Easter Sermon 2021 - We Must Believe In The Resurrection!
On Palm Sunday the thesis statement could have been, “There is no true Christianity without a theology and a doctrine regarding the suffering of Christ.” Yet, that is precisely the theology that dominated the scene in Israel when Jesus began teaching that the Christ must suffer. As a result of this the disciples could not imagine any scenario in which Jesus Christ would have to suffer and die.
By way of reminder let me take you back to Mark 8 where Jesus first began to speak about his suffering. Jesus is only about three months away from his suffering and death. Jesus has been preaching, teaching and performing signs and wonders around His disciples for almost three years (33 months) when we come to these stories in Mark 8.
Jesus was traveling throughout the cities of Caesarea Philippi with His disciples when He asked them a question. “Who do people say that I am?” (v.8)
The disciples responded, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.” (v.28)
Then Jesus says, “But who do you say that I am?” (v.29)
Peter responded, “You are the Christ.” (v.29)
So far we have seen that the first problem encountered in this text is that even after thirty-three months of teaching and preaching people are still so confused about who Jesus is. Even at this point there are those who say that he is John the Baptist; others say, Elijah; and others who say that He is another prophet. In fact, we still have this problem today.
This problem is not ultimately overcome by anything less than a sovereign move of God upon the heart of a man which enables him to see Jesus as the Christ. In Matthew’s gospel Jesus says to Peter, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” (16:17)
Now one would think that after a confession like this Jesus would feel like celebrating. It would seem like after thirty-three months the disciples have finally reached the finish line. The disciples believe that Jesus is the Christ. They have believed this at the end of his ministry when the clock was about to expire.
Far from celebrating, Jesus tells them to tell no one and then He begins to say, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.” (v.8-31)
Mark specifically says that Jesus said these things plainly. (v.32) Because of the plainness of Jesus’ speech the disciples knew exactly what He meant and then we encounter the second problem in this text. The disciples do not believe that the Messiah is supposed to suffer.
If Jesus were John the Baptist then He could suffer and die as He did.
If Jesus were a prophet He might suffer and die like they had.
But Jesus is the Christ and he was not supposed to suffer and die!
This teaching evoked such a strong reaction from Peter who pulled Jesus aside and rebuked Him for saying this. And in return Jesus gave a very strong rebuke to Peter in from of the other disciples. He said, “Get behind me Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of men.” (v.33)
So what is the answer to this second dilemma? The first problem was that fallen man cannot confess Christ apart from the Father acting upon them decisively. Blessed are you, Simon Bar Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” (16:17)
The second problem is that the disciples cannot believe that Jesus Christ ‘must’ suffer and die. I will argue today that the correction for this is also seen in the sovereign power of God through the resurrection. The resurrection changed everything for the disciples. It was only after they experienced the resurrected Christ that they began to understand these things. Even as they came into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday they did not understand what was happening. In John 12:16 we read, “His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about Him and had been done to Him.”
We will also see that even after His resurrection when the apostles were told by the women that Jesus was raised from the dead that even then they did not believe. We read in Luke 24:11 that when they were ‘told these things...these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.’
Let us begin by looking at Luke 23:54-24:12,
It was the day of Preparation, and the Sabbath was beginning. 55 The women who had come with him from Galilee followed and saw the tomb and how his body was laid. 56 Then they returned and prepared spices and ointments.
On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.
24 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. 2 And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. 5 And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” 8 And they remembered his words, 9 and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, 11 but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12 But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.
Let me make just a few brief observations about this text. First, it is the women who have taken the center stage in this story at this time. These women had been with Jesus and had served Him in His ministry faithfully. Luke made sure to point this out back in Luke 8:1-3. This is what he wrote, “Soon afterward He went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for Him out of their means.”
These same women who had faithfully served Jesus in life now sought to serve Him in His death. After His death they observed where He had been put and then returned to care for him in the grave. Their ministry to Christ was the result of having received grace from Him and now they gave themselves to Him with sincere sacrificial gratitude. Jesus’ death did not stop the flow of grace upon them. Their lives had been forever changed and the fruit of their relationship continued through all of this. They may have been disillusioned and they may have experienced despair, but their faith continued to serve Christ.
Jesus’ ministry towards them had abounded in great grace. This was similar to what we see in 1 Corinthians 1:4-7, “...because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you have been enriched in Him in all speech and all knowledge...so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ…” Although they did not know it, these women were waiting for the revealing of Christ through the resurrection and the grace of God continued to enrich them in every way.
This grace even abounded in ways that Paul had to encourage the Corinthian church to grow in. Each of these women gave to Jesus’ ministry out of their means(Luke 8:3). These women were generous in their service and in their provision to the LORD.
Paul, when writing to the Corinthians encouraged them to reflect this very grace that we see in these women. Paul encourages the Corinthians to be generous when he says, “But as you excel in everything – in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you – see that you excel in this act of grace also.” (2 cor. 8:7) Is there a grace that we are to begin to excel in?
These women served from their own means; but consider the impact that they would be able to have when they partake in the limitless wells of grace which would be provided by the resurrection of Christ. Again, Paul speaks of this when he says, “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.” (2 Cor. 9:8) Oh how we ought to long to see the grace of God abounding in the church today.
