The Evidence of Jesus’ Resurrection: An Easter Sermon
Today I am overviewing evidence of Jesus’ resurrection. This is a brief excerpt from Easter Sermon on the Evidence of Jesus’ Resurrection which is available on Amazon. Pastors, feel free to use the full sermon for preaching the message at your church.
Convincing Resurrection Proofs Excerpt:
The empty tomb –
The issue is simple, if Jesus died and stayed dead, why did His tomb turn up empty? The biblical record has all four of the gospel writers recording the empty tomb.
“But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus,” (Luke 24:1-3, ESV).
Dr. Paul L. Maier, professor of Ancient History at Western Michigan University, said, “Accordingly, if all the evidence is weighed carefully and fairly, it is indeed justifiable, according to the canons of historical research to conclude that the sepulcher of Joseph of Arimathea, in which Jesus was buried, was actually empty on the morning of the first Easter. And not thread of evidence has yet been discovered in literary sources, epigraphy, or archaeology that would disprove this statement.”1
Appearances and eyewitness accounts –
The New Testament writers documented that over a period of 40 days Jesus appeared alive at least a dozen different times to more than 515 people (different times, different places, different people). In any courtroom if there are two to three eyewitnesses it’s considered a solid case. The resurrection had 515 eyewitnesses. To put that in perspective, imagine that we called to the stand each of the 515 and they took 15 minutes to tell us what they saw. It would take from breakfast on Monday until dinner on Saturday (129 hours of non-stop testimony) to hear them all.
In what may be the earliest document recording the resurrection, the apostle Paul appealed to living witnesses, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep,” (1 Corinthians 15:3-6, ESV).
This is an open invitation. “If you don’t believe me” Paul says, “check it out with all these other witnesses.”
Some have suggested that what was happening was hallucination. These “witnesses” thought they saw the risen Christ, but they really didn’t. They were just hoping, expecting, and wanting it to happen, so their minds created it. The problem is that hallucinations by their nature are private events, subjective experiences. They are like dreams. They are not events shared between people. And they are momentary.
The appearances of Jesus involved many different people, over 40 days. As we read in 1 Corinthians 15, on one occasion more than 500 people saw Him at the same time. One expert said that 500 people sharing the same hallucination would be a bigger miracle than the Resurrection itself!
Besides, the followers of Jesus weren’t looking for Him to be resurrected. The gospels tell us on that first Easter Sunday, the disciples were fearful and hiding for their lives. When Jesus appeared to them, Luke tells us they were terrified and frightened. They thought they were seeing a ghost. Jesus proved He was not a hallucination by carrying on conversation with them, showing them the wounds in His hands and feet, and eating some broiled fish in their presence.
The disciple’s transformation –
From fearful, cowering men who ran when Jesus was arrested and sentenced to death; to bold, confident proclaimers of the resurrection who as a reward for their efforts, were beaten, stoned to death, thrown to the lions, tortured, and crucified. Every conceivable method was used to stop them from talking. Yet, they laid down their lives as the ultimate proof of their complete confidence in the truth of their message.
Change in worship –
This may seem small, but think of what it took to change centuries of law and tradition concerning the day of worship. The Jews worshipped on the last day of the week, Saturday (the Sabbath) for thousands of years. But after the resurrection, His church, which began with Jewish believers, changed from Saturday to Sunday. People don’t give up cherished beliefs unless something tremendous has happened. That something tremendous was the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Our Christian belief in the resurrection is not some blind acceptance of a religious pill to help us feel better as we journey through life. It rests on solid, credible evidence available to anyone who wants to investigate the facts.
- Paul Maier, “The Empty Tomb as History,” Christianity Today, March 28, 1975.
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