Well we are around that time of year. One of the two times many of us go to our mom’s church, or put on a nice easter suit and head to a nearby church building. I know some of y’all already have your easter suit and dress picked out.
It seems everybody gets takes part in the festivities. Christmas and Easter are those interesting times of year when even people who usually don’t care about Jesus get involved in some way. There are easter eggs and easter candy for sale everywhere. There are easter programs, and parades. Easter takes over a little bit, though many don’t believe in the easter story.
It’s not surprising though because Easter and Christmas have become cultural events. They’ve turned into little more than national holidays, family reunions, and opportunities for retailers to make some more money. Of course, those who believe in the birth and death of Christ celebrate that, but it’s not required.
I remember growing up my family would go all out for easter. We’d go to the mall the week before and take picture with the Easter Bunny. I personally think that is the creepiest of all the holiday mascots. A gigantic rabbit? That’s traumatizing for children. Not only that, but you’re told that he’s going to show up at your home over the weekend? Anyway on Easter, we’d go to church, and then we’d come home. We’d do a easter egg hunt. We’d have family over. We’d have little easter baskets with all kind of stuff in there.
And many of us have similar stories. My non-Christian friends even have very similar stories. All of these things have us growing up in a culture where we know the resurrection of Jesus is somehow behind the celebration, but to many it’s not really necessary for the celebration.
Why This Discussion is Important
The question we’re asking and attempting to answer today is: Does it matter if Jesus really raised from the grave? Of course it doesn’t matter if all you wanna do is have easter egg hunts. That has absolutely nothing to do with Jesus. But we all want more than that out of life. I think this is a very relevant question, and I think it’s important to ask for a few reasons.
1, Some of don’t think it ever happened. Many of us consider the resurrection of a human being after death to be impossible. When hearts stop, there is no more life to be had. Bodies don’t get going again. We’ve never seen it, it doesn’t seem to fit with the laws of nature, and many feel confident that it didn’t happen. So this is important to think about.
2, Others of us think of it as irrelevant. We don’t think too much about it either way. Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t. What does that have to do with my life at all. Maybe I’ll pay attention to Jesus at some point later on my life, but for now I’m good. I’m having fun, I’m being exposed to new things, I’m learning, I’m trying to build a foundation or a career. I’m not really worried about the resurrection right now. But the resurrection is not irrelevant for anybody. And I wanna prove that during our discussion today.
3, Some of us think of the resurrection story as just inspirational. It’s a symbol of rising above your circumstances. It’s a beautiful story that’s captured people’s minds and hearts over the last 2000 years. Maybe there’s a moral to the story, but nothing more than that.
The reason I think this is important to talk about is because all three of those perspectives are different than what the Bible teaches about the resurrection of Jesus. So if so many of us think different things about the resurrection than the Bible does we should ask ourselves whether or not that matters. Easter season is a great opportunity to have this discussion.
If this is how we view the resurrection then that answer is no, it doesn’t matter. But if you haven’t already guessed, I’m a Christian and I think Jesus actually got up out of the grave. And not only do I think it matters, I think we’re all hopeless without it.
Why I Think He Raised
I want to briefly tell you why I believe Jesus raised from the dead. I’m not going to spend a ton of time on these, because that’s not the purpose of this talk. The purpose tonight is to talk about whether or not it matters, but if I’m going to insist that he actually rose and make claims based on that, I want you to know the reasons I believe it.
1. The Bible Treats it as a Historical event
When you read Scripture, the Apostles don’t treat the resurrection as anything less than fact. It’s clear that they don’t consider themselves to be writing fables. When the Apostles preach sermons after Jesus ascends into Heaven, they speak of the death of Jesus (which uncontested) and the resurrection of Jesus with the same force. As if both are realities.
Scripture is clear that Jesus literally rose from the dead. And I believe Scripture to be the Word of God. I believe it can be trusted. I don’t think it lies or is mistaken. And the way it’s written isn’t how you would write it if you made it up. Which brings me to the second reason I believe the resurrection happened.
2. I Trust Reliable Testimony
All of us accept things on the basis of testimony from others. We weren’t at the basketball game, but we trust sports announcers or friends who were there recap. You don’t require physical evidence. You trust them. We missed class, but we trust classmates to pass on their notes. We weren’t at the Gettysburg address, we don’t have any footage, but we trust that it happened. We trust that those words are those of Abraham Lincoln.
Now I know these things are different than the resurrection, but I say that to say, there are events that we believe happened because we heard about it from a reliable source. It’s a natural and sensible thing to do if there’s no reason to distrust it.
The people who talk about the resurrection in the Bible, are as far as I can tell, reliable witnesses. There is no reason for me to distrust them. In fact, there were hundreds of eyewitnesses who saw Jesus. I can’t think of any court where 500 eyewitnesses wouldn’t be enough to prove a case. I believe that testimony is overwhelming and that Jesus must have risen from the dead.
