Sun, Apr 23, 2000

Easter 2000 - The Risen Lord

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

EASTER 2000

THE RISEN LORD?

MATTHEW 28:1-10

Please turn in your Bibles to Matthew chapter 28, and let’s begin reading in verse 1, as we look at the story of the resurrection. (Read Matthew 28:1-10).

There is a legend that tells of an eagle that swooped down upon a village and carried off a little baby in it’s talons. The eagle took the baby back to it’s nest atop a very high mountain and the strongest men of the village tried to scale the mountain and could not! Each tried, and each failed. The mountain was just too high and too rugged! Finally, a young frail woman ascended the mountain. Up she went, letting nothing get in her way. Finally she returned with the baby wrapped in her shawl. The strong men of the village asked in amazement what was the secret of her almost superhuman strength. To which she replied, "I am the baby’s mother." This mother’s love enabled her, though young and frail, to out distance the strong men of the village and rescue her child.

Be this is only a legend, I am sure most of us have heard of stories of people doing almost superhuman feats to rescue their child. On this Resurrection morning 2000, there is another story of a Father rescuing His children from a terrible fate. And not like the story we just read, this is not just some legend. It is the story of the Father’s love and His Son willing to come and save us.

I guess the question some of you may be thinking is "Why did God have to come to save us? What happened to us that we were placed in such a condition that God had to come and rescue us from this terrible fate?" I think it is important we understand this. In Isaiah 59:1-2 we are told"Behold, the LORD'S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear."

Because of our sin we have been separated from God with no hope of bridging that gap on our own, with our own human effort. Now some may feel, "How can God be so harsh. I’m not perfect but I am also not wicked. Yes I do blow it from time to time, can’t God just forgive me and accept me the way I am?" No, He can’t!

You see, God is holy, He is righteous, there is no darkness in Him at all! It is as Habakkuk said,"You are of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on wickedness..." Habakkuk 1:13. Thus, our sins, however small we might think they are, have separated us from God. And if you think you are perfect, Paul says, "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God...For the wages of sin is death..." Romans 3:23, 6:23. And the word "all"in the Greek means all! And the penalty for that is death!

And so, before the foundations of the world were even created, before we even existed, the All-knowing God knew what He would have to do to restore man back into fellowship with Him, to bridge that gap. It was something that Job understood when he cried out, "For He is not a man, as I am, that I may answer Him, and that we should go to court together. Nor is there any mediator between us, who may lay his hand on us both." Job 9:32-33.

And in the New Testament we see Paul tell us who that bridge builder is. In I Timothy 2:4-6 Paul tells us that God "...desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man ChristJesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time." Sin has separated man from God and Jesus came to bring us back together, to be that bridge builder. But how did He do that? Peter tells us "For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that Hemight bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit." I Peter 3:18.

You see, in the Old Testament they had to sacrifice animals as a covering for their sins. But they could never take away their sins completely. It was only a temporary covering until the next time you sinned. So sacrifices were being offered up throughout the day, from morning till sundown, every day! The Law, as good, as perfect as it is, was never meant to keep you holy but to show you your need for a Savior. Sinful man can never keep a Holy Law, even though many have tried and many still do.

If you believe you can be good enough to get into heaven, work hard enough, keep the Law of God the best you can, you are dead wrong! James tells us "For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all." James 2:10. Even if you did really good, which you couldn’t, and kept every Law except you stumbled at one, you lose! You are guilty of not only that Law you broke, but the entire Law. If you live by the Law you will die by the Law!

Then what can we do? Who can we look to so that we may be freed from sin? Jesus Christ. It is as Jesus said in John 3:16-17, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved." What the Old Testament sacrifices couldn’t do, take away our sins, Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world, was going to do and has done!

