I am a Christian pastor who wishes to bring glory to God in all that I do, and to help people through my writing to know Him better.
Introduction: Jesus Conquered Death
On July 20, 1969, American astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin Buzz Aldrin became the first human beings to ever land on the moon. And it was about six and a half hours later that Armstrong became the first person to walk on the moon. When he stepped out he utters these now famous words:
"That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."
Richard Nixon, who was President of the United States at the time, said this about the moon landing:
"The planting of human feet upon the moon is the greatest event in human history."
Pastor Adrian Rogers, in a sermon he gave referring to Nixon's statement, took issue with the former President by saying:
"I mean no disrespect, but he was totally wrong. The greatest event in human history was not planting human feet upon the moon but when God came to a manger in Bethlehem and His feet were planted upon Earth. That's the greatest event. We call that the incarnation.
Almighty God stepped out of heaven's ivory palaces into this world of woe and put His feet upon earth."
With all due respect to both President Nixon and pastor Rogers, I believe that the greatest event in human history is the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the infinite God-man, from the dead after dying on the cross as our substitute. For if Jesus had just come to earth, lived a normal life-span and died a regular death without having been raised from the dead 3 days later, showing that the Father had accepted His sacrifice for us, then we would still be hopeless sinners, separated from a Holy God and on our way to an eternal Hell.
Also, I think the Apostle Paul would agree, for this is what he told the Corinthian church about our Lord's resurrection:
"Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection from the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact 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 worthless; your are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hope in Christ in this life only; we are of all men most miserable. But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep." (I Corinthians 15:12-20).
James S. Hewett once gave this beautiful illustration of what Christ did for us in His death and resurrection. Hewett tells us:
A little boy and his father were driving down a country road on a beautiful spring afternoon. Suddenly out of nowhere a bumblebee flew into the car window. Since the little boy was deathly allergic to bee stings he became petrified. His father quickly reached out, grabbed the bee, squeezed it in his hand, and then released it. But as soon as he let it go, the young son became frantic once again as it buzzed by the little boy.
The father sensed his son’s terror. Once again he reached out his hand, but this time he pointed to this hand. There, stuck in his skin was the stinger of the bee. “You see this?” he asked. “You don’t need to be afraid anymore. I’ve taken the sting for you.”
The Christian does not need to be afraid of death because Christ has taken the sting out of death and sin.
On Easter Sunday we indeed celebrate the greatest event in human history. That is the day that Jesus rose from the grave, never to die again. And further, He offers that same victory to all those who will accept it by faith.
I'd like to examine Jesus' resurrection today by going back again to I Corinthians 15 and studying briefly what the Apostle Paul tells us in verses 1-11. Hopefully, by this we will learn to more fully appreciate what Christ did for us on that day many centuries ago.
Let us begin by looking at what Paul names this greatest event in history.
I. The Resurrection: The Heart of the Gospel (1-2)
Apparently, in Corinth, where Paul is writing, there were those who had problems with the idea of the resurrection of the dead. They didn't believe in it and were leading some of the Corinthians astray by their false teaching.
So the Apostle begins by telling them about what he himself had been preaching. And he gives it a name. Paul calls it: 'the gospel.' The term 'gospel' means 'good news.' And at the very heart of this good news is Jesus' resurrection from the dead. Here is what he tells the people there:
"Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preach to you, unless you believed in vain." (15:1,2).
The thing that makes the good news, the good news is that the horrible death that Jesus died on the cross was followed by a resurrection to new life. Not just the same life that we all know. It is a life where sin is overcome forever and death is destroyed. Jesus has done that Himself, and we will too by His power.
In Romans 6:9,10 the Apostle Paul tells us:
"For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, He cannot die again; death no longer has dominion over Him. The death He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life He lives, He lives to God."
It is holding fast to Paul's preaching about belief in the death, burial and resurrection of the Son of God for our sins that saves us and makes us capable of participating in the good news of eternal life. Paul qualifies this by saying:
"Unless you believed in vain." (2b).
