March 31, 2024. Sermon Title: The Evidence of Easter Is How We Live

First Mennonite Church

March 31, 2024

The Evidence of Easter Is How We Live

Text: John 20:1-29

In September of last year, I prepared a three-session Bible study on the topic of death and resurrection according to the Bible. In the first session, we saw that in the Old Testament, there is a progressive understanding of death and what happens to the dead. In the second session, we went over the Gospels’ account of Jesus’ resurrection. We saw that although they all agree on substantial points about Jesus’ resurrection, they also vary in some details. The third session had to do with the promise of our resurrection. (If you want a copy of that study, please let me know so I can print one for you.)

Yes, there is agreement in all four Gospels that Jesus died, that he was buried, and that some of his followers went over to the tomb on the third day after his death. They all agree that Jesus’ followers saw what appeared like angels. They all agree that Jesus’ body was not in the tomb. But interestingly too, the four Gospels only tacitly tell us that no one saw Jesus coming out of the tomb. Those who went to the tomb on that Easter morning only found out that the body of Jesus was missing, as we read this morning.

However, despite there being no human witnesses to Jesus’ reincorporation and walking out of the tomb, the four Gospels tell us of Jesus visiting or appearing to his disciples on the very day of his resurrection. In some instances, when Jesus appeared, the disciples were amazed and overjoyed at seeing him alive again. On other occasions, they doubted it was Jesus they were seeing.

In the book of Acts chapter one, verse three, Luke writes:  After his suffering, he presented himself to them (his disciples) and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.

Again, in this same book, alone, Peter and Paul, state nine times that “God raised Jesus to life” or “God raised Jesus from the dead.” Therefore, although none of Jesus’ disciples saw him coming out of the tomb, and it is possible that Jesus did not tell them it was God who raised him, how was it possible for Peter, Paul, and the other disciples to say it was God who raised Jesus?

According to the Gospels, Jesus gave all the indications that he embodied the qualities of God’s promised Messiah or the Son of Man. Through his words and deeds, Jesus displayed the qualities and character of having God’s favor and Spirit in him. Every word he spoke pointed toward God and his will for human life. Every act of power he performed was a demonstration of God’s good desire for his people and the world. Jesus’ selflessness for the good of others was a testimony of God’s love and compassion for the destitute, the lowly, and those rejected. But his words and deeds were also a powerful call to those who opposed him. So, on the third day after his death, when the angel said to those who went to the tomb that Jesus had been raised from the dead, the only conclusion they could come up with, was that it had to be God who raised Jesus from the dead. It had to be God whom Jesus called Father and of being one with him.

The conviction that Jesus was indeed the Son of God only became clearer to his disciples after the coming of the Holy Spirit upon them. In Acts, chapter two, Peter declares, “Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.

32 God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it.

The combined effects of Jesus’ words, deeds, and the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples thoroughly transformed the lives of Peter, his friends, and the people that emerged from their preaching. The Holy Spirit confirmed the words of Jesus to his disciples, they (Jesus’ words) held a grip on the lives of his disciples as had never before even when he was among them. Their lives began to reveal the living presence of Jesus, giving them joy in the midst of trials, boldness in the face of threats, power despite their humble origins, and hope in the midst of all kinds of challenges. Thus, the apostles lived and died for the very same causes Jesus did. It is no wonder why the apostle Paul exclaimed, “I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead (Philippians 3:10, 11).

Paul never saw the empty tomb to believe Jesus was raised from the dead. Paul never mentions an empty tomb, neither as the basis of his faith nor as a convincing argument to believe that Jesus was alive. Yet, in his life, Paul revealed the firm grip Jesus’ words had on him and the power of Jesus’ resurrection which enabled him to endure the trials he faced. The early church displayed the presence of Christ through its community life as portrayed in Acts. The Christian church grew despite all the challenges it faced in that pagan and antagonistic world.

My dear friends, if you were to ask a Buddhist whether Jesus was raised from the dead, he would answer you, “I don’t know.” And he is right. He does not know. If you were to pose the same question to one who is busy out somewhere today doing their own things, he or she might answer you, “Yeah, that’s what some people say.” Although they have heard that Jesus was raised from the dead, the fact is, neither Jesus nor his words have any effect on them.

You see, my dear brothers and sisters, any affirmation that Jesus is the Risen Lord can only be made with conviction by those whose lives Jesus has touched and in whom the Holy Spirit resides. The conviction that God has indeed raised Jesus from the dead is only possible when the words, power, grace, and holiness of Jesus’ words have taken hold of our lives. The confession that God raised Jesus from the dead is reflected in our lives when we display in our own lives his character, his love, and the firm grip of his words shaping our lives. Jesus’ resurrection has power in those in whom the Spirit of God dwells. For those who don’t have an experience with the living Christ, the idea of his resurrection has no power, and the confession that God has raised Jesus from the dead is only hearsay.

Today, we can say with confidence, “Jesus is alive because God raised him from the dead.” And the evidence of this confession is a life that reveals that Jesus lives in us. This power enables us to love and even suffer for his sake, if necessary.

May Jesus’ words and the power of the Holy Spirit dwell in us. Amen!

Pastor Romero