Week Commencing Sunday 13th Sepember

Week Commencing Sunday 13th September 2020

 

 

 

Call to worship

“Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! (Luke 24:5, 6)

 

He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Amen.’  (1 Peter 1)

 

Opening Prayer

 

Lord Jesus Christ you are risen from the dead. And we are risen with you. Lord lead us this morning into a deepening appreciation of these truths. May our lives never deny this eternal life, this peace and hope and joy you bring- for you are risen and we are risen with you. Praise and glory to the God of life who is stronger than all kinds of death. Amen.

 

 

Hymn

 

 

Thine be the glory, risen, conquering Son;
endless is the victory, thou o'er death hast won; angels in bright raiment rolled the stone away, kept the folded grave clothes where thy body lay.

Thine be the glory, risen conquering Son,
Endless is the victory, thou o'er death hast won.

 

Lo! Jesus meets us, risen from the tomb;
Lovingly he greets us, scatters fear and gloom;
let the Church with gladness, hymns of triumph sing ;for her Lord now liveth, death hath lost its sting.

Thine be the glory, risen conquering Son,
Endless is the victory, thou o'er death hast won.

No more we doubt thee, glorious Prince of life;
life is naught without thee; aid us in our

strife;
make us more than conquerors, through thy deathless love:
bring us safe through Jordan to thy home above.

Thine be the glory, risen conquering Son,
Endless is the victory, thou o'er death hast won.                                     

Edmond Budry     https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GaoV5w2Qfag

 

 

Reading. 1 Corinthians 15: 1-11

15 Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance[a]: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. 11 Whether, then, it is I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.’

 

Sermon. ‘Evidences for the Resurrection’

My wife and I recently watched ‘The Case for Christ’ on Amazon Movies. The film is the true story of a relentless journalist at the Chicago Tribune by the name of Lee Strobel. With a reputation for taking a hard look at the facts and not allowing himself to be clouded by emotion or falseness the award winning Strobel is threatened when his wife becomes a Christian. He sets out to prove a case that there is no evidence for God, no evidence that Jesus is who he said he was, and no evidence of anything more than what can be seen and touched. His thorough search centres on the truth or otherwise of the Resurrection, the very heart of Christianity. His investigation leads him to reluctantly accept its truth as a historic event, and following that he commits himself to the risen Christ and writes ‘The Case for Christ’, the book on which the film is based. The film was made in 2017 and depicts Strobel’s search in the early 1980s. I would certainly commend this film to you. You can view it on YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1W1Wzqnvdww

C.S. Lewis wrote of Christianity that if it is false, it is of no importance; if true it is of infinite importance. (‘God in the Dock’ p101, 102). Have you personally looked into the evidence for Christ yourself? Jesus described himself as ‘The Truth’ and He himself said ‘This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.’ (John 3:19-21).

I want to briefly outline the main evidences for the Resurrection here. For a fuller exploration I would recommend the above film and book of the same name. Josh McDowall’s ‘Evidence that demands a verdict’ is also worth exploring as is the earlier book ‘Who moved the stone’ by Frank Morrison.

THE EMPTY TOMB

When Jesus rose from the dead he came out of the tomb and left it empty.

Consider Jesus grave clothes. Earlier on Joseph and Nicodemus had together taken the body of Jesus, and bound it in linen cloths with the spices- about a hundred pounds weight of spices; myrrh and aloes- as is the burial custom of the Jews. As they wound the linen ‘bandages’ round his body, they sprinkled the powdered spices into the folds.

Now suppose we had been present in the sepulchre when the resurrection of Jesus actually took place. What would we have seen? We would suddenly have noticed the body had disappeared. We would have also seen that the body cloths- under the weight of 100lbs of spices, once the support of the body had been removed, would have subsided or collapsed, and would now be lying flat.

A gap would have appeared between the body cloths and the head napkin, where his face and neck had been. And the napkin itself, because of the complicated criss-cross pattern of the bandages, might well have retained its concave shape, a crumpled turban, with no head inside it!

