Risen... Believe It Or Not! Matthew 28:1-20
Why is Easter important?
Because it’s the day that God conquered death and offered life to humankind.
But what does Easter mean to me today, and what does it mean to you today? Well, those are the questions I want to spend the next little while answering, and then I’m going to give you an opportunity to do something about it. I’m going to ask you two questions: Do you believe, and do you receive? Do you believe in Jesus, the Son of God who conquered death and rose from the grave? And do you receive what He is offering to you today?
Before we get to that, though, let me give you the four “I Cans” of Easter.
The first one is this:
1. I can have confidence in Jesus.
Because if the resurrection is true, it proves one thing: Jesus was who he said he was.
Who did Jesus claim to be? He claimed to be God. And if the resurrection is true it proves it. That’s a big “if”, though. How do I know that the resurrection is true? What proof is there? That’s a big question and it’s a good question. I don’t know all the answers and if I did we certainly wouldn’t have time to cover them all this morning. But let me give you just 5 of the proofs that Jesus rose from the dead.
Proofs Jesus Rose From The Dead:
A. The change in the disciples.
John Stott is a best-selling author, a professor, and one of the leading theologians in the world today. And he says;
“Perhaps the transformation of the disciples is the greatest evidence of all for the resurrection… When Jesus died, they were heartbroken, confused and frightened. But within less than two months they came out of hiding, full of joy, confidence and courage. What can account for this dramatic transformation? Only the resurrection, together with Pentecost which followed soon afterwards.”
And this bizarre group of mostly uneducated men went on to change the world.
B. Eyewitness accounts.
Do you know that there are eleven times recorded in the Bible that Jesus appeared to people after his death. He appeared to individuals, to the disciples, and one time appeared to a group of over 500 people. When the Biblical accounts were being written most of these people were still alive and could have denied that it ever happened. But they didn’t. Some people today claim that these were all hallucinations. And I could understand that if Jesus only appeared to individuals. It could have simply been wish fulfillment. But he didn’t just appear to individuals. He appeared to groups of people, too. And hallucinations are not group events, at least not outside of the 1960’s. And the truth is that having 500 different people experience the same hallucination at the same time would be a greater miracle than the resurrection itself!
C. Modern-day accounts.
We’ve already talked about the change that happened in the lives of the disciples. But do you realize that Jesus is still changing lives today? Many of us here know that to be true by personal experience. We have a relationship with Him today. Our lives have been transformed. And that power To change is only a reality because Jesus rose from the dead and is alive today.
D. The Roman and Jewish leaders couldn’t disprove it.
They tried to, they desperately wanted to, but they couldn’t. They couldn’t produce the body, they couldn’t show that the body was stolen, they couldn’t say that he was in a different grave, they couldn’t explain why the highly-trained guards failed, and they couldn’t explain away the appearances. They had all the motivation and power in the world to squash this new religion, but they simply weren’t able to do it because they couldn’t disprove it.
E. The disciples were willing to die for their beliefs.
Do you realize the disciples had nothing to gain? They would be beaten, imprisoned, persecuted, and killed for their beliefs. Now, I am aware that there have been plenty of people throughout history who have died for their faith, whether what they believed was true or not. We’ve seen this in recent days with terrorists and suicide bombers. This is true:
People will die for their faith if they believe it’s true.
But this is equally true:
People will not die for their faith if they know it’s false.
Nobody knowingly dies for a lie.
John Singleton Copley, one of the greatest legal minds in history, three times the High chancellor of England, declared:
“I know what evidence is, and evidence like that for the resurrection has never broken down yet.”
~ John Singleton Copley
Lee Stobel has a Master of Studies in Law degree from Yale and was an award-winning journalist for thirteen years at the Chicago Tribune. And when it came to Jesus he was a skeptic and an atheist. This is how he described his position:
“I had read just enough philosophy and history to find support for my scepticism—a fact here, a scientific theory there, a pithy quote, a clever argument. Sure, I could see some gaps and inconsistencies, but I had a strong motivation to ignore them: a self-serving and immoral lifestyle that I would be compelled to abandon if I were ever to change my views and become a follower of Jesus.”
