Easter Sermon, "Is the Resurrection Real," Mt. Hope Congregational Church, Gary Habermas Minimal Facts Argument.

“Is The Resurrection Real?” I Corinthians 15:19-26
Easter Sunday

Chuck Colson once commented, “I know the resurrection is a fact, and Watergate proved it to me. How? Because 12 men testified they had seen Jesus raised from the dead, then they proclaimed that truth for 40 years, never once denying it. Every one was beaten, tortured, stoned and put in prison. They would not have endured that if it weren't true. Watergate embroiled 12 of the most powerful men in the world-and they couldn't keep a lie for three weeks. You're telling me 12 apostles could keep a lie for 40 years? Absolutely impossible.” I agree. The conviction of the Apostles is among if not the greatest testimony to the historicity of the Resurrection.

CIS: The Resurrection of Jesus is real in every definition of reality.

What does it mean to be a Christian? Who are we “in Christ?” We are the living dead. We are those who have died with Christ on the Cross and been raised to newness of life in the very eternal life of Christ. We are men standing on the edge of a great sea with a soft wind blowing in the shadow of a tree…

In looking up we realize that shadow within which we stand is not from a tree but the Cross of Christ and the sea is not Lake Huron, Lake Michigan, or Lake Superior, but the sea of our eternal future which glimmers not from beams of light of early autumn, but the very radiance of God’s glory. We live because of and for Christ in this life. We shall reign with Him in the life to come!

The Cross is our victory and Resurrection is real! (1) Historically. (2) Spiritually.

We have good reason to believe in the resurrection on an intellectual level. My apologetics Professor in Seminary, Dr. Gary Habermas, popularized what he calls the minimal facts argument for the resurrection of Jesus. Here it is. The minimal facts are those things that are accepted by nearly all New Testament scholars. Think of Joe Friday, “Just the facts ma’am.”

1. Jesus died by crucifixion. Crucifixion was not something you walked away from easily. And let us suppose that Jesus somehow survived the Cross. Some have postulated that through the ages. In fact, that’s how strong the historic record for a literal resurrection is! It’s so strong that it has caused unbelieving and liberal scholars to postulate things like the “swoon theory.” It suggests that Jesus merely swooned or fainted on the Cross. The cool damp air of the tomb revived Him. Even if that’s right its wrong!... [explain]

2. Jesus’ disciples believed that he rose and appeared to them. They genuinely believed it. They had no motive to lie. In his books and lectures, J. Warner Wallace has defined three motivating factors that are missing from such a conspiracy as the “stolen body theory” or just the disciples lying –  power, greed, and/or lust.  The disciples had no power. They were persecuted by Jewish and Roman authorities. They weren’t greedy. They taught that one should not desire earthly possessions, but spiritual ones. There was no lust. They taught celibacy before marriage and marital fidelity after marriage. They had no motivation to lie about the resurrection. They believed it occurred![1]

3. The church persecutor Paul was suddenly changed. Paul was an ardent persecuter or the Church. He claimed an encounter with the risen Lord and had a dramatic change of belief and behavior within which he persisted. 

4. The skeptic James, brother of Jesus, was suddenly changed. What could cause an earthly brother to accept divinity other than the resurrection?[2]

5. The tomb was empty. The Jews claimed the disciples had stolen the body. The tomb was empty or they would not have made that claim. But we’ve already seen the absurdity of that claim. They all died for a lie? I find that very difficult to accept… The centurion guard. They were cowardly that evening.

Here is one more important thought: Historically speaking, embarrassing details add veracity to a historical claim. The fact that women were the first witnesses, that a member of the Sanhedrin (the same Sanhedrin that executed Jesus) had to give Jesus a proper burial, and that the disciples were fearful and fled all serve as embarrassing factors for the resurrection account.

When the one(s) giving an account include embarrassing details about themselves, it lends credibility to the idea that they are telling the truth! These are some of the key arguments for the historical reality of the Resurrection. But what about it being, becoming, and remaining a personal reality in our hearts and lives? What does it mean to be raised with Christ?  

I’ll leave you with three things that it means for us personally and practically.

1. It means that you and I are a part of the Body of Christ. I am a follower of Jesus who is fully convinced of the reality of the resurrection. That means I belong here. I belong in the Body and to the Body and I am a part of the Body. We are better together as believers. This covenant community is the shelter from the storms of life in this fallen pain-riddled sin-stricken world.

2. It means that my sense of self-worth is not dependent on the opinions and attitudes of others. I am a child of God. My worth was defined at the Cross, that’s how much He loves me, and my hope is found in an empty tomb!

3. It means I have work to do. If you are a follower of Christ, if you have hailed Christ for who He is – as King of your life – then you’re not welcome in the gathering of the Saints of God – You’re needed! We need you! God’s mission has a Church and that Church is made up of every one of us. When even one part of the Body is missing the mission suffers and we are over burdened.

I don’t just believe the Resurrection is real. I know it! I’m convinced by the evidence and I am assured by evidence in me – the Holy Spirit witnessing to me that I am a child of God! Indeed… He is Risen! Amen.

[1] http://coldcasechristianity.com/2016/rapid-response-i-think-the-disciples-lied-about-the-resurrection/
[2] http://www.enteringthepublicsquare.com/blog/james-the-skeptical-brother-of-jesus-came-to-faith-and-died-for-it