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The Really Real Reality of the Resurrection

April 4, 2010 Speaker: Allen Snapp Series: Easter

Topic: Easter Passage: Luke 23:50– 24:12

The Really Real Reality of the Resurrection

Luke 23:50-24:12

This week I attended a talk on Christianity led by two local pastors and held at CCC. I was a little concerned going in that I would stand out as the old guy in the room but when we got there I was surprised to see the room was filled with older people, probably most of them members of the congregations of the two pastors leading the discussion, so it turned out that I was one of the younger guys in the room which made me feel good, cause that doesn’t happen to me much anymore!

But as I sat there with Jenn and Jordan and some other students, I realized that the type of Christianity being shared by these two pastors – who both seemed really sincere and well-intentioned - was the type that doesn’t believe the Bible is inerrant or authoritative, doesn’t believe that there is a hell or that anyone needs to be saved, doesn’t believe that Jesus was the divine Son of God, or that he really performed miracles, or that Jesus really rose from the dead.

Someone summed it up by saying that some need to have faith in the literal, and others are good with faith in the metaphor. If I understand them correctly, they don’t believe that Jesus literally rose from the dead, but meditating on the metaphor of Jesus rising from the dead fills them with a warm sense of faith and optimism – a symbol of love and hope and acceptance.

With all due respect, it reminds me of the feeling I get when I watch Miracle on 34th Street, and in the end Santa gets the little girl the house she wished for from the catalog – proven by the fact that his cane was left in the house – and you realize that believing in Santa is the right thing to do and I get a shiver seeing that cane there and a tear in the eye. Classic warm and fuzzies.

Then it dawns on you that you’ve been moved emotionally to believe it’s good and right to believe something that we actually know isn’t true, but it doesn’t matter whether it’s true or not, it’s the believing itself that’s important. The goal of faith in metaphor isn’t knowing the truth; it’s feeling warm and fuzzy and maybe getting a tear in the eye.

Christianity stands or falls on the reality of the resurrection. If Jesus didn’t really rise from the dead, then no matter how we spin it Christianity is a dead religion aimed at propping up a dead teacher who lied. Faith in metaphor is just another way of saying faith in myth and there is no power or life in that.

The disciples knew this from the beginning. When the women went to the tomb early on that Sunday morning, they went to finish the embalming job on Jesus, but their plans were interrupted by two angels who told them Jesus wasn’t going to need embalming – because He was risen and alive!

So they ran back and told all this to the apostles and look with me at verse 11: but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them… The Greek word for idle tale means nonsense. It was nonsense, foolishness, a fairy tale to them.

So Peter ran (and we know from John that John accompanied him) to the tomb to investigate and what they saw there amazed them. They would soon see Jesus with their own eyes, touch the wounds in his hands and side, eat with him, along with hundreds of others. And they would become so convinced that Jesus’ resurrection really happened that they would turn the world upside down with the message of the risen Savior, declaring the reality of the resurrection so strongly that many of them would be tortured and executed for their faith. Their faith was not in a metaphorical resurrection (that would be nonsense) but in the real, literal, bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. And that is what we are believing in this morning: Jesus is not in the grave, He is risen! He is risen indeed!

Title: The Really Real Reality of the Resurrection (pray)

I. Christ’s resurrection offers real hope in the face of death

As I was thinking about the resurrection this week, I found myself taking a walk through a graveyard. If you ever want a reality check, walk through a graveyard and read the tombstones. Graveyards have a way of confronting us with reality. This particular graveyard is full of old gravestones that have names and dates engraved on them. Mary, wife of Frank, and the dates of the years her life on earth was lived. Philip, devoted husband of Susan, and a date.

As we read those names and dates, we’re reading about real people who lived real lives, just like us. One day, should the Lord tarry, we will all have our names on a tombstone with two dates written. We know the first date – day we were born. We don’t know the second date yet, but it’s approaching, and that’s reality. There’s nothing metaphorical about death– it’s very real, and one day it will slam into every one of us with deadly force (literally).

But the resurrection of Christ declares that death isn’t the final reality or the last word, Christ is. Jesus Christ wasn’t released by death because death felt sorry for Jesus, or out of the goodness of death’s heart. Jesus didn’t find a loophole or outsmart death. Jesus overcame death. Jesus conquered death. Death didn’t want to let him go, but it had no choice. The resurrected Christ is Lord over death and one day will destroy death and death will be no more. That’s why at the funeral of a close friend Jesus said to Martha:

Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?" John 11:25-26 (ESV)

For the Christian, Easter Sunday has forever changed our view of death. It is not dark and final and hopeless. Everyone who believes in Jesus Christ will be resurrected from the grave. One tombstone engraving I saw reflects this hope well: “Just waiting”. Waiting for the resurrection. Not metaphor. Reality. Based on the reality of Christ’s resurrection.

Christ’s resurrection offers real hope in the face of death.

II. Jesus’ resurrection offers real meaning in the face of real life

After I left the graveyard I got to talking to someone who was getting slammed pretty hard by life and I had the opportunity to share a little bit about the good news of Jesus Christ with her. It was a clear reminder to me that the living Savior calls us to follow him in his mission to take the good news of Jesus’ eternal kingdom to real people living real life among us. People facing real stuff like divorce, losing a job, broken friendships, health going bad, and so many other things that life can throw at us.