And please understand this it is not only the death of Jesus that has paid the penalty for our sins, but it is the resurrection of Jesus that gives to us that new life, that hope of the resurrection of our bodies one day. If Jesus did not rise from the dead we are still in our sins, there is no hope in life after death, and all our beliefs are foolishness, they are empty, they are worthless! I like the way that Paul puts it, giving us great comfort and hope when He says in I Corinthians 15:20-22,"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."

Yes, sin came through Adam and thus, all have been born into sin, we are born with a sin nature. The spirit controlled life is dead and we are controlled by our bodily appetites, our bodily desires. If you don’t believe that, watch the news and you will see what is driving people today, they are like wild animals, controlled by their bodily appetites! But, when we come to Christ, ask Him to be our Lord and Savior, we are "Born Again," or that spirit within us is alive again and we are now not controlled by the bodily appetites but by the spirit that God has given to us! We have been made alive in Christ!

Now if Jesus did not rise from the dead, then the Christian faith is a foolish fantasy. But, if Jesus did rise from the dead it confirms His life, all that He said, His atoning work on the cross of Calvary for us. And it is not only our hope for today, but our hope for beyond the grave. The question must be, "Is Christ alive? Did He rise from the dead?" With the remainder of our time this morning, we are going to examine that question because it has eternal consequences attached to it.

WHY WE BELIEVE JESUS ROSE FROM THE DEAD

1. THE OLD TESTAMENT SPOKE OF IT

David, in Psalm 16:9-10, all of a sudden is speaking prophetically of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. He said "Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; my flesh also will rest in hope. For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, nor will You allow Your Holy One to seecorruption." Now the reason I say this is speaking of Jesus and not David or any other man is simple. David’s body did see corruption. You see, the Jews believed that after 3 days in the grave the dead bodies became corrupt. And you can go to Israel today and see the tomb of David, where his bones still remain.

But, Jesus rose on the third day, His body did not see corruption. Now you may be thinking that I am stretching this verse to mean what I want it to mean. Not true. Listen to what the New Testament has to say, because it verify’s this thought. Paul, in Acts 13, said to the people of Antioch, "God has fulfilled this for us their children, in that He has raised up Jesus. As it is also written in the second Psalm: ‘You are My Son, today I have begotten You.’ And that He raised Him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, He has spoken thus: ‘I will give you the sure mercies of David.’ Therefore He also says in another Psalm: ‘You will not allow Your Holy One to see corruption.’ For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell asleep, was buried with his fathers, and saw corruption; but He whom God raised up saw no corruption. Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins; and by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses." Acts 13:33-39.

Also, on the day of Pentecost, Peter picked up on what David said in Psalm 16, and he tells us,"For David says concerning Him: ‘I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for He is at my right hand, that I may not be shaken. Therefore my heart rejoiced, and my tongue was glad; moreover my flesh also will rest in hope. For You will not leave my soul in Hades, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption. You have made known to me the ways of life; you will make me full of joy in Your presence.’ Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up theChrist to sit on his throne, he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of theChrist, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. This Jesus Godhas raised up, of which we are all witnesses." Acts 2:25-32.

Now in that one verse, and there are others, you can clearly see how the Messiah was not only to come, but He was to die and on the third day He was to rise again. That is what the Old Testament prophets spoke of.

2. JESUS PREDICTED HIS RESURRECTION

Now it is one thing to say you are going to die, and it is quite another to say you are going to beat death, you are going to rise from the dead, but that is exactly what Jesus taught. In Matthew 16:21, we are told, "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."

In John chapter 2, as Jesus cleanses the temple by throwing out the money changers and those who were ripping off the people who were coming to worship God, He got into a confrontation with the Jews. They wanted to know who gave Him the right to do these things, is there some sign to prove they should obey His words? And in verse 19 of John chapter 2 we read "Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ Then the Jews said, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?’ But He was speaking of the temple of His body. Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said.John 2:19-22.

Not only had Jesus disrupted their business, but they thought His statement was foolish. They thought He was speaking of the temple itself, but Jesus was speaking of His body. He spoke of them destroying it, but on the third day He would rise from the dead and the disciples, having a hard time understanding things, understood this after they saw the risen Lord. Also, it says"They believed the Scripture," probably speaking of Psalm 16, as we already looked at.

