This Can’t be Real?! (Easter 2024)

In Sermons, The Whole Story, Year 2024 by harvest.admin

Resource by Peter Park

To catch you up very quickly, here’s what we’ve covered so far… In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. But man decided to reject God’s way to go his own way. And as a result, sin and suffering, brokenness and death entered the world. But most importantly, our relationship with God was broken. And in God’s goodness, he gave a promise that one day he would save his people not just temporarily from their current situations, but for good by putting an end to sin and death. 

And this past week, we’ve been praying through Passion Week, the days leading up to Jesus’ sacrifice on Good Friday. And here we are at Easter, the most important day of the Christian faith.

You see, Christmas is important…When Jesus took on flesh and became man. Good Friday, when Jesus was crucified and buried, is important. But they are both are powerless without Easter.

What good does it do anyone if Jesus was just born and lived the perfect life we could never live, then died for us in our place, but stayed buried in the tomb? How depressing would that be? The God of Life slain for us, and defeated by sin and death. The End. In this case, Jesus would not have truly been god, but death would be because death would be victorious and have the final word. 

And just as the Passover reoriented the calendar for God’s people thousands of years ago when he delivered them out of slavery, Easter, Resurrection Sunday, when God delivered us out of the kingdom of death and darkness into the kingdom of his beloved Son and into the light is now the defining moment for all believers.

Look what the apostle Paul says about the importance of the resurrection in 1 Cor. 15:12-22-27 12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection from the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. 20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.”

If the resurrection didn’t happen…1) The apostles were liars 2) We are to be pitied because our faith is worthless and we are still in our sins 3) When you die, you just perish. There’s no hope beyond the grave.  4) Jesus failed to do what he said he would.

But if it did happen…1) God is a promise keeper 2) Christ has defeated death and is the ruler of all things 3) Everyone who has faith in Jesus will be raised and made alive with Christ and have hope not only in this life but eternal life.

There’s a lot at stake. So let’s jump into Luke’s account…

Luke 24:1-12 1 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. 2 And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. 5 And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galiliee, 7 that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” 8 And they remembered his words, 9 and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, 11 but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12 But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.

So that’s how it happened…But how do we know it’s real? How do we know that it’s not fake news? Because we all know dead people don’t come back to life. And acting on fake news or bad information can lead to devastating consequences. (Wrong medical diagnosis…) Isn’t it more likely that the story was made up? That it was just the wishful thinking of Jesus’ followers…

Most people, historians and even other religious faiths, recognize that Jesus was a historical figure and even a prophet or good moral teacher. But they deny that he was raised from the dead. And if the resurrection was a lie, and it didn’t really happen, then nothing else matters. Who cares what Christians say and do since their faith is based on a lie? But if it is TRUE, then it changes EVERYTHING. So what you believe about the resurrection is possibly the most important belief you can have.

So let me give you (101) thoughts and things to consider…

1. First, the idea that someone raised from the dead being the foundation of your faith is so crazy, no one even really tries to claim it today…except for Christians. There are ancient religions that have myths and legends around gods and men being resurrected…And there are modern day religions that believe in the idea of resurrection like in reincarnation, or that a day of resurrection is coming. But there’s no solid proof. They are legends and at best, hopes. The resurrection is such a crazy claim that you wouldn’t make it up…unless it really happened.

2. Because otherwise, it would be the easiest story/myth to debunk…If there’s no proof, you assume it’s a made up story. Or in the instance of Jesus, you would’ve just opened up the tomb and proved the followers of Jesus wrong. If the body is still there, boom, the story that Jesus came back to life dies there. But what if there is no body?

3. Roman Crucifixion and Guards – Some would say, Jesus didn’t really die, that he just fainted, or someone stole his body. Let’s look at two passages of Scripture to address these. First, John 19:31-34 31 Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away. 32 So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him. 33 But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. First, the Romans were experts. They didn’t have to break Jesus’ legs because he was already dead. To confirm his death, when they pierced his side, blood and water poured out. Technical medical explanation – he was dead.

