Christ is Risen! Celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, our Saviour, as Tim unpacks the Easter story that gives us life, hope and love for eternity! Celebrate the good news!
Sermon by Tim Giovanelli on Sunday April 17, 2022.
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- It is wonderful to be celebrating Easter with you…
Well what a story!
- One that will be celebrated by over 2 billion people today…
- One that throughout history has changed the course of countless lives.
- That in this story contains the keys to our relationship with God and the gift of eternal life
- For Jesus in his death and resurrection, has defeated the power of sin and conquered the grave.
- Jesus had said “I am the resurrection and the life, all who believe in me will live, even though they die.”
- Easter says… it is happening! It has begun!
In his life Jesus had told his disciples that he would die and then rise to life again.
- It says in Matthew 16:21 that “From that time Jesus began to show to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.”
- While his disciples thought this was a terrible idea, they try and change his mind, but this was the course Jesus set for himself.
- He headed for Jerusalem and accepted his fate of dying on a cross.
But this promise of rising again was well know enough that the religious leaders asked Pilate (the Roman Governor) to seal the tomb so that no one could steal the body of Jesus…
- They had clearly seen enough of Jesus to know he was leading a powerful movement
- And they clearly believed that killing him should be enough to stop it in its tracks…
- And there could be no claim of resurrection if the tomb was sealed and guarded.
- Produce the body and this movement is over!
But we are told… Mark 16:5-6 that 3 days after Jesus was crucified his disciples approached the tomb. We read…
“As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here.”
A week later after Jesus had appeared in his flesh to his disciples, there was still one who had missed these resurrection appearances. John 20 picks up the story…
24 Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”
But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
This eventually leads the disciples to go into the world at great personal cost to testify about what has happened
- Acts 4:32 says – “with great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
- 20 years later the Apostle Paul is still talking about it; he says, “I want to know Christ, to know the power of his resurrection.”
- They believed that what had taken place was the most powerful, life changing, history splitting moment that all needed to hear about!
So today I want to look at the resurrection from 3 viewpoints… the historical, the theological and the personal.
- Or to put it another way…
- Could it have happened, what does it mean and how does it change lives…
Historic perspective – could it have happened?
One question we ask when we try and determine the truthfulness of a claim is what explanation best fits the evidence…
- I remember a few years ago coming home to find someone had drawn with texters on our apartment wall…
- Hope was quick to tell me that she had not done this, which was an amazing revelation because Luca was still a baby and Victoria prefers craft to art…
- The next clue was Hope’s hands were covered in the same texter ink that was on the wall…
- And finally, under the duress of being tickled she admitted it had been her all along!
- The evidence pointed to Hope!
William Lane Craig is one who defends the resurrection in public. In trying to determine the plausibility of the resurrection, he says,
- “we begin with the evidence available to us and then infer what would, if true, provide the best explanation of that evidence.”
- In other words, we ought to accept an event as historical if that best explains the evidence surrounding it.”
- He states, “When we look at the evidence, the truth of the resurrection emerges very clearly as the best explanation. There is no other theory that even come close to accounting for the evidence.”
Well what evidence is there for the resurrection?
Firstly, We have good accounts of the empty tomb and resurrection from the Gospels. We’ve already read some of them today.
- It is not one person trying to make up a fictitious event, but multiple people who see Jesus and then testify to what they have seen.
- And of course they didn’t take this story to some obscure place and start talking about it there.
- No, they begun preaching about it in the same city where they claimed it to have taken place.
- As Paul Althaus writes, the resurrection “could not have been maintained in Jerusalem for a single day, for a single hour, if the emptiness of the tomb had not been established as a fact for all concerned.”
And then of course It launched something into the world – and with power!
- It was a message that could not be contained. And everywhere it went, miracles started occurring as it was proclaimed.
- Of course the resurrection is the greatest miracle… but all of a sudden, verifiable miracles in front of large crowds like the lame walking and the blind seeing began to occur.
- And the same people who testified to having met with the risen Jesus never faltered in proclaiming what they had seen as true.
I find Charles Colson, one of Nixon’s special counsel who went to jail for his involvement in Watergate interesting on this…
- He became a Christian in jail and went on to be a defender of the Christian faith for 50 years.
- The lesson of Watergate he says, is that a lie cannot live for long…
- He says; “Take it from one who was involved in conspiracy, who saw the frailty of man firsthand,” he declared,
- “there is no way the 11 apostles, who were with Jesus at the time of the resurrection, could ever have gone around for 40 years proclaiming Jesus’ resurrection unless it were true.”
If the apostles’ story about the resurrection had begun to unravel, as the Watergate cover-up did, Colson said: “The apostles would have sold out to save their skins.”
- He concludes, “I know the resurrection is a fact, and Watergate proved it to me. How? Because 12 men testified they had seen Jesus raised from the dead, then they proclaimed that truth for 40 years, never once denying it. Every one was beaten, tortured, stoned and put in prison.
- They would not have endured that if it weren’t true. Watergate embroiled 12 of the most powerful men in the world-and they couldn’t keep a lie for three weeks. You’re telling me 12 apostles could keep a lie for 40 years? Absolutely impossible.”
So I think there is good historical evidence that suggests the resurrection of Jesus is true!
Theological perspective – what does it mean?
