(un)Apologetic Week 9: Dead Man Walking – Part 2
How do you know that Jesus is actually God? What happens to the people that never hear about Jesus? How can a loving God send people to hell? If God knew that Adam and Eve would sin, why would He even bother creating them? Why would God create the devil if He knew he would rebel? How’s it possible God has no beginning and no end? Why should I believe the Bible if God Himself didn’t write it? Can God and evolution both be true? What if I don’t agree with some stuff the Bible says?
So, why was God okay with slavery? Why does He seemingly allow wars? Where was God when I needed Him? If God is loving and all powerful, why is there evil?
Well, good morning to everybody, and also to those who watch via the mobile app and the internet. We are continuing our series called [un]Apologetic, and I like to come back to the big idea every weekend when we're in a series because I think it does at least three things. One, it keeps us all on the same sheet of music. We all have different things that go on during the week and sometimes we get really distracted. It's good to know what we're doing and bring it back so that we can learn and continue to think about what the series is about. Secondly, if you've missed a couple of weeks — it's summertime and, you know, people miss and take vacation or whatever — it brings you back to what we're doing. And if you're brand new, sometimes walking in during the middle of a series, you might feel like, “I don't know what's going on.”
It helps you just sort of move right in, enjoy what we're doing and continue with us. A fit through the series. So, the big idea in this series has been for us, as a church, as those who say that we're followers of Jesus, to get equipped so that we're not afraid to share and defend our faith. And that's been sort of what we’ve been trying to do here over the last several weeks, and we will continue to do this over the next few weeks. We have Frank Turek coming in next weekend. I'm really looking forward to that. He is a bestselling author. He wrote a book, “I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist.” I think you're going to enjoy him immensely. So, please, please, please remember he's coming. Invite people. This would be a great time to bring some people because he's really good at what he does.
And then we'll continue to do a couple of weeks, maybe more after, and we'll wrap this thing up and start a new series. But here's what I think has happened: Number one, I do think that many of us have been given some tools for our toolbox that make us feel a little bit more confident to share a faith, but I also think that our faith has been built. We're going, “Man, we're not just jumping out into some blind leap of faith here. There are really good reasons to believe what we believe.”
I'm also hoping that those of you all who come here to Grace that are not quite sure about you're at with Christianity, because we always say you can belong here before you believe, I'm hoping that this series has also maybe ministered to you, and maybe made you think about what it would look like for you to truly become a Christian and follow Jesus. My hope and prayer is that you would do that.
So, a couple of weeks ago, I started a mini series called Dead Man Walking, and it was called Part One, and I promised you that we would do Dead Man Walking Part Two, which is what we're going to do this weekend. So, I want to talk a little bit more about the resurrection. And if you remember, if you were here, I made the statement that the single reason the church exists is because of the resurrection. In fact, Paul says, in 1 Corinthians 15, that if Jesus didn't rise from the dead, then our faith is in vain. Interesting that he doesn't say, “If Jesus didn't rise from the dead, I would go back to being a Jew.”
He says, “If Jesus didn't rise from the dead, all of it's vain; all of it is no good.” It's pretty powerful that the resurrection must be really important. So, I want to get to talking to you more about the resurrection and explaining to you why what we believe is really the most plausible explanation behind everything. But before we do that, I want to just take a minute here, once again, and sort of share out of my heart, as your pastor, why I'm so convinced that we need to stay focused on the resurrection.
Some of you all know this, some of you don't know this, but I do enjoy boating. One of the things that I can tell you about boating is that when you set an anchor, and if you said it good — you can not set an anchor good and it doesn't work. But if you set the anchor good, the boat's going to stay sort of in a circumferenced area. I mean, the winds can change, the tides can change, whatever, but you'll stay within a certain area. But if you, me and a group of people were on a boat, we were just hanging out in the Gulf, we'd anchored up and we're just talking and eating Cheetos and drinking Mountain Dew like Christians do — we’re doing whatever we do. You know? If we’re hanging out and somebody came along and cut the rope, we wouldn't know anything because the boat would stay over that area for awhile. And then what would happen is it would start to drift, and it would start to drift. Before long we'd go, “Man, where are we at? I don't know, man. We drifted. We're not anchored anymore.”
