The Case For The Resurrection
The following is a summary of the sermon I preached at the Cornerstone on Easter Sunday, April 16, 2017:
THE CASE FOR THE RESURRECTION
Part 2 of The Case for Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:1-7
Easter, April 16, 2017. The Cornerstone Church.
BIBLE READING - Luke 24:1-8; 1 Corinthians 15:1-7
For Christians, every Sunday is Easter. For 2,000 years, we have gathered on the Lord’s Day to celebrate the victory of Christ over sin and death and the grave. If you think about it, for genuine Christians, every day is Easter because every day we live united to Jesus in his death and resurrection (Romans 6:1-4). The living Jesus is living in us (John 14:17-18). We've been raised with Jesus from spiritual death. We've been raised up with Jesus and seated with him in the heavenly realm (Ephesians 2:5-6).
These are heavy truths - especially if you're hearing them for the first time. And you might be asking, how can I know the resurrection really happened? Is there any proof? I'm so glad you asked. The proof is abundant and convincing. I've staked my whole life and eternity on it. I want to suggest, you should too.
These Bible passages were written to present evidence for the resurrection. Luke was written around 70 AD and 1 Corinthians around 55 AD to a church - in other words, very close in time to the actual events - 25-40 years. The scholars of religion tell us that that was insufficient time to have invented religious myths. What we’ve read is raw data based on real events.
Today, I want to show you three lines of evidence from 1 Corinthians 15. At the end, I’m going to ask you for your verdict.
Let’s dive in:
PROOF #1: THE PATTERN EVIDENCE - verses 1-2.
Every Christian in the first century believed that Jesus died and Jesus rose. They worshipped a living Savior. This was the PATTERN in every church. Peter was the first Christian preacher. His proclamation always included the resurrection :
Peter to the crowd in Jerusalem - just 50 days after the resurrection: “… you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. - Acts 2:23-24
Peter to Cornelius, the Roman centurion: “They killed him by hanging him on a cross, 40 but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen.” - Acts 10:39-40
Peter to the Jewish Government: 10 then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. - Acts 4:10
In 51 AD, Paul arrived in Corinth. He preached in the synagogue until he was kicked out (Acts 18:7-8). Then he moved next door and kept on teaching the Gospel - good news. What was the content? 1 Corinthians 15:3-4: Christ died; Christ rose. They believed and were baptized.
Verse 1 reminds the Corinthians that they received what Paul said - they “accepted” it as true. They examined the evidence and put their faith in the risen Christ. They found the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus so compelling that they took their stand on it. What does that mean? They staked their relationships, their jobs, their families, their futures, their lives and their eternities on the risen Jesus. If they were wrong, they would lose everything for nothing. If they were right, they would rise with Christ and spend eternity with God - they would be saved from sin and death.
Why were they willing to step out and choose for Christ? Only one explanation will do: The evidence for the resurrection was overwhelming.
PROOF #2: THE PREDICTIVE EVIDENCE - verses 3-4.
The first preachers didn’t invent the resurrection of Christ. It was actually an ancient concept, PREDICTED in the Old Testament, but not understood until it actually happened (Mark 9:30-32).
Verses 3-4 are actually a very early statement of the church’s faith (a creed) written very soon after the actual events - maybe around 32-38 AD. Do you see the repeated phrase in the creed: "according to the Scriptures?” This is talking about ancient Old Testament predictions/promises of the resurrection. It wasn't made up on the spur of the moment by a desperate band of deluded disciples.
There are two main Old Testament predictions of the resurrection:
Psalm 16, was written by King David around 1000 BC, but not about David because he died and was buried and did not rise: “My heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, 10 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay. 11 You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” - Psalm 16:9-10.
The Old Testament prophecy of Isaiah looked forward five centuries to the miracle of the resurrection. Isaiah 53 predicts the crucifixion of Christ, then it says: “It was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand. After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied ...” - Isaiah 53:10-11.
So how are ancient prophecies evidence of Christ’s resurrection? The way I see it, these predictions anchor the cross and the resurrection in the eternal plan of God, not in the imagination of man. God planned it. God promised it. Then God did it. Resurrection sounds unbelievable and impossible until you put God in the equation. Is anything too difficult for God (Genesis 18:14; Jeremiah 32:27)?
That’s how these new Christians in Corinth saw it. And it convinced them to believe.
PROOF #3: THE PERSONAL EVIDENCE - verses 6-7.
This is probably the most compelling proof for us - PERSONAL eyewitness testimony. And here, Paul gives it to us in abundance. Paul lists one eyewitness after another. Notice the diversity:
The Devastated Disciple - Cephas, Peter, who had denied Jesus and run away.
The Skeptical Brother - James, the half-brother of Jesus. James thought Jesus had lost his mind - Mark 3:21. He was not a believer until he met the risen Jesus. Then he was the pastor of the church in Jerusalem until 62 AD when the leaders of Israel killed him.
The Grieving Groups - the twelve and the apostles - people who had followed Jesus, but lost hope when he was arrested and killed. Matthew 28:16-17; Luke 24:33-37.
The Curious Crowds - the 500. Matthew 28:16-17; Acts 1:3.
The Relentless Persecutor - Saul, who became Paul after he met the risen Jesus. Acts 9:1.
Paul is telling the Corinthians this: The risen Jesus was seen by multiple people from all sorts of backgrounds. Men and women. Doubters and skeptics. People of faith and people of no faith. Not one of them expected what happened. And yet, they all saw Jesus risen and alive - speaking and eating. Visible and touchable. Not a ghost. Solid.
Paul's experience is the most dramatic of all: “As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied.” - Acts 9:3-5
It’s tough to argue with the eyewitness evidence. It’s backed up by over 500 people who saw Jesus at different times and in different places.
It was good enough for the Corinthians. Is it good enough for you?
All this evidence demands a verdict. We cannot sit back as spectators. There is too much at stake, including your eternal destiny: “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” - 1 Corinthians 15:17-19.
What will you do with Jesus? There is so much evidence that Jesus rose from the dead. I’ve only given three proofs. There is so much more. Do you need more evidence? Pick up a copy of the Case for Easter - it's free on the table in the Atrium.
Can I be totally frank with you? If you reject the risen Christ, it’s not because of any lack of proof. It’s because you don’t want Jesus telling you what to do. You want your freedom. You like your life just the way it is. You don’t feel guilty and you see no need for a Savior from sin. You’re doing fine on your own. Would you agree with me that plenty of people think they are totally OK when they are totally not? Cancer can be symptom free. Heart disease is a silent killer. Trust me, without Christ you are at odds with God - even if you feel just fine.
If you keep on rejecting Christ, you are headed for trouble. On Thursday, I was driving along 16 Mile Road when all the traffic slowed down to a crawl. In the intersection with Gratiot, a little Fiat had smashed into a garbage truck. You know who won, right?
If you keep on rejecting Jesus, you’re going to end up like that Fiat. You’re going to collide with God and it’s not going to be pretty. Because you’ll be exposed for what you really are: a rebel at war with God; a sinner without a savior; guilty and condemned. God will send you to hell forever.
Don’t let that be you. Turn from self and sin. Trust everything to the crucified, risen Savior. Come to him for cleansing, forgiveness, and restoration to God. Jesus will give you life to the full, a new quality of life, a life that goes on forever.
What is your verdict?