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Had you been able to buy a morning edition of a Jerusalem newspaper on Monday following
the Jewish Passover in 30 A.D., its headlines probably would have read:
"Jesus of Nazareth Reported Risen from the Dead."
The article would have read something like this:
"For the past 24 hours Jerusalem has been buzzing with rumors to the effect that Jesus of Nazareth
has been raised from the dead.
On orders from Governor Pontius Pilate, Jesus was crucified last Friday.
Late that afternoon He was buried in a tomb belonging to Joseph of Arimathea, a wealthy member of the Sanhedrin.
At the request of the high priest, Caiaphas, the tomb was sealed with the official Roman seal,
and a Roman guard was placed before it.
Rumors that Jesus had said that three days after His death
He would come out of His grave are said to have brought about the request of Caiaphas.
However, despite the fact that the tomb was heavily guarded,
some women came to the tomb yesterday morning and reportedly found the tomb empty.
In their excitement they are said to have reported seeing angels who told them that Jesus had risen from the dead.
The soldiers guarding the tomb verified their story.
Several of the followers of Jesus have reported seeing Him alive yesterday.
According to the inner circle of His disciples, called the "twelve",
Jesus entered a room through a closed and locked door, and even ate with them."
On the first Easter morning, life won!
The best news this world has ever heard came from a graveyard just outside Jerusalem.
Out of that cold tomb came the vindicated victor -- the living Lord, Jesus Christ.
That day death died!
Demons wept and angels rejoiced.
Prophecies were fulfilled.
Thank God, He lives!
Join the celestial celebration:
"All hail the power of Jesus' name
Let angels prostrate fall..."
A new day has dawned to give hope to the world.
Despair is dispelled.
Life's path -- all the way to Heaven -- is illuminated.
They that have sat in darkness have seen a new light.
He, who was undisputedly dead, is undeniably alive.
This is the most important event in human history.
In a library in Constantinople is an ancient document.
Here is a portion of the record reputed to be Pilate's report to Caesar.
"To Tiberius Caesar, Emperor of Rome. Noble, Sovereign, Greeting..."
(For our purposes I have moved to the portion, which begins with Joseph of Arimathea coming to ask for the body of Christ.)
"I am Joseph of Arimathea, "replied he, "and am come to beg of you upon my knees
the permission to bury Jesus of Nazareth."
"Your prayer is granted," said I to him.
And at the same time I ordered Manilus to take some soldiers with him to superintend the internment, lest it should be profaned.
A few days after the sepulchre was found empty.
His disciples proclaimed all over the country that Jesus had risen from the dead as He had foretold.
This created more excitement than the crucifixion."
The letter attributed to Pilate continues to tell of dispatching Malkus, the captain of the royal guard to post a guard at the tomb.
He assigned his lieutenant, Ben Isham, with 100 soldiers to the detail.
Further in the report, Pilate gave a rather detailed description
of the resurrection scene, as reported by Isham.
The document is signed: "I am your most obedient servant, Pontius Pilate."
Also, in that same library at Constantinople is a letter attributed to Caiaphas, the high priest:
(Sanhedrin 89, by Siphri II.7)
"To You Masters of Israel:
"I feel duty bound to communicate to you some facts that have come to my knowledge...
A few days after the execution of Jesus of Nazareth, the report of his resurrection from the dead became so common
that I found it necessary to investigate it.
... From what I could learn from the soldiers the scene was awe-inspiring, and the report was so generally believed
that it was useless to deny it...
... The captain of the guards (Malkus) said that all the soldiers he had conversed with were convinced
that Jesus was resurrected by supernatural power and was still living, and that he was no human being,
for the light and the angels and the dead that came out of their graves all went to prove that something had happened
that never occurred on earth before.
From this I am convinced that something transcending the laws of nature took place that morning
that cannot be accounted for upon natural laws, and I find it useless to get any of the soldiers to deny it,
for they are so excited that they cannot be reasoned with."
(The Archko Vol. McIntosh And Twyman, New Canaan, Conn.
Keats Publishing Company, 1975, pp.143-147)
There is no historical event better supported than the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
- Friday -- "They crucified Him." (Matthew 27:35) -- A day of remorse.