I would like to submit to you — and you don't have to agree with me. This is the beautiful thing about Grace. You don’t have to agree with everything that I say, but I wouldn't tell you this if I didn't think it was true. I wouldn't tell you this if I didn't think it was biblical. I think — and I can't speak to other places in the world because I don't live there, but I can speak to what I feel is an epidemic problem in the Church in America. I think we have lost our anchor. The anchor has been lost and we've drifted. What we've become is rather than the place that totally talks to people about the good news, which is that God, who created the world, sent His Son, Jesus, to die on a cross and rise again on the third day so that we could have everlasting life. What we've done is we've drifted and what we're known for is not that anymore. We're known for our issues: Social issues, political thoughts and viewpoints, doctrinal disputes, and all of this stuff. And what we've done is we've created a lot of obstacles for people to actually get to Jesus. When we look around and see that the Church in America, especially the mainline churches are in decline, somebody has to stand up and say, “Hey, we’ve got to figure this out.”
I mean, Jesus said the gates of hell will not prevail against His Church. His Church is not going to be defeated. But what I can tell you is that we’ve got to get back on point, keeping the main thing the main thing. And so, here’s what I’d like to do. I’d like to draw back on a passage that's in a wonderful letter that we have in the New Testament out of the book of Acts. In acts 15, everybody's gotten together. It's called the Jerusalem Council, and they're trying to figure out what to do with this Jesus thing. Everybody always thinks that Jesus rose from the dead and everything worked out. The book of Acts is the outworking. The epistles are the outworking of how does this work? I mean, Paul starts off in 1 Corinthians and he tells everybody, “Yeah, man. If you've got a gift and a voice and a word, man, just bring it into the Church and do whatever you want to do.”
He realizes that doesn't work because all that does is create chaos. So, by the time, later, Paul is saying, “No, we've got to put some institutions in place.” I mean, the whole Bible is an outworking of what God is doing in the local church, and you can see it as it develops. Well, in Acts 15 ,they don't know what to do with this group called the Gentiles because their theology, their understanding of God, was that He was going to do it all differently. Like, he was going to do what they consider to be wrapping everything up differently than the way that they thought. I would suspect most of us who think that we really know how God is going to wrap everything up are probably going to be wrong as well.
But, that being said, they were like, “What do we do with these Gentiles? Like, they don't know anything about the Old Testament. They don't know about Adam and Eve, Noah, David, Sampson, Saul and Solomon. They don't know Isaiah and Ezekiel.”
But nobody knows anything about Ezekiel. Can I get an amen on that one? That's a tough book. I get asked all the time, when I'm a professor, “Dr. Chip, what's the one book you don't want to teach on?”
“That would be Ezekiel.”
You’ve got to go to Colorado to understand that book. That's just a joke, if you're new here. It’s a joke. You’ll be like, “Man, what's he saying?”
Anyway, I’m just being fun. So, in Acts 15, they're trying to figure out what to do with whether we do the Gentiles. Well, I think James, which is the brother of Jesus, says something that is really, really important.
Here's what he says in Acts 15:19, “‘My judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God.’”
What is he saying? He's like, “Guys, let's not put a lot of obstacles in their path. Like, let's not wait to talk about the feasts and all the calendar events and all of that. Like, let's get the main thing the main thing. Let’s not trouble them. Let’s not make it difficult for them to get into the Kingdom of God. And I would just like to say that I think the greatest days of the Church can be ahead of us if we can get back to the centrality of the message that we're supposed to be speaking in the first place, which is called the good news. We're supposed to be telling people about Jesus.
So, here's what we're going to have to do. We're going to have to, once and for all — and this is something all of us are going to have to do — figure out what are the things that are salvific, what are the things that really save and are the non-negotiables, and what are the things that are really not salvific and are negotiable? Because most of the time we take this group and put it over here, and what we do is we create obstacles for faith.
So, I'm going to ask you a question because I think most most of us would agree with this. If somebody came in this room and said, “I want to know how to settle eternity, once and for all,” we probably wouldn't go, “Well, you know, you've got to believe that Jonah was swallowed by a fish.” That's not going to get anybody into the Kingdom of God. But we do things like that. We tell people stuff. Here's what we would do — and I believe that Jonah was swallowed by a fish, but that doesn't make me a Christian and it doesn't make you a Christian. What makes us a Christian is exactly what Jesus asked Peter. “Who do you say that I am?”
That's what makes somebody a Christian. In Acts 16, when the Philippian jailer says, “What have I got to do to be saved?” It doesn't say, “Well, you’ve got to believe this and believe that. You’ve got to believe this thing in the Old Testament, you’ve got to believe this about Noah and believe this about this and that.”
