Sun, Apr 04, 1999

Easter 1999 - He is Risen!

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Ministry of Pastor Joe Guglielmo teachings through the Bible, verse by verse for a better understanding of Gods Word.

EASTER 1999: HE IS RISEN!

JOHN 20:1-10

Listen to this story of a little boy named Philip, who was born with Down’s Syndrome. Philip attended a third-grade Sunday school class with several eight-year-old boys and girls. Typical of that age, the children did not readily accept Philip with his differences. But because of a creative teacher, they began to care about Philip and accept him as part of the group, though not fully.

The Sunday after Easter the teacher brought Leggs pantyhose containers, the kind that look like large eggs. Each receiving one, the children were told to go outside on that lovely spring day, and they were to find some symbol for new life, and put it in the egg like container. Back in the classroom, they would share their new life symbols, opening the containers one by one in surprise fashion.

After running about the church property in wild confusion, the students returned to the classroom and placed the containers on the table. Surrounded by the children, the teacher began to open them one by one. After each one, whether a flower, butterfly, or leaf, the class would ooh and ahh.

Then one was opened, revealing nothing inside. The children exclaimed, "That’s stupid. That’s not fair. Somebody didn’t do their assignment." Philip spoke up, "That’s mine." "Philip, you don’t ever do things right!" the student retorted. "There’s nothing there!" "I did so do it," Philip insisted. "I did do it. It’s empty. The tomb was empty!"

Silence followed. From then on Philip became a full member of the class. He died not long afterward from an infection most children would have shrugged off. At the funeral this class of eight-year-old’s marched up to the altar not with flowers, but with their Sunday school teacher, each to lay on it an empty pantyhose egg.

In most, if not all other religions, the focus is upon the leaders life, not his death. But Christianity we see that the focus is not only on the life of Jesus, God becoming flesh and dwelling among us, but upon His death and resurrection. You see, if Jesus died and remained in that condition, as Paul said "For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And ifChrist is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who havefallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are ofall men the most pitiable." I Corinthians 15:16-19.

In other words, if Christ did not rise from the dead, if His body is still in the tomb, then we are still lost in our sins, our faith is empty, and we are fools to trust in that vain or empty hope. But Paul does not leave us in that hopeless condition, he goes on to say, "But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive." I Corinthians 15:20-22

Our celebration this Easter 1999 is not because the tomb is occupied, but the tomb is empty, Jesus has risen from the dead. And I have been in Israel, I have seen the tomb that Jesus used for the weekend from Joseph of Arimathea, and it is empty! In fact, they have done some soil analysis of the dirt in that tomb and they have found that there is no decomposition or decay of a body or flesh in the soil, for Jesus rose from the dead. It is as Psalm 16:10 says, "For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption."

In saying that, lets go back to that first day of the week, resurrection morning, spoken of in John chapter 20, and lets begin reading in verse 1.

JOHN 20:1-10

On the first day of the week, early Sunday morning, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of Jesus, and Salome all went to the tomb of Jesus to embalm Him afresh, to do a more complete job than Joseph and Nicodemus did 3 days earlier. (Mark 16:1, Luke 24:1, Matthew 28:1).

And so, before the sun was up they began their journey to the tomb, and upon their arrival, the sun was coming up over the horizon. And to their horror, not only was the stone rolled away, but the tomb was empty.

Now you can imagine the emotional turmoil they were going through. Not only was their Lord murdered, but now His body was stolen from the grave, or at least that is what they are thinking. And Mary Magdalene, not knowing what else to do, runs on ahead to tell the other disciples what has happened, that "...‘They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him." John 20:2.

