Sermon for the Resurrection of our Lord based on Mark 16:1-8
Dear people celebrating Jesus’ resurrection: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
There are many aspects of Christianity than cannot be proven or disproven. You cannot prove or disprove that Baptism saves. You cannot prove or disprove that we receive the true body and blood of Christ in the Lord’s Supper. You cannot prove or disprove that God is triune: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We believe all of these because God tells them to us in His Word, but they cannot be proven or disproven from observations, tests, or examinations of evidence.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is, however, a different matter. It is a historical event that is better documented than most events in the history of the world. There were hundreds of eyewitnesses who saw Jesus after His resurrection. There were multiple accounts of Christ’s resurrection that were written while the people who witnessed His death and His appearances after His resurrection were still alive. This is important, because if the accounts written about Jesus’ death and resurrection were not true, those hundreds of witnesses would have spoken up about the falsehood of the accounts, and told what really happened.
Many people have tried in vain to disprove the resurrection of Jesus. However, when they examine the evidence, they have to agree that it cannot be disproven. The most you can conclude is to say that you don’t believe it even though hundreds of witnesses certainly did, and that all the evidence in existence, even of the enemies of Jesus who put Him to death, indicates that Jesus did indeed rise from the dead.
Studying the evidence of the resurrection, however, does not create faith by itself. Faith does not come from the logical study of historical evidence. Believing that Jesus rose from the dead is not faith.
Consider the chief priests and Pharisees. After they got their desired goal of having Jesus killed, they went to Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘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.” Pilate gave them a guard of soldiers to secure the tomb, and the stone was sealed. (Matt. 27:62-66).
However, when the angel of the Lord descended from heaven and rolled back the stone from the tomb and caused a great earthquake, these soldiers became like dead men. They reported to the chief priests what had happened, to which the chief priests in consultation with the elders, decided to bribe the soldiers to say that Jesus’ disciples had stolen His body during the night while they were sleeping (Matt. 28:11-15).
The chief priests thus knew that Jesus rose from the dead. They knew that the fearful disciples were in hiding, scared for their lives. They knew that the disciples could not and would not take on a guard of professional soldiers or move a great stone which was under heavy guard by those soldiers. They knew the report of the soldiers concerning the earthquake and the angel. They knew that Jesus had risen from the dead, but they still did not believe in Him. Believing the evidence of the resurrection is not enough to have faith in Jesus.
This was also true for the women who came to the tomb and for the disciples of Jesus. As the chief priests had heard Jesus say that He would rise from the dead on the third day, so also the women and the disciples had heard Jesus say this. Yet the women still went on the third day to anoint a corpse and were surprised that it wasn’t in the tomb. They saw the evidence of the empty tomb. They saw an angel, but they didn’t believe the angel’s message, because they were terrified and so they said nothing to anyone. When they did finally tell the disciples, the disciples did not believe their report. The words of the women seemed like an idle tale, and they did not believe them (Luke 24:11).
Even when Jesus appeared to them when they were hiding behind locked doors, they still disbelieved what they were seeing. Jesus showed them His hands and His feet and He told them to touch Him. He ate food in front of them to prove that He was not just a spirit, but that He had physically risen from the dead, but they still did not believe. It was not until Jesus opened their minds to understand the Scriptures that they believed. It was not until Jesus explained to them why it was necessary that He die and rise from the dead, and what it meant for them that they believed (Luke 24:36-49).
It does not require faith to believe that Jesus rose from the dead. All the evidence points to it, so it is the logical conclusion from studying the resurrection accounts. This is not yet faith. Faith comes from hearing God’s Word (Rom. 10:17). Faith comes from God telling you why Jesus died and rose again.
What is it that God tells us in His Word is the reason for Jesus’ death and resurrection? Romans four tells us, Jesus “was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” (v. 25) In other words, our sins were the cause of Jesus’ death and He was raised with the purpose of our justification. That we are justified means that God has acquitted us of our sins. Our sins and transgressions are taken away, covered over, and in no way charged to our account because Jesus was delivered up for them.
This is the Gospel; the good news that Jesus died to save you from your sins; that Jesus’ death in your place has taken your sins away from you; that Jesus’ blood has covered your sins; that you will not be charged with your sins because Jesus was charged with them.
This is all proved by Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. If Jesus’ death did not conquer sin and pay for every sin ever committed, then He would have remained dead. If Jesus’ death in our place was not accepted by God the Father, then He would have remained dead.
Jesus’ resurrection from the dead means that your sins are forgiven. Your Baptism into Christ means that you also will rise from the dead to eternal life.
To ensure that you receive eternal life, Christ gives you His Word which creates and sustains faith. To ensure that you receive eternal life, Christ gives you His body and blood which nurture and strengthen faith. He gives you His Word which tells you why He died and rose from the dead, so that you too would believe not just that He died and rose from the dead, but that He died and rose from the dead for you; that He paid the price of your sins; that His resurrection means you also will rise from the dead.
As we sang, “Christ Jesus lay in death’s strong bands For our offenses given; But now at God’s right hand He stands and brings us life from heaven.” (LSB 458 st. 1) Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.