He didn't say that. He says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” So, what does it mean to be a Christian? What it means to be a Christian is that you and I have decided that we believe that the God who created this world sent His Son Jesus to die on a cross. He rose again on the third day and one day He's going to return. And if somebody believes that and confesses with their heart and speaks with their mouth the fact that God has risen Jesus from the dead, there's no way in the world that you and me should be saying they're not one. Now, they may not be one, but this is what we do. And we've all done it. Every single one of us have done this, and this is what I call the mirror test. All of us should do this regularly because we think these thoughts. Many of us say these thoughts, but we think them for sure. All of us do it from time to time, and this is what we think.
We say, “This person can't be a Christian because...”
And we add whatever that “dot dot dot” is. This is what I'm gonna say as your pastor: You’d better make sure that the “dot dot dot” you put behind that is, in fact, something that will keep someone from being a Christian. Because, if not, you're putting obstacles to them getting to Jesus. I want you to think through that because I'm passionate about this. The good news can't become the bad news. The good news has to be the good news. And how we're saved is a gracious act of God, through no works that we can do, by believing that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who died on a cross and rose again. And when somebody says, “I am in,” I believe that they are in fact a believer. And so, what we’ve got to do is push aside what are the non-salvific things. What are the salvific things? And I think the most important message that you and me can say — in other words, at your place of work, if somebody goes, “What do you think about this issue?”
“You know, I don't really know, but I can tell you this. I do believe that there's a God who created the world and sent His Son Jesus to died on a cross, and He rose again on the third day. I think that is the most important thing.”
God will take that and use that to bring people into His Kingdom far more than He will us arguing about politics, doctrine, issues and all this other stuff that we tend to do as Christians. And if you don't believe that, just go on Facebook and look at your last 10 posts and ask how much resurrection we're preaching. We're really not preaching a whole lot of resurrection. We're preaching a lot of other things that are not going to get people into the Kingdom of God, as a general rule. And if they believed everything you believed, every issue you believe, every political position you believe, they still wouldn't be a Christian because what makes somebody a Christian is believing in Jesus and having a relationship with Him.
Amen. Okay. So, you’re like, “Man, Pastor Chip’s putting his foot down.” Yeah, because I'm tired of watching the American Church get distracted. We’ve got the greatest message of all. Let's make sure that we tell people the great message that we've got. So, that being said, we're going to talk about the resurrection and we're going to have some fun because there's a lot of things that we're going to do today. We're going to look at a text and go through the text. We're also going to learn a little bit more about how to read the Gospels. There are a lot of things we're going to do today that are going to be really fun, so I’ve got to get going here because I've got to get you off by 3:00. Right? Is that what it is?
So, here's what we're going to do. We're going to read, out of Matthew, a passage, and then we're going to make some points to consider. I think what you're going to find is that the most plausible explanation for everything that we do, why we gather here, why there's a New Testament, why we still talk about Jesus today is because He, in fact, did rise from the dead. I believe you're also going to see that, looking at it objectively, there's really no other way to look at it. You can choose to look at it differently, but I don't think there's any other way to look at it. I think your faith is going to be encouraged. I think that many of you all are going to have a moment of realizing, “Hey, this is for real,” which is going to either make you decide to live for Jesus or maybe make you want to live for Jesus even more. But it's also going to give you some things for your toolbox when you do talk to people about Jesus.
So, when we come to the Gospel of Matthew, Matthew has told us that Jesus has died on the cross. Oof the problems when we read the New Testament is we just assume when we read it that it was written to us. It wasn't. It was written many, many years ago to people that would have understood things differently than we do. Like, if I wrote a letter to somebody and you found it 1,000 years later, you probably would need somebody to tell you what that letter was talking about because there would be things that are said, or there would be unsaid things that they would have known, that they didn't have to say, that you and I wouldn’t know because we weren’t there.
So, the gospel writers, when they write, they're not trying to give you a historical documentation, although they are history. They're not trying to give you a chronology, although many times there are chronological things. They're not trying to give you every single bullet point of every single thing that happened, even though many times they do give us bullet points of things that happen.
These are theological documents that are written for a purpose. They're written to people to help them understand who Jesus is. John writes so that people will believe. Luke writes so that Theophilus will have a better understanding of what happened with Jesus. They're all writing for intentional purposes and they've chosen the words that they've chosen because they have a point to make. Oftentimes, some of the words that they use don't really make sense to you and me. Like, we don't tell time the way Jewish people do. We don't do third hour of the day, six hour of the day, the third watch of the day. What does that mean?