So long before His death, Jesus predicted that the grave would not hold Him, that He would rise again on the third day. Jesus was not a man who lost control of the situation and was put to death because of that. He was in total control of the situation!

3. THE TOMB WAS EMPTY

Now I can attest to the fact that the tomb that Jesus was buried in, is empty. I was there and I saw it! In fact, this tomb was just used by Jesus for a few days, no other body was placed in this tomb, and there is no evidence of any kind of animal/human decay in the soil. I love the sign they placed by the tomb, it said something to the effect, "He is not here, He is risen!" How true!

Now there are many theories out there on what happened to the body of Jesus. Some say He was not dead but only passed out. And when He awoke, He was in the tomb, and He was able to remove the 100 pounds of burial spices and cloth that He was wrapped in. He then rolled away a 1 ton stone and was able to pass by the Roman guards who were guarding the tomb. If you can’t believe He rose from the dead, then how can you believe that incredible theory! I don’t think so!

Others say the disciples stole the body of Jesus and fabricated this story. The problem with this is all of these guys were afraid they were the next ones to be put to death. They locked themselves in their homes, they hid, they were terrified. And then for them to go and steal the body of Jesus out from under the watchful eye of the Roman soldiers, was ridiculous.

The reality of it all is this. If the Jewish religious leaders could have produced the body of Jesus, they would have to put to silence this new faith, as they saw it. It is as Dr. William Lane Craig wrote, "One of the most amazing facts about the early Christian belief in Jesus’ resurrection was that it originated in the very city where Jesus was crucified. The Christian faith did not come to exist in some distant city, far from eyewitnesses who knew of Jesus’ death and burial. No, it came into being in the very city where Jesus had been publically crucified, under they very eyes of its enemies" Folks, the tomb is empty, Jesus is risen!

4. MANY PEOPLE SAW THE RISEN CHRIST

This was no ghost, this was not a mass hallucination, but these people saw him, many touched Him, ate with Him, heard Him speak. In I Corinthians 15:5-8, Paul tells us that the risen Christ"...was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time."

With the number of people that Paul says saw the risen Christ, you would have easy access to check out the story. Dr. Edwin Yamauchi says of this section in I Corinthians 15, "What gives special authority to the list [of witnesses] as historical evidence is the reference to most of the five hundred brethren being still alive. St. Paul says in effect, ‘If you don’t believe me, you can ask them.’"

You see, the early Christian opponents could have squelched this movement by not having anyone to substantiate the story. Their problem was there were over 500 that had seen the risen Christ and in a court of law, by the mouth of 2 or 3 witnesses, the matter is established. I think it has been established, Christ is risen!

5. THE LIVES OF THE DISCIPLES WAS CHANGED

When you look at these guys, these disciples of Jesus, they ran away, denied Christ, feared for their lives that they would be next. But after the resurrection they feared no one and spoke boldly of the risen Lord. It is as Acts 4:33 says, "And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all."

If you are still doubting about these guys, thinking they fabricated this story, listen to what Lee Strobel said: "People will die for their religious beliefs if they sincerely believe they’re true, but people won’t die for their religious beliefs if they know their beliefs are false."

"While most people can only have faith that their beliefs are true, the disciples were in a position to know without a doubt whether or not Jesus had risen from the dead. They claimed that they saw Him, talked with Him, and ate with Him. If they weren’t absolutely certain, they wouldn’t have allowed themselves to be tortured to death for proclaiming that the Resurrection had happened."

Think about it for a minute. All these men died a martyrs death except the apostle John. You would think that at least one of them would have broken down in the face of death and said this was all a lie, we fabricated the whole thing, but they didn’t! Jesus had risen and they were eyewitnesses of that fact and were willing to die for the truth, and they did!

