Pastor Doug explained the importance of understanding that the Christian faith is rooted in the facts of history—particularly today, as we celebrate Easter, the basis for our faith, the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Of the four major world religions, Christianity is unique in its claims that its founder is still alive, having been raised from the dead. The central tenant of Christianity is belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is not an ancillary doctrine; it is the foundational truth upon which the Christian faith rests.
After Jesus was crucified, his disciples were understandably distraught. They had come to love him. For three years, they had traveled and ministered together. When Jesus was arrested, his disciples abandoned him—publicly disavowing that they even knew him. They distanced themselves from him, lest they too end up on a Roman cross. But something happened which transformed those frightened, disillusioned, cowardly men into bold witnesses who literally turned their world upside down! What could evoke such a radical transformation?
Let’s go back to that first Easter…over 2000 years ago. It was early on a Sunday morning, just as the sun was rising three women made their way through the mist to the tomb where Jesus was buried. En route, they wondered how they would roll away the large stone which sealed the tomb. They had come to add fresh spices to the body. It had been buried in such haste, there had been little time for embalming. But they worried unnecessarily, for when they arrived, they discovered that the stone had already been rolled away.
Despite Jesus’ own predictions of his eminent death, his disciples were slow to embrace the news of his resurrection. According to Luke, they flat-out disbelieved it (Luke 24:11- 12). After hearing that Jesus’ body was missing, Peter decided to check out the story for himself, and he saw with his own eyes that the tomb is indeed empty. Clearly something was going on, but what was it? Up to this point, all they saw was an empty tomb. No one had seen Jesus yet. Peter was perplexed, and returned home to think things through.
John’s gospel tells us that after Peter left the tomb, Mary Magdalene returned and lingered there for a while (John 20). Her initial theory was that someone, for some reason, had moved the body. Again, Jesus’ followers weren’t eager to buy into the resurrection explanation. And for good reason! People just don’t do that! You die and you stay dead. That is how things had always been. But the evidence was so overwhelming, Mary was forced to accept conclusions she never would under normal circumstances. But there weren’t normal circumstances.
In Luke 24:25, Jesus put his finger on his disciples’ problem. They failed to believe all that the prophets had spoken. Jesus is, of course, referring to the Jewish Scriptures, our Old Testament. Apparently, they had zeroed in on those prophesies of the Messiah which predicted his glorious reign, but ignored those prophetic passages which spoke of his suffering, death, and resurrection. Theirs was not a problem of the intellect, but of the heart. It was spiritual in nature. This is why Jesus said they were “slow of heart to believe.” The evidence for Jesus’ resurrection was there. But, despite all the evidence, these men foolishly refused to believe.
That first Easter Sunday, Jesus appeared to at least fifteen people (Mary Magdalene, John 20:11-18; one or more other women, Matthew 28:9-10; two travelers on the road to Emmaus, Luke 24:13-32; Simon Peter; Luke 24:34; and to ten of the Apostles, John 20:19-25)! Over the next forty days, more than five hundred saw Jesus alive (Acts 1:3; 1 Corinthians 15:3-8). As incredible as Jesus’ resurrection may be, the facts of history stand firmly behind it.
As Christians, we have a firm foundation for our faith. He is risen, indeed!
Talking To God About This Week’s Message
“Lord Jesus, my neighbors need your forgiveness. Help me obediently speak up about you.”
Application / Challenge
Evaluate the evidence, then don’t be “slow of heart to believe”—respond to the risen Christ! To let us know you’ve made a decision for Christ or would like to know more let us know here. See the check box at the bottom of this form.