Well, the Jews had a whole different way of looking at time. Sometimes they'd say evening, and evening is more like 3:00pm, and we're thinking evening is like 8:00pm. We read these things. So, what we've got to do is letting somebody else tell you — like some people take the Bible and go, “Look at this and look at this,” and you read it and you think, “Oh, they're right.” We've got to understand how to read it first and then what it'll do is it'll take away all these problems that we have from trying to make everything measure up and everything makes sense because none of them were trying to do that in the first place. They weren't trying to give you every detail. They were trying to tell you a point.
We're told here in the gospels that Jesus died around 3:00pm. So, as Jesus has died, or it may be in the process of when he was dying, we don't necessarily know, Matthew picks up and says, “When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus.”
These are interesting terms that are being employed here. A rich man. That should make you think when you read Matthew and Jesus said, “It's very difficult for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God,” here is a rich man that is a disciple. He doesn't try to qualify it. We do. We’ve got to try to qualify everything. The Bible doesn’t. Sometimes the Bible just says stuff and we go, “What does that mean?”
Just just take it for what it is. We know this guy's Joseph and he's from Arimathea. Now, see, we don't need the other gospels to tell us that Joseph was a member of the Sanhedrin because this wasn't written to you and me. It was written to people that would've known who Joseph of Arimathea was. We're reading these things wrong. They knew who this guy was, but he says a couple of things that are cool. He's a rich man. He's probably writing because there might be some tension in the early Church that Matthew writes to about that. He's saying this guy was really a good guy, he loved Jesus and he was a disciple of Jesus. Check that out. Joseph of Arimathea was a part of the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin was the body that condemned Jesus to die. He didn't leave it and he was a disciple. Matthew doesn't try to explain to us how those things can be true. I can just tell you when you read that, you’d better be very careful of who you say is in and out because the bottom line is the only one who gets to judge eternity, who goes to heaven and who goes to hell, is our Heavenly Father. Not you and me.
We're also told in another gospel that Nicodemus was here. We're not told in this gospel that he was, but Nicodemus came along. We're told that Nicodemus was a secret disciple because of fear for the Jews. Do you know how many Christians I've heard tell me, “You’ve got to be all in. There's no such thing as a secret disciple.”
Well, the Bible says there was a secret disciple. I'll tell you, the Bible will mess you up. We've got all these things that we say that are just totally not true, and then we go and defend them and argue and yell about them rather than stepping back from them and going, “Let's let the Bible read me.”
So, we've got Joseph of Arimathea who's a disciple of Jesus, and he went to Pilate. He's able to go to Pilate because he's a member of the Sanhedrin. That was gutsy. Jesus had just died for insurrection and he's going to go to Pilate and say, “Hey, I'd like to have the body and bury the body.”
That was a gutsy move on old Joseph’s part. So, he goes to Pilate, he asked for the body of Jesus and Pilate ordered it to be given to him. So, we need to break this down here for a second. What's Matthew telling us? Matthew knows that the story that's being circulated is that the body of Jesus was stolen. That's the story. And so, what he's doing is he wants you to know that there's a person that you can go talk to because he's part of the Sanhedrin and he wants to make sure you know him. Like, you know this guy that you can go talk to? Okay. He championed the body off of the cross, he was the custodian of the body into a tomb and there was a rock that was rolled over it. He's telling you all the reasons why there's no way in the world that body got stolen. That's what he's trying to tell you. Don't read into the story other stuff, because we'll see this as we go. He's got a point that he's making.
He says, “Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud.”
I've heard people on the internet who are atheists go, “Oh, yeah. This shows you how dumb the Bible is. Like Joseph climbed up on the cross by himself, pulled the body down and wrapped it. He would have touched him. He would have been ritually unclean.”
You see, this is the problem we have with the Gospel. The stuff that's not being said would have been totally understood by those who read this. Matthew is not telling you that Joseph is the only person there. Thank God we have the other gospels to corroborate that, but we shouldn't need that. We should know that if Pilate told Joseph that he can have the body, do you know who took the body down off the cross? It would've been the centurions. They would've lowered him down. We also know that there were some women that were along. We know in another gospel that Nicodemus was along. There were probably several people, but Matthew's not concerned at all about trying to get every single detail so that you can read it through some lens of trying to make it all work out. He's writing to a group of people saying, “I know the guy that had the body, that custodianed the body, that put him in the tomb so that you can know that the body didn't get messed up and it didn't get stolen. We have good reason to believe that that's where the body was at.”
