Classic Christianity – A Closer Look at Jesus Christ P44 (02-02-21)
What impact does the empty tomb have on your life? Well, let us ponder over how it impacted the lives of the apostles, who were eyewitnesses, who walked and talked with Jesus and who saw the resurrected Jesus. When you think that all but one of the apostles died a martyr’s death, and all faced intense persecution, would it make sense to believe they would be willing to go through the things they did for a lie? So as you read the scriptures, or listen as Bob George shares from these scriptures, what logical conclusion would you come to?
Consider also the contrast before the day of Pentecost and after Pentecost into the behavior of the disciples. First, what were they like before Pentecost? Here were all the disciples, immediately after the death of Christ, cowering behind closed doors, all in fear of the religious leaders. Here was Peter who was afraid of a servant girl, and denying he even knew Christ, and he did this three times just as Jesus said he would do. Then you have Thomas who said, after hearing the report from the women at the tomb that Jesus is risen, that he would not believe until he saw the nails in Jesus’ side.
In all of these incidents what changed them from doubters or fearful men to bold proclaimers of Jesus Christ and the gospel before those religious whom they once feared so much? They had an encounter with the risen Christ, and they also became born again. That happened at Pentecost, where for the first time in history, as Jesus told them, to wait in Galilee to receive the promised Holy Spirit. Once the Holy Spirit came to live in them, they had a new source of power they never had before. Jesus even said that you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you. We also read in scripture that the Spirit will bring back to their remembrance all the things He taught them. He also said that everything that was made known by the Father He will make known to them. In other words, they received the mind of Christ. They have Christ living in them now and can understand the things of the Spirit.
So what evidence do we see recorded in scripture concerning their behavior after Pentecost? We see Peter speaking before a bunch of Jewish leaders, the establishment, boldly telling them they crucified the Lord of glory. He spoke without fear and with boldness, when just a few short days ago he was cowering in fear. Then you also have the apostle Paul, formerly known by the name of Saul, who was dragging men and women of the way, the believers, into the courts to have them killed. He was formerly a Pharisee of Pharisees and as he described himself, the worst of all sinners. What happened? He had an encounter with the living Christ. Here is Saul on the road to Damascus, on his way with papers from the Pharisees to persecute believers, and then who should speak to him and say, “Why are you persecuting me?” Saul replied, “Who are you?” “I am Christ Jesus whom you are persecuting.” Then you hear the believers said that the one who was formerly persecuting us is now proclaiming the news of Jesus Christ that he once tried to destroy. And they praised God because of him.
When you have an encounter with the living Christ, you are a changed person. You become a child of God, with new attitudes of heart, a new mindset, a love for people that is rooted in the love God has for you. You love because God first loved you. You responded to that love of God and became born again, having the Spirit of God placed in you, the moment you believed. You are changed from a sinner to a saint like a caterpillar to a butterfly and you will never be a caterpillar again. You will never be a sinner again. You may sin from time to time, while your mind is continually being renewed, but your identity is no longer a sinner, but a saint. You have become a new creation.
Many people can claim to know Christ, but is there evidence of a changed life. Does the Holy Spirit testify within you that you are a child of God? The great difference between being a possessor of Christ and a professor of Christ is the reality of the resurrected Christ living in the hearts of men. That life within you, according to the word of God, is at work within you, conforming you to the image of God, and God’s promise to you is that He will complete the work He began in you until the day of Jesus Christ.
Have you been with Jesus? Have you ever had an encounter with the living, loving Christ? If so, your heart would be in tune with His heart that says to your fellow man, “Forgive them for they do not know what they are doing”, a heart that would say, “I did not come to judge the world but to save the world”, a heart of love whereby we would think the best of others, hope the best of others, be patient with others, be kind to others, not keep record of wrongs with others. That is the heart of Jesus.
You see that James, the brother of John, was put to death with a sword.
2 He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword.
Stephen was stoned to death.
59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.
The apostle Paul was flogged thirty-nine times, among other things that he faced by his enemies.
2 Corinthians 11:23-25
23 Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea
Can you imagine what his body looks like. About after the first lash, the gig is up, folks. Let us get down to some reality here. You can do a lot of things and con a lot of people until you have to go through something like that. No one would go through something like that after one time, if it was not a total reality of their life as to the risen Christ. So what would be the motivation for doing those things? None. Would you be willing to go through those things for a lie? Absolutely not. So the apostles stealing the body is ludicrous.
