Happy Easter. My name is David Sorn. I’m the Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.
You know, people believe in all sorts of weird stuff
When we say something’s going well, and we don’t want to “jinx it” (whatever that is), we knock on wood.
Because you know…clearly if the wood is knocked…it will know then to hold together the universe.
When we’re watching sports and our team is losing, we have all sorts of superstitions to “turn things around”
When I used to watch the Vikings with my friends in High School, whenever they were losing, we’d all “sit on couch pillows,”…and clearly that has paid off for the Vikings!
There are all sorts of funny things people believe in: That the moon landing was faked…or that the earth is flat.
Some of these things even cause us to question the typical postmodern American philosophy of: “Whatever’s true for you, must be true.”
Because if your friend believed the earth is flat, you’re probably not okay with them saying, “But that’s true for me.”
Most us…actually do believe that evidence matters when it comes to what we believe.
And I believe we can apply this same sort of logic to Christianity…which claims that some pretty amazing historical things did indeed happen
Christianity says that 2,000 years ago, God’s Son, Jesus, came to Earth
And when he was 33, he died on a cross, and 3 days later, on the very first Easter, he resurrected…came back to life.
Everything in Christianity hinges on this point.
So, if the evidence shows that it’s highly unlikely that Jesus resurrected, than Christianity is a sham.
The Bible itself even says that:
(1 Corinthians 15:14) – NIV
And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.
Personally, I’m not one where faith comes very easily
I didn’t grow up a Christian and wasn’t a follower of Jesus
I wanted to know the facts.
Was Christianity actually true or was it not??
Because if wasn’t not, then I didn’t want to follow Jesus.
A PUBLIC OCCURANCE
So what does the evidence say about the resurrection of Jesus?
I want us to actually look at that today.
This isn’t a “just believe and ignore the facts” type of church.
Now, of course, there is no video evidence.
You can’t find the Resurrection of Christ on YouTube.
The disciples didn’t bring a selfie stick to the empty tomb.
But like the vast majority of trials where there is no video evidence, you can still study all the rest of the evidence and come to a conclusion about what happened.
And Christianity is fascinating because it started with very public events (so there is lots of evidence to look at).
In fact, it’s based upon the public testimony of eyewitnesses, which makes it very different from any other religion.
In Mormonism, Joseph Smith “discovers” the golden plates, and he alone can translate them to write the book of Mormon.
In Buddhism, the Buddha’s enlightenment happens while he’s meditating by himself under a tree.
In Islam, Muhammad goes into a cave, and over a period of 23 years, the angel Gabriel reveals the Koran to Muhammad, and Muhammad alone.
But Christianity is birthed right out in public… and then chronicled by a wide variety of sources and eyewitnesses
TIMELINE OF INFORMATION
Today, I want us to look at 6 verses from a letter written by a man named Paul.
If you want to follow along:
Paul was one of Christianity’s most famous converts and leaders
In one of his letters to the people of Corinth (which is in Greece), he writes this:
(1 Corinthians 15:3-8) – NIV
3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.
As we examine the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus, I see three pieces of evidence in this section of Paul’s letter:
3 Key Pieces of Evidence:
1. Timeline of Information
2. Prophecies Fulfilled
3. Eyewitnesses Listed
Let’s start with the evidence of timeline.
When we examine something like this, we need to look at how fast or slow the information about the resurrection spread.
Look again at just verse 3:
(1 Corinthians 15:3) – NIV
3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
Paul passes on to them the important information that Christ died (and was resurrected)
But, did you catch this, he actually says He ALREADY passed it on to them
So let’s put this on a timeline.
Historians tell us that Paul wrote this letter to the Corinthians 20 years after Jesus died on the cross.
But Paul visited them personally and told them about the resurrection 5 years before he wrote this letter (so 15 years after the resurrection supposedly happened)
So again, unlike many other religious ideas…this is not a story that got started 100 years after the original event.
15 years is NOT a long time.
For example, how many of you can remember where you were and what you were doing on September 11th, 2001?
If you’re old enough, most of you remember that day vividly.
And that was over 16 years ago!
And we weren’t eyewitnesses to it either. Just saw it on TV, and it’s vivid in our minds.
And so Christianity was recorded while it is still very fresh in the minds of eyewitnesses.
Scholars will tell you that one of the key characteristics of something that is merely a “tall tale” or a “legend” is that you need all of the eyewitnesses to die off first.
So, you might be able to, say, convince someone that during the Civil War, Lincoln rode a bear into battle
But you could never convince someone that planes never actually flew into the World Trade Center.