That's what he's trying to say. Much like we read the nativity scene with Mary and Joseph. We've got these whole stories that we tell. Christians believe it and they fight for it, they argue about it and it's completely untrue. Mary and Joseph didn't go by themselves when they went to Bethlehem. They would have gone with a group of people. You didn't travel alone. There weren’t three wise men. There was probably hundreds of them. You don't travel across the desert with three people with a bunch of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. They would have been killed, beat up and robbed, three people. It doesn’t work.
But see, in our mind, we've got all these things that we're reading in and then we go fight for it and argue about it. The nativity scenes that we put out in our yards are wrong anyway, and then we yell about it. I’m like, you probably should take them down anyway because they're wrong. You know?
You don't have to. I'm getting a little carried away. You’re getting mad at me. Anyway, do you know what I'm saying?
So, Joseph took the body, wrapped it and cleaned it, not by himself, but Joseph is the one who is the custodian. He laid it in his own new tomb. That is important. Hugely important thing here that Matthew just told us. If you go to Israel with me, if you travel there, we'll show you tombs. You'll see that in the tombs, there are these rock areas where bodies can be laid. They would lay the bodies there. This is a new tomb, which means there's no other bodies in that tomb. The only body in that tomb would have been Jesus, so it couldn't have been a mix up, it couldn't have been the switch-o, change-o, it couldn't have been Uncle Joe, Aunt Sally and Jesus sort of got mismatched and whatever else because there's only one person in the tomb. This is why he's writing what he's writing.
He says, “There's a new tomb, which he had cut in the rock, and he rolled a great stone.” I've heard people go, “Oh, there's no way in the world that Joseph could have rolled the great stone by himself.”
You're exactly right. That's not what Matthew’s telling you. He's telling you that he's the one that got the stone rolled. He probably had some Roman centurions there with him that rolled the stone for him because Pilate had said, “You can have the body.” The bottom line is Matthew wants you to know that the body that was taken down from the cross was put in a tomb with no other bodies, there was a stone rolled over it, and if you want to know that that happened, you can go talk to the guy who's a part of the Sanhedrin, and his name is Joseph.”
So, then he tells us this: “Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.”
Why does he say that? Because now there are two other people that he wants you to know, and they probably had some relationship. Matthew's community probably knew these people. That's why he named them so that they could go out. “There's people here.” They might not have known Nicodemus. Maybe Nicodemus had died by then. We just don't know. But there's a reason why Matthew is writing the way Matthew writes. So, now we've got this great stuff going on. Then listen, this is great. The way it's written is really cool stuff.
“The next day,”
So, that would've been Friday. Let me address this, too. The three days and three nights is an idiom. An idiom is when you say something that means something to someone that's not necessarily literal. Like, “I could eat a horse. I’m so hungry that I could eat a horse.” We know I'm not going to eat horse. We just know what that means because that's an idiom that we know.”
Three days and three nights is a Hebraism that means that you touch the period of some parts. So, if it was Thursday at 11:59, and then it turned 12:00 and it was Friday, or Tuesday, Wednesday or whatever — so, say Tuesday at 11:59, and then it turned, in one minute, to Wednesday, and then right at 12:01 on Thursday, if that was the time, that would be three days and three nights for a Hebrew. So, we've got all these people now that go in and say, “Well, Jesus must have been crucified on Thursday so we can get a literal three days and three nights.”
We're taking into the text things we don't understand. This wasn't written to you and me. We have to go back and understand the literature of the day. What we know is that on a Friday, Jesus was crucified. The next day is the Sabbath. Now, what's interesting is Matthew could have blasted the chief priests and the Pharisees for going to Pilate on the Sabbath, because they loved to give Jesus difficulties for doing things on the sabbath, but he doesn't. He treats them very gently, which maybe we could learn to treat our enemies gently too. Maybe we could make a case that this person isn’t a Christian because they don't love their enemies. That's not true because you're not a Christian by whether or not you love your enemies. You’re a Christian by what you do with Jesus. But aren't we told to love our enemies? Most Christians don't, so I guess we're not Christians. Right? Isn't it interesting how we’ll take something that we don't do and not think a thing about it, but something else that we want to pin the tail on the donkey, we’ll say, “They're not in and I'm right.”
I mean, we've got to get this right. We have to get this right. We have to preach Jesus. We have to stay focused. As long as I'm your pastor, I'm going to sit up here and keep anchoring and anchoring away that the thing that changes lives is a relationship with Jesus. It’s not all the other clutter and white noise that we put out there.
“The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation,” — he could have blasted them for it being the Sabbath, but he doesn’t — “the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, ‘Sir, we remember how the imposter said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’”
If you're making this story up, you surely wouldn't have the enemies of Jesus recognize the fact of what Jesus said about rising from the dead on the third day, and you, the people that followed Him for three and a half years, blew it. That's just truth here.