Looking back on the situation, when you look at how secure that tomb really was, no one could steal the body of Jesus from that grave. The stone that was rolled in front of the opening of the tomb weighed between 3 and 4 thousand pounds, very difficult to move by yourself, to say the least. The tomb was sealed with a Roman seal that was a piece of string that went across either side of the stone and placed in sealing clay and then sealed with the signet ring. If you broke the seal it meant death. And lastly, the Roman guard, made up of 16 soldiers, 4 soldiers per shift on guard at all times, day and night. If anyone of the four would fall asleep on duty, it meant death not only for that person, but also for the other 3. So there was great incentive to stay awake, even if you were beat, the other guards would do their best to keep you awake, their life was a stake here. No the body of Jesus was not stolen away, but what else was Mary to think?

As Mary informs Peter and John of what has taken place, Peter and John began a foot race to see the tomb for themselves. They must have thought, or were hoping she was just hysterical and wrong. And you have to love John here, it is probably a man thing, we tend to be very competitive, and John inserts that not only did they run together to the tomb, but John outran Peter and got to the tomb first! Peter, if he wrote this, probably wouldn’t have included that fact, he lost the race.

I’m sure they both ran as fast as they could to try and see and figure out what had happened, and John, being younger, was faster and maybe in better shape, had more endurance, and beat Peter to the tomb.

Whatever the case, as John got their first, he looked into the tomb and "saw" the grave clothes just sitting there, no body, just an empty shell of grave clothes. And John, at this point did not enter the tomb, but stood outside looking in. And the Greek word that is used for "saw" is BLEPO, which speaks of or carries the idea "to perceive".

In other words, as John got to the tomb and saw the stone rolled away, looked into the tomb and saw the grave clothes just lying there with no body in them, he realized the body wasn’t stolen. Thus, he pauses at the door and begins to contemplate these things. John is taking a glance over the situation that was before him.

Now, as John is standing there at the entrance to the tomb, here comes Peter. And knowing the character of Peter, you would expect this of him. Peter doesn’t stop at the opening of the tomb, but runs right in to see what is going on. And Peter also "saw" the grave clothes just lying there and not only that, but the cloth that covered His face was moved to another location, and it was folded up. Again, if you were going to steal a body, you would not take the time to do these things.

And we are once again told that Peter "saw" and a different Greek word is being used here. It is the word THEOREO which carries with it the idea "to gaze, to look with interest and for a purpose, usually indicating the careful observation of details."

In other words, as Peter runs into the empty tomb, he begins to look around at all he is seeing. He begins to process that information, "Stone rolled away, guards gone, empty grave clothes that looked like an empty shell laying there, and even the face cloth moved to another location and folded." And yet, all the information went into Peter’s mind, but it did not compute! Peter saw all that had taken place but he did not understand what had happened, what it all meant.

Now don’t come to the conclusion that Jesus hid these things from His men. He was open about the things that were going to take place. Of course, this was towards the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry, and in Matthew chapter 16, beginning in verse 21 we read "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 the third day. Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, ‘Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!’ But He turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men." Matthew 16:21-23.

Notice, Jesus not only spoke of His death, but also of His resurrection from the dead on the third day. Peter refused to hear what Jesus was saying, Peter had his own plan, but Jesus said the plan of Peter’s was of the Devil! Why? Because without the cross, without the shedding of blood, without the perfect sacrifice, without the death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we would still be dead in our trespasses and sins. And that is Satan’s plan, to get our eyes off the cross, to keep us away from that abundant life that God has for us, to keep us from the truth that God has for us.

Now it is interesting to me that we see not only Peter not hear what Jesus was saying, but the rest did not hear and believe, or understand what Jesus was saying about His death and resurrection on the third day. But do you know who did hear? The religious leaders of the day! They heard, but they did not believe that Jesus was going to be able to pull this off Himself, but they did recognized what Jesus taught, and they were very concerned over that.

In Matthew chapter 27, beginning in verse 62, we read of the events that transpired after Jesus was placed in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. We read "On the next day, which followed the Day of Preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees gathered together to Pilate,

saying, ‘Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, ‘After threedays I will rise.’ Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day, lestHis disciples come by night and steal Him away, and say to the people, ‘He has risen fromthe dead.’ So the last deception will be worse than the first.’ Pilate said to them, ‘You havea guard; go your way, make it as secure as you know how.’ So they went and made thetomb secure, sealing the stone and setting the guard." Matthew 27:62-66.