Other people say that the Jews stole the body. What motivation would a Jewish person have for stealing a body? If that body ever gets out of that tomb, we will be in worse shape than before and the last deception will be worse than the first. If they had stolen the body, and then all of this talk about the resurrection coming about, messing them up. In other words, destroying their place. The Romans are going to come and take our place from us. What would they have to do to dispel the lie? Just produce the body. They could put an end to this spreading of this resurrection story by just producing the body. Was it ever produced? Absolutely not.
So the thought in mind that the apostles would steal the body is ludicrous. The fact the Jews would steal the body is absolutely stupid because there would be no motivation at all for them.
So what else have people come up with? This swoon theory that Jesus was not dead. This theory expounds on the idea that Jesus was not dead. But he was only wounded and was revived in the coolness of the tomb and then he escaped. Well, you look at that. How in the world could a man be tortured, weakened as Jesus, as it said, beaten as no man, and beyond recognition, with a spear in his side, producing water and blood, which is a sign of a heart break and of a death.
The Roman soldiers are also quite well equipped at spotting death. They were very aware of death and life. They declared him to be dead. Nails driven through his feet and hands. How in the world could someone like that going to get out of his grave clothes, with 75 pounds sitting on him. Figure that out. How can Arnold Swarzenneger get out of 75 pounds of grave clothes. Now, maybe some magician can pull a trick like that. But besides that, you cannot get out when myrrh and aloes hardened like cement.
How are you going to get out of that thing? How are you going to remove a stone from inside out? You cannot even begin to budge something from inside out. One man could not budge it from the outside! It would take several strong men to get it out of that gully when they finally secured the tomb. How are you going to do that with hands pierced with spikes? How are you going to stand and walk on your feet that have been ripped open by spikes? How are you going to do that so that the guards did not even hear you leave? How are you going to do that? The answer to that is that theory is really stupid.
A lot of people will go along with that, and justify and rationalize that, that some way, with guards not hearing him, and with guards outside the tomb, and do that thing outside the groove it was in, and got the stone all moved away, and hobbled out on feet torn apart by spikes and moved the stone with hands that were totally damaged by spikes and then got out without anybody hearing him. Makes a lot of sense doesn’t it?
What is the other explanation you have. It is not up for grabs the tomb was empty. Even the Pharisees admitted that. History certainly proves that. The only other explanation you have is that Jesus did exactly what He said. He rose from the dead.
What significance does that empty tomb have in your life? It has everything to do with it. If He was not raised from the dead, then how could you be raised from the dead?
A few years ago, when Amy and I went over to Israel, we were near the garden tomb. There is something about visiting that garden tomb, the one outside the city where Jesus was crucified and buried. There is something about that that comes over you, that I cannot explain. It was impossible for me to sit there and look at that place, which to me logically is very much where Jesus was buried, and not to be totally overwhelmed with emotion. We were there, and one of the Billy Graham representatives was there with the tour.
I saw a black man, and two sisters just sitting over there. He was crying his eyes out. He happened to be the guy who was the doorman at the country club at Fort Worth. This man had such an impression at that country club with his gentleness, kindness and friendliness, that all knew he was a Christian. He did not hesitate to let people know that was His life and God.
They took a collection and financed his trip over to Israel. There he was crying his eyes out. I cannot believe I am staring at the tomb of my Lord. I will never forget that experience sitting with this sincere dear brother with arms around each other weeping together, in the realization we were standing in the presence of the very place the Lord God of this universe was buried and was raised from the dead. I do not think it will be an experience I personally will ever forget even with the event, and even more important to the degree of seeing that dear humble brother, who had been financed by a group of people, as to his testimony of his relationship to his God. Marvelous experience.
There are more places in scripture where appearances of Jesus took place after His resurrection. In other words, His post resurrection appearances. Not only was the tomb empty but He showed up in many, many places in the New Testament as it was recorded.
(So look up these passages for other appearances of Jesus with men after He rose from the dead and was seen walking on the earth for a certain period of time before going back to His Father. Now, He is seated at the right hand of God until He comes again.)