3. It’s the Best Explanation of the Facts
The start of Christianity is very interesting. You have a Jewish man born in Galilee, teaching with a new kind of authority. Doing miracles. Gathering followers. Getting in trouble with the Jewish authorities. Being abandoned by his friends. Being murdered. And then his tomb is found to be empty.
And somehow this man, who said he would do amazing things– rule, reign, rebuild the temple in three days— even though he died becomes the source of a movement. The disciples abandoned him. They were afraid and discourage because it looked like they followed him in vain. But then when we read the book of Acts, we see that they’re all of a sudden encouraged and bold. And willing to face persecution for Jesus.
They teach that he’s God, to a Jewish culture, who recognizes that God is one. They teach that he rose from the grave, and they teach it soon after it happens. So people are still around. If it didn’t happen, it would be squashed. The authorities could have shut down the whole situation, which was a threat to them, by just showing people his body. The movement grows, and followers of Jesus are numerous. Thousands very soon after. All but one of those twelve disciples, ends up being murdered for their faith in Christ. Murdered for this man. They were so sure, and committed to the fact that he was the Son of God, risen from the dead that they were killed for it.
How do you explain that? I think the best explanation of those facts, is that he actually did rise from the grave. I know I wouldn’t die for a legend that I made up. The only thing that could convince all these people, is that he actually got up.
So with that in mind, I want to talk through some of the implications of the resurrection.
So for the rest of the time, we’ll talk about that question then. Does it matter if Jesus raised from the grave. I’m going to tell you why I think it matters. I’m going to do it by looking at a passage from the Bible, 1 Corinthians 15. And from that passage, I’m going to show you three implications of the resurrection.
In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul treats the resurrection not only as a historical fact, but as if it’s implications are life and death.
These three reasons are very important for every single one of us in this room. They are important for every single person alive. And you’ll see why I believe that in a moment. Here’s what Paul says:
But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 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. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.
(1 Corinthians 15:13-19 ESV)
I. If Jesus didn’t raise, there is no Good News
What do I mean by that? Of course there are things we sometimes here in the news that are good. But I mean ultimate good news, what the Bible calls the Gospel. The truth is, even though there are some good things that happen in the news and in our lives, even things that can give us hope momentarily, none of those of those things can give us a lasting hope.
A tax refund check can’t give us lasting hope. Acceptance into a graduate program can’t give ys lasting hope. An engagement or marriage, can’t give us lasting hope. All of these things will come to an end. And they can be snatched from us in a moment. Is there any hope that lasts? Is there any hope that’s universal and grand?
The Bible is very realistic and honest about the state of our world. We are broken, our world is broken, and all of creation needs to be restored. We know our world is broken. From natural disasters to disease. And crime. It seems like there’s a new mass shooting every day now. What’s going on? Brokenness.
It’s not just out there though. We all are broken too. The evidence of this in our lives is our sins, our anxieties, our broken relationships, conflict with one another, and worst of all, our separation from God.
Have you ever thought about why we are the way we are? Why no matter how hard we try we can’t be perfect? Why we do the things we do? Why we keep going back to things that keep hurting us? Why we make destructive decisions? Why we hurt others? We’re broken. That’s the bad news.
Jesus is the One whom God sent to restore, and specifically to restore us to our Creator. That’s the Good news.
There’s no doubt that Christianity is unique among the world’s religions. One of the unique things about Christianity is that it’s based on historical events in a unique way. There are some things that actually happened that we trust in. We trust in an actual man, who was actually killed, and who actually raised from the dead. And if those things are not true, then the Good News about a Savior isn’t true.
Muhammad the prophet in the Islamic faith, is dead. Muslims know where his body and his grave are. And this in no way harms a Muslim’s faith.
The Buddha was cremated after his death, and there are cremation relics that were distributed to different families. So we know where the Buddha’s body is. And that in no way harms the buddhist’s faith.
Confucius’ body is buried in his birthplace in China. The same could be said of Joseph Smith, various Pope’s, etc. And the fact that these people are dead in no way harms the faith of their followers.
But if someone was to find the dead body of Jesus, Christianity ceases to exist. Christian churches are pointless. Christian preachers are liars. And Christ’s followers are hopeless. Of course if the dead body of Jesus existed to be found, the authorities would have just shown it to people to squash the spread of the religious devotion to the man. But the point I’m making is that it matters.
Everything Is in Vain
Listen to what Paul says here in 1 Corinthians 15. Earlier he points to the Gospel or the Good News as the most important thing. He says that’s what he preached to them, they received it, and they currently stand in it. But listen to what he says in verse 14.
