The Proof is in the Power
April 16, 2017
by Andrew Ogea

 

Community Group Questions

1. Why is it significant that Jesus Christ rose from the dead? What does it say about him? What does it mean for you?

2. Which of the eyewitness testimonies resonated with you most, and why?

  • The Denier - Peter
  • The Deserters - The Disciples 
  • The Defenders - The 500 Witnesses
  • The Doubter - James (brother of Jesus)
  • The Defier - Paul 

3. Why does the testimony of the prophets provide credible proof for the resurrection? (Isaiah - 800 years before Christ; David wrote prophesies over 1000 years before Christ)

4. The proof for the resurrection is in the power of the Good News to change lives. What is the most powerful change that you have seen in your life?

 

Sermon Notes

Good Morning! Happy Easter! We have good reason to joyful, because today is the day that we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. And he never died again. That is crazy. I mean really, think about it. 

For many of us here, we believe this message that seems like craziness. Some of you were told. Some read about it. Others may have seen something remarkable that could only be attributed to God. But, whatever got you to that point, you believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead and that he never died again.

Maybe some of us have believed it for so long that it doesn’t seem to strike us as being far-fetched, but there are a whole lot of people in our world, our community, and I am sure that there are some in this room right now that think that is totally absurd. And if that is you, I am so glad that you are here. 

We really desire to be a church that is welcoming, loving, and encouraging to you as you search things out and try to understand more about Jesus. The reality is that you are in good company. Even some of those closest to Jesus had their doubts as to whether or not he actually rose from the dead. One of Jesus’ apostles even took his doubts to the extreme.

His name is the Apostle Paul, and we are going to read part of a letter that he wrote explaining not only what changed his mind, but also the minds of others. We will read from 1 Corinthians 15. So, you can turn there now if you have your Bibles. It will also be on the screenBut, before we start, I just want to pose a few questions to think about as we begin our discussion on the resurrection:

“What is the significance if Jesus if he actually rose from the dead and never died again?” What would that mean about him? What would it mean for you? If you are a skeptic, What would it take for you believe? And for those of you that do believe, what does it mean for your life today? For your mission? For our church? For your future? 

These are some of the questions that we will answer during this three week series called “Raised to Life.” Fittingly, we are launching the series on Easter. My hope for all of us today, whether you doubt or believe, is that we will gain a better understanding of why we can trust that the resurrection actually happened and what that means for our lives. So, let’s start in verse one of 1 Corinthians 15.

Let me now remind you, dear brothers and sisters, of the Good News I preached to you before. 

We know from the Book of Acts, that Paul wrote this letter while in the city of Ephesus in A.D. 54. The recipient of the letter was a church that he started three years earlier in Corinth, in A.D. 51. This was only eighteen years after the death of Jesus. Just two years from now will mark the 18 year anniversary of 9/11. How many of you remember where you were when 9/11 happened? Eighteen years is not a long time.

So, Paul had arrived in Corinth with Good News of something that happened 18 years earlier in Jerusalem. We will find out in just a couple of verses what the news is, but first, he reminds the Corinthians of what the Good News promises. 

You welcomed it then, and you still stand firm in it. It is this Good News that saves you if you firmly believe it—unless, of course, you believed something that was never true in the first place.

The Promise of the Good News
1. It saves you if you firmly believe it
2. Your faith is built upon it

The Promise of the Good News is two fold: It saves you if you firmly believe it, and your faith is built upon it. Believing anything else will do you absolutely no good. Only belief in this Good News will save you and then that will effect your faith and everything you build your life on. The Good News will be at the center. 

Your purpose in life, God’s will for you, your relationships, your priorities, how you treat others, how you spend your money. We could go on and on. The Good News provides clarity for all of it. It is what saves and sustains your life. It is incredible what the Good New Promises. But, what is it? What is the Good News? We are told in verses 3-4

I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said.

He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said.

So these are the basic historical facts of the Gospel: First, “Christ died.” But, why is this significant? Many people died on a cross. It was a common form of execution used by the Romans. However, Jesus was the only one who ever died for the sins of the world. Jesus said it himself:

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

You see, the whole world is in bondage, in slavery to sin. And it was the precious blood of Jesus shed on the cross, that paid the ransom for us to be set free. He died for our sins, Then, He was buried. And finally, He rose again on the third day. 

That last point…Isn’t that what brings truth to it all, that he rose again? That is, in fact, what makes the Good New credible. If Jesus rose from the dead, then surely he was telling the truth about bearing my sins on the cross. If the resurrection actually happened, then the Good news is justified. So, what evidence do we have? What is the proof? 