6. THE POWER OF THE RISEN CHRIST TODAY

We can see today the power of the risen Christ in the lives of people today who come to know Him. How God has transformed their lives, healed them, how God miraculously touched them. You see, the book of Acts, which is the story of the church, doesn’t end in verse 31 of chapter 28, but continues on today in the lives of God’s people.

I will give you just one example of what I mean, how God can turn a life around. And you can read the stories of many of the Calvary Chapel pastors and see where they were and what God did in their lives. They were so messed up society gave up on many of them, but God didn’t. The one I will share with you this morning is that of Raul Ries, pastor of Calvary Chapel of Golden Springs in Diamond Bar, California. Raul was a tough Latin street fighter whose activities got him in trouble with the law. He crippled a football player on an opposing High School team at a party. And the judge gave him a ultimatum, join the Marines or go to jail. He joined the Marines. But that did not help his anger, it only grew. And as Raul returned home, got married, had children, his behavior continued to be so bad that one day his wife was going to leave him. So she grabbed her children, went to church, and when she came home, she was going to leave him. And Raul, not wanting anyone else to have his wife, waited at home with a loaded rifle to put an end to all of their lives.

As he waited, he got board and turned on the TV, and he turned to a Sunday evening service from Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, California. And pastor Chuck Smith talked about the love God, something that Raul never experienced before, unconditional love. And as he listened, he broke down, fell to his knees, and accepted the Lord. But it didn’t end there. He got up, drove to the church were this service was being held, and made a public declaration of his love for Jesus Christ. And in that church, sitting in the seats, were his wife and children! Can God change lives? You bet!

I don’t know where you are at this morning. If you believe that Jesus paid the penalty in full for your sins on the cross of Calvary, dying and on the third day rising from the dead? But this thing I do know, you can not deny the evidence for the resurrection that is before you. You can reject it but you can’t deny it!

I want to leave you this morning with this thought. I want you to understand clearly what you are doing if you reject Jesus. Tim LaHaye, in his pamphlet Bible Prophecy What You Need To Know, said this:

In the archives of the United States Supreme Court is the record of George Wilson, a man sentenced to die by hanging for a crime he had committed. His case came before President Andrew Jackson, who granted Wilson a pardon. To everyone’s amazement, Wilson tore the pardon to shreds and threw it on the floor of his prison cell. The ensuing legal argument concerned the validity of a pardon that was refused, and the question arose as to whether or not Wilson should be freed or hanged. After great deliberation, the U. S. Supreme Court ruled as follows: "A pardon is a writing, the value of which is dependent upon the acceptance by the individual for whom it is intended." It was therefore decreed by the court that George Wilson be hanged until dead - not because a pardon was not offered, but because it was not accepted.

This is a perfect picture of the sinner who hears the gospel of Jesus Christ, knows that God has written a pardon for him, yet rejects Him and thus forfeits his right to the pardon. If you are without the Savior today, it is because you choose to be. Your choice to reject Jesus Christ automatically invalidates your pardon and sentences you to the lake of fire.

Each of us is confronted with a choice. We can admit we are sinners in need of a Savior and invite Christ into our lives, or we can choose to reject Him. In either case we will live in eternity by our choice. Those who have chosen to put their faith in Christ will rule and reign with him during the millennial kingdom and then go into the eternal ages surrounding His throne. Those who reject him will be cast into the lake of fire and separated from Him forever. As the apostle Paul put it: "Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation." (2 Corinthians 6:2).

- Tim LaHaye

Don’t waste the opportunity that is before you. You may not get another chance. If you have not met the risen Lord, all you need to do is come before Him, ask Him to forgive you of your sins, to be Lord and Savior of your life. And He will! The minute you ask Him the Bible tells us that your sins will be cast as far as the east is from the west, to be remembered no more! This is truly a glorious day, no matter what you think of it. But I pray you make it a glorious day on a personal level by accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior. Make no mistake about it, HE HAS RISEN!

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