That is what John and Peter saw in the empty tomb:

In John 20 we read the linen cloths were collapsed, lying there. The head napkin was in a place by itself ‘wrapped together’ and twirled. The rounded shape the napkin had still preserved.

No wonder they saw and believed. A glance at the grave clothes proved the reality of the resurrection. The cloths hadn’t been touched or folded or manipulated by any human being. They were as John Stott writes ‘a discarded chrysalis from which the butterfly has emerged’. The tomb was empty!

Some try to deny the reality of the empty tomb by dreaming up alternatives.

The Swoon Theory. When I was studying for my English Degree, we read a number of DH Lawrence novels, including his short story ‘The Man who died’. In his story Lawrence has Jesus merely swoon on the cross. He is then revived by the coldness of the tomb. Muslims also believe this theory.

However, it is clear the disciples believed this was resurrection and not resuscitation. The swoon theory is concocted without a proper look at what the Bible claims.

Jesus certainly died. When the centurion pierced Jesus side with his spear, the Scriptures record a copious flow of blood and water. Pathologists recognise this today as death from rupture of the heart; a massive clotting of the blood in the main arteries.

Further, even the most intelligent of Jesus enemies such as the Chief Priests of his own day, do not cast a doubt on the reality of Jesus death.

And suppose for arguments sake Jesus was not quite dead! Could he survive 36 hours in a stone sepulchre? Wiggle out of grave clothes and leave without disarranging them? Perform the super human feat of shifting the tomb stone without disturbing the roman guard. Walk miles on wounded feet. That he could then appear to the disciples in such a way as to give them the impression that he had vanquished death? Hardly.

No, Jesus had risen. The tomb was empty, not because he had revived, but because He was raised. (The first fears of the disciples were dispelled. They were full of joy, boldness and enthusiasm because they knew Jesus had risen from the grave).

Basically, theories that attempt to give an alternative explanation for the resurrection and empty tomb take more faith to believe in than the resurrection itself!

Frank Morrison was once an agnostic journalist. He attempted to write a book refuting the resurrection. After much investigation his opinions changed, he became a believer in Jesus Christ.

Morrison discovered that Christ was publicly put in the tomb on Friday, but on Sunday morning the body was missing. If he did not rise from the dead, then someone took the body. There are three interest groups that could possibly have taken the body; the Romans, the Jews, or the disciples.

The Romans would have no reason to steal the body, since they wanted to keep the peace in Palestine. The idea was to keep the provinces as quiet as possible, and stealing the body of Jesus would not accomplish this objective.

The Jews would not have taken the body, because the last thing they wanted was a proclamation of the Resurrection. They are the ones who asked for the guard, according to Matthew 27.

The disciples of Jesus had no reason to steal the body. They were hardly in a condition to do so. They were fearful and devastated that Jesus mission had come to nothing- indeed they had all forsaken Jesus and run away when the going got tough. It is also inconceivable the whole roman guard fell asleep and let them do it (the leaders would have been executed for any negligence). And the crunch reason is this- if the disciples did steal the body then they later died for something they knew to be untrue.

The only reasonable explanation the tomb was empty, Morrison realised, was because Christ had risen.

EYEWITNESSES OF CHRIST’S RESURRECTION

The accounts of Jesus appearances are recorded for us by eyewitnesses to whom Jesus appeared alive over a forty day period after His public crucifixion. As the scriptural account sets forth, to these ‘he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them 40 days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God’ (Acts 1:3 KJV).

Writing about AD 56, the Apostle Paul mentions the fact that more than 500 people had witnessed the resurrected Christ at one time and most of them were still living when he wrote (I Cor. 15:6). This statement is something of a challenge to those who might not have believed, since Paul is saying that there are many people yet living who could be interviewed to find out if Christ had indeed risen.