The Proof for the Resurrection
1. The Testimony of the Prophets

The Apostle Paul says here that Jesus died for our sins and was raised from the dead just as the Scriptures said. So there is evidence from the Old Testament about the death and resurrection of Jesus that was written long before it ever happened—some at least 800 and 1000 years before Christ. It is found in the Law, the prophets, and the Psalms. In a moment we are going to look at one example, but before we read that, I want to lead into it with a hypothetical scenario.

I did a search of famous people that lived 800 years go. And one of the first names was Marco Polo. When you hear the name Marco Polo, what do you think? Many of us probably think of a game we play in a swimming pool. But, he was actually an explorer that lived 800 years ago.

Let’s just pretend that in the year 2000, an authentic letter from Marco Polo was found in Asia. And, the letter, dated April 16, 1317, was written to a friend and fellow explorer. Marco writes, the Lord came to me the other night in a dream and told me of a city not yet built, in a land not yet discovered. 

The city is many feet below sea level, the land-scape is like a bowl, and it is surrounded by water on all sides. Hundreds of thousands of citizens live there, and to protect their land from the water, they built dirt walls around city. 

However, their efforts proved ineffective to protect them from what was to come. A storm of epic proportions devastated their city. The wind raged and the seas rose, and their wall broke. The water rushed in and flooded their city, destroyed their homes, and killed thousands of residents. 

Others would have given up hope, but the citizens of this city were resilient. They rebuilt their homes. They made their walls even stronger. For, it was not the storm that would define them, but their courage to move forward. 

If you read that, what event would you think Marco was writing about? Hurricane Katrina, right? And, you would believe that God truly gave him a revelation of things to come. You might even say that he was a prophet based upon what was written. If he included that the city won a Super Bowl, then you would certainly be on board. 

The Apostle Paul said that he passed on Good News of something that happened just as the scriptures said. Most certainly he had to be thinking of the prophet Isaiah, who wrote this prophesy 800 years before Christ: 

He was despised and rejected—
a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.
We turned our backs on him and looked the other way.
He was despised, and we did not care.

Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down.
And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins!
But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. 
All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. 
Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all. 
He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. 
He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth.
Unjustly condemned, he was led away.
No one cared that he died without descendants, that his life was cut short in midstream.
But he was struck down for the rebellion of my people.
He had done no wrong and had never deceived anyone. 
But he was buried like a criminal; he was put in a rich man’s grave.
But it was the Lord’s good plan to crush him and cause him grief.
Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have many descendants.
He will enjoy a long life, and the lord’s good plan will prosper in his hands.
When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied.
And because of his experience. my righteous servant will make it possible
for many to be counted righteous, for he will bear all their sins. 
This is just one example of many. An astonishing piece of evidence for the resurrection is the testimony of the prophets. But, we also obtain proof from the testimony of eyewitnesses. 

The Proof for the Resurrection
2. The Testimony of Eyewitnesses

Paul said I passed on to you what was most most important and had also been passed on to me. This whole discourse is what Paul was told by eyewitnesses. Many scholars agree that this is actually a creed that was shared with him. 

From the Book of Galatians, we know that Paul visited with Peter for 15 days in Jerusalem, and perhaps it was there, as many scholars believe, that Paul was told this creed: that Christ died for our sins, he was buried, and he was raised to life on the third day just as the Scriptures said, and then in verse 5, 

He was seen by Peter 

The first eyewitness, Peter. Now, I’ve nicknamed all of these eyewitnesses based on something in their story and I have alliterated all of them. Because that’s what preachers do, right? They all start with the letter D. So, the first eyewitness is Peter, the Denier.

The Witness List
1. The Denier—Peter

Peter was a disciple of Jesus. Very passionate in everything he did. When Jesus was arrested, John’s Gospel account tells us that Peter pulled out a sword and slashed off the right ear of one of the men. He was ready to fight for Jesus and defend him. But, Jesus stopped him. Afterward, Peter followed behind as they went to bring Jesus to his accusers. 

When they got there, Peter had to wait outside the gate. It was there that he denied knowing Jesus on three times. Jesus had even told him that he would do it. Overwhelmed by his denial, Peter wept bitterly. He had denied the One who took a regular guy, a fisherman, and gave him the life purpose to fish for people by telling them the Good News. 

After the crucifixion, John tells us that Peter had gone back to fishing. The One whom he had given three years of his life had died, and it seemed now that his life mission died as well. But, in just a few days the Denier would boldly stand before thousands and proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ. In his sermon, he declared, 

“God raised Jesus from the dead, and we are all witnesses of this.”
“So let everyone in Israel know for certain that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, to be both Lord and Messiah!”

Three thousand were saved that day. So, what made the difference in Peter’s life? He had seen the risen Savior. He had breakfast with Jesus just days after his death. In John Chapter 21 we find that

A third time Jesus asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep.