Isn’t it interesting how these religious leaders, unbelievers listened intently to the words of Jesus, intellectually they understood what He said, but they did not believe. They clearly understood that Jesus said He was going to rise from the dead on the third day, but they thought one of His disciples would do the dirty work, and steal the body. And so Pilate sends a Roman guard to oversee the tomb so that no one would steal the body of Jesus.

Now as Peter is standing there in the tomb, John must have been awakened out of his staring in amazement, and he walks in also. And again it says that John "saw", and another Greek word is used here to express what was taking place with John as He looked around and processed this information.

The Greek word that John used for "saw" in this verse is EIDOS which carries with it the idea "to perceive with outward senses, to perceive with the mind, understand." John put two and two together and came up with 4! He understood what had happened. The body of Jesus wasn’t stolen in the night by grave robbers. He had risen! He understood by what he saw, the evidence was overwhelming.

Peter, on the other hand, is still looking, and he hasn’t come up with an answer yet. They both had the same information that their senses were taking in, but Peter did not process that information and come to a conclusion at this point. He did not understand that the Lord had risen from the dead as He said He was going to do! In fact, in Luke 24:12 we are told that Peter "...departed, marveling to himself at what had happened." He couldn’t figure it out yet!

But John saw and he believed, he put his trust in what he saw and came to a conclusion of faith, the Lord has risen!

Now some like to argue that there is no evidence for the resurrection of Christ. I have to disagree with that. You see, when an event takes place in history and there are enough people alike who are eyewitnesses of it or had participation in the event, and when the information is published, one is able to verify the validity of an historical event. And so lets look at the evidence that is given to us as Wilbur Smith summarizes it for us. He said:

"The simple truth is that the resurrection of the Lord Jesus is a well-attested fact of history. He presented himself alive to his disciples after his passion by many infallible proofs. Think of these specific instances when he appeared to his own:

1. To Mary Magdalene (Mark 16:9-11).

2. To the women (Matt. 28:8-10).

3. To Peter (Luke 24:34).

4. To the two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-32).

5. To the disciples, except Thomas (John 20:19-25).

6. To the disciples, including Thomas (John 20:26-31).

7. To the seven disciples by the Sea of Galilee (John 21).

8. To over 500 believers (1 Cor. 15:7).

9. To James (1 Cor. 15:7).

10. To the disciples on the Mount of Olives (Acts 1:3-12).

One of the great foundation stones, unshakable and unmovable, of our Christian faith, is the historic evidence for the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Here you and I can stand and do battle for the faith because we have a situation which cannot be contradicted. It can be denied, but it can not be disproved."

Yes, many may try to deny the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, but they can’t disprove it. The evidence is overwhelming. And with all the eyewitnesses of His resurrection, it would be easy to verify the facts to see if they were just lies, just stories made up, or the truth!

In fact, our judicial system is based upon eyewitness accounts of what took place, and with the testimony of one or two eyewitnesses, the more you have the better, for the jurors can see the truth and come to a right verdict in the situation. There were over 500 eyewitnesses of the resurrection of Christ, in which Paul tells us that some were still alive when he wrote his first letter to the Corinthian church, and thus, they could easily check out the story.

The English legal expert, Lord Darling, concluded after examining the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection:

"We as Christians, are asked to take a very great deal on trust; the teachings, for example, and the miracles of Jesus. If we had to take all on trust, I, for one, should be skeptical. The crux of the problem of whether Jesus was, or was not, what he proclaimed himself to be, must surely depend upon the truth...of the resurrection. On that greatest point we are not merely asked to have faith. In its favuor as a living truth there exists such overwhelming evidence, positive and negative, factual and circumstantial, that no intelligent jury in the world can fail to bring in a verdict that the resurrection story is true."