“‘After three days I will rise.’ 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.”
We’ve got to unpack this. A lot of good stuff here. First of all, the people that are worried about the body being stolen are doing everything they can to make sure that it doesn't get stolen, and then when it doesn't work, they say that it got stolen. Do you see the irony there? There’s just a little bit of a beautiful irony there. The second thing is this: If you're making up the story — and most people don't recognize this when they're reading the text, but you should. If you're making up the story, you wouldn't have told this. The evening of Friday, when they've rolled the stone over the tomb, Joseph and Mary and all them go home. It's not until the next morning that the Pharisees and the chief priests go to Pilate to put a guard out. So, there was one evening that the tomb was not guarded. If you're making up this story, you wouldn't have said that. Period. We need to read the text and see what's going on.
And so, what happens is Pilate says, “‘You have a guard of soldiers.’”
There's a difficulty here from a scholarship level. I don't have time to get into it because we'd go too long, but the bottom line is when he says you have a guard of soldiers, some people think that what he's saying is, “You have your soldiers, Jewish soldiers, so put them over the tomb.” Many people believe that what he's saying is, “You can have a guard of soldiers here.”
He's giving them Roman soldiers. I can tell you based on what I can see, what I can read, the way they go to the Jewish people, and then the way that they also go back to Pilate, it appears that the troops that were put there were, in fact, Roman guards. I like to say that to you all because I don't want you to think that I'm like hiding something out or not being honest with stuff. I don't find it compelling that would be Jewish guards, and it wouldn’t make a difference anyway because I still think, regardless of that, Jesus has risen from the dead
But he says, “‘You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.’”
So, Pilate says, “Go, make this thing secure.”
“So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard.”
What does that mean? What they did is on the stone, they would have taken a rope and they would've put wax on the ropes so that if the stone would have been rolled, the wax would come off and you would know that the stone had been an unsealed. So, they put the guard out there, they put that out there, and, I mean, part of it is because if the wax has come off, no matter what the Roman soldiers say, somebody knows that that stone has been moved. And so, this is where we're at. This is the story. It’s probable that these are Roman guards. It seems a little bit improbable that some fishermen would have overpowered the Roman guards, or that they would have fallen asleep knowing the situation of what would have happened to them if they would have fallen asleep. But we're told this.
We're told that on the following morning, the break of dawn, there was an earthquake and the stone moves out by itself. The stone is removed, the Roman guards are freaking out and they take off running. They run immediately to the Jewish leaders, telling them everything that has happened.
“We were there. The stone rolled away. This angel comes and sits on the rock. It was the craziest thing ever. Don't know what happened.”
They're like, “The answer is cash. We're going to pay you to say that the body was stolen.” Which is hilarious because they just did everything that they possibly could do to keep the body from being stolen, so they say, “Well, what's going to happen to us with Pilate?” which probably is the tell that they were Roman guards. They're like, “Don't worry. We'll pay him off and do whatever we’ve got to do as well.”
As Mary and the other women come to the tomb — and the reason they probably come to the tomb is because people go, “How in the world did they think they were going to get in to the body?”
They probably had heard that there were guards there, and they might've asked the guards if they would move the tomb or the rock for them. It's possible. We just don't know. It's also possible the morning that they came out to the tomb, that they moved the rock first, looked in and made sure the body was there, rolled the rock back over and then sealed it. We simply don't know. What we do know is that there was a rock put on there, we know that there was one body in the tomb, we know who put it there, and we know where it was at. People knew where it was at. There was an attempt to seal the tomb to make sure that the body didn't get stolen. And, all of a sudden, resurrection morning, there is no body because the women show up, there's an angel sitting on the rock and he says, “Come right in behind door number one.”
And they walk in door number one and there is no body. So, let's do some points here to consider because these are really important. These are things that you need to know and you need to be able to say because they are powerful. First of all, Jesus actually lived and died. This is important. You can't have a resurrection if He doesn't die. He can't die if He didn't live. There are people out there right now that are saying Jesus never lived, He never existed or He's a mythical figure. So, I want to give you some help here. I’ve got some quotes for you. You'll understand how powerful these quotes are and how meaningful they are as I give them to you.
“The denial that Christ was crucified is like the denial of the Holocaust. For some, it's simply too horrific to affirm. For others, an elaborate conspiracy to course religious sympathy. But the deniers live in a historical dreamworld.”