So, Peter went form denier to declarer of the Good News because he saw the resurrected Christ. That is powerful eye-witness evidence for the resurrection. Next, he appeared to his disciples or as it is written here the twelve apostles

He was seen by Peter and then by the twelve apostles.

The Witness List
2. The Deserters—The Apostles

We all know that there were not twelve because Judas had betrayed Jesus. But this is what they were called, “The twelve Apostles.” They are the next eyewitnesses, but for now I will give them the nickname the deserters. Because, after Jesus was arrested we learn according to Mark 15:50 

Then all his disciples deserted him and ran away.

Only Peter and John followed him to where he was detained, interrogated, and beaten. Peter ended up denying him. Only John ends up going to the crucifixion and standing close to Jesus along with Mary, other women, soldiers, and religious leaders. But, there is no mention of the other disciples. They had deserted him. 

 

They were filled with fear for their own future. However, we know the whole story. Their fear later turned to courage. They deserted Jesus, but later they invested their entire lives standing up for Christ. They were missionaries to the world and they told the good news. They faced terrible persecution: mockery, beatings, imprisonment, and death. In another letter to the Corinthians, Paul said,

Yes, we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be evident in our dying bodies. 

So, what caused the change? What caused the apostles to go from being deserters to enduring persecution and being willing to die? The resurrection. They saw Jesus alive after he had died. In Luke’s Gospel we find that,

the whole group was startled and frightened, thinking they were seeing a ghost! “Why are you frightened?” he asked. “Why are your hearts filled with doubt? Look at my hands. Look at my feet. You can see that it’s really me. Touch me and make sure that I am not a ghost, because ghosts don’t have bodies, as you see that I do.” As he spoke, he showed them his hands and his feet. Then he said, “When I was with you before, I told you that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and in the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. And he said, “Yes, it was written long ago that the Messiah would suffer and die and rise from the dead on the third day. 

In his book, the Case for Christ, Lee Strobel writes, 

“People will die for their religious beliefs if they sincerely believe they’re true, but people won’t die for their religious beliefs if they know their beliefs are false.” “The apostles were willing to die for something they had seen with their own eyes and touched with their own hands. They are in a unique position to not just believe Jesus rose from the dead but to know for sure.”

Most of their deaths are not recorded in the Bible because they were the ones who wrote the New Testament. But, ancient documents and tradition tells us that James the son of Alpheus, was stoned and then clubbed to death. Peter was crucified. Matthias was the apostle chosen to replace Judas. He was burned to death. These are just a few examples of the disciples that witnessed the risen Savior. Powerful testimony. 

Next on the witness list, verse 6 says,

he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died.

The Witness List
3. The Defenders—The 500 Witnesses

This is the only time that this is mentioned in the Scriptures, but it does not mean that it is not trustworthy. In fact, its significance should not be underestimated. Paul insists that most of these five hundred are still living. So, if you question me, go and verify it! These are the defenders of our story. You can talk with a large number of eyewitnesses who will confirm the fact that Jesus came back to life after his death and burial.

Why would he write this if he was not certain that a vast number of eyewitnesses existed? The credibility of his letter could be lost if this fact were not true. Yet, this provides credibility and a defense of the Good News because five hundred eye-witnesses can defend this story with their testimony. 

Any lawyer in the world would take a case if he had 500 witnesses who would testify the same account. So, the defenders provide powerful evidence for the resurrection of Christ. So the denier, deserters, and the defenders….all are witnesses. And then in verse 7 

Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles.

We have already talked about the apostles, so we won’t go there again, but we want to focus on James. This is almost certainly the brother of Jesus. We know from the Scriptures Jesus had sisters and had four half-brothers. James is listed as one of them. And listen to what it says about his brother in John 7,

But soon it was time for the Jewish Festival of Shelters, and Jesus’ brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, where your followers can see your miracles! You can’t become famous if you hide like this! If you can do such wonderful things, show yourself to the world!” For even his brothers didn’t believe in him.

The Witness List
4. The Doubter—James 

So, James is a doubter. We also know about doubting Thomas. But, James doubted too. Can you blame him? How many of you have brothers? What would it take for you to believe your brother was the son of God? I’m sure he heard all about it from his mother. James, you better quit picking on him. He is the son of God, you know. 

Yet, James became the leader of the church in Jerusalem. Paul called him “a pillar” in the church. It is also James, the brother of Jesus, who the most likely of candidates to have written the Book of James.

