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Did Jesus Really Rise from The Dead?

April 9, 2023 Speaker: Allen Snapp Series: Easter

Topic: Easter Passage: Matthew 27:62– 28:15

Easter Sunday

Allen Snapp

Grace Community Church

April 9, 2023


Did Jesus Really Rise from The Dead?

62 The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate 63 and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’ 64 Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.” 65 Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.” 66 So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard.

28 Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he[a] lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”

11 While they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place. 12 And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers 13 and said, “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ 14 And if this comes to the governor's ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” 15 So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story has been spread among the Jews to this day. Matthew 27:62-28:15


It was Halloween night, October 31, 1936. Several men and women sat around a table holding hands and waiting for a message – it was a message they had been waiting for every Halloween night for the last 10 years.

One of the women at that table was Bess Houdini, the wife of internationally famous magician and escape artist Harry Houdini. Shortly before his death in 1926, Harry Houdini made a pact with Bess that if he could, he would return and make contact with her from the other side. If anyone could find a way to get back from the dead – it would be Houdini. They devised a coded message that only he and Bess knew; and year after year on Halloween night she and some friends waited for a message from the dead. But ten years went by and the message never came.

Finally, Bess rose from the table and announced to the others and to a listening radio audience, "Houdini did not come through. My last hope is gone. I do not believe that Houdini can come back to me, or to anyone...The Houdini Shrine has burned for ten years. I now, reverently... turn out the light. It is finished. Good night, Harry!"

History proves that the chains of death are too strong for anyone to break. Oh, some have been resuscitated from death, and Jesus raised some people, like Lazarus, from the grave, but the grave eventually gets ahold and doesn’t let go. No one in history has risen from the dead and stayed risen. Absolutely no one.

Except Jesus. The centerpiece of the Christian faith is that Jesus is not dead, he is risen. If he didn’t, the Christian faith falls like a deck of cards and as the Apostle Paul wrote, Christian are to be pitied more than anyone else. I was at a meeting once where a pastor claimed that the resurrection was just a metaphor. I told him I had no interest in believing in a metaphor. I came to Jesus when I was a teenager because I believed – and still believe! That the resurrection is real!

So let’s ask two questions this morning: did Jesus really rise from the dead? And if he did rise from the dead, what does his resurrection mean for us?

  1. Did Jesus really rise from the dead?

Is the resurrection a fact of history? Or is it a fraud, a hoax, or a myth? There is a vast amount of historical evidence for the life, teachings, death and resurrection claims of Jesus. The historical records about Jesus are far more plentiful and written earlier than any other ancient historical person we know of. Because of the vast historical evidence very few have tried to propose that Jesus didn’t exist, or that he wasn’t crucified, or that his body didn’t leave the tomb. But there have been attempts at explaining the empty tomb in different ways than a resurrection. The two most common explanations are:

    1. Stolen body theory

This theory isn’t new at all. We just read that it was proposed by the chief priests as the explanation the guards can give to explain the empty tomb. They tried it but it never caught on.


  • How did a rag tag group of disciples get past the Roman guard, move the stone away, and steal away with Jesus’ body?
  • The disciples were taught by Jesus to be men and women of truth. It would go against everything Jesus taught to lie and deceive in his name.
  • When Jesus died the disciples were demoralized and fearful but they would soon turn the world upside down with the message that Jesus rose from the grave. Many of them would endure persecution and martyrdom for their faith. Peter was crucified upside down. It’s one thing for someone to die for what they believe, but these would have to be giving their lives for something they know to be a lie.
  • Whatever happened, the early disciples believed with all their heart that Jesus had risen from the dead.
    1. Swoon theory

This is the theory that Jesus did not actually die on the cross, but rather swooned (went unconscious) and was mistaken for dead. Then the cool air of the tomb revived him and he was able to escape and convince his followers that he rose from the dead.

A woman wrote to a question and answer forum and asked about this:

“Dear sirs, our preacher said on Easter that Jesus just swooned on the cross and that the disciples nursed him back to health. What do you think? Sincerely, Bewildered.

Dear Bewildered, beat your preacher with a cat-of-nine-tails with 39 heavy strokes, nail him to a cross; hang him in the sun for 6 hours, run a spear through his side…put him in an airless tomb for 36 hours and see what happens. Sincerely, Charles.”

First of all, the Roman guards were really skilled at differentiating between the dead and the living. They broke the bones of the two criminals hanging next to Jesus because they knew they were alive. They didn’t break Jesus’ bones because they saw that he was dead.

Secondly, to accept this we’d have to believe that after Jesus went through all that he could revive enough to move the heavy stone, present himself as a resurrected, glorified being, and so convince the disciples that he was resurrected that they took that message to the ends of the earth. Add to that you also have to believe that Jesus was a liar and deceiver.

