Necessary and Unimaginable: The Resurrection of Jesus Christ

Christians are weird! There is no getting around it. We celebrate our main belief—that Jesus is God himself—through two holidays that remember moments in scripture that are almost unbelievable. First, we celebrate Christmas, a moment where Jesus’s claim to divinity comes through a virgin birth. A woman conceives a baby without intercourse, no father is involved, no IVF, yet she carries a child to full-term and gives birth. This has never happened before and it has not happened since (despite, I’m sure, the claims of some embarrassed lovers).

The second event is the one we look at every year on this Easter morning. Jesus is shown to be the very Son of God, the Messiah, the long-awaited King—God himself—because, even though he died on a cross some 2000 years ago, in his own power he raised himself from the dead.

That is weird! If you are a believer in Jesus this morning, don’t forget how weird this is. You may have heard the story line so many times that you expect the next turn. Like your favorite movie, the plot twist no longer jars and amazes, but rather you look forward to it. If you are here and don’t yet believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, hear that we are admitting this is weird. We are asking you to accept a claim that with man seems impossible. A man, fully man and fully God, born of a virgin, dies on a cross for you! To take the penalty of your sins that you might be given his righteousness. He proves he is worthy of your trust and faith by raising himself from the dead and reigning now in heaven on our behalf.

Now granted, there are many other things that Jesus did. He performed miracles, he lived a perfectly righteous life, he was the very image of God to us. Yet there are many religions out there that will happily offer you an exemplary person, someone to follow and live like. These are supposedly very good people, who did many good things. But you are still expected to meet the same bar they met to move on to their version of paradise or heaven. Christianity is not offering you that promise. Christianity tells you that you cannot make it on your own—your sin prevents that. You will never be good enough. You cannot do enough to cover over your own sins. You must trust in this Jesus as your only hope. And that is the point—what is impossible with man is possible for God! 

You really only have three options when you hear this about Christianity: 

  1. These people are crazy! You either:

    1. Don’t think there is a God.

    2. You don’t have sin.

    3. You don’t need help getting to your understanding “heaven.”
      If that is you this morning, I pray you will listen anyway because I think you might be surprised on all three of those options.

  2. But I pray you might be saying to yourself, “Maybe I need to hear more about this. I have tried to do the work myself and it isn’t working. These Christians are saying something else—they are saying to trust that this man is God and it is his work that will save me, not my own work.”

  3. Praise God for his amazing plan that showed in many ways over millenia that Jesus was always the plan, and thank God for moving in ways that ultimately defy our logic and the plans we would make.

Setting (Luke 24:1–3)

This conflict, of how to understand Jesus and what he has done, is exactly the scene we find ourselves looking at this morning. It is the struggle of even Jesus’s closest friends. They weren’t ready for this to be how Jesus chose to work. It isn’t like the events of the cross were unfolding, they pulled up a chair and a cappuccino and said to one another, “Dude, three days and he is going to raise from the dead. How sweet will that be!? Everyone here will be so surprised!” No, rather as we saw last week, they stood at a distance as all these events unfolded, and wondered. What was happening? Why was Jesus dying?

In fact, as we look at these first few verses we see everyone going about the business you would expect to happen after a death. Look again at these first few sentences: 

24:1 Very early on the first day of the week, the women went to the tomb, taking the spices they’d prepared. 2 They found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance to the tomb, 3 but when they went in they didn’t find the body of the Lord Jesus.

These women were doing what you do after someone dies. Jesus died right before the Sabbath, when devout Jews abstained from any type of work or contact with something—like a dead body—that would make them unholy. So they had to quickly put his body in the tomb and didn’t prepare it the way you normally would, rather it seems Jesus’s body was just quickly wrapped in grave-clothes and then the grave sealed. These women wanted to come back and prepare the body properly with spices and such. They obviously weren’t expecting the body to be gone.

Yet they come and the stone has been conveniently rolled back. The gospel of Matthew (Matt 28:2–3) records for us that it was an angel who had moved it, and in doing so made an earthquake. We also see from Matthew that there had been a guard placed there, and the angel leaves the guards scared as though they were dead. The women peak inside, and they see that Jesus is gone.