- Saturday -- "Low in the grave he lay..." -- A day of repose.
- Then came Sunday -- a day of resurrection -- A day of rejoicing!
What a difference a day makes!
No day would ever be the same again.
Christ's resurrection happened on Sunday.
Sunday, the first day of the week, became known as the Lord's Day.
Every Sunday after the resurrection was to become a mini-Easter.
Sunday framed the only historical event celebrated every week -- 52 times a year.
The "Sunday Spirit " should permeate every day of the week.
Every day should be full of devotion to God.
This day stands alone -- no other event in history is comparable.
With such terrible consequences confronting them,
the Roman guards were so moved by what happened that Sunday morning, they fled the scene.
What happened there was more threatening to them than the potential punishment of being burned to death.
The drama of the dawn drove them to defy Roman regulations.
The guards actually saw and described the angel's appearance,
"His countenance was like lightning and his raiment as white as snow."
They even watched the angel roll back the 1 to 3 ton stone from the door and sat upon it.
Then, even before it was light, the earth quaked to announce that the living One was about to batter
the gates of death and burst open the bonds of the grave.
Pale as dead men, the soldiers beheld the glory of the resurrection.
They were mute before Him.
What happened at the tomb was so miraculous that the Roman guards risked their lives to report it.
The tomb was empty.
All parties to this tremendous event agreed the tomb was empty.
Romans and Jews, friends and enemies, agreed -- the tomb was empty on that Sunday morning.
A review of what happened in the 40 days after the tomb was found empty clearly reveals
why the disciples believed so strongly.
Only Christianity can triumphantly point to an empty tomb.
- They touched Him, talked with Him, and more than once, dined with Him.
- They saw Him indoors, outdoors, on a road, on a sunny beach, twice on mountaintops, in broad daylight, and at night.
Jesus said, "I am the living one; I died; and behold I am alive for evermore." (Revelation 1: 17-18)
Christ is risen!
Life forever lies beyond the grave.
Christ is alive!
He "showed himself alive after his death by many proofs." (Acts 1: 3)
For every Christian, death is simply the door to eternal life.
"Never see death?"
- Jesus said, "Because I live, ye shall live also." (John 14: 19)
- He also said, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, if a man keep my saying, he shall never see death."
Life is terminal -- all of us will die.
What does this mean?
It means that when death comes for believers, we move through it without apprehension and dread.
Our hearts can echo the cry, "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?" (1 Corinthians 15:55)
Life is precious!
If a medicine were produced today in capsule form that guaranteed life, it would be in great demand.
Suppose, there was such a capsule.
If there were such a pill, people would panic to get it.
- If a person was involved in a fatal accident, then, all that person needed would be to place a capsule
in the victim's mouth, and immediately, life would return.
- If a patient were to die unexpectedly on the operating table, all the doctor would have to do
would be to place a capsule in the mouth of the patient and he would live again.
They would want to be sure to have it when they needed it.
If such a pill were produced, people would beg, borrow, or steal to get enough money to purchase it.
Such life is available in the person of the resurrected Christ who said,
"Because I live, ye shall live also."
Listen closely, for here is how you can get it:
"That if thou confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus,
and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation."
Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord Jesus shall be saved." (Romans 10: 9-10,13)
Just as an eternal life pill would not help a person unless taken, the resurrection offers no hope to those
who fail to accept it as a fact, and to receive the resurrected Jesus as Redeemer, Saviour, and Lord.
In the drama, The Trial of Jesus, by John Masefield, there is a striking scene
where Longinus, a Roman centurion, reports to Pilate.
After the report is given, Procula, Pilate's wife, beckons the centurion and begs him to tell her of Jesus' death.
After hearing him speak of the empty tomb, she asks, "Do you think He's dead?"
Longinus answers, "No lady, I don't."
Impatiently, she implores, and he answers:
"Let loose in the world, lady, where... where no one can... stop His truth."
He is here today -- in this service -- ready to give life to all who will ask of Him!
Sermon by Dr. Harold L. White
Email Dr. White at firstname.lastname@example.org