It’s not possible that close to the event.
The same is true with Christianity.
It’s not a legend, but something that was recorded shortly after it happened.
That’s our first key piece of evidence.
The second piece of evidence we have is the prophecies that were fulfilled.
(SHOW EVIDENCE OUTLINE UNTIL VERSE)
That’s what Paul writes about in verse 4 of our passage for today:
(1 Corinthians 15:4) – NIV
4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,
He’s referencing the fact that Jesus fulfilled a whole bunch of prophecies that were written in the Bible years before He was even born.
Now, I get it, if you’re not a spiritual person, the idea of a prophecy being fulfilled may not sound like evidence to you.
But hear me out…
If you came to me 10 years ago (2008), and listed off predictions for the next decade
And you said, “Listen, The Cubs are going to win the world series, 10 years from now…some people will still actually be listening to Justin Bieber, and you’ll never guess who’s going to be President!”
*Mathematically, the chances of even correctly predicting, even just those 3 things, would be astronomical.
In fact, Professor Peter Stoner once worked with 600 other mathematicians to calculate the odds of one person even fulfilling 8 predictions in their lifetime
They calculated that the odds were an astronomical 1 in 10 to the 21st power.
That’s a 1 with 21 zeros behind it.
If you just had some scary flashback to 7th grade math…
They said, in their study, that if it’s easier, you could also describe those odds as the same as:
covering the entire land mass of the earth with silver dollars…stacking them 120 feet high across the earth.
And then, mark just 1 of them, bury it, and ask a person to find that one marked silver dollar on their first try.
That’s how impossible it is for one person to fulfill just 8 predictions made before they were born.
But Jesus doesn’t just fulfill 8 predictions made in the Old Testament (the first part of the Bible), he fulfills 61!
There are over 300 references to those 61 predictions in the Bible that were all written HUNDREDS of years before Jesus was born.
The Savior would be born in Bethlehem
His hands and his feet would be pierced
That he would be of the tribe of Judah
He’d be betrayed for 30 pieces of silver
Jesus fulfills ALL of them…most of them out of his control (meaning you couldn’t just fulfill it on purpose)
Paul then goes on to list a third key piece of evidence:
He goes through a whole list of eyewitnesses who saw Jesus after He was resurrected
(1 Corinthians 15:5-8) - NIV
5 and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.
(SHOW EVIDENCE OUTLINE FOR 20 SECONDS OR SO)
The first eyewitnesses of the resurrection that Paul mentions are Cephas (aka Peter) and the disciples
They are instrumental in being the first to begin telling people what happened
Now, you could say (and many have in the past), that the disciples just lied about his resurrection…that they made it up.
Except, there are some difficulties with that theory.
Usually people make up religious things so they can gain from them…often in terms of power or money.
What did the disciples gain? Nothing.
In fact, they were persecuted, beaten, imprisoned, and 11 out of 12 were eventually murdered for their faith.
You might even say, “Yeah, but people die for lies all the time.”
That’s actually true, but the difference is: You don’t die for something you KNOW to be a lie.
When you know it’s a lie, and they’re about to murder you, or feed your children to the lions in the Coliseum, that’s when you say, “HOLD UP! WE MADE IT UP!”
But they don’t say that!
Because they were EYEWITNESSES to the resurrected Christ.
Chuck Colson, who was a major player in President Nixon’s Administration, and was put in jail for his role in the Presidential Watergate scandal…later in life said this:
“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, and then they proclaimed that truth for 40 years, never once denying it. Everyone 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.” – Chuck Colson
And it’s not just that you had someone who was a lone eyewitness to an event out in the wilderness and then wrote about it 30 years later.
If it was a lie, it could be proven to be a lie.
So for instance, the Bible tells us that after Jesus resurrects on Easter, He makes appearances to all sorts of people for 40 days, and then ascends back into heaven.
10 days after that (only 50 days since Easter now), God tells the disciples to start telling people what happened, and Christianity starts to spread like wildfire.
Thousands upon thousands upon thousands believe within days…
And now the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem are absolutely FURIOUS that Jewish people are believing that Jesus was resurrected.
They flog the Christian disciples, throw them in jail.
They even start to murder some of them.
But listen to the evidence.
This isn’t years later.
It’s only FIFTY days later!
If you’re the Jewish leaders, and you want stop your people from believing that Jesus resurrected, there’s a really easy way to stop this.
Go to the tomb and pull out his body.
One problem: It’s not there.
Because He’s alive!