Reminds me of the bumper sticker that says: life is hard, and then you die. Pretty hopeless. But would it really be much better if it said, life is easy, and then you die? Is what we’re looking for really just an easy life? A trouble free life? Jesus came to give us more than an easy life. He came to call us to a life that has eternal purpose and meaning. That’s what deep inside we’re looking for.

See we can live an easy life and find ourselves eaten up alive by a sense of emptiness and boredom. A lot of people who take the tragic step of ending their lives do so, not because things are so hard, but because things are so empty. And a lot of people who have lived tremendously difficult lives can also say they have been tremendously rich and meaningful lives at the same time.

When Jesus calls us to follow Him, He calls us to live for a mission that is eternal in meaning and value. That is, that with our lives we might glorify God and help other people come to know, love and trust Jesus Christ as their Savior.

That’s why the disciples after getting beaten for preaching Christ could rejoice – because it was an honor to suffer for the name of Jesus. Because He is so great, and His call on our lives so great, that hardship and suffering is precious because it’s for the sake of such a great and glorious cause. That’s what we’re looking for and that’s what the resurrection of Christ offers us!

ILL: many of you have heard of Joni Eareckson Tada. When she was seventeen years old she dived into a lake only to hit her head on a rock, becoming a helpless paraplegic. Though she was a Christian, the reality of living life totally paralyzed devastated her view of God and life. One dark night shortly after she was paralyzed, as she lay in her bed in the geriatric ward, questioning God, in the dark night of the soul, despairing of life, wanting to die, but unable even to take her own life, suddenly she saw a figure crawling in the darkness on the floor. She was frightened until she realized it was her high school buddy crawling toward her bed. Jackie climbed into bed with Joni and this is what Joni writes:

As high school girls often do on sleepovers or high school pajama parties, she snuggled in close to me, and put her head on my pillow, right up against mine. She intertwined her hand in mine and raised it in the air. I could not feel it, but in the shadowy light, I could see her fingers intertwined with mine, clenching my hand tightly. She turned her head toward me and very gently, very quietly in the night, began to sing to me:

Man of sorrows, what a name!

For the Son of God who came

Ruined sinners to reclaim,

Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Something changed in Joni’s heart in that moment, and she began to look for meaning right where her life was – meaning that was totally wrapped up in loving, serving, and trusting the Savior who died and was raised for her. And the Lord has used her to lead countless people to Christ and strengthen the faith of countless more. A hard life? No question. An empty life? No way! Most of us could wish to accomplish a fraction of eternal good with our lives that she has.

Christ’s resurrection offers real meaning in the face of real life because it means we follow a living Savior into a living mission, not a dead teacher into a dead religion.

III. Jesus’ resurrection offers real assurance in the face of the real God

See, the Bible tells us that our biggest problem isn’t death, it’s God. Jesus says in Luke 12:4-5, don’t fear those who can kill you and after that can’t do anything else to you. No, fear the One who, after killing you, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, Jesus says, fear Him.

But then Jesus does the weirdest thing. After telling us to fear God – the One who can throw us into hell – Jesus then says, “Fear not, little flock (in other words, do not fear), for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32)

God has the power to throw us into hell, but it’s His pleasure to give us the kingdom. You should fear…you shouldn’t fear. There’s a very legitimate fear that people should have of hell – so real that the fear of death is nothing in comparison. And then there’s a provision for us that makes it possible for us not to fear. If you are not a Christian, or aren’t sure if you are, here’s the most important question you could ever ask: how can I enter eternal life? How can I be saved? How can I move from “I should be afraid” to “I need never fear again”? Let me tell you a story that illustrates it well (band please come up).

ILL: I have a friend who received a very generous offer from a family in their church. This family was going to Disney World and they wanted to take my friend Matt and his family with them. This other family was going to bring them along on everything: provide hotel rooms, meals, tickets into the park, everything they could possibly need to enjoy this trip as much as the host family.

There was just one stipulation: the guy told my friend Matt he had one condition, and one condition only. If you pay for anything, you pay for everything. In other words, try to pull out your wallet to pay for anything, and you are going to owe for everything. It was to be entirely his treat or not at all. That had the effect of keeping Matt’s wallet in his pocket.

It is the Father’s good pleasure to …what? to give you the kingdom.

Jesus died on the cross to pay for our sins, to pay the debt we could never pay. To earn for us what we could never earn for ourselves. And the resurrection of Jesus Christ declares that Jesus’ payment was acceptable and pleasing to God the Father, which means that everyone who places their trust fully and completely in Jesus Christ receives eternal life – heaven with God – as a gift given by the Father based on what Christ has done.

If you try to earn heaven, if you try to approach God on the basis of good works, or going to church, or praying a lot or reading the Bible a lot or anything else, you need to fear. If we try to add anything to the finished work of Christ we empty the cross of its power to save us. Keep your wallet in your pocket. If you pay for anything, you pay for everything. And that means hell.

Jesus’ resurrection offers real assurance in the face of God, because it declares that Jesus’ death paid our debt in full, if we reach out for it with faith. If you are trusting in Christ as your Savior, remember not to try to pull out your wallet and pay for anything. Trust and obey. Don’t try to pay.

If you aren’t a Christian – or aren’t sure – reach out in faith and ask Jesus to be your Savior – your living Savior. If you don’t feel you have the faith to do that, ask God to give you the faith. Ask God to reveal to you that He is real and that Jesus is real and that the resurrection is real.

The Bible declares that the resurrection is real. Very, very real. And because Christ is raised from the dead, those who believe in Him have real hope in the face of death, real meaning in the face of life, and real assurance before the face of God.

Let’s pray.