So Jesus really did die and was buried. Second, Matt. 27:62-66 62 The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate 63 and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’ 64 Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the death,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.” 65 Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.” 66 So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard. (Matt. 28:11-15) So Roman guards were placed to protect the tomb to keep his disciples from stealing his body. So the question is how likely is it that a group of untrained fishermen, who were confused, scared, and hiding, somehow mustered up the courage to fight and overtake a trained Roman guard to steal Jesus’ body? (About as likely as UNC…they lost on Friday. Football.)

4. The details of the resurrection account don’t read like a myth. Ex: John – 20:4-8 “4 Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, 7 and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed.” Why does John include details like Peter was outrun 3x? How does that detail contribute to the story? It doesn’t. It’s in there because that’s what happened. (Bragging rights for the rest of history…) And it says, v. 7 cloth folded up. Why is this an important little detail? They/Jesus weren’t in a rush. You don’t stop in the middle of an escape (bank robbery), wait, I have to fold my laundry first!

5. Many Eyewitnesses. Jesus appeared not only to the inner circle of disciples but to hundreds over a period of 40 days. 1 Cor 15:5-7 5 And he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Acts 1:3 And he presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. Again, this is to give us confidence that a couple of lunatics didn’t see a ghost. Jesus was with them for 40 days so it wasn’t a one time sighting. And he appeared to 500 people at one time. And 500 people usually don’t have the same vision at the same time. (Like cloud watching…doesn’t that look like…Nope.)

And some initially didn’t believe the news until they touched and saw Jesus for themselves, like Thomas (Jn. 20:24-29) He gets a bad reputation but I think I would’ve been right there with him. (Friends are playing a sick joke.) One pastor (AStanley): “Christianity didn’t begin with people who believed something, but with people who saw something.”

6. The Women. First of all, the women were taking spices to the tomb for Jesus’ dead body. They were looking for closure, not a miracle. Secondly, Jesus first appeared to women. Matt. 28:9-10 9 And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.” In this first century context, women’s testimony was not always well accepted, especially in a court of law. Josephus, Roman Historian – “Let not the testimony of women be admitted on account of the levity and boldness of their sex.” (Because, you know, women are…That’s what he said. Not me.) So if you were making up a story, you definitely wouldn’t want to say that women were the first witnesses. But that’s what the gospels say, again, because that’s what happened.

7. The Disciples – Jesus’ closest disciples were a seemingly random mixture of fishermen, a tax collector, a zealot, and a traitor. They weren’t exactly the best of the best. They were uneducated, untrained, knuckleheads. And these are the men that turned the world upside? 

They didn’t initially believe or understand who Jesus was. In fact, at one point, Jesus even calls Peter, one of his closest disciples, and the one whose testimony about Jesus would be the rock on which the church is built, “Satan.” That’s pretty intense. (I’ve been called a lot of names…) And later, Peter would go on to deny Jesus 3x. Peter and the disciples weren’t the kind of guys that had the smarts or talents to change the world, especially with a false scheme. They were guys no one thought would amount to anything in life.

And some skeptics would say that these unqualified disciples made up the story that Jesus rose from the dead. But what did they have to gain? Did they become powerful and rule over people? No; They became servants. Did they become famous and well loved by the world? Not really; They were hated for their message. Did they get rich? Nope, they gave what they had to others and were poor.  They gained and profited absolutely nothing. Instead, they were all tortured, beaten, imprisoned and martyred. If it were a lie they made up, someone would’ve broken. The only way you stick to your story even unto death is if you know for certain,without a doubt, and you had an encounter with the resurrected Jesus. 

Ex: I convinced everyone in this room to tell the world a lie, (Fly) and we all knew it was a lie. As soon as the first person or a couple people started to be tortured and killed…Everyone else would be like nope, I’m out. I’m not dying for a lie.

Put yourselves in their shoes…they saw Jesus do all kinds of miracles first hand only to be so disappointed to despair when he died. And then, three days later, they experienced the greatest joy to see Jesus resurrected. This is what gave them such great faith to persevere and endure, to remain faithful to the end.

