Was Jesus’ Resurrection an Illusion or a Reality? – Part 1

I’m sure some of you have heard of David Copperfield. According to Forbes magazine, he’s one of the most commercially successful magicians of our time. What makes him so successful is his ability to make his illusions appear real. I remember watching one of his shows where he made the Statue of Liberty disappear. I remember wondering how did he do that because it seemed so real. And so does everything else he does in his show, which is why he’s successful and famous.

While David Copperfield is really good at what he does, we know he’s just an illusionist. Just like we know that David Copperfield is an illusionist, many wonder if Jesus was one too. I say that because there are many who think Jesus’ resurrection wasn’t a reality but an illusion.

But is that true? Was Jesus’ resurrection just an illusion or was it a reality? 

I’m going to offer you several proofs over the next several posts that I believe tell us that Jesus’ resurrection was a reality and not just an illusion. We are going to start with the death and burial of Jesus. As we do, we see that

The Death and Burial of Jesus was a Reality (vs. Matt 27)

Swoon Theory

I start here because there are some who would go so far as to say that Jesus didn’t really die on the cross. Instead, they claim He just passed out. Since he wasn’t dead, He was able to walk out of the grave. After meeting with His disciples and recovering from His injuries, He lived out His life in relative obscurity in a play to fool everyone that He had resurrected from the grave and ascended into heaven. This is known as the Swoon Theory.

Now, to me, that theory sounds absurd. It’s fraught with all kinds of holes as we will see in a minute. But it comes back up in discussions surrounding Jesus’ resurrection from time to time, especially around Easter. For that reason, we need to start with the death and burial of Jesus so that we will know that Jesus really was dead when He was placed in the grave.

How do we know Jesus was really dead?

A. Pilate would have made sure Jesus was dead 

Matthew 27 recounts the arrest, trial, death, and burial of Jesus. If we skip to the end of the trial, we learn that Pilate thought Jesus was innocent. That the accusations against Him were nothing more than trumped up charges levied against an innocent man by a jealous and offended Jewish leadership.
Pilate saw this. Not wanting to condemn an innocent man to death, he gave the people a choice between letting Jesus or Barabbas go. He thought the people would certainly choose Jesus because Barabbas was a notorious criminal and it seemed obvious that Jesus was innocent. But the Jewish leaders stirred the people up so that they chose Barabbas over Jesus, And when Pilate asked what he should do with Jesus, they called for Him to be crucified. I think it’s safe to say that Pilate’s plan had backfired, but, as we learn in verse 24, he didn’t want to risk a riot so he gave in to their request.

I bring that backstory up because after Jesus’ death Joseph of Arimathea went to Pilate in verse 58 and asked for Jesus’ body so that he might give Him a proper burial. Pilate conceded and handed Jesus’ body over.

Now, knowing the back story, there was no way that Pilate would have done that if Jesus were still alive.If he did, he would have had a mess on his hands.
Certainly, a riot would have occurred. And most likely he would have been removed from his position as governor. While Pilate knew Jesus was innocent, he wasn’t willing to risk his position and all the privileges that came with it just to save Him. You can be sure, then, that when Pilate handed Him over Jesus was dead.

But Pilate wasn’t the only one who had a vested interest in making sure that Jesus was dead, the Soldiers did as well.

B. Roman Soldiers handled Jesus

You see, in Rome, a soldier’s life was at stake every time he guarded a criminal. If they escaped, he most likely would be killed. This is why John tells us in his gospel that the soldiers ran a spear into Jesus’ heart before taking Him down off the cross. They wanted to make sure he was dead. Even after removing Him from the cross, they would have inspected his body.

All that to say, then, that when Joseph of Arimathea received Jesus, He was dead. Both Pilate and the Soldiers would have made sure of that.

But their examination isn’t all we have to go on, we also know that:

C. Joseph of Arimathea handled Jesus. 

He cleaned Him, prepared Him for burial, and placed Him in the tomb.

And then,

D. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were present at Jesus’ burial.

They witnessed Him being placed in the tomb and the stone being rolled in front.If Jesus were alive, this group would have realized that and kept Him from the grave. But Jesus’ wasn’t alive. He was dead. We know that because a number of people either made sure that He was dead or handled Him after His death.

Next Time

While it is true that Jesus was dead when He was placed in the grave, it was also true that the grave couldn’t hold Jesus. Next time we will look at the proofs that tell us Jesus resurrected from the grave.

