program lined out for you life
- I believe that there is nothing too trivial about your life that God is not interested in and concerned about
- He’s interested in who you’ll marry
- He’s interested in what vocation you will enter
- He’s interested in what school you’ll go to and degree you will earn
- He’s interested in how you spend your money and what you do for fun
- there is simply not an area of your life that God is un-interested in
B. GOD PROGRAM FOR THE WORLD IS THE MINISTRY OF RECONCILIATION
- God has given us the privilege & responsibility of being a part of the program
- it's really a very simple plan
- God has made His plan so simple that a child can understand it
- FIRST, "the Christ has to suffer and die" v. 46
- man's sins had to be atoned for
- only the Son of God could be the perfect and innocent substitutionary sacrifice needed
- SECOND, "the Christ should rise again on the third day" v. 46
- it was not enough for Jesus to have victory over sin alone
- God also decreed that death would loose its grip upon all those who put their faith in Jesus
- THIRD, "the gospel of repentance and forgiveness be preached in his name to all the world" v. 47
- this is where you and I come in!
- FOURTH, that we be the witnesses who do the proclaiming, v. 48
- because Jesus is the resurrection and the life there is power in His name to accomplish God's program of world evangelization
- ILLUS. In the middle of Red Square within the walls of the Kremlin there is a huge black marble mausoleum. It is the burial place of Lenin – leader of the Communist Revolution. Inside are the embalmed remains of Lenin lying within a crystal casket. On the casket are the words, "He was the greatest leader of all peoples, of all countries, of all times. He was the lord of the new humanity. He was the savior of the world." But decades after his death there is no power in the name of Lenin.
- a. there is still power in the name of Jesus!
III. THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS MAKES POSSIBLE THE PROMISE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
- John 14:15-17 "If you love me, you will obey what I command. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. NIV
A. GOD DOES NOT RENEGE ON HIS PROMISES
- in the prophecy of Joel, God promised to pour out His Spirit on all flesh
- Jesus renewed that promise to his disciples
- the Holy Spirit is the presence of Christ in us
- the HS is God's down payment in our life guaranteeing our final redemption
- Ephesians 1:12-14 /"in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory." NIV
IV. THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS MAKES POSSIBLE THE PRAISE OF THE SAINTS
- Luke 24:52-53 "Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God."
A. CHRISTIANS NEEDS TO WORSHIP THE RISEN LORD
- one of the real problems in the Body of Christ is that we often come to church for the wrong reason
- it's not a new problem
- ILLUS. One of the real problems of our time is the near celebrity status of many preachers. Many men are almost worshipped by their followers. I am reminded of an incident Lyman Beecher Stowe wrote about in his book Saints, Sinners, and Beechers. Stowe told that on one occasion Thomas K. Beecher substituted for his famous brother Henry Ward Beecher at the Plymouth Church in Brooklyn, New York. Many curiosity seekers had come to hear the renowned Henry Beecher speak. Therefore when Thomas Beecher appeared in the pulpit instead, some of the people got up and started for the doors. Sensing that they were disappointed because he was substituting for his brother, Thomas Beecher raised his hand for silence and announced, "All those who came here this morning to worship Henry Ward Beecher may withdraw from the church; all who came to worship God may remain."
- our singing would fall on deaf ears
- our praying would be fruitless
- our proclamation would be pointless
- ILLUS.One of the greatest definitions of worship ever laid down was laid down by William Temple: "To worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, to devote the will to the purpose of God."
Let me sum up this morning’s message and put into perspective for you.
You need the presence of Jesus Christ in your life. He wants to come in if you will let him. The presence of Christ begins when you accept Jesus Christ as your personal savior. The faith that Christ asks you to put in him is not a blind faith, but a faith that knows the truth as revealed in God's word.
God has developed a program through which men can come to know Him through Christ. He invites you to be a part of that program.
Do you need power for daily living? The resurrection of our Lord has made possible the indwelling and filling of the Holy Spirit in your life.
You need to meet God daily through worship and praise.