 

What has happened? (Luke 24:4­­–8)

It is these angels who helps them understand what is going on in this moment. Look again at what the angels says to the women:

4 While they were wondering what was going on, two men suddenly appeared dressed in clothes that shone brilliantly. 5 The women were terrified and bowed down, their faces on the ground. They said to the women, “Why are you looking for someone who is alive among the dead? 6 He’s not here; he’s risen from the dead! Remember what he told you while you were still in Galilee: 7 ‘The Son of man must be betrayed into the hands of evil men, be crucified, and on the third day rise again.’”

 These angels claim Jesus is alive! And they don’t announce this as though it is amazing and fresh news, rather they act as though the women are missing something obvious. “Why are you looking for someone who is alive among the dead?” They expect the women to know better than this. They remind the women of what Jesus has said. And all of a sudden, it begins to click.

Look at the very next sentence: 

8 Then they remembered what he’d said.

 They remembered! And it began to make sense.

 Undoubtedly, they thought about all their times with Jesus and what came to mind were the many different sayings he had given them. We can see many of these right here in Luke’s account. Look at Luke 9:22:

“The Son of Man must experience terrible sufferings,” he said. “He will be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the religious teachers. He will be killed, but on the third day he will rise again.”

Turn a few more pages forward to Luke 9:44: 

“Listen carefully to what I’m telling you: the Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men.”

Luke 13:33:

“Go and tell that fox [speaking of Herod] that I will go on driving out demons and healing people for today and tomorrow, and on the third day I’ll achieve what I came to do.”

And Luke 18:31–33:

“Jesus took the twelve disciples aside, and told them, “We’re going to Jerusalem, and all that the prophets wrote about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be handed over to the foreigners; he will be mocked, insulted, and spat upon. They will flog him and kill him, but on the third day he will rise again.”

 Jesus told his friends and followers many times that he was going to suffer, die, and rise again. Yet they didn’t understand, because they couldn’t. The women run back and share with the rest of the disciples, but they don’t believe them.  

8 Then they remembered what he’d said. 9 When they returned from the tomb they reported all that had happened to the eleven disciples and to all the others. 10 Those who told the apostles what had happened were Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and other women with them. 11 But it seemed like nonsense to them, so they didn’t believe the women.

12 However Peter got up and ran to the tomb. Bending down, he looked in and saw only the linen grave-clothes. So he went back home, wondering what had happened.

Though Jesus said it again and again, he had not opened their eyes to understand what he really meant. That is exactly what Luke continues to show us in his gospel. He only shows us two other moments where Jesus meets with his disciples after he is raised, though we know Jesus met with many others during that time. What Luke focuses on is this new understanding the disciples.

In the first story, Jesus is walking with some of his disciples along the road. They don’t recognize him, yet while they are talking about what has happened in the past few days, Jesus begins to teach them. Luke 24:27:

Then, starting with Moses and all the prophets, he explained to them everything that was said in Scripture about himself.

Jesus begins to open their eyes to who he is and what he has done. This is exactly what it says in the next scene. After walking with these disciples and then leaving them in an instant, we see the disciples together, hearing this report from the two disciples Jesus talked to. And all of a sudden, he appears to them. And look what it says here. Luke 24:44–48:

“Then he opened their minds so they were able to understand the Scriptures. He told them, “It was written like this: the Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and in his name repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached to all the nations, beginning in Jerusalem. You are witness of all this.”

Jesus helps them see how his story is written all over scripture. His disciples, the women, they didn’t need to just remember what Jesus had said in his lifetime. They had all of scripture pointing to this exact moment, and why it was needed. 

