‘By this gospel you are saved’ (1 Corinthians 15:2 NIV – emphasis mine)
Are we not blessed people?
Should we not be on our knees constantly thanking God for sending Jesus?
We really are blessed people, those of us that love and follow Jesus;
‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son’ (John 3:16 NIV – emphasis mine).
Wow, what an honour, and an honour that people did not, and also we, do not deserve;
‘While we were still sinners, Christ died for the ungodly’ (Romans 5:8 ESV).
The ungodly, the sinners, the liars, the thieves, the murderers, those who covet, all of us;
‘for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’ (Romans 3:23 NIV – emphasis mine).
And exactly when did this occur?
‘at just the right time’ (Romans 5:6 NIV).
The time that was ordained by God; the time that was set to rescue humanity from the depths it had sunk to. A time;
‘while we were still weak’ (Romans 5:6 ESV).
A time when we could do nothing for ourselves; it was that time that Jesus died for you and me!
Died in our place!
Died so that we may be free!
We did not deserve that, but Jesus did that for us in pure love.
When we see children, sometimes they will tell people they love them, and when they are asked how much, the will sometimes throw wide their arms and say “this much”. Jesus did the same for us. In love, he said this is how much I love you; then he stretched out his arms to be ailed to a cross, and died in our place.
But the best part of this is, he did not stay dead;
‘he was raised on the third day’ (1 Corinthians 15:4 NIV).
God raised him from the dead, and he is now alive, and has been ever since that first Easter morning.
‘It must be admitted straightaway that it is extremely difficult to believe that an ordinary person could die and rise again from the dead. But Jesus Christ was certainly no ordinary person’ (Your verdict on the Empty Tomb – p 52 – Val Grieve).
‘neither Jews nor Greeks nor Romans thought the bodily resurrection of an individual was possible’ (Encounters with Jesus – p 90 – Timothy Keller).
But, Paul confirms that Jesus was actually raised;
‘But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead’ (1 Corinthians 15:20 ESV).
The fact that Jesus has been raised in not a story; it is a historical fact. Josephus, a Jewish writer from a distinguished family (AD 37-100 approx) stated in one of his texts;
‘He appeared to them spending a third day restored to life’ (The Testimonium Flavianum – www.jonathanmorrow.org/what-did-the-jewish-historian-josephus-really-say-about-jesus/ – accessed 21/04/19).
If his disciples were making the story up, why would they say that the first people to see the empty tomb were women;
‘The women who had come with him… … saw the tomb and how his body was laid… At early dawn, they went down to the tomb… … but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus’ (Luke 23:55 & 24:1 & 3 ESV).
A testimonial from a woman in Roman times would not have been heard, yet alone believed, so why would they put that fact in if it was not true?
But Christ really did rise from the dead, and because of that fact, the early church exploded onto the scene.
Jesus was not selective, he did not think himself better than anyone else, and so did not only reveal himself to a select few, but to crowds. His appearances seem random and diverse, firstly to Mary at the empty tomb, then Peter, then all the Apostles, then a massive crowd of 500 people, followed by his brother, James, and then to Paul (Luke 16:9, 1 Corinthians 14:5-8).
Yet even Paul, who initially had been a persecutor of the church, and even stood by as some of Jesus’ followers were killed (Acts 8:1), had a life changing experience and started following Jesus (Acts 9:1-19).
Even after the resurrection, life as a follower of Jesus was not all happy days spent preaching and telling people about the ‘risen Christ’. Christians were persecuted and killed in awful ways, but they did not recant their beliefs.
If the fact of the whole story was not a fact, surely, one of the first few martyrs would have changed their minds about being put to death, yet none did, and out of the first apostles, only John died a natural death. If Jesus had not risen, people would not have let themselves be martyred, liars make bad martyrs!
If Jesus really has risen from the dead, then everything has changed!
‘Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life”’ (John 11:25 NIV).
Because of the resurrection, we all have hope, and hope has a name, Jesus!
There is a song, I know it well,
a melody that’s never failed.
On mountains high, in valleys low,
my soul will rest, my confidence in you alone.
There is a light, salvation’s flame;
Christ undefeated, trampled the grave.
See now the cross, be lifted high;
the light has come, the light has won, behold the Christ.
There’ll be a day, my hope complete;
now home in glory, your face I’ll see.
My pain no more, my fear will cease;
I bow my life, I fix my eyes, on Christ my King.
Hope has a name, his name is Jesus;
my Saviours cross has set this sinner free.
Hope has a name, His name is Jesus;
Oh, Christ be praised, I have victory.
Oh, Christ be praised, I have victory.
There is a song, I know it well (Hope as a Name)
B. Cruse, E. John, R. Williams
Father we thank you for raising your Son to sit at your right hand and show us the way. He showed us the way to live, and how to be the light for others. Help us to show others that we meet, the way to your Son Jesus. May we be the light that they need in this dark world.