You see, the problem is not a lack of evidence, it is the unwillingness to add up the facts and come to the conclusion that the evidence supports the resurrection. Who are you more like this morning, Peter who saw but couldn’t add things up, or John who saw with his eyes, put two and two together, and came to the conclusion that Jesus is risen?

If you don’t believe, why not? Is it not important to you? Do you feel that it really doesn’t matter? Do you feel there is no point in believing no matter what the evidence says? You are wrong, not because of what I have to say or what I believe, but because what God has said!

Listen carefully to the words of Paul to the Corinthian church, and to us today. Paul said this beginning in I Corinthians chapter 15, verses 1-2, "Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you-- unless you believed in vain." Paul is saying that it is believing and applying the Gospel message to our hearts which brings salvation into our lives. But what is the Gospel message? Don’t listen to the foolishness of what man has to say, you will come up with all kinds of weird ideas. Paul tells us very clearly beginning in verse 3 of I Corinthians 15. We read "For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures." I Corinthians 15:3-4.

The Gospel message is so simple that a child can understand it. Believe that Jesus, God incarnate, became flesh so that He might die for our sins and the sins of the world. Not only that He died, but He defeated death by rising from the grave on the third day. If you don’t believe, you are lost in your sins, eternally separated from God.

God is calling for you to see with your eyes, to receive with your heart His free gift of life that He has for you. But that is your choice. The evidence is overwhelming, but you can close your eyes to it. But you will lose in the end.

If you feel the Holy Spirit tugging on your heart this morning and you want to know what to do to be saved, listen again to what Paul says in Romans 10:91-0. We read "that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." Ask Jesus to be Lord and Savior of your life, to forgive you of all your sins, believe by faith, and you shall be saved! It is that simple, but it will cost you everything!

For those that have made that commitment, are born again into the family of God, listen to just a couple of results or benefits we have because of the resurrection of Christ:

1. IT AFFIRMS THAT CHRIST IS WHO HE SAID HE WAS ROMANS 1:1-4

"Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God

which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh,

and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by theresurrection from the dead."

2. IT PROVIDES ASSURANCE OF FORGIVENESS OF SINS ROMANS 4:24-25

"...It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from thedead, who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of ourjustification."

3. IT ASSURES US THAT ALL POWER IS GIVEN TO US THAT IS NEEDED FORSERVICE AND LIFE PHILIPPIANS 3:10, EPHESIANS 1:18-20

"that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of Hissufferings, being conformed to His death."

"the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope ofHis calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,

and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to theworking of His mighty power

which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places."

4. IT GIVES US THE ASSURANCE THAT DEATH HAS BEEN CONQUERED I THESSALONIANS 4:14

"For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him thosewho sleep in Jesus."

Yes, the tomb was empty, the Lord has risen! But don’t leave here this morning with your hearts in that condition, empty! Let the Lord fill your heart with His love, with His presence, and He will transform your life, all you need to do is ask Him!

I want to leave you this morning with these closing thoughts from Don Stewart from his book "10 REASONS to TRUST the BIBLE". He said:

"A final fact which separates Jesus from other religious leaders is that He conquered the ultimate enemy that all of us face, death. By coming back from the dead, He provided a concrete answer to the question, ‘What will happen to us when we die?’ No other religious leader has returned from the dead to verify His claims except Jesus of Nazareth. The evidence that Jesus came back from the dead is sufficient to convince even the most skeptical...No other major religious leader has a resurrection claimed for him. In addition, the bodily resurrection of Jesus can be tested by the most rigorous historical methods. While many other religious traditions have an idea of spirit resurrections (untestable hypothesis), only the Bible proclaims a bodily resurrection that passes all tests of historical reliability. This provides the believer with a genuine hope of life beyond the grave. The resurrection of Jesus Christ separates Him from all other religious leaders, past or present for He conquered the greatest enemy we all face - death."

HE IS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE, LET HIM COME INTO YOUR LIFE!

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