    1. Evidence that he did indeed rise again

The historical evidence supporting the fact that Jesus did indeed rise from the dead is extremely strong. Here are just three:

  1. Jesus predicted that he would rise from the dead many times.

As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, "The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men, 23and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day." Matthew 17:22-23 (ESV)

  1. Eyewitnesses saw it – early accounts convey that over 500 believers saw the Risen Christ. These accounts were recorded in early historical letters so that if they were known to be untrue they would have been refuted immediately. The early Christians had many enemies and if there were an easy way to disprove that Jesus rose from the dead, they would have done so.
  1. The testimony of history: the disciples went from being afraid and demoralized to being radically energized and fearless. What is it that transformed them so completely? They stated over and over again it was because they saw the risen Christ! And through the centuries millions have claimed to have their lives changed by coming to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Can we prove it beyond doubt? No, but there is more than ample evidence that Jesus rose from the dead.
  1. What does His resurrection mean to us?

So the evidence testifies that Jesus did indeed rise from the dead. That the tomb is empty. But what does that mean to us?

  1. Jesus’ death on the cross was accepted by God as complete payment for our sin

Jesus went to the cross to die for the sins of the world. He was the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” He who knew no sin took our sin upon himself, and God poured out the punishment upon him that we deserve.

On the cross, just before he died, Jesus cried, “It is finished!” which meant, “It is accomplished!” The resurrection is God’s way of saying, “yes it is finished. Son, you took all the sins of the world on yourself and to give My witness to all you have done and taught I will raise you up from the dead!” The resurrection verifies Jesus’ promise that all who trust in him will be forgiven of all our sin and given eternal life.

  1. We can live life today in the power of the resurrection

Rom. 8 says if the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead dwells in us, He shall make alive our mortal bodies with that same resurrection power. Paul writes I want to know Jesus in the power of his resurrection.

God is working on us – we’re definitely a work in progress, but the Spirit of God lives within us and is working to empower us to love more, forgive more, serve more, and sin less. God is still in the business of changing lives – setting the captive free, giving joy to the hopeless, putting lives back together. I could say more, but I want to close with this point:

  1. The resurrection gives us a hope that can’t be turned off by death

Bess Houdini turned out the light and said her final good night to her husband. If there is no resurrection, than death is the light being turned out forever. It is the final goodbye, the final “good night”. All the cherished moments, treasured relationships, and precious memories of a life are extinguished when they die, leaving only the memory of their life. And it’s not long before the memory of their life will be extinguished too. King David sums up life on this side of the resurrection in Ps. 103

As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field;

16for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more. Psalm 103:15-16

Eventually even the remembrance that we ever existed fades quickly as those who remember us pass on.

The wind of time blows over our little field and we’re gone. How many of us remember our great, great grandparents? That’s all of us one day. That’s a depressing way to live. People try to substitute living it up, no restraints, go for the gusto, but excess eventually is an empty way to live.

The resurrection of Jesus, and his promise that all who believe in him will one day also be raised, means the

light will be turned back on! The good night will become a good morning! On this Easter morning, our message isn’t “good night Harry.” It’s “good morning Jesus! Thank you for the resurrection!”

For anyone who still resists believing in the resurrection I want to help you realize how precious this hope is in the big moments of life by sharing a true story with you.

The revolutionary war hero Ethan Allen was an open critic of religion and Christianity. His first wife, Mary, was a deeply religious woman, but he taught his children to reject their mother’s belief in Christ as he did.

A short time after his wife Mary died, his daughter Loraine, who he was very close to, contracted tuberculosis. One night he was entertaining a Dr. Elliot for dinner, when a servant came to announce that an alarming change had taken place in his daughter and his presence was required in her bedroom.

Along with Dr. Eliot, he entered her room and she took his hand and telling him that she felt she would die soon, she said, “Father, you and mother did not agree on religion. Mother often spoke to me of the blessed Savior who died for us all. She prayed to him for both you and me, that the Savior might be our friend and that we all see Him when he sits enthroned in His glory. I don’t feel I can go alone through the dark valley of the shadow of death. Tell me, father, who shall I follow? You, or mother? Shall I reject Christ as you have taught me? Or shall I accept him? He was mother’s great friend in the hour of her great sorrow.”

Ethan Allen was convulsed by emotions and through tears he said, “My child, cling to your mother’s Savior, she was right. I’ll try to follow you to that blessed place.”

Jesus is the Risen Savior who walks with us in life and comes especially close as we walk through the dark valley of the shadow of death, promising that the light may be turned off for a time, but on the great resurrection day, that light will be turned back on, brighter than ever.

Jesus rose from the dead, and he promises that all who believe in him will also be raised from the dead on that glorious day. The two Mary’s went to the tomb that first Easter morning to say their final goodbyes to Jesus, but the stone was rolled away and it wasn’t good bye, it wasn’t good night, it was good morning Jesus!

Thank Jesus for the resurrection!!

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