“And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ.”
Paul doesn’t think the resurrection is some inspirational story. He thinks the faith hinges on it. So when we treat it like some inspirational story, we might as well stop pretending that that’s Christianity. We might as well not even use the Bible for that. That’s not what Paul meant or intended. And it’s an abuse of the sacred text to treat it that way.
The Christian faith is based on News. It’s based on the proclamation of news about the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.
If that’s not true, then Paul’s preaching is in vain. Not only that, but the Christian’s faith is in vain. What am I believing in, if the story of Jesus doesn’t have a good ending? There’s only bad news. I’m a sinner, Jesus tried to do something about that, but in the end death got him
So if he didn’t raise, there is no Good News.
But since he did raise, there is Good News
There is Good News! The news is true. We can be restored to God. I want to read you the first few verses of 1 Corinthians 15.
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that qhe appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.
1 Corinthians 15:1-8
Jesus died for our sins. And he rose for our sins. That’s part of the Gospel story. That’s great news for sinners.
The fact that Jesus rose from the dead confirms everything that he said about God and about himself. That’s what stamps his message. That’s the claim that no other leader of any faith can or would make.
You see that this news is so important to Paul that he says if even that part of it isn’t true, then his preaching is in vain. Think about the church you go to on Sunday. If the resurrection wasn’t true would that affect their preaching at all? Do you even hear about the death and resurrection of Christ and how it applies to our lives?
This resurrection does apply to your life. It matters for you because life is hard. Sins are real. Sickness is real. Death is real. Is there any good news for us? Who wins in the end? There is good news. Jesus rose from the dead. And he’s going to make all things new. The empty tomb proves that his promises are true.
Let’s continue to talk about the implications
II. If Christ didn’t raise from the dead, there is no forgiveness
I’m going to read some random lyrics about forgiveness.
“Lord forgive him, he got them dark forces in him/ but he also got a righteous cause for sinning.”
“Lord please forgive me for my sinnin’/ I ain’t saying that I’m finished/ But I’m praying in advance/ Cause the way her eyes glance like they playing in my pants.”
J Cole, The Warm Up
“I pray I’m forgiven/ for every bad decision I made/ Every sister I played/ cause I’m still paranoid to this day/ And it’s nobody’s fault I made the decisions I made/ This is the life I chose, or rather, the life that chose me”
Jay-Z, December 4th
“I try to pretend that I’m different but in the end we’re all the same/ I pray to god, father forgive a n**** I’m never gonna change.”
“I am a sinner, who’s probably gonna sin again/ Lord forgive me, Lord forgive me/ for things I don’t understand.”
Everyone values forgiveness. Even guys who are clear that they don’t intend on actually changing. Everyone wants to be forgiven.
Our Need for Forgiveness
There’s not a person in here who’s perfect. All of us are imperfect and we sin. Sin isn’t such a popular word. We sometimes prefer softer words like flaws, or imperfections, or mistakes, but the word “sin” communicates something more specific than those other words. When the Bible talks about sin it means disobeying God with your actions, your words, or your thoughts. It’s missing the mark, falling short of what God requires, aiming at the wrong mark, rebelling against God.
And the Bible says that sins are not just random broken rules, but that sin is disobedience aimed directly at God himself. God takes sin personally, as a personal attack on him and his goodness, wisdom, and glory. In the same way you’d take someone burning your house down, not only as an attack on your house, but on you yourself, God takes any disobedience by his creation as an attack on him. There’s nothing he doesn’t own. Sin is a crime against a good God. And that same God is the Judge who we’ll stand before.
Here’s my question for you: Do you expect to be forgiven of those sins? Why? Why would a good judge ever let sinners off the hook for such a heinous crime as sin? Well the only way that God forgives sin is if it’s already been paid for. And there’s only one who’s ever claimed to pay for sin, Jesus. And the resurrection of Jesus is the proof that that payment was accepted.
In Your Sins
One of the things Paul mentions about if Jesus hasn’t been raised is: “Your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.”
What it means to be in your sins, is that you have to pay for them. It means they’re still on your record. It means you’re still in bondage to them. It means you haven’t been delivered from them. It means you won’t be forgiven for them. The forgiveness of sins hinges on the literal bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The cross is where Jesus triumphed over sin. That’s like the wrestling match with sin and evil. And if Jesus didn’t get up, that means sin won.
Other religions don’t do much with the forgiveness of sins. There’s no explanation for why a good judge would overlook them. Getting into Heaven is doing more good than bad, but what about the bad? None of us would commend a judge who let murderers off the hook because they helped an old lady across the street the next day. Sin has to be paid for.
You do not want to stand before God in your sins. There are two places you can be, in Christ or in your sin.