Why is that important? Well, it's important because Bart Ehrman said it. Bart Ehrman is not a Christian. Bart Ehrman is a scholar who writes against Christianity, who doesn't believe that there is a god. And if there is one, he surely isn't the Christian god. And Jesus definitely didn't rise from the dead. And the Bible that you read is a joke.
Why is that important that Bart Ehrman would tell you that Jesus actually lived and died? Because the freak on YouTube, that has no education and didn't go to school and isn't a scholar, who's telling you that Jesus didn't rise from the dead, which you should — can I tell you something? You're not going to get a great education going to Youtube University, folks. Okay? I don't know why we do that. And we play Google doctor. Go to your doctor. Don't try to play Google doctor. I mean, we just do all these things. I don't know why we do all these things. We watch one video and we think we're an expert on something. You know? That’s not the way it works. Okay?
Bart Ehrman is a scholar who doesn't believe anything. What he's telling you is that there's no question whatsoever that Jesus died by crucifixion. If Jesus actually died by crucifixion, guess what? He lived. He was a real person. And we need Jesus to have died because if He didn't die, we can't have a resurrection.
Second person, cool name, Gerd Lüdemann. Don't you want to name your kid that? “Come here, Gerd.” You know? Gerd Lüdemann is a German scholar, a brilliant, brilliant man, who writes against Christianity with almost a hatred. He writes books on a regular basis. Prolific writer, prolific scholar, can't stand Jesus, can't stand Christianity or any of it. And Gerd Lüdemann says, “The fact of the death of Jesus as a consequence of crucifixion is in disputable.”
Why is that important? Because it's coming from Gerd Lüdemann, who's not a believer, who actually trashes Christianity on a regular basis, and he's telling you, as a scholar, “Man, that's indisputable. No question about that.”
The next cat that I’ve got up here is J.D. Crossan. John Dominic Crossan. Once again, a nonbeliever. Period. End of story. He doesn’t believe that Jesus rose from the dead. He says this: “Jesus’ death by crucifixion under Pontius Pilate is as sure as anything historical can ever be.”
Not only that, but he goes on to say, “For if no follower of Jesus had written anything for 100 years after His crucifixion, we would still know about Him from two authors, not amongst his supporters.”
The names are Flavius Josephus in Cornelius Tacitus. Why is that important? Because if somebody comes along and says, “Hey, you don't know that Jesus lived.”
“Hey, we don't know that George Washington lived either, brother.”
I think there's a pretty good chance that George Washington lived. I think there's a good reason that Jesus lived. I mean, there's a good reason to think about this. I mean, people don't think about this stuff. I've got all this stuff that we think, but the bottom line is that the best historians in the world, even non-Christian historians, will tell you there's no question in the world that Jesus lived. All three of these guys, in their books, will tell you that the early Christians truly believed that they saw Jesus risen from the dead. They just don't believe it. So, none of these stories are ahistorical. They’re historical. Jesus died, Jesus lived and all of His early followers thought they saw Him alive.
What's the second thing that's important? That Jesus was buried. This is important. It's important because we need to know that the body had some sort of custodianship, so then when it's missing, we don't go “Well, did it get mixed up? Was there something?” No. He was buried. That's important that He was buried because Joseph took the body, He wrapped it, He put it in his own new tomb, He rolled a great stone over it and Mary and the other Mary were there seeing it. It's important to know that not only did Jesus live and die, but Jesus was properly buried in a tomb that people knew where it was at. That's important to know.
The third thing is we know that the tomb was guarded. Like, we know that. See, if these things were untrue, we would have had literature in the first century because the disciples, they went right back into Jerusalem and preached this message. It's not like they went somewhere else. They went right back into the belly of it all and said, “No, no, no, no, no. The guy that just died, He's alive, man. We saw Him.”
Okay? That could easily be disputed. The Romans could have brought the body out, paraded the body around Jerusalem and dealt with this thing once and for all. They could have said, “That's not true, Joseph of Arimathea.”
None of this is disputed historically. None of it. The tomb was guarded. We know that there was a guard of soldiers and they tried to make it as secure as they could. They sealed it and they put a guard there. We know that that stone would have probably taken four or five men to have rolled away. So, we know that. And here's what we also know, and this is important. We know that nobody doubted that the tomb was empty. Nobody did. Nobody doubts that at all. Nobody doubts that we don't have Jesus. He's just gone missing.
Nobody's in the tomb. The question, and it's always been the question, is how did it come to be empty? Because, see, some people go, “Well, Jesus really didn't die on the cross. What happened was He sort of died, but when they put Him into the tomb and the cold rock hit His body, it woke Him up. Then He sort of came to.”