Notice that their service to Christ was most faithful even in His death. They served Jesus even as they watched Him being put in the grave. They served Jesus when they prepared spices and ointments to put upon His body. In these moments they did not have a hope of a resurrection but they served Him faithfully.
Like the apostles, these women had forgotten what Jesus had taught them over the last several months. The angels at the tomb had to remind them of these things. “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how He told you, while He was still in Galilee, the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise. And they remembered His words…”. What a lovely moment it is when we remember His words!
We also see that these women obeyed Christ within the context of the Law that God had given. We are told in Luke 23:56, “On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.” They are not like those who in their zeal are willing to break the law of God to do something for Jesus. I’m sure they wanted to go to the tomb but they rested according to the commandment.
However, at the first opportunity they went to the tomb at early dawn. Luke 24:1 says, “But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared.”
As a result of their faithful service to Christ they are the first ones to hear the Good News of Christ’s resurrection from the angels. And they are the first messengers sent to tell the disciples about all they had seen and heard. Yet, when they told the apostles about these things their response was less than encouraging. We read in Luke 24:11, “...these things seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.”
Yet, Peter got up and ran to the tomb. He saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened. (Luke 24:12) May we all be more like Peter than the other disciples. The other disciples are too much like Harod in Matthew 2:8 who sent the wise men to find the baby Jesus and then tell him where He is so that he could go worship Him.
If last week taught us that we cannot have a theology that does not include a Suffering Servant, this week teaches us that we must hold to the doctrine of a Suffering Savior that has been raised form the dead. There is no Christian faith without a resurrection.
To demonstrate this let us turn to 1 Corinthians 14-15. All of 1 Corinthians 15 deals with certain aspects of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
vv. 1-11 speaks of the resurrection of Christian
vv. 12-34 pertain to the resurrection of the dead
vv. 35-49 speaks of the resurrection of the body
vv. 50-58 speaks of the mystery and victory of Christ over death
We need to ask why Paul has begun to speak of the resurrection so much at this point in the letter? To find the answer to this question we need to consider what Paul has previously said.
Paul has just spent the last three chapters talking about the proper use of spiritual gifts. At the end of chapter 14 that Paul addresses the proper use of prophecy in the church. There seems to have been some people who had begun to teach and prophecy some things that contradicted the apostolic teaching. Therefore, Paul begins to reassert apostolic authority and remind them of what their teaching was concerning the resurrection.
He begins to do this in 1 Corinthians 14:36-38 saying, “Or was it from you that the word of God came? Or are you the only ones it has reached? If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord. If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized.”
Then in 1 Corinthians 15 the apostle Paul begins to address the doctrine that has come under attack by these false teachers. He opens by saying in 1 Corinthians 15:1-2, “Now I would remind you, brothers (and sisters) 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 believe in vain.”
Beginning in verse 1 Corinthians 15:3 Paul begins to assert the facts concerning Jesus and how they all are a fulfillment of the scriptures. The scriptures are our only authority concerning doctrine and theology in the church. We reject the teaching that would say…
That the scriptures and church history are equal.
That the scriptures and some persons words and prophecies are equal.
That the scriptures and our experience are equal.
Paul draws the Corinthians back to Scripture saying, “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 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 all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.”
The apostolic teaching is that Christ has been raised from the dead. So Paul asks in verse 12, “...how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?”
If we live in a world where Jesus has not been resurrected then preaching is in vain and our faith is in vain (14). The apostolic teaching would then misrepresent God because they testified that God raised Him from the dead (15). If Christ has not been raised then our faith is vain and we are still in our sins (17). And those who have died in Christ have perished (18). Without a resurrection we are to be a people who are to be most pitied (19).
But if Christ has been raised then we also shall be made alive in Him. And there will be a new kingdom and a new rule. And Christ will destroy every rule, every authority and every power (24). All things will be put fully under the subjection to Christ.
If this is true, then a Christian is fearless in this life and he or she is not given over to debauchery and fatalistic thinking (30-32).
Paul does not want them to neglect the doctrine of the resurrection. Therefore he says in 1 Corinthians 15:33, “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals.’ Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.”
Maybe this morning you came to church and you were like the disciples who heard the testimony of the women who spoke of the risen Christ. These words seemed like an idle tale and they did not believe them.
We ought to be like Peter. Peter ran to see these things and then returned home marveling at what had happened. Is there marveling in your heart as we consider the resurrection of Christ.
Peter would later write these words,
Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by Him without spot or blemish, and at peace. And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. (2 Peter 3:14-18) Hold tightly to the doctrines contained in the Scriptures.
The assault against the resurrection is subtle. For example, this week I saw a news anchor interviewing a family member who lost their mother to COVID19 while in a New York nursing home. The anchor said at the end of the interview, “This is Easter weekend and it will be a sad one for you. How will you celebrate this weekend?” The person said, “By remembering my mother and what we have lost.”
I fully appreciated that answer. But the only reason we have to celebrate at Easter, in any circumstance that we are encountering, is the fact that our suffering savior has risen from the dead. This means everything for you and I. Unfortunately, in our day so many people celebrate Easter and never really consider Jesus Christ. We cannot live without a theology about this historical event.
The women in our text today displayed their great faith even in the face of great sorrow and overwhelming despair. The last year has not been the greatest for any of us. Some are right now experiencing great hardship and sorrow. But in all of this we must conclude that there is still reason to celebrate Easter because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.