Question for Reflection

  1. Do you believe Jesus was really dead when He was placed in the grave?

Resources

Post adapted from my sermon: Was Jesus’ Resurrection an Illusion or a Reality?

In what ways does Jesus provide us with a whole new way of life?

Christmas is a time to celebrate God’s gift to us. He gave us His Son who is the Lord and Savior of this world. As our Lord and Savior, He provides us with a whole new way of life.

In what way does Jesus provide us with a whole new way of life?

(1) Jesus provides hope.

In Luke 2, we learned that Jesus is the Savior, the Messiah, the King of this world. If we are honest, a Savior is what we are all looking for and want someone or something to save us because we know the world in which we live is broken. You only have to open the newspaper or turn on the nightly news to know that’s true.

At the core of that brokenness is our sin. Sin is more than just breaking the rules, sin is an all-out rebellion against God. Because we have sinned against God, we deserve for God to punish us for rebelling against Him. There is nothing we can do to escape God’s punishment, which means that apart from Jesus we don’t have any hope for the future.

Jesus, however, gives us hope because He takes our punishment for us. In doing so, He repairs our relationship with the Father so that we no longer live under the threat of God’s wrath being poured out on us.

Along with saving us from the Father’s wrath, Jesus also saves us from sin and promises us life eternal in a completely different world. A world that isn’t broken, but is perfect.

So, in Jesus, we experience hope. In Him, we have something to look forward to. And that hope is life changing.

(2) Jesus provides us with the ability to pursue forgiveness

Say I went over to your house with my kids. Right now, they are really into playing superheroes. When they play superhero’s, they run all over the house like crazy, chasing one another and sometimes knocking into furniture. Say one of them knocked your lamp over and it broke. Instead of making me pay for the lamp, you said, “Don’t worry about it. I’ll take care of it.” Not only would that be extremely nice of you, but you would be absorbing the cost of that lamp because you would be replacing that lam with your own money.

That’s exactly what Jesus did for us except on an infinitely greater scale. He absorbed the cost, not of a broken lamp, but of the eternal punishment we deserve.

The remarkable thing is that He purposely came to provide us with forgiveness. You see, Jesus didn’t just happen to forgive because it was convenient for Him, or He was in the right place at the right time. Instead, He actually pursued us in an effort to repair our relationship.

For those of us who have experienced Jesus’ forgiveness, we should be willing and motivated to forgive others. We should even pursue others as Jesus pursued us, desiring a restored relationship as He did.

While forgiveness is costly and requires some vulnerability on our part. It’s something we should be willing to extend to others because it has been extended to us. Being willing to forgive is necessary if we expect to have any sort of deep and lasting relationship with others because inevitable a situation is going to arise where someone is going to sin against us and we are going to have to extend forgiveness. And that’s inevitable because we are all sinners.

But as you probably know sinners, forgiveness doesn’t come easy, which is why we need Jesus. We need Him to change our lives so that we are not only forgiven but can pursue forgiveness.

(3) Jesus provides us with the ability to deal with suffering. 

Reading some of the recent headlines, I’m sure at some point you’ve wondered why God continues to allow suffering in this world. Especially seeing all the suffering that has come about as the result of hurricanes, forest fires, and earthquakes. Along with natural disasters, we’ve also seen others suffer at the hands of ungodly people who have used and abused them. Reading about and seeing all this suffering, it’s natural for us to ask why. Why does God allow it to continue? It’s a common question. I wish I could tell you exactly why God allows everything to happen that happens, but I can’t.

While I can’t give you a definitive answer to why God allows suffering, what I can tell you is that God is not ambivalent about human suffering. He has and is doing something about it. Christmas is proof. As one author says,

“The gift of Christmas gives you a resource — a comfort and consolation — for dealing with suffering, because in it we see God’s willingness to enter this world of suffering to suffer with us and for us.” [1]

Knowing that God Himself has suffered on our behalf should help us to face suffering.

(4) Jesus pushes us to care for others physical needs

When Jesus was born, the eternal spiritual God became a man. Not in an illusory way, but in a real physical way. He didn’t just appear as a man; He was actually a man. That’s unique because most other world religions either believe the physical is bad and something to cast off, that God would never stoop to the level of a man, or that He would never willingly experience physical need. But Jesus did. As such, He knows what it means to be poor, to be a refugee, to face persecution, to hunger and thirst, to be beaten, to be falsely accused and ultimately be condemned to an unjust death. He knows what it’s like to face all those things. Since Jesus faced those things we know that God not only cares about our spiritual need, but He also cares about our physical.

