(From a sermon I gave at Beatty Baptist Church on April 12, 2020.)
For those of you who don’t know me, I’m the curious type. Always have been. When something interests me, I try to find out as much about it as possible. When I was young, I would satisfy my curiosity by reading National Geographic magazines and encyclopedia articles. In fact, I preferred reading to socializing. I’m still somewhat like that. Social distancing is not a problem for me.
When I find something worthy of my interest, I want to know as much about it as I can. Satisfying my curiosity begins with asking the right questions. And my favorite question to ask is “Why?”
During this coronavirus pandemic, those in authority have told us to stay put, to stay at home. The governor has ordered us to do so. Why? Because the virus is very contagious, easily spread by human contact. So we need to minimize that contact to slow the spread of the disease. A slower spread helps to “flatten the curve” so our hospitals won’t be as overwhelmed.
But some people ignore the warnings and socialize when they shouldn’t. Again, the question is why? Recently some Texas students ignored the warnings and went to Mexico for spring break. 44 of them caught the virus, and they’re not the only ones. Why would these people ignore the warnings? Why do so many people ignore the authorities? If you ask them, they’ll give you reasons, but I’m sure they’re not good ones. So, in this case I don’t think this question of why is worthy to take time to answer.
Today we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Three days before His resurrection, Jesus died a cruel death on a Roman cross and His body was placed in a borrowed tomb. The Jewish authorities placed a seal on the tomb with a guard. Why? The answer is in Matthew:
The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’ 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 dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.”
Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.” So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard.
– Matthew 27:62-66
Our governor has ordered us to stay put at home to avoid catching and spreading a deadly disease. The Jewish authorities had basically ordered Jesus’ body to stay in the tomb put to avoid the spread of the life-giving gospel. But thankfully that didn’t stop Jesus rising from the dead, and even “socializing” with His disciples over a period of 40 days.
If you ask yourself why Jesus had to die, your Bible will show you it was to pay the penalty for your sins. Hebrews 9:22: “…without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” So we know why Jesus had to die. But why did He have to rise from the dead? His death gave us forgiveness, but what did His resurrection do for us? Why was it necessary? Again, your Bible has the answer, or rather answers because it gives multiple reasons for the resurrection.
After the resurrection, the first time Jesus appeared to the 11 remaining disciples, He proved to them that it was really Him. He showed them the nail marks in His hands and feet, then He ate some fish so they would know they were not seeing a ghost. He said, in Luke 24, beginning in verse 44:
“These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead…
– Luke 24:44-46
So one reason Jesus had to rise from the dead was to fulfill the prophecies in the Old Testament scriptures. One of those prophecies is in Isaiah 53 which speaks of a Messiah who would suffer and die, but who would also live to see the results of His sufferings. Daniel 9:26 said the Messiah would die, but Daniel 7:13-14 said the Messiah would live to reign forever. Sounds contradictory, doesn’t it? But the resurrection proved both were true. When Jesus died and rose again, He proved He is that foretold Messiah. He’s the only one to fulfill all of the Old Testament Messianic prophecies. The prophecies of the resurrection also proved God knew all along Jesus would have to die and rise again. It was God’s intent from the beginning. Jesus’ death and resurrection was not Plan B. It was Plan A all along.
Not only did the resurrection prove Jesus is the Messiah, it also proved He is the Son of God. Paul’s letter to the Romans begins this way…
Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.
– Romans 1:1-4
So the resurrection also proved Jesus is the Son of God. But what does that mean? To be called the Messiah means God has chosen Him to rule over all men forever. “Messiah” is Jesus’ office, His function. He is King of kings. But when Jesus is called “the Son of God”, it means He is of the same nature as God. He is God in human flesh. God with skin on. Emmanuel: God with us.
So the resurrection shows us who Jesus is. It proves to us He is who He claimed to be. He is the Messiah and the Son of God. But you might say, “That’s all well and good, but how does the resurrection benefit me personally?”
The church at Corinth had a lot of problems: there were different factions, there was immorality, and there was selfishness. Much of Paul’s first letter to them addressed these concerns. But there was also a doctrinal problem in that church. There were some who were saying there is no resurrection. Once a body dies, it stays dead. Paul took a whole chapter to address this fallacy:
Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 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.
But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.
– 1 Corinthians 15:12-22
We know Jesus died to save us. From this passage, we also know He rose from the dead to save us too. If Jesus didn’t rise from the grave, we would still be lost in our sins. We would be living under a false hope.
Romans 4:25 says Jesus was “raised for our justification.” Justification means to be declared righteous in God’s eyes. So Jesus was raised so God would see us as righteous – without sin. How does the resurrection do this? Isn’t the blood of Jesus enough? Yes and no. Jesus Christ’ resurrection proves He is our Savior. It is the proof that God has accepted who Jesus claimed to be and has accepted His sacrifice on our behalf to pay the penalty for our sins. It is God’s way of showing us that Jesus’ work on the cross has God’s stamp of approval.
Think of it like getting a legal document notarized. If you have some legal paperwork that needs to be signed in such as way as to be proof that you have signed it and not someone else, you take that paperwork to a notary public. After you provide proof that it is really you, both you and the notary sign the document. The resurrection is like God’s signature that Jesus is who He said He is, and that what He did is accepted by God.
Or think of it as a building inspector giving approval for a new building to be inhabited. The building may have been built perfectly to code and be completely safe, but it requires the inspector to give his approval before people can live in it. The resurrection is God’s approval of Christ’s completed work in saving us.
