Sermon by Tony Hobbs – 1st April 2018
EASTER SUNDAY 2018
UNDERSTANDING JESUS’ RESURRECTION – ACCORDING TO THE SCRIPTURES
Resurrection accounts in the Gospels
Not easy to reconcile the details of the Jesus’ resurrection across all four Gospels.
But we can clearly see that some information, key evidence, is common to all.
All gospels agree that –
Neither Jesus’ followers, nor the Jewish and Roman authorities have any doubt that Jesus was dead and buried.
That it’s women, not men, that make the initial discovery.
The empty tomb is the crucial piece of initial evidence.
They had been told in advance by Jesus of what was going to happen, but for whatever reason, it hadn’t sunk in.
Relatedly, it takes some time for His followers to make sense of what’s going on. The very first witnesses have some help from a Divine messenger/s.
That Jesus’ resurrection appearances are not publicised in the way we might expect!
Rather, each individual has to discover the resurrected Jesus for themselves – although Jesus Himself aids their understanding through revelation.
Understanding Jesus’ resurrection puts everything else in perspective. However, full appreciation may take some considerable time and effort.
The resurrection and the texts
In the form we have them, the Gospels were probably completed in the period 65 – 90 CE. (Parts of them may have circulated much earlier.)
That means when we read them, we benefit from the processing that has already taken place. The significance of who Jesus is and what He has done has been understood. (With the help of the Holy Spirit.)
And thus the details of Jesus’ resurrection are presented in accordance of the needs of each Gospel-writer’s target audience.
An earlier account of Jesus’ resurrection
The NT contains an earlier account of Jesus’ resurrection. It comes in Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth, written around 55 CE.
At the start of chapter 15, Paul covers the core truths, the core essentials, of Christian belief.
It looks as though he’s quoting; something that was already widely used by the early church, which takes us back even closer to date of the resurrection.
It covers the core beliefs, core evidence, starkly.
I Corinthians 15:1,2 – The gospel preached
Paul writes to the Christians at Corinth about the absolute fundamentals of their faith.
Introducing this, he says:
… I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
I Corinthians 15:3-8 – The core gospel
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brethren at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.
3 things in particular
In this we see the core essentials expressed. We also see them in the gospels.
This morning we note three particular things:
That Jesus’ death and resurrection have to be understood as an entity.
The nature of Jesus’ resurrection.
How to make sense of it. That is, how to understand its importance for our own lives.
Death and resurrection
Jesus’ death had a specific purpose.
It wasn’t some ‘historical tragedy’ of a good man dying at the hands of evil men.
Jesus’ very purpose in coming to earth from Heaven was to die in our place. To accept the punishment for sin due to each one of us.
Jesus’ resurrection evidences Jesus’ victory over the powers of sin, death and evil.
The nature of Jesus’ resurrection
Jesus’ resurrection was actual bodily resurrection.
After His resurrection, Jesus revealed Himself to individuals, giving each of them an opportunity to examine the evidence for themselves.
In the few weeks between Easter day and Jesus’ ascension, significant numbers of people saw Him for themselves. Their witness became part of the church’s ongoing testimony.
The resurrection had to be experienced and understood by each individual.
Making sense of the resurrection
Individuals need to process and understand the evidence for themselves.
For Jesus’ closest followers, that primarily involved linking the resurrection experience with what Jesus had said.
But for the wider church it was about understanding Jesus’ resurrection and it’s significance in the light of the OT.
According to the Scriptures
Twice, in the short, fundamental, statement of core belief that Paul uses, it’s emphasised that Jesus’ death and resurrection was According to the Scriptures.
This, of course refers to the OT as the statement predates the NT!
All the OT, not bits
We won’t find any explicit references in the OT to Jesus dying for our sins.
Neither will we find any about Him being buried and being raised to life again on the third day.
According to the Scriptures isn’t about individual verses or passages, but the entire sweep of the OT.
All the OT, not bits
The promise that, because of His love, one day God will intervene is a definitive way in human history and defeat mankind’s ultimate enemies.
That God will open up a way for every individual to have complete relationship with Him – a relationship that was lost: initially due to Adam and Eve’s disobedience, but reinforced by each person’s individual sin.
Making sense of the resurrection – personally
Being a Christian is ultimately about meeting and following the resurrected Jesus for ourselves.
Since Jesus’ ascension we obviously can’t do it in the same way as His first followers did.
But we can do it in faith, learning more and more about all it means by engaging with the Scriptures. (With the help of the Holy Spirit.) Not just the OT, but also the NT.
What we celebrate today is not just an event in history – although it is that – but an event that should today be defining and transforming our individual lives. According to the Scriptures.