Okay. Well, it's important to know that He died. Like, they didn't crucify you and not get you dead, folks. They got you dead. You were dead when you came off that cross. Okay? So, He died. That's important. He was buried. That's important. The tomb was guarded. We know where the tomb was and people knew where the tomb was. The bottom line is nobody questioned that the tomb was empty. The Jews agree. They had to come up with a story.
“Well, the disciples stole it.”
You can imagine, if you could have been there, I'm sure the Roman guards went through looking for stuff. They went looking for the body. You know that they did. And if they could have found that body, they’d have paraded it all around Jerusalem. This would have been done and we'd have never heard about this. It would have been sort of a footnote to history.
But here's the reality: When you look at crucifixion in the first century and what that meant, that nobody believed that a crucified Messiah could be the Messiah, when you understand that the Gospel writers tell us that the first preachers were women — once again, when you read the Bible, it will mess you up. The first preachers were women. I'll just leave it at that before I get in trouble. When you look at the fact that they went right into Jerusalem and started preaching, when you look into the fact of the historical references that we have and the names that we know, and when you look at some men that went from being in hiding to giving their life for the story, what is the most reasonable explanation? What is the most plausible explanation for why we do what we do, for why there's a New Testament, for why we still gather, and for all of this stuff?
The most plausible explanation, if you're not just trying to be biased and you're not just trying to disprove something, the most reasonable explanation is that they saw a dead man walking. See, here's the rub. If Jesus really rose from the dead, then that is a huge deal for you and me. That means I'm not my own. That means that He really is the King of kings and Lord of lords. That means that my life is to be dedicated to Him. Therein is the rub. That's the rub that none of us want. We want to do our own thing. But I'm here to tell you there's no reason in the world for you to doubt the veracity, the truth, of the resurrection.
You want to go argue a bunch of other biblical stories? Have fun. You're going to have a very difficult time on some of those stories, arguing people, science and all this other stuff. In my opinion, it's fine that you want to do it, but it is not the message. Do you want to go argue politics with people and tell them? It's not the message. I'm telling you the message that we have to stay focused on is that we have some great news for you. What's the great news? That the God who created this world sent His Son, Jesus, to die on a cross and rise again on the third day so that you could have eternal life. That is enough to get somebody into the Kingdom of God.
It’s not “Jesus plus,” or, “Jesus and.” Jesus plus nothing is everything. So, let's pray.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for the way that You have cataloged for us the historical faith that we have, that this isn't just a leap in the dark. Yes, we have to have faith. We have to have faith when we flip on a light switch. We don't know that the light's going to go on, but we believe that it will. But we have reason to believe that when we flip it on, it'll go on. Lord, we have reason to believe that what we believe with Christianity is, in fact, the most plausible explanation to explain it all. Lord, what that does is it really does call on a number of different groups of people. One, it calls on those that have never made a commitment to really wrestle with the evidence here. Lord, I'm praying that if someone is not a Christian in this room and has never really decided to follow Jesus, I pray that today they would go, “Man, that really is the most reasonable explanation. These people aren't trying to get me to come and pray a prayer because they want to control me or they want something from me. These people want me to know about Jesus because it matters.”
Lord, we do. That's why we preach You. We want people to know. There are also people in here that are probably doubting their faith. I pray today, God, that that doubt would go in Jesus' name, and they would realize, “Man, I can be all in on this thing. There are reasons to be all in.”
And then, Lord, for many of us, this is just great stuff to put in our back pocket to make sure that we know these things so that we can share our faith in a way that is consistent with what You want us to do, Lord, and is truly preaching the Gospel.
So, Lord, I ask here at Grace, for Your glory and for Your honor, that You would help us to stay focused here, as a church, on the gospel. I pray that You would help us to be a beacon of light in Lakewood Ranch, Sarasota and Bradenton that is absolutely focused on preaching the person that can change lives. We are going to be a church that preaches Jesus and His resurrection because, Lord, we believe that makes the difference in people's lives.
So, Lord, we love You, we thank You, we praise You and we honor You. And we ask that You would continue to lead, guide and direct our church. We pray that You'd bring us back safely to when we meet again. And we pray, Lord, that You would keep us diligent and focused as to what You've called us to be here at Grace, and that is a church that reaches the unchurched by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ.
Lord, we love You, we thank You and we praise You. In Jesus' name, and everybody said, “Amen.” Give the Lord a big hand clap. Tell Him you love Him. God bless everybody. See you soon.