My Life Group lesson for April 16, 2017, using Lifeway’s “Bible Studies for Life” curriculum, as well as help from Bible Gateway, Lynn Pryor and Adrian Rogers.
The big pop culture viral video story this week was the guy on a United Airlines plane who got manhandled and forcibly yanked off the plane just because he didn’t want to volunteer to give up his seat on a flight that United overbooked.
If you saw the videos from other passengers, many people had their phones out recording the fracas, and United took a major public relations hit, especially when they said they merely had to “re-accommodate” the passenger.
It’s pretty safe to say that the guy will get a sizable settlement from United for his treatment, and the video evidence will be overwhelming.
When you have so many witnesses it can make it easier to get your view across.
On Easter we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the Bible is full of evidence and eyewitness testimony.
Look at the facts. Jesus is alive!
UNDERSTANDING THE CONTEXT
*** The women who observed Jesus’ burial went to the tomb on Sunday to anoint His body with spices. They discovered the tomb empty and were informed that Jesus was not there. Later that night, Jesus appeared to His disciples, showing them His hands and His feet. His resurrection affirmed that He was and is the Son of God. The disciples witnessed His resurrected body and came to believe, though it took convincing for some of them.
*** Jesus died a brutal, shameful death as a public spectacle. In the Roman culture of the first century, crucifixion was so heinous that well-to-do Romans wouldn’t even mention it in public. The disciples had witnessed Jesus’ excruciating death, and all they could do was grieve.
*** Jesus died mere hours before the Jewish Sabbath began. With sundown quickly approaching, all Jesus’ followers could do was to wrap His body and place it in a tomb. When sundown came, darkness filled the night sky—and another kind of darkness filled their minds. The One they had pinned all their hopes on was dead.
1 On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. 5 In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? 6a He is not here; he has risen! 6b Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 7 ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’” 8 Then they remembered his words.
*** Hippity hoppity Jesus is on His way!
--- Nowadays, Easter is still a time of celebration, but more and more seen for Easter egg hunts or the annual White House egg roll.
--- For us churchgoing folk, Easter is a time of celebrating our risen Savior.
--- However, that first Easter, Sunday morning after Jesus’ crucifixion was anything but a happy moment for His disciples.
--- It was a day of death, doubt and disappointment.
*** It’s empty!
--- When a group of women arrived at Jesus’ tomb they found it empty. No body. And then angels gleaming in white explained that He had risen.
--- How do we know Jesus is alive? His tomb is empty!
--- People have tried to explain away the resurrection, but we can’t explain away an empty tomb.
--- Had Jesus’ body been stolen, or if the women had simply gone to the wrong tomb, the idea of a resurrection would have been rejected by going to the right tomb or by producing Jesus’ dead body. That didn’t happen.
--- Similarly, if Luke was trying to invent something that didn’t happen, he most likely would have identified some of Jesus’ apostles as the first witnesses to the empty tomb—some of the men.
--- Why? At that time, a women’s testimony wasn’t valid in court, which made them less than ideal as witnesses. But Luke stuck to the facts: Jesus’ tomb was empty, and the women were the first witnesses to it.
--- The empty tomb should not have been a surprise to these women— or to any of Jesus’ followers. The angels reminded them that Jesus had repeatedly predicted both His death and His resurrection.
--- Jesus knew that the cross was coming. Look at what else this fact reveals:
--- Jesus’ death was no unfortunate accident. Jesus came to earth on a rescue mission of love that began the beginning of time.
--- Jesus died on the cross in our place. Jesus willingly went to the cross. He had no sins of His own to pay for, but He died for our sins. He did this so that we could be eternally forgiven and our sin could be eternally forgotten.
--- Jesus defeated death for us. When God raised Jesus from the dead, death lost its power over us (see Acts 2:24). Jesus rose from the dead, and so will we (see 2 Cor. 4:14).
--- Jesus came to earth as the fulfillment of a plan that had literally spanned thousands of years. This was a plan that has covered the breadth of human history and continues to impact the world today.
--- Only God could accomplish such a plan—and He did!