When the disciples proclaimed the resurrection, they did so as eyewitnesses and they did so while people were still alive who had had contact with the events they spoke of. Contrary to the claims of ‘The Da Vinci Code’ we must remember that most of the New Testament was written by people who saw the resurrected Jesus. Its authors were not men of the second century writing down legends. They were men of the first century writing about their experience

Could they all have been hallucinating? Only certain types of people are normally subject to hallucinations. But the disciples were of diverse temperaments. Hallucinations are normally individual, but here there are many people from different backgrounds suffering the same ‘hallucination’; fishermen, tax collectors, rabbis, close relations and 500 people at once. People who hallucinate wish for something, but the disciples were reluctant to accept even the evidence of their own eyes. Further hallucinations are restricted to a time and place, but Jesus appearances take place at various times and places, they also have a logic and purpose- starting in the garden, moving to Jerusalem, galilee and then directing the disciples to world mission. And then these appearances cease, after 40 days they end. Professor Kevan asks ‘But if the visions of the risen Saviour were hallucinations, why did they stop so suddenly? Why after the Ascension does one not find others still seeing the coveted vision?’

The hallucination theory is inadequate.

The fact the disciples (and these many others) were eyewitnesses of Christ’s resurrection is also borne out by the amazing change that took place in them.

THE CHANGE IN THE DISCIPLES

Peter was a fearful man who disowned Jesus after the Lord was arrested, but after the resurrection he was bold. Thomas was sceptical, but after, he was certain.

John 20: 19ffOn the evening of that first day of the week when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews. Jesus came and stood among them and said ‘Peace be with you’. After he said this he showed them his hands and feet. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord’

One of the major evidences for the Resurrection is the profound change in the disciples. On the day of the crucifixion they were filled with sadness, but on the first day of the week they were filled with gladness.

Soon they were fiercely proclaiming Christ’s resurrection and all except John died a martyr’s death for it. Unless it was Christ himself who appeared and days later poured out His Spirit on them, nothing else can account for this change in their lives.

Paul Little writes ‘Men will die for what they believe to be true, though it may actually be false. They do not, however die for what they know is a lie’. Key point for me. Compare Islamic suicide activists who kill others and die doing so/Japanese suicide pilots- plough into battleships. They believed what they were doing was true/ indoctrinated with ideas they are willing to die for. We would say such people die for what they believe to be true- though their beliefs are actually false. Some might accuse the disciples of having the same mentality. But Little’s distinction is very helpful:

‘Men will die for what they believe to be true, though it may actually be false. They do not, however die for what they know is a lie’.

If suicide bombers did not believe their fanatical ideas any longer and, indeed, knew them to be false ideology- then they would no longer be ready to endanger their lives in such missions.

In the same way- and much more obviously so- the disciples would not have given up their lives to martyrdom if they knew they were dying for something they had simply made up.

‘Men will die for what they believe to be true, though it may actually be false. They do not, however die for what they know is a lie’.

No, the disciples were overjoyed and later empowered because Christ had risen and they were, as the Bible says, eyewitnesses. He appeared to them on several occasions and interacted with them for prolonged periods of time.

Jesus had changed their lives.

Not only were the disciples changed as a result of the Resurrection. But lives have been changed ever since. The Risen Christ appeared to Saul, later called the apostle Paul. Christ turned his life around from being a killer of Christians to one who proclaimed the Gospel himself. Paul himself wrote ‘When someone becomes a Christian he becomes a brand new person inside. He is not the same anymore. A new life has begun’. (2 Cor.5:17, Living Bible).

Here are some comments by modern day believers of the change the living Christ has brought about in them:

‘I now have hope where previously there was only despair. I can forgive now, where before there was only coldness…God is so alive for me, I can feel Him guiding me and the complete and utter loneliness which I had been feeling is gone. God is filling a deep deep void’

‘I felt like hugging everybody in the street…I cannot stop praying, I even missed my bus stop today because I was so busy praying on the top deck!’

Jesus changed the disciples, He goes on changing the lives of his followers today.

THE CHURCH

All over the world hundreds of millions of Christians are gathered together to worship the Risen Christ.

Now where has all this come from unless Jesus as a fact of history really died and really rose from the dead??

We see a basic foundation in the establishment of the church was the preaching of Christ’s resurrection:

When the disciples sought the Lord to see who was to replace Judas, we read in Acts 1:21, 22 ‘It is therefore necessary that of the men who have accompanied us all the time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us- beginning with the baptism of John, until a day that He was taken up from us- one of these should become a witness with us of his resurrection

How can this be believed and passed on so widely, and with such effect in people’s lives unless Jesus was indeed raised?