And if Jesus didn’t raise, there is no forgiveness.
But since he did raise, there is forgiveness of sins!
Jesus made a lot of religious types mad because, not only was he healing people, but he was telling them their sins are forgiven. Jesus had authority to forgive sins. The pope doesn’t have that authority, pastors don’t have that authority, priests don’t have that authority— only God. And Jesus was God in the flesh.
Let’s make sense of the word forgiveness. Say my friend slaps me in the face. It would not be forgiveness if I said it’s ok, but planned to slap him back for it later. Forgiveness doesn’t just mean I accept his apology, it means I treat him as if he hadn’t sinned against me. Now I may be traumatized and duck whenever he goes for a high five. I may not trust him the same, but I won’t hold that sin against him. I won’t try to get back at him, or be bitter towards him. Our relationship can be restored.
Sin is a serious offense against God. It’s so serious to him, that he wouldn’t just overlook it. He knew it had to be punished. And God loved us so much that he sent Jesus. And Jesus loved us so much that he was willing to take that punishment at the cross for us. That’s what the cross is. It’s Jesus stepping in and taking punishment that sinners deserve.
It’s like I’m in the courtroom and I’m clearly guilty, but instead of being punished someone takes that punishment for me.
The Benefits of Forgiveness
When we trust Christ God restores his relationship with us. He’ll wipe our record clean. It’s a verdict of not guilty from the Judge of all the universe. He’ll accept us into relationship with him. He won’t hold our sins against us.
Romans 4:7-8 says, “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”
There is no more frightening thing in all of the Universe than to stand before God in your sins. But there is no greater blessing in all the universe, than to be forgiven by God.
Often, Christians have a reputation with others of being self righteous. And I think that’s tragic. Because the definition of trusting Christ is the exact opposite of self righteousness. It’s admitting we have no righteousness. And coming to God in faith, that he would forgive us of our unrighteousness. So if Christians have misrepresented the faith to you, be gracious with them. That’s not what Christ taught
Do you long to be forgiven of your sins? I want you to think about your life. There are many things we’ve done that aren’t right. We’ve lied, and we’ve lusted. Many of us have fornicated and gotten drunk. Many of us have stolen and cheated. Many of us hate others, we’re lazy, and the list could go on. All of us. Our lives offend a holy God. And I wonder if you long to be forgiven of those sins.
The Good News is, that forgiveness is available in Jesus Christ. But only if he actually rose from the dead. And only, if we believe in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
Let’s consider the final implication
III. If Christ didn’t raise, there is no eternal life
Every single one of us knows that there is something that’s not right about death. When we go to funerals, there’s never piñatas and confetti. There’s grieving. There are tears. There’s often joy as well to celebrate their lives. But when we think about death itself, there’s a lot of sadness involved. Because death is wrong. It’s unnatural.
We’re so used to death, that it seems like just one of those facts we have to deal with. But this too is something that happened after sin entered the world. Death happens because we’re sinners. It’s not right. And unless we’re in a moment of deep despair, none of us long for death. We want to live.
Do you think you’re going to Heaven when you die? Many of us think of Heaven as a nice place, where our relatives go when life is over. And we kinda hope we get there. And that assumes, that after we die, that’s not the end. Well Paul says, if there’s no resurrection, then there is nothing.
“Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.”
There were people that they loved that had passed away, similar to us. Paul is talking about the Christians they know who died. And Paul is saying if Jesus didn’t rise, then they just perished. They’re done. There is no eternity with God.
And he goes even further to say, you should pity Christians. You should feel bad for us.
Why Are We to Be Pitied?
Now most people who think of Christianity as a thing where you just go to church sometimes randomly, and maybe you remember the Lord’s prayer, don’t understand why Paul would say this. Because in their mind, the only thing Christians are really losing is Sunday. But following Christ is so much more.
Christ calls for our all. He asks for everything. He asks that we lay our lives down. That we take up our cross. That we build our lives around him. And if he didn’t really get up, we’re stupid. Pity us. Because all we’ve done is throw our lives away for no reason.
If Christ didn’t raise, there is no eternal life.
But since he did raise, there is eternal life!
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
There is eternal life. You can be raised. And live forever with God. Christians are not to be pitied. Christians are those who have a hope beyond the grave. What can you do to a man who doesn’t fear death? Paul is a great example of this in Philippians 1. He’s fine with death because it means he gets to go be with Jesus.
Do you share that fearlessness that Paul has? That only comes from one who’s trusted in the reality of the death and resurrection of Jesus.
To sum up: Yes. It matters if Jesus got up. And he did get up. His story is similar to others in that he dies. Everyone dies. But not everyone gets up. Jesus got up. And he promises that if we are in Him we too will get up and spend our eternity with him. Have you trusted in him?