He recognizes the fact that some may have had a shallow, non-saving faith just as the demons who are said to believe in God in James 2:19. They may have been convinced that the gospel is true but had no love for God, for Christ and didn't care about righteousness. However, true believers will always hold fast to the gospel.
II. The Resurrection Attested to in the Old Testament (3-4)
If we look at verses 3 and 4, we can see that one of Paul's proofs for the good news or the gospel, which includes the resurrection, is that it was attested to or predicted in the Old Testament. Of course there were some things that Paul preached that were part of the mystery, including the fact that Israel and the church would be placed in one body called the church. However, all of the elements that brought us salvation from sin are there. He tells us:
"For I delivered unto you, as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures and that He was buried and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures..."
The Old Testament spoke about the suffering and death of the Messiah, and even the resurrection. Jesus, Peter and Paul all used Old Testament Scriptures in talking about the work of Christ on earth.
For example Isaiah 53 is all about the suffering Messiah to come. Isaiah says:
"But He was pierced through for our transgression, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by his stripes we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him." (5-6).
We further have some of the final words Jesus spoke from the cross in Psalm 22 where the Psalmist says:
"My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" (1).
And there are verses in Psalm 110, written by King David, which have been applied to Jesus' resurrection. David states:
"For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol; Nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay. You will make known to me the path of life; In your presence is fulness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever." (10,11).
These and a number of other verses show that the good news of Jesus' death, burial and resurrection had been hinted at centuries before it actually occurred.
And it shows, that Jesus Christ, far from being a helpless victim who was taken against His will, was really the God of the universe, orchestrating all of these things for the salvation of the world and for His ultimate glory at the right hand of the Father.
III. The Resurrection Attested to by Eye Witnesses (5-11)
However, it is not only in the Old Testament that the greatest event in human history is attested to. There were people living in Jesus' day who witnessed the Lord after He arose from the grave. And they are added by Paul in this passage to support the reality of the resurrection.
They include, Cephas or Peter. Then he appeared to all twelve at once. Then he also showed Himself alive to 500 at once, most of whom were still living at the time Paul wrote and could be asked about their experience.
Paul goes on to say that Jesus appeared to James. This could be either one of the Apostles named James. Or it could be James, the half brother of Jesus and the author of the Epistle of James who was also a key leader in the Jerusalem. church.
Jesus then appeared to all of the apostles. Then finally Our Lord appeared to Paul himself.
The apostle tells us this:
"And last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also. For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit 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 did not prove vain. But I labored even more than all of them. Yet not I but the grace of God with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed." (8-11).
It is truly amazing that with all of these people alive back then that could have refuted the claim of Jesus' resurrection, none of them did. Rather their verdict was unanimous. They all saw Jesus' alive after He was dead in that tomb. They all could and did attest to the fact that Jesus Christ died on the cross, was buried and, on the third day, rose from the grave.
However, just like you can find people who refute the evidence of the moon landing, there are people who have attempted to take a stand against the truth of the resurrection. But with both of these historical facts, there is adequate evidence that they each occurred if one has the guts and the desire to weigh that evidence for yourself and come to a logical conclusion.
So there you have it. The one event in all of humanity's existence that has changed the course of human history. Every Easter we celebrate the fact that the tomb is empty, death has lost. Satan and sin are conquered.
It was Hank Hanegraaff who said:
“What happened as a result of the Resurrection is unprecedented in human history. In the span of a few hundred years, a small band of seemingly insignificant believers succeeded in turning an entire empire upside down. As has been well said, ‘They faced the tyrant’s brandished steel, the lion’s gory mane, and the fires of a thousand deaths,’ because they were utterly convinced that they, like their Master, would one day rise from the grave in glorified, resurrected bodies."
Well today the ball is in our court. It is we who have been given the gospel, the good news that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, lived a perfect life, died as a substitute for our sins and rose again that we too could have the ability to live a new life for all of eternity in the presence of the Lord who saved us.
May we all shout it from the roof-tops that Jesus is alive and we are forgiven! We serve a risen Savior. And because of Him, our world will never be the same.
© 2021 Jeff Shirley