- Matthew 28:1-10
- Matthew 28:16-20
- Luke 24:13-15
- Luke 24:33-36
- John 20:11-14
- Mark 16:9
- John 20:26-28
- John 21:1-2
- Acts 1:1-3
- Acts 7:55
- Acts 9:3-6
There are all kinds of passages of scripture that talked about post resurrection appearances. These people, who claimed to see Jesus after His resurrection, what would you have to conclude about them? First of all, they were either a little bit nutty, you, who walked around, thinking you have seen someone raised from the dead and saying you talked with someone raised from the dead. If that were not so, then you would be talking to someone totally deranged, or talking to someone who knew full well they had not seen Him. So they are then a perpetrator of a lie. Or they literally saw Him.
Again, it is not just what Jesus claims about Himself, of being God. If He was not God, He would be a maniac, thinking He was when He isn’t or a liar, knowing full well He wasn’t, but claiming. Or He is God. Those are the only options. And the same things are true with those who said they had an encounter with Jesus after His resurrection. They are either total liars, imposters of the worst degree or the most deranged, deceived people on the face of the earth. I do not know how anybody in that deranged condition, or a liar, who could be considered to be worthy of writing something in a book like we call the bible. So to me, it is either a total rejection of all of it or an acceptance of all of it. You cannot play spiritual hopscotch with the scriptures. Either it is or it isn’t. If it isn’t, then pitch it away.
There is other evidence that bears our resurrection of Christ, that is the change in Peter. Circumstantial evidence that took place in Peter’s life. As an example, look at Matthew 26:69-74, prior to Pentecost, before the resurrection.
Let me explain something first. Until the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was given to man to live within man, prior to that time, the Holy Spirit came upon man. Thus you would have someone like David praying, “Lord, please do not take your Holy Spirit from me”. But after the cross and after Pentecost, men were spiritually regenerated. What that means is that they were restored to true life here on this earth. Others were saved by faith, but were not spiritually regenerated.
So the issue was, were the apostles spiritually regenerated prior to Pentecost? The answer to that is absolutely not. If there was ever a group of men who were able to have the necessary power and information to proclaim this person of Jesus Christ, it would be the apostles. They talked with Him. They saw Him perform miracles. They saw him make the blind to see and the deaf to hear and the lame to walk. They heard His words and heard Him speak as no man. They went through that unbelievable experience of seeing Him walk on water. All kinds of things they saw and heard, feeding the five thousand and miracles after miracles. They knew in their mind that this was God, but had no power to that.
No power to that at all. And head knowledge of that will not do anything for you either. We do not realize the power of God. We know about God but we absolutely do not know the power of God living in you. There is a world of difference from being a possessor of Christ and being a professor of Christ.
There are people listening to my voice right now who do not know the reality of the living Christ living in them. Otherwise, they would have love for their brother. If you do not have love for your brother, it is evidence of something. Christ is not living in you. It is that simple.
34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
If you do not have it, it is because you are not a disciple. There is a world of difference in these two. It gives you the courage to tell the truth. It gives you the boldness to proclaim the truth about Jesus.
Let us look at the contrast with the apostle Peter.
69 Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. “You also were with Jesus of Galilee,” she said.
70 But he denied it before them all. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said.
71 Then he went out to the gateway, where another servant girl saw him and said to the people there, “This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.”
72 He denied it again, with an oath: “I don’t know the man!”
73 After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, “Surely you are one of them; your accent gives you away.” [You talk like a Galilean]
74 Then he began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!”
Immediately a rooster crowed.
That was in fulfillment of a prophecy Jesus said to him earlier. He did just what Jesus foretold would happen.
34 Jesus answered, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.”
Here is a tough fisherman, cowering before a girl, then another girl and then the crowd, in denying the Lord Jesus Christ. Then in Acts 4, you see the recording of a different man. Now, this time, not just a few people, but a huge crowd of people, and the leadership, the Pharisees and Saduccees, the leadership whom everyone feared. These are the same people that Nicodemus so feared that he met with Jesus at night. Now here is Peter standing before all of them.
7 They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?”
8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! 9 If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, 10 then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed.
Peter healed this person, through the name of Jesus, on the Sabbath. That is what religion does to you. It does not matter if a person was healed or not, but did you do it according to my rules?