What effected the change from unbelief to faith? He saw the risen Lord. This convinced him that Jesus truly was the Son of God and the Savior of the world. The Doubter became a leader in church, and that is powerful evidence for the resurrection. And the last eyewitness listed here is the Apostle Paul, 

Last of all, as though I had been born at the wrong time, I also saw him. For I am the least of all the apostles. In fact, I’m not even worthy to be called an apostle after the way I persecuted God’s church. 

The Witness List
5. The Defier—Paul

The Apostle Paul, the Defier. Before Jesus changed his name to Paul, he was Saul, and he resisted the new movement of Christianity in harsh ways. In the Book of Acts we read,

Meanwhile, Saul was uttering threats with every breath and was eager to kill the Lord’s followers. So he went to the high priest. He requested letters addressed to the synagogues in Damascus, asking for their cooperation in the arrest of any followers of the Way he found there. He wanted to bring them—both men and women—back to Jerusalem in chains.

However, on his way to Damascus, Paul had a miraculous change of heart, a drastic change. So drastic, that he changed from persecutor to preacher. The one who would make journeys to arrest people for believing in Jesus now traveled as the greatest Christian missionary our world has ever known. He is the author of 13 books in the New Testament, fourteen if you think he wrote Hebrews. 

What changed him? He saw the risen Lord. The story continues, 

As he was approaching Damascus on this mission, a light from heaven suddenly shone down around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?” “Who are you, lord?” Saul asked. And the voice replied, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting!

He saw the risen Savior. Perhaps the most powerful testimony of all on a witness stand, would be an enemy testifying in favor of the one he opposed. And this is exactly what we have here. He opposed him to the point that he says he is not worthy to be called an apostle. Incredible eyewitness testimony.

About a month ago, I was writing a paper for school, on this topic. It was 1:00 in the morning, and I heard and I heard very loud banging noises coming from my front yard. So, I ran to the door, and opened it really quick, and to my surprise, I saw two teenagers beating on my mailbox with a metal rod, and to their surprise they saw a very big man at his front door. So, they took off running.

I was dressed, but I didn’t have shoes on, just my socks. So, for about 5 seconds I was trying to decide what I should do, and then it just happened—I started running. I chased after them. About halfway to the major cross-street, I heard the metal rods hit the ground, and I slowed to a jog, and just decided that I was going to wear them. Which I did. I caught them. 

While I was escorting them back to my house, I called the mother of this 16 year old girl. I told her the story, and asked her, “if you were in my situation, what would you do? Call the cops?” She responded, “sir, as much as I don’t want to see my child go to jail, I think that may be the best thing for her. She is out of control, and I don’t know what else to do with her. She has been in trouble before.”

So, after I hung up, I called the Sheriff’s Department. When the deputy arrived, he saw the girl, and said, “I knew it was going to be you. Get in the car.” Apparently she had already been in a lot of trouble. So, he asked me, “Do you want to press charges.” And I said, well, “I am not opposed to extending grace to her if you think that is appropriate.”

And obviously frustrated by her continued lack of disobedience of the law, he said, “there’s no hope for this girl. She’ll never change.” It turns out that they destroyed over 20 mail boxes that night so they didn’t need me to press charges anymore. She and her friend were going to jail for the evening.

But before they left, I had the chance to talk with her. I told her that I believe it was a God-ordained moment that she hit the mailbox of someone who was writing a paper about the Good News of Jesus Christ. I was probably the only one awake on my block who believe that there is hope for her, and that hope for her is found in Jesus Christ. 

If God can change the heart of someone who persecuted his church, he can certainly change the heart of someone who destroys mailboxes. And this is the power of the resurrection. It is the power that enables Paul to write in verse 10, 

But whatever I am now, it is all because God poured out his special favor on me—and not without results.

The Power of the Resurrection makes the Promise of the Good News Possible

The Power of the Resurrection makes the Promise of the Good News possible. The proof for the resurrection is the power of the Good News to change lives. Without the resurrection, it is just another dead man in a tomb. But the same power that rose Jesus from the dead is the same power that is promised to us who believe. 

It is the same power that turned Peter from a denier into a proclaimer. It is the same power that changed the disciples from deserters to fully devoted followers. It is the same power that turned James, the doubter, into a believer. It is the same power that caused Paul, the defier, to fall on his face in surrender.

It is the same power that can change the heart of a young lady in a jail cell. It is the same power that met me when I was lost in my sin. It is the same power available to you if you believe.

So, When have you denied him? When have you deserted him? When have you doubted him? When have defied him? The proof of the resurrection is in the power of God to save you, to reinstate you, to give you a purpose for your life.  

What was true for Paul can be and is true for us. But whatever I am now, it is all because God poured out his special favor on me—and not without results. As Paul said to to the Corinthians, it is this Good News that saves you if you firmly believe it. Welcome this message into your heart and your faith will be built upon it.  Let’s pray.