~ Lee Strobel, The Case For Christ p. 12
But when he was forced to re-evaluate the evidence for Jesus, he had to conclude that the resurrection did occur, that Jesus was who he said he was. And in fact he’s put out an excellent book that you might want to get a hold of. It’s called “The Case For Christ.” Just a great book examining the evidence.
Easter means that I can have confidence in Jesus, because he is who He says He is. The proof is there: He is risen! But you must decide: Do you believe it or not?
2. I can have new life.
What kind of life?
A Life Of…
Christ gives meaning to your life, and when he appears, you will also appear with him in glory.
~ Colossians 3:4 (CEV)
Passion can be defined as an “intense emotion compelling action. A strong devotion to some object, activity, or concept.” It’s the longing of your heart. It’s your vision, your dream. It’s your calling. And it’s given to you by God. The apostle Paul wrote:
Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God.
~ Ephesians 4:1 (NLT)
Nothing will be impossible for you if you’re living the new life Jesus offers.
For I can do everything with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need.
~ Philippians 4:13 (NLT)
He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing what is right.
~ Titus 2:14 (NLT)
D. L. Moody lived during the 1800’s and was one of the most influential men of his time. And as he was approaching his death this is what he said:
“Some day you will read in the papers that D. L. Moody of East Northfield is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. At that moment I shall be more alive than I am now… I was born of the flesh in 1837. I was born of the Spirit in 1856. That which is born of the flesh may die. That which is born of the Spirit will live forever.”
~ D. L. Moody
D.L. Moody supposedly died one hundred and three years, four months, and 28 days ago (Dec. 22, 1899)… at least, that’s what the death certificate says. But in truth he is alive and well today and will spend eternity in the presence of God because Jesus gave him a new life of permanence.
God loved the people of this world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who has faith in him will have eternal life and never really die.
~ John 3:16 (CEV)
The life is there. It’s on the table. But you must decide: will you receive it, or not?
3. I can be forgiven.
One day Jesus was teaching a crowd of people when a group of men brought a crippled friend to Jesus to be healed. Jesus looked at the man and told him, “My friend, your sins are forgiven.” This made some of the people who were there quite upset, and this is what they said:
“Why would he say such a thing? He must think he is God! Only God can forgive sins.”
~ Mark 2:7 (CEV)
Well, we’ve already talked about how if the resurrection really happened then Jesus is who He claimed to be. And that means that He does in fact have the power to forgive. He can forgive me, He can forgive you. It’s one of our basic human needs and one of God’s greatest gifts.
During the last supper Jesus ate before he was arrested and killed, he took a glass of wine and used it as a metaphor when he told his followers:
This is my blood, and with it God makes his agreement with you. It will be poured out, so that many people will have their sins forgiven.
~ Matthew 26:28 (CEV)
What was Jesus saying? He was saying that through his death the price would be paid for our sins. We would be spared and forgiven.
But throughout the years many people have promised things only to be incapable of delivering. Think about some of the promises that have been made to you that haven’t been kept. Think about promises like…
“You car will be ready in an hour.”
“This won’t hurt a bit.”
“This won’t take long.”
“True friends always.”
“Till death do us part.”
Did people mean to break those promises when they made them to us? No, they were just incapable of keeping them. Jesus promised that he would forgive me for the wrongs I have done… for my sins. How do I know that he can keep that promise?
The Bible says…
Unless Christ was raised to life, your faith is useless, and you are still living in your sins.
~ 1 Corinthians 15:17 (CEV)
Jesus promised that He would forgive us. But the only way we can have any kind of assurance that He’s even remotely capable of delivery on that promise is because He rose from the dead, proving that He is God and has the power and position to forgive us.