So both Jesus’ death and resurrection work hand-in-hand to save us. You can also see the necessity of the resurrection for our salvation in these verses:
For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.
– Romans 5:10
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…
1 Peter 1:3
Our hope is a living hope. It’s not dead, for Jesus is our hope and He’s alive! Peter also wrote in verse 24 that God raised Jesus “from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.”
Because Jesus lives, we will also live, as Jesus Himself said:
“… Because I live, you also will live.”
– John 14:19
So our salvation is strongly tied to Christ’s resurrection. But the resurrection also affects us in other ways…
Think of all the things Jesus promised to be and do for us. If there is no resurrection, then He can’t be or do those things:
- If Jesus did not rise from the dead, He could not have sent the Holy Spirit to be with us and fill us.
- If Jesus did not rise from the dead, we would be sheep without a Shepherd to protect and provide for us.
- If Jesus did not rise from the dead, we would not be the Bride of Christ. You can’t have a wedding if the Groom is dead.
- If Jesus did not rise from the dead, the Church, which is the Body of Christ, would be only a lifeless, headless corpse.
- If Jesus did not rise from the dead, we would have no place prepared for us in heaven. And He couldn’t come back for us to bring us to our new home.
- And if Jesus did not rise from the dead, we wouldn’t have anybody to represent us before the Father. We would not have an eternal Advocate.
As Paul said back in 1 Corinthians, “if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” If that is true, we might as well close the church doors and live like the rest of the world.
But Jesus did rise from the dead. Chuck Colson, who before he was saved was involved in the Watergate scandal back in the 70’s, said, “I know the resurrection is a fact, and Watergate proved it to me. How? Because twelve men testified they had seen Jesus raised from the dead, then they proclaimed that truth for forty years, never once denying it. Every one was beaten, tortured, stoned and put in prison. They would not have endured that if it weren’t true. Watergate embroiled twelve of the most powerful men in the world – and they couldn’t keep a lie for three weeks. You’re telling me twelve apostles could keep a lie for forty years? Absolutely impossible.”
We serve a risen Savior, and on benefit we receive from that is that He always lives to intercede for us.
Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised— who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.
– Romans 8:33-34
I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have Jesus praying for me than the whole world praying for me! If I sin, I know only Jesus can intercede for me to the Father. If I have some need, I know His prayers always get answered “Yes!” He always seeks my own best interest.
Hebrews 7:25 also says Jesus “is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.”
So the resurrection of Jesus not only proves He is the Messiah and the Son of God, it’s also an essential part of our salvation and relationship with our Heavenly Father.
The Bible gives other reasons for the resurrection, but I want us to look at just one more that has important significance for you and me.
At one time, Paul was a zealous persecutor of the early Christians. But he had an eye-opening encounter with Jesus that changed him almost instantly into a defender of the faith. Paul, who was once what we might call an orthodox Jew today, became a missionary to the gentiles to tell them about Jesus. Once he was in Athens, and seeing all of the idols everywhere, he was disturbed. So every day he reasoned with the people in the Jewish synagogue and the public marketplace, speaking to them about Jesus Christ. Some of the Greek philosophers wanted to know more of what Paul was talking about, so they brought him to the Areopagus to explain himself.
So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.”
– Acts 17:22-23
And from there, Paul spoke to them of Yahweh, of Jehovah God, how He is not at all like the idols they worshiped. God created everything. He doesn’t live in temples. He doesn’t need anything from us (…but we’re entirely dependent on Him). God desires all men to know Him and that knowledge begins with repentance – the laying down of our animosity to God.
The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.
– Acts 17:30-31
So here we have another reason for the resurrection – one that will eventually effect each one of us. Jesus was raised so He can judge the world in righteousness. This should concern you, because you and I must eventually appear before Him. There will be no exceptions. I will be judged and you will be judged. A description of what will happen during this judgment in Revelation chapter 20, beginning in verse 11:
Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
– Revelation 20:11-15
So your eternal destiny will be determined not by the things you did, but by the Book of Life, described elsewhere as “the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.” If your name is in that book, then it doesn’t matter how bad you were, you will not be condemned. Paul was saved, and he had previously murdered Christians. But if your name is not in that book, then you will be condemned no matter how much good you’ve done, because no amount of good works can outweigh the guilt of the sins you have committed. The question is, how do you get your name written in the Book of Life?
You can’t earn it. The only way your name will appear there will be if you trust in Jesus Christ alone to save you. He died on the cross so you would not have to pay the penalty for your sins. He took that penalty on Himself because He loves you and doesn’t want you to perish. John 3:16-18 says:
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God.”
– John 3:16-18
Paul wrote in Romans 10:9 “…if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
All it takes is simple faith. You can express this faith to God in a simple prayer. It matters not the specific words of the prayer – it’s not the prayer itself that saves. It is Jesus who saves when you believe in Him. Just express your new belief and trust in Jesus to save you from your sins. You could say something like this:
God, I know I am a sinner. I’m so much a sinner that you sent your Son, Jesus Christ, to die a horrible death in my place, to take the penalty for my sin. I no longer want to live the way I’ve lived. I want to live to please You. I now put my trust completely in your Son, Jesus, knowing that by doing so, I will not be condemned, but will live and reign with Jesus forever. Thank you for saving me. Amen.
If you have put your faith in Jesus Christ, you now have eternal life, never to be separated from God. Jesus is no longer your Judge to condemn you, He is your Advocate to intercede for you. And one day, you too will be resurrected just like Jesus to be with Him in glory.