We have seen 4 powerful sets of evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. The empty tomb, the eyewitnesses, the change in the disciples and the fact of the Church.

Former Chief Justice Lord Darling said this: ‘We as Christians are asked to take a very great deal on trust; the teachings, for example, and the miracles of Jesus. If we had to take all on trust, I, for one, would be sceptical. The crux of the problem of whether Jesus was or was not, what He proclaimed Himself to be, must surely depend upon the truth or otherwise of the resurrection. On that greatest point we are not merely asked to have faith. In its favour as living truth there exists such overwhelming evidence, positive and negative, factual and circumstantial, that no intelligent jury in the world could fail to bring in a verdict that the resurrection is true.’

But why is the Resurrection so important?

The Resurrection of Jesus shows that He really is the promised Messiah. The Saviour of the World. The resurrection has God’s ‘stamp of approval’ all over Jesus. By raising Him from the dead God has shown the whole world that Jesus is the unique Son of God, Saviour of the world. It shows that his sacrifice on the cross is the only acceptable sacrifice- atoning sacrifice for our sins.

Those who have put their faith in Him are forgiven. We now know God as Father. We were ‘dead in our sins’ but now we are raised to new life- here and now. Further, since Jesus has overcome death itself, those united with Him in this life will also be raised with Him in the life to come.

Jesus is the Messiah. God’s salvation. The Resurrection proves it. No one has any excuse before God for avoiding the evidence. So if you have not already done so, receive His generous provision to you in Christ.

Christ is alive. He is present with us by His Spirit. He is ready to grant you assurance of sins forgiven, a right relationship with Him and fill you with His Spirit. He will raise you. So put your faith in Him this Resurrection Sunday. Praise Him for it if you already have!

‘God is now declaring to all men that all everywhere should repent, because he has fixed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness through a man whom he has appointed, having furnished PROOF to all men, by raising him from the dead’ (Acts 17:30,31).

…………………………………………………..

Prayers

‘Lord Jesus, for too long I’ve kept you out of my life. I know that I am a sinner and that I cannot save myself. No longer will I close the door when I hear you knocking. By faith I gratefully receive your gift of salvation. I am ready to trust you as my Lord and Saviour. Thank you, Lord Jesus, for coming to earth. I believe you are the Son of God who died on the cross for my sins and rose from the dead on the third day. Thank you for bearing my sins and giving me the gift of eternal life. I believe your words are true. Come into my heart, Lord Jesus, and be my Saviour.’ Amen.

 

Lord of all life and power

Who through the mighty resurrection of your Son

Overcame the old order of sin and death

To make all things new in him:

Grant that we, being dead to sin

And alive to you in Jesus Christ,

May reign with him in glory;

To whom with you and the Holy Spirit

Be praise and honour

Glory and might,

Now and in all eternity.  Amen.

 

Hymn

 

See what a morning, gloriously bright,                                  
Will sound till He appears,
With the dawning of hope in Jerusalem;
Folded the grave-clothes,
Tomb filled with light,
As the angels announce Christ is risen!
See God's salvation plan, wrought in love,

Borne in pain, paid in sacrifice,
Fulfilled in Christ, the Man, for He lives:
Christ is risen from the dead!
 

See Mary weeping, 'Where is He laid?'
As in sorrow she turns from the empty tomb;
Hears a voice speaking, calling her name;
It's the Master, the Lord raised to life again!
The voice that spans the years,
Speaking life, stirring hope,
Bringing peace to us,

Will sound till He appears,

For He lives; Christ is risen

From the dead!

 

One with the Father, Ancient of Days,
Through the Spirit
Who clothes faith with certainty,
Honour and blessing, glory and praise
To the King crowned with power and authority!
And we are raised with Him,
Death is dead, love has won,
Christ has conquered;
And we shall reign with Him,
For He lives, Christ is risen from the dead!

Stuart Townend and Keith Getty        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-LgE_E7yaz4

 

 

Blessing

We are risen with Christ.         

 

David Barnes 9/9/20