11 Jesus is
“‘the stone you builders rejected, [talking about Jesus]
which has become the cornerstone.’[Psalm 118:22]
12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”
13 When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.
Have you been with Jesus? Have you ever had an encounter with the living, loving Christ? If so, your heart would be in tune with His heart that says to your fellow man, “Forgive them for they do not know what they are doing”, a heart that would say, “I did not come to judge the world but to save the world”, a heart of love whereby we would think the best of others, hope the best of others, be patient with others, be kind to others, not keep record of wrongs with others. That is the heart of Jesus. It is not a heart of walking around in self righteous actions and with a self righteous mindest. There was nothing self righteous in Jesus. He is righteous. He is and we are not.
So when they saw people who were about to boldly proclaim in the midst of trouble, in the midst of persecution, and boldly proclaim that Jesus is God, they looked at those men, and saw they were unschooled, ordinary men. They had not been to seminary. They were ordinary men, of no stature, economically or socially, just fisherman, but they took note they had been with Jesus. When you have been with Jesus, that is better than a degree. When you have been with Jesus, that is better than riches and social prestige. When you have been with Jesus, you have stood in the presence of the Holy of Holies and the God of gods. So you see, my friends, they had nothing else to say.
14 But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say. 15
What are you going to say to that? You look at people sometimes and you say, “What are you going to say that God uses people that you would rather not use?” “I would rather use somebody who has been educated, been to seminary. That is whom God uses.” Then someone comes along, just an ordinary guy, and God uses him. What are you going to argue about? What are you going to say about that?
So they ordered them to withdraw from the Sanhedrin and then conferred together.
So they are going to have a meeting to see what they can do with this guy.
16 “What are we going to do with these men?” they asked. “Everyone living in Jerusalem knows they have performed a notable sign, and we cannot deny it. 17 But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn them to speak no longer to anyone in this name.”
In other words, get rid of him. Tell him to quit talking.
18 Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! 20 As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”
What is this difference between Peter, before Pentecost and after Pentecost? The Holy Spirit of God, of Jesus Christ living in him, your only hope of glory.
We are talking about circumstantial evidence in regard to the resurrection of Christ. We are looking at a change in the apostle Peter, and what took place in him.
Let us look at some of the other apostles. Turn to John 20:19.
19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders
The evilness of men who say these men are doing all these miracles, that everyone has seen, and we cannot deny it either. We cannot deny God is using these people, but let us get rid of them anyway. What kind of mindset is that? Not godly for sure. So here at this time, they are fearful of them. But what does Jesus say to them?
Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”
The condition of the apostles at that particular time was fear. But at the time period in Acts 2:14, we see a difference.
14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say.
22 “Fellow 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.
What a difference between cowering behind locked doors in fear of the Jews, of the leadership and the establishment, and then a few days later, boldly proclaiming that they are the ones who put Him to death.
How about Thomas? Look at John 20:24-25.
24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus[Thomas (Aramaic) and Didymus (Greek) both mean twin.]), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”
But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
Now, in John 20:26-28, what do we read?
26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them [just went through a wall] and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
What was the result of that?
28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
What was Thomas’ response upon seeing the resurrected Christ? “My Lord and my God!”. What was the response of the other apostles after seeing Christ in His resurrected form? Boldness, of being able to proclaim to the very people they were totally fearful of before, that they alone were the ones who nailed him to a cross.
Look at the apostle Paul in his life.
1 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.
People of the way were Christians. In other words, here he is taking them to their death. This was a mean, legalistic, self-righteous, vindictive Paul. What happened to him later? Let us read on.
20 At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. 21 All those who heard him were astonished and asked, “Isn’the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?” 22 Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah.
What brought about this change? He had an encounter with the living Christ.
5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied.
That is a good question. Why do we persecute the Lord and His people? Why do we do that? Hatred. Why do we do that? Evil hearts. Unregenerate. What is the solution to that? Coming to the Lord Jesus Christ. Have you been confronted by the resurrected Christ? In other words, have you come to Christ in all of His fullness, not just His death for you, but His life in you? Because that is where life is, in the resurrected Christ. The resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ has come unto the most careful scrutiny of men from the New Testament times to this present day. Legal minds, historians and those who testified, eyewitnesses to the event, they all have staked their lives and reputations upon the truth of the resurrection. To those who know Jesus Christ as personal Lord and Savior, the resurrection is vital, central and important. The great difference between being a possessor of Christ and a professor of Christ is the reality of the resurrected Christ living in the hearts of men.