Beyond it being a remarkable story, Christians believe that the death and resurrection of Jesus were the decisive moments in human history.
- What gets dealt with in one weekend, is no less remarkable than the problems of sin and the finality of death.
- And what Christians believe is that without sin dealt with, we face eternal separation from the God who created us.
- In the cross and resurrection, sin gets dealt with and death gets defeated.
The search for redemption and the search for immortality have often led people to Jesus.
- For on the cross we see God making a way for sin to be dealt with and grace and mercy to enter the world.
- And in the resurrection we see that death has now lost its power and eternal life is now possible with Jesus.
One of my favourite authors, Leslie Newbigin puts it this way; (SLOW)
“The resurrection is the revelation… that Jesus who died on the cross is indeed king – conqueror of death and sin, Lord and Savior of all. The resurrection is not the reversal of a defeat but the proclamation of a victory.”
What he is saying is that Easter is not the story of a defeated King who makes a great comeback.
- What he is saying, is that the conqueror of death and sin did it through laying down his life as an offering of peace
- And that in the resurrection that victory is assured.
- For all that is evil and broken and wrong in this world threw its weight at Jesus on Good Friday
- But it could not hold him down.
- The sting of death is removed for all who trust in Jesus
I heard of one child who was being terrorised by a bee in the backyard.
- His Father noting his child’s distress captured the bee and removed its stinger.
- When he let the bee go again, the bee was still there, but the fear of being stung was gone.
- God in his love takes away the sting of death. And it does sting, it is sad, it is universal… but now we have nothing to fear!
The Apostle Paul who had persecuted the early Christians had an encounter with the risen Jesus and became his most famous follower.
- He would go on to say to the Corinthians;
- “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Finally from a personal perspective – how does it change lives?
That to me is maybe the most pertinent question that we ask. If we can believe that it actually happened, if we can see that it deals with sin and death…
- What difference can believing in and following the risen Jesus make?
- I heard about a billboard that read “Jesus is the Answer”
- To which some smartarse had graffitied onto it. “What was the question?”
Well the Apostle Peter declared 30 years after encountering Jesus on Easter Sunday – that God has given us;
- “new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”
- Living Hope – what a remarkable expression! That is what we need most – living hope!
A couple of years ago I watched Angelina Jolie’s WW2 drama about Louis Zamperini called Unbroken. Has anyone else seen that film? I got interested in this remarkable man…
- After being a troubled youth, Zamperini took up running and competed in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin becoming a star athlete.
- When WW2 broke out he became a bomber, eventually crashing in the Pacific Ocean, almost dying and spending 47 days adrift on the ocean in a life raft
- Eventually rescued he ended up in a Japanese prisoner of war camp where he endured constant brutality at the hands of his guards.
- If you have seen the film, his courage and determination are extraordinary.
But the story doesn’t end where the film does with his liberation from the prisoner of war camp.
- The Olympic athlete returned to America a hero, married and became a Father
- But despite outward appearances, Zamperini’s life was falling apart.
- He struggled to cope with his horrific experiences during his two years as a prisoner of war.
- Filled with nightmares, anger, anxiety and hatred, Zamperini found solace in alcohol and concocting plans to return to Japan to kill his tormentors.
- Depressed and an alcoholic, Louis was on the verge of losing his family.
In 1949, Zamperini grudgingly attended a Billy Graham meeting in Los Angeles at the urging of his wife.
- He said; “I got under conviction and got mad because of the Scriptures he read, grabbed my wife and said, “Let’s get out of here. Don’t ever bring me back to a place like this again.”
- Remarkably she persuaded him to go back the next night and then the next….
- After hearing about the death and resurrection of Jesus and the message of forgiveness, Zamperini finally gave his life to Jesus and was saved.
He recieved in the words of the Apostle Peter “new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”
- You see for Zamperini his natural birth had given him a troubled youth, the horrors of the prisoner of war camp and now anger, depression and addiction.
- But his new birth as a Christian gave him living hope. The downward spiral was over.
- Apparently the nightmares stopped, he poured his drinks down the drain the night he was saved. He was born again.
One of the most remarkable things about Zamperini was how he then lived out his new life.
- He started a camp for troubled youth where he helped boys not unlike himself in his younger years.
- And amazingly after his conversion, Zamperini’s desire for vengeance left him completely.
- He forgave his captors and later met with many of them, greeting them warmly and sharing the good news of Jesus.
- In 1952 he was able to speak at the Sugamo prison which was filled with 850 Japanese war criminals.
- He said; “I looked out and saw them coming down the aisle and, of course, I recognized each one of them vividly. I didn’t even think of my reaction—I jumped off the stage, ran down and threw my arm around them, and they withdrew from me. They couldn’t understand the forgiveness. We went in the room and there, of course, I continued to “share about Jesus”, And all but one made a decision for Christ.”
This Jesus we celebrate today, risen from the dead is indeed remarkable!
And what you and I have always been called to do, is to recognize that he is the living hope, Lord of all, saviour of mankind
- To turn from our sins and brokenness and to put our trust in Jesus, believing in him unto everlasting life.
- Have you ever believed in Jesus and put your trust in him?
I am convinced that Jesus did rise from the dead.
- I am convinced that it deals with my sin and defeats the sting and power of death.
- I am convinced that there is no other name that can change a person’s life.
- What about you?