We not only see evidence of that in His but throughout His ministry.He healed the broken, fed the hungry, spoke up for the oppressed and misled. He did all those things and more. He did them because He cares about our physical needs.

As His people, we should care about these things as well. Christmas, then, should be a reminder that we are to work for social justice, to speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves, to continue to minister to the broken, the poor, and the hungry.

(5) Jesus allows us to reconnect with those we despise

Let me just say that no one is off the hook on this one. Sure, you might not be prejudice toward another race, but that doesn’t mean you don’t despise someone. For all of us, at least to some degree, there is someone we look down on, are snobbish towards. Someone we look at and say, “They are the problem with this world.”

But Christmas is the end of us thinking that we are better than someone else. That’s because Christmas tells us that we aren’t good enough. Jesus came to us instead of vice versa. His coming tells us that there is nothing we can do to get ourselves into heaven. We might be able to get into the best school, secure the best job, live in the best neighborhood, and rub elbows with the most connected people in town, but we still aren’t good enough to get ourselves into heaven. Jesus’ coming proves that.

So rather than thinking that we are better than someone else, rather than despising others, we need to recognize that they are just like us — sinners who are desperately in need of a Savior.

Conclusion

Thankfully that Savior has come. In coming, He provides us with a whole new way of life. One that:(1) Provides hope, (2) That gives us the ability to pursue forgiveness and (3) face suffering. (4) One that pushes us to care for others physical needs and (5) to reconnect with those we despise.

In all those ways and more, Jesus provides us with a whole new way of life. A way of life that wouldn’t be possible without the gift of Jesus. And that’s because He changes us from the inside out. He changes us through and through. He is a revolutionary gift that makes a revolutionary impact on our lives.

Question for Reflection

  1. Do you recognize the revolutionary impact Jesus can have on a life?

Resources

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[1]  Tim Keller, The Gifts of Christmas, in Come Thou Long Expected Jesus, pg 39.

3 Things Those Created in God’s Image Should be Doing Daily

In Genesis 1:26, we are let in on a conversation that took place between the members of the Trinity.

Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” (Gen. 1:26a)

If you think about it, this is an amazing text because it tells us that we were actually designed and created by God. He actually thought about us, planned out what we would be like, and then He created us. When He created us, He didn’t create us like the other animals. No, we are distinct from all other living things because we are created in God’s image, in His likeness.

As creatures created in His likeness, there are several things we should be doing.

3 Things Those Created in God’s Image Should be Doing

(1) We are to reflect His image and likeness to the world. 

In other words, we are to shine forth God’s characteristics to the world. Love, faithfulness, justice, wisdom, and more should characterize our lives, just as it characterizes God’s.

(2) We are to act as His representatives. 

If you have ever traveled to another country, you know that the American Embassy can come in handy, especially if you lose your passport or get into trouble in another country.

While embassies and the ambassadors posted there can come in handy for travelers, they aren’t just there to assist travelers to the region. They have a much more important job of representing the US and its interests, while at the same time working to gain and maintain diplomatic relationships with the foreign government.

Just as the US and other countries appoint ambassadors, God has appointed us as His ambassadors or representatives on this earth. To that end, Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:20 says,

“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” (2 Co 5:20)

As His ambassadors, we are to carry His message of redemption and reconciliation to the world.

(3) We are to exercise dominion, working to bring order and beauty to God’s creation.

Along with carrying His message of redemption and reconciliation to the world, as His representatives, we are also to exercise dominion over the earth (Gen. 1:28-30).  He gives us that right so that we might bring order and beauty out of chaos.

We can bring order and beauty out of chaos in many different ways.

  • By keeping our yards, tending the garden, or working the farm, we are bringing order and beauty out of chaos.
  • By creating technologies such as airplanes, cars, and computers, we are bringing order and beauty out of chaos.
  • By planning and developing neighborhoods and cities, we bring order and beauty out of chaos.
  • By loving our neighbor, caring for the sick and poor, and leading our families in a godly way, we are bringing order and beauty out of chaos.
  • By evangelizing, along with preaching and teaching God’s Word, we are bringing order and beauty out of chaos.
  • We also bring order and beauty out of chaos when we work for the shalom of the city (Jeremiah 29:7).

In all these ways and more we can push back the chaos and bring order and beauty to this world.

While there are other things that we are to as those created in God’s image, these are three that we can do each and every day.

Question for Reflection

  1. Do you find yourself working to do these three things?

Resources

Post developed from my sermon: Creation and Kingdom