This morning marked my 27thEasster message as pastor of ParkwayHills. In every one of these I have attempted to bring the story of Christ’s resurrection to bear upon each member of our church and its worshippers. I cannot speak for their effect, nor the sense of felt success upon the people who have endured with me, and, in many ways, I feel sorry for those who’ve sat through them all – such as my wife. :-) Yet, suffice it to say, my goal has never been to do anything more or less than make as clear as I might how key the resurrection of Christ is to our faith. Indeed, without Christ’s resurrection, there is no resurrection of the dead, our preaching is vain and we are only to be pitted. (Cf, 1st Corinthians 15: 12-22)
WHAT WE KNOW:
That sometime before dawn, or right at it. The stone covering the tomb was rolled away. The earth shook, and the men standing guard were frozen in fear. Jesus didn’t need to have the stone moved for Him. He could have moved it Himself. It was if God said to His Son, ‘here, let me get the door,’ honoring all He’d done. By dying for the sins of the world, enduring such suffering and pain, He was now raised by God’s power – on the 3rd day – just as He said He would be. Jesus was alive!
We also know that the tomb was visited by at least four women who had followed Jesus from Galilee. By putting the accounts together, we see this to be – Mary Magdalene and the ‘Other Mary’ from Matthew and we know that this “other Mary’ is also ‘Mary, Mother of James’ as given us by Mark and Luke. To these two are added Salome by Mark and Joanna by Luke.
We also know there were angels at the tomb. Some inside, some outside, some walking along the way, and others standing beside the women as they stood. Whether these were many in all of these places or some of an amount fewer and moving about, the case for their action remains – angels were everywhere – each speaking the same message of... do not be afraid, look and see He is risen, and go and tell the disciples – and, this they did!
We know that Jesus appeared to all the women as they went to tell the disciples (Matt. 28:9) but to Mary Magdalene alone (John 20: 14ff) either as the first to see him by separating from the others on the way to the disciples, or as a second to see Him by holding back at the tomb for a while and not leaving immediately with the others, but following after them a moment later.
But finally, we know that the women did go to the disciples to tell them the news. We know that when the disciples heard them they thought they were babbling, mistaken and confused. We know that at hearing all this that Peter and John ran to the tomb and went in, and that John (or, the ‘other’ disciple) outran Peter - and went in first. And we know that both of them saw that what the women had said was true. The grave was empty with only the burial cloths lying where the body had been and with the face cloth ‘not lying with the linen’ but ‘folded up in a place by itself.’ (Jn. 20:7)
Yes, and we know, finally, that before Jesus ascended to heaven He appeared to at least 500 people in all. And that among these eyewitnesses of the resurrected Christ there is no testimony by any regarding anything leading anyone to believe this untrue. Indeed, truth be told, most of these went to their death – without fear – over what they had seen. They had seen the risen Savior. Jesus was alive. And because He was, so too were they - forever.
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…
1 Cor. 15: 12-15a
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 Cor. 15: 20-22
He is Risen, indeed!