And then you have people like Paul, who was previously Saul. He was a somebody. Educated, trained, the best of the best of the Jews. And he persecuted and killed Christians for their testimony…until he himself was confronted with the resurrected Jesus and became not only a Christian, but a church leader, church planter, and would also suffer greatly for Jesus. (The equivalent of…What would it take…)

And maybe the most convincing of all: James, the half brother of Jesus…He became the first church leader in Jerusalem and would later be stoned to death because he believed Jesus was who he said he was. Can you believe that? Let me ask you this…How many of you have a sibling? What would it take to convince you that your older half brother was the Son of God and rose from the dead??? Satan, maybe; But God??? 

8. History – Unlike other religions, Christianity has spread all over the world regardless of geography, peoples, time. Phil/Rev. – He is worthy of all people, tribes, and nations and we see that playing out in history. Even in the midst of persecution in the early church via the Roman Empire and others throughout history…The church has continued to grow to the ends of the earth.

And though some would say it is a relatively new religion, only about 2000yrs old since that’s when Jesus lived here on earth, when we read the whole Bible, we see that from the very beginning in Genesis 1:1, God the Father, God the Son – Jesus, and God the Holy Spirit is the eternal God who always was, and is, and will be. Sure, the followers of this Triune God were not always called Christians, but they had faith in the same, one true God, who at the right time would put on flesh and become one of us.

9. Jesus performed all kinds of miracles like controlling the weather, healing sick and handicapped people, casting out demons. That’s already quite the resume to convince people that you’re God. But he also raised the dead like Lazarus and Jairus’ daughter. Is it so unbelievable that the God who has the power to raise others from the dead that he also has the power to rise from the dead himself? Logically, it would make sense that he does.

10. Jesus told his disciples this was going to happen. V. 8 “And they remembered these words that Jesus spoke to them” that he would be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified, and rise on the third day. 1) Lk 9:21-22, 43-45, 2) 11:29-32, 3) 18:31-34. 

All throughout the Scriptures – Promises and Prophecies about Jesus. Over 300 – Where he would be born, what he would be like, how he would die, and how he would bring God’s people back to him. (Isa 53 (Wounded/Crushed – Sins. Stripes – Healed). Ex. 12:46, Num. 9:12 (Bones); Zech. 12:10 (Pierced) – Jn. 19:35-37)

The probability of Jesus fulfilling all of these promises and prophecies is like…well I can’t count that high. It’s impossible unless you are God, both the one who made the promises and gave the prophecies, and you’re also the one to fulfill them.

So what are we to do with an event that seems impossible with all the evidence that points to it actually happening? To say it didn’t happen would be to blindly ignore all the evidence. PJD – “Faith is when the unexplainable meets the undeniable.” Faith is when the unexplainable, like the resurrection, meets the undeniable, all the evidence that clearly points to it being reality.

So if the resurrection really happened, what does it matter? What does it teach us? What does it change? A couple things if Jesus really rose from the grave…

1. Nothing is impossible for God. If there were, he would not be God. God rules over everything in power and authority. There is nothing greater, nothing higher. There’s nothing he can’t do, nothing he can’t heal, nothing he can’t fix. There’s no one like him. And everything we think is impossible is possible for God.

2. God is God even over sin and death. I doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor, educated or not, what ethnicity you are, where you live, man or woman, married or not…The one thing we all have in common, the one problem we all share, is our greatest enemy is sin and death. We’re all broken, dead in our sin, and we need someone to rescue us from our sin. And because Jesus is the only one who rules over death, he is the only one that can save us.

“If Jesus defeated sin and death, why is there still so much pain and suffering? Why does it seem like evil, not good, is winning? How can a God who can do all things and is good, allow such suffering in the world?” It’s a good question, and there is a good answer for it. But I would propose that the better question that gets to the heart of the issue is why are our hearts so evil that it produces a world full of suffering and brokenness? And if Jesus truly rose from the dead, we can trust him for all the hard things.