We talked about many of these recently, Table Rock, but when we look at all of scripture we see:

  • Jesus is the offspring of the woman, come to crush the head of the serpent though his heel will be bruised (Gen 3:15)

  • Jesus is the descendent of Abraham through whom every nation on earth would be blessed (Gen 12:3)

  • Jesus is the Passover Lamb who was slain to protect God’s people from the Angel of Death (Exod 12)

  • Jesus is the once and for all sacrifice that God offered on the altar on the Day of Atonement on Calvary, and at the same time he is the scape goat that was sent out of God’s presence into the wilderness on account of the sin that he bore (Lev 16)

  • He drinks the cup of the wine of the wrath of God so that his people will be spared (Jer 25)

  • Jesus is like the bronze serpent that was lifted up and when people look to him in faith, they find forgiveness and healing (Num 21)

  • Jesus is the very temple of God, which though destroyed was raised again in 3 days (1 Kings 8; 2 Cron 3). Like Abraham lifted up his eyes on the third day (Gen 22:4), like Hosea who said, “After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him,” like Jonah three days in the belly of the fish (Jon 1:17) and like Esther who won favor in the sight of the King on the third day (Esth 5:1), Jesus presented himself to God the Father on the third day as the conqueror of death.

  • Jesus is the offspring of David whose kingdom has now been established forever. (2 Sam 7)

 

Jesus’s story was written from the very beginning. He has always been in control, even in his death. What his disciples didn’t understand they now see—and it is glorious! Jesus’s death was purposeful and it was for them! It is this understanding of Jesus that will root the rest of their life and mission as they go out through all of the world spreading the good news of Jesus! This is what we are going to look at in our next series through Acts—The Gospel Going Global!

More so than any other event in scripture, the resurrection matters. Listen to how one writer puts it:

“Without a resurrected Jesus, Christianity has nothing special to offer the world, for a dead Savior is no Savior at all. Without [the] resurrection, Christianity is just another human approach to reach God; it is emptied of transforming power and hope; it is a mere shell, not worth the energy one devotes to it.”[1]

Jesus’s death on the cross is only mercy and grace to you and me if Jesus is really who he says he is. To have just another man die on the cross does not deal with my sin and your sin. It would have to be God himself taking the punishment for our sin because only he could bear it. It would have to be God himself living a righteous life so that I could inherit that righteousness and be seen as righteous before God. This all depends on the resurrection. Jesus is God only if death cannot hold him.

The apostle Paul is very aware of this. Listen to how he says this in 1 Corinthians 15:

“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

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. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. (1 Corinthians 15:1–10 ESV)

 

This is exactly the gospel we have been talking about this morning. But Paul notices the one problem to this whole message:

“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 ESV)

As Paul says, If Jesus has not been risen, then all our preaching and discussions are in vain. The angel says to the women, “He is raised!” This is a declaration—a statement of God’s power and what he has done. It is not the “plea of an uncertain heart searching for meaning.” [2]

 Jesus Is Risen! He is in control. He carried himself throughout his entire life knowing the cross was his destiny. He held himself on the cross through ridicule, mockery, and pain. He took our sins upon himself and he died for them. And he raised himself (John 2:19).

Conclusion

Table Rock, it is at the resurrection that we finally find hope! We don’t put our faith in the resurrection itself, but in savior who we find there! Jesus, the Exalted One, is the only one we can look toward to find relationship with God. It is because he is God that he can offer us the possibility of life beyond the grave. To believe in Christ is to believe not simply in his example, but to believe in his ability to grant new life through a resurrection just like his. We not only need the punishment for our sins dealt with, but we need the hope of new life in Jesus, empowered by the Holy Spirit, and that is what we find in his resurrection.

There is no middle ground. Christians are not just weird. We are either to be pitied or we are right. We joyfully proclaim to you the testimony of God himself, his disciples and eyewitnesses, God’s promises or thousands of years, and the work of God in our lives that Jesus is the Christ and he is God. He lived a righteous life for our benefit, died a sinners death for our penalty, and was raised to life to rule at the right hand of the father as God himself! Come to this Jesus in faith this morning!


[1] Darrell L. Bock, Luke 9:51-24:53, BECNT; Accordance electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1996), 1,881.

[2] Darrell L. Bock, Luke 9:51-24:53, BECNT; Accordance electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1996), 1,884.

 

Ryan EagyRyan Eagy