His forgiveness is real. It’s freely offered to you. But you must decide: will you receive it, or not?
4. I can have hope.
I heard this definition of hope one time and thought it was really neat. It’s from that great philosopher Ano-ny-mous:
“Hope is enjoyment of the future in advance.”
With the resurrection of Jesus we who know him personally can have hope. And what I mean by that is that we can live with a confidence and an expectation that we are never alone and that once this life is over we can spend forever in eternity with Him, and forever is a long, long time.
Now we live with a wonderful expectation because Jesus Christ rose again from the dead. For God has reserved a priceless inheritance for his children. It is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay.
~ 1 Peter 1:3-4 (NLT)
That wonderful expectation is eternal. That hope is sure. But you must decide: do you believe it, or not?
She wasn’t a very impressive woman. She was about five feet tall, in her late 30’s, and wore cheap clothes. She couldn’t read, she couldn’t write, and if she were to smile at you, you would see that her top two front teeth were missing.
She lived alone. She had been married but left her husband when she was 29. She gave him no warning. One day he simply woke up and she was gone.
As for her employment, it varied. Most of the time she took domestic jobs in small hotels: scrubbing floors, making up rooms, and cooking. But a couple of times a year she would disappear for a while, the come back broke looking for work again. When she was working she seemed to work hard, but she was also known to fall asleep on occasion, even if she was in the middle of a conversation. She claimed it was the result of a blow to the head during a fight when she was a teenager.
The woman’s name: Harriett Tubman.
Harriett was born in Maryland in 1820 and started life as a slave. When she was 13 she tried to stop a white overseer from beating another slave, and she took a blow to her head that nearly killed her. Her recovery took months.
When she was 24 she married a man named John Tubman, a free black man. But whenever she talked about escaping to freedom in the north he wouldn’t hear of it. In fact, he said that if she ever tried to leave he would turn her in himself. So when she decided to take her chances and head north, she did so alone, without a word to him. But as far as she was concerned she had a right to one of two things: liberty or death. If she couldn’t have one she’d take the other.
Harriett made her way to Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love, by use of the Underground Railroad… a secret network of free blacks, white abolitionists, and Quakers who helped slaves on the run. The year was 1849.
But the next year, Harriett risked it all when she decided to go back. You see, Harriett had vowed to go back and bring her family out, too. So she started a new life as an Underground Railroad Conductor… someone who would find and guide out slaves with the help of sympathizers along the way.
So every summer and winter, she would work, trying to scrape together the money she would need for her trips to the South. And every spring and fall, she would risk her life by heading south and returning with more people.
Over the course of the next ten years, Harriett guided out more than 300 people, including many of her own family. She made 19 trips south in all, plus another 11 delivering slaves into Canada, earning the nickname “Black Moses”, because of her ability to go into the land of captivity and bring so many of her own people out of slavery’s bondage.
Jesus did the same thing for you.
The Bible tells us:
By his one sacrifice he has forever set free from sin the people he brings to God.
~ Hebrews 10:14 (CEV)
Listen to me. Jesus Christ died to take your place and pay the penalty for your sins, the times you rebelled and hurt God. And he rose from the dead, proving that he had the power over life and death, and is now offering you forgiveness and a new life with Him. Don’t let the opportunity pass you by. Jesus loves you, and he went to great measures to prove it. Now what are you going to do with Him?
Now, as I promised, here’s your chance to respond.
Do you believe? Do you believe in the Jesus of the Bible... the God who became a man, submitted Himself to execution on the cross, and who rose again and is alive and well today?
Do you receive? Do you receive the love, the hope, the forgiveness that he offers?
If you’re here this morning and you sense within yourself that God has been speaking to you and that you need to respond, here’s what I want you to do: I want everyone to close your eyes; I’m not going to mention you by name or embarrass you in any way, but I want you to raise your hand so I can pray for you.