3. God is the God of life. In the beginning, God created everything. He’s the giver of life and sustainer of life. And he does the impossible to bring new life even out of death. 

4. God is a promise keeper. What God did for us in his Son, Jesus, was not a random circumstance or a flippant decision. It was in God’s heart to save us and he planned our rescue through his Son Jesus before even the creation of the world! (Eph. 1)

5. God will resurrect us and those who trust in Jesus will have eternal life with him. Romans 6 – If we’ve been united with Christ in his death, then we will be united with Christ in his resurrection to new life/bodies. This changes everything. We will be resurrected to new life with Jesus, just like he was, and will be united with him for all eternity in a place. (Rev. 21. Col. 1) Incredible – If you are a believer in Jesus, you have the same power, the same life giving Spirit, that raised Christ from the dead, in you. The Holy Spirit! And the Spirit of Christ has the power to change your life forever. It has the power to heal what is broken, to redeem what is too far gone, and bring to life what is dead. 

Three Circles – The world is broken. We can all agree on that…There is brokenness and suffering everywhere we look in the world. You’d think if it were just a matter of education, technological advancement, AI, or enough time we would have figured things out by now. But things really don’t seem to be getting any better. There are still wars,  sicknesses, disasters, and death. These seem more like the norm.

But this is not the way God created the world. In the beginning, everything was good and right. Our relationship with God was perfect. But we rejected the God of life and all of his goodness. We decided we knew better than him and that we would do things our own way. And this decision broke everything…sin and death entered into our lives and our world and things would never be the same. We were all condemned to die separated from God..

So we have sought out the idols of money, power, sex, education, technological advances to save ourselves, to try and fix our way out of our brokenness. But we can’t. The only thing we will discover with more time is that all of our idols will fail us. And the reason is because all of the world’s problems are not “out there.” They are “in here.” We all have a heart problem. 

So God, in his great love for us, sent Jesus to take on flesh and become man like us to die for us in our place. Jesus is our only hope for the forgiveness of our sins and salvation. He took the penalty for our rebellion against God and gave us his perfect record of righteousness. And in rising from the dead, he defeated death. And if death has been defeated, then guilt has been defeated, injustice has been defeated, addictions have been defeated, sorrow has been defeated, despair has been defeated, our sin has been defeated. (PJD) Death doesn’t have the last word, the empty tomb does. The sting of death has been taken away and the worst pains and sufferings in this world are only momentary. (Ro. 8) 

So now, we who have been saved by grace through faith, saved by the power of Jesus’ resurrection, have a right relationship with God. And can trust that the God who saved us is the God who will sustain us and give us grace.

The power of the resurrection is the power to heal and redeem every broken thing in your life…Does it seem impossible? God is the God of the impossible…Broken marriages, relationships, grief, depression, oppression…

So the question is, what are you going to do about the reality of the resurrected Jesus now that you’ve been confronted with it? You can’t do nothing. You have to reject it or receive it.

Jesus is not just some good moral teacher, a normal prophet, or just a good example to follow. People try to minimize who Jesus is and what he did, but that’s not what Jesus claimed about himself. He claimed to be God, to be the Way, the Truth, and the Life, the resurrection – the only way to be restored back to God our Father. 

So if Jesus was who he said he was and he really did rise from the dead, it demands your life, your all. Living for Jesus is the only thing that makes sense. You are not your own anymore. You can’t go on living as if you’ve never heard. (“I can’t hear you…”) 1 Cor. 15 – The gospel is of first importance. Don’t put it off.

You’ve come and seen. It’s ok to still have other questions. But what will you do about the resurrection? Will you repent, turn away from…and believe? Christianity is different from every other religion. DO vs. DONE. Invitation is to believe and find joy, hope, peace, and life in him. Power to change you…Ro. 6, 2 Cor. 5 – newness of life and new creation. But if you reject it – this world is the closest you’re going to get to heaven because your eternity will be eternal suffering apart from Jesus.

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