*** Question - What are some ways our culture tries to explain away Jesus’ resurrection?
36 While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 37 They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38 He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39 Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.” 40 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet.
*** I don’t see a dead Savior.
--- At first everyone had to make sure they weren’t like Haley Joel Osment in Sixth Sense seeing dead people.
--- This was no mass hallucination.
--- You’d think His followers would rejoice, especially since some of them had actually seen Him and the empty tomb already, but instead they were “startled and frightened.”
--- They were not expecting to see Jesus, especially since He didn’t even open the locked door to come in. They were scared to death as if seeing a ghost.
--- Jesus knew what they were thinking and said he’s no Slimer from Ghostbusters. Look at his wounds, touch Him and believe.
--- Doubt and faith are often side-by-side in our lives. Sometimes our faith is super duper strong, and other times doubts seep in and affect our walk with God.
--- Every step of the way Jesus provides us with grace to trust Him even in the midst of doubt.
*** What the resurrection means for us.
--- The disciples were afraid. They doubted the truth of the resurrection. And yet they were ultimately transformed by Christ and used in marvelous ways to advance His kingdom in this world. The same can be true of us.
--- And, just like He provided His first disciples with proof of His bodily resurrection, He provides us with proof as well. That proof may be a friend whose life was changed or the overwhelming historical evidence that Jesus rose from the dead.
--- The proof of Christ’s resurrection brings us peace.
--- Through His Resurrection He conquered death so His followers can experience true, authentic, and everlasting life.
REVIEW AND TAKE-AWAY POINTS
You could dismiss unbelievers as “haters gonna hate.”
However, when we’re trying to bring new believers into the church they might have legitimate questions instead of just outright believing in the resurrection:
“Jesus was unconscious when they put Him in the tomb, but He never actually died.”
“I don’t think Jesus was an actual person in history; He’s just a story.”
“It was probably Jesus’ disciples who made up the story of Jesus rising from the dead; they just couldn’t let Him go.”
“People wanted to believe Jesus was still alive, so they just imagined they saw Him.”
Every spring we have a celebration around the resurrection of Christ. But it’s not a sin to reaffirm the evidence of why it’s not just blind belief to be true.
In fact, this week there was a survey released of people who describe themselves as Christians in Britain. A full 25 percent do not believe in the resurrection of Jesus.
To which we would say, then, they’re not actually Christians.
Romans 10:9 doesn’t mince words: “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”
You can’t be neutral about the resurrection. You have to face the fact. Either it is true or it is not true.
It is grounded in historical reality that cannot simply be washed away.
Consider this from just one passage—Luke 24, part of which we studied today:
--- Verses 1-6. The empty tomb points to the resurrection of Jesus.
--- Verses 6-8. Jesus foretold His resurrection.
--- Verses 9-12. The disciples did not invent the story; in fact, they didn’t believe it at first.
--- Verses13-35. The disciple spoke with Jesus.
--- Verses 36-40. The disciples saw Jesus physically.
Paul makes the case in 1 Corinthians chapter 15, that Jesus died for our sins, was buried and raised on the third day. He appeared to the disciples and more than 500 brothers and sisters. And many of them were still alive when he wrote it, and he said to go talk with them if you want the full story.
If none of this is true, Paul writes in 1 Cor. 15:14, “if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.”
If Jesus had not risen from the dead, our faith would be futile, death would have dominion, sin would be sovereign and the future would be fearful. His death without His resurrection cannot save anybody. Our faith is worthless if He is still in the grave. (Adrian Rogers)
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is a historical fact. Consider these options for responding to that fact in the week to come:
*** Believe. Jesus has risen from death, and He is alive. If you’ve never embraced the truth of Christ’s resurrection and what that means for your life, do so now.
*** Study. Read further about the historical evidence that proves the resurrection of Christ. Massive evidence points to the reality of this event, including hundreds of people who saw Jesus after He came out of the tomb.
*** Share. Ask God each day to provide opportunities for you to share your faith with someone who has yet to believe in Christ. The disciples were afraid. They doubted the truth of the resurrection. And yet they were ultimately transformed by Christ and used in marvelous ways to advance His kingdom in this world. The same can be true of us.