This is honestly one of the main reasons Christianity spread SO fast in the first year.
No one could produce the body.
People believed, not just by faith, but because of WHAT THE EVIDENCE SAID!
Christianity wasn’t just a new philosophy or new way to improve your life.
It was an actual event that happened and changed human history!
In our passage today, Paul lists more eyewitnesses
He says that one time, Jesus appeared to 500 people (at the SAME time)…
And oh by the way…most of them are still alive
So if you think it’s a lie, go ask them.
Paul also lists “James” as an eyewitness.
James was the brother of Jesus.
And James was famous for not believing in Jesus before Jesus died on the cross.
Do you know who are the most difficult people to impress?
Your family members! Amen?
So how did brother James go from, “My brother’s lost his mind,” to all of a sudden he is worshipping his brother and willing to be killed for his faith. .
In fact, history tells us that the Jewish leaders threw James off of the temple, and when that didn’t kill him, they began to stone him.
When given one last chance to deny that he saw Jesus resurrected…
And the last eyewitness Paul lists, is himself.
An incredibly educated man that was bent on destroying Christianity, but now is telling everyone about Jesus.
Because he too, as an eyewitness, saw Jesus resurrected.
IF IT IS TRUE…
But again, because we don’t have irrefutable video evidence…we have to take a leap of faith somewhere based upon the facts we have.
I always tell people that everyone has faith. Everyone.
Even if you say, “I don’t believe Jesus resurrected.”
Since you don’t have proof that he did NOT, you have to have a level of FAITH that he did not.
Think of it this way:
Let’s pretend this stage is a continuum.
And this side represents being 100% sure that Jesus resurrected.
And this other side represents being 100% sure that He did not.
When I study the evidence, it leans me this way (walk towards the side of believing)
Sure, it doesn’t bring me all the way, but pretty close.
I still have a little bit of a faith leap here.
But the evidence says that my leap of faith to believing it’s true, is actually SIGNIFICANTLY smaller than the leap of faith I’d have to take to believe it’s NOT true.
So what if it IS true?
What if…God did send his only Son, and He died on the cross, and then God brought Him back to life.
What if that really happened?
And what you do next probably depends where you are on the spectrum of belief.
Maybe today piqued your interest for the first time…and you’ve got some questions…and you want to know more.
Start looking for God again…or for the first time.
Crack open a Bible for yourself…read it on our app…
I encourage you to start in the Book of Matthew
One of the best things you can do, honestly, is come back here next week
In fact, the Bible promises you that IF you seek God, you will find Him.
And I believe in that promise so strongly, I want to challenge you to something.
(3 week challenge slide)
Take, what we’re calling the 3 week challenge.
Come here to Renovation Church for 3 straight weeks (you’re already a week in!) and start seeking God again in your life.
If you do this…your life is going to change…for the better.
I believe that.
What’s 3 weeks? Test it out!
(BACK TO EYEWITNESS slide)
But for others of you, I suspect that maybe God has already been moving in your life…and you’re ready to make a more significant move towards Him…even today.
Maybe He’s even done some things to get you here (in a church!) today…
And if that’s true…and if you think the Resurrection of Jesus might be true…
I want to tell you that the resurrection has incredible ramifications for your life because of what the Bible describes as the PURPOSE of that historical event.
Do you remember what Paul said back in verse 3?
(1 Corinthians 15:3) – NIV
3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
Paul says that Jesus died on the cross for our sins.
That every sin (bad choice) we make against God and others…is like a huge pile of moral debt…
And as we get older, it just keeps getting higher and higher
And when we die (and by the way, the death rate in the United States is still hovering around 100%)…
When we die…and we meet God face to face our pile of sins and moral debt won’t be a small one.
And God, who is like a just judge, must serve out punishment for our sins.
He can’t pretend it didn’t happen or He wouldn’t be just.
Just like if someone sinned mightily against you, you wouldn’t want a judge to just pretend it didn’t happen.
But God, in his love for you…and make no mistake, He is absolutely CRAZY about you…
He sent His very own son Jesus to earth.
And when Jesus died on the cross, we’re told that He took our punishment for us.
And then God raised Him from the dead to prove that Jesus did indeed accomplish what He set out to…and was indeed the Son of God.
And the Bible says this:
(Romans 10:9) – NIV
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
He doesn’t just automatically forgive everyone.
This is where it’s your choice
Based on the evidence you’ve seen…Do you want to, in faith, believe Jesus died for you
Or, in faith, believe that he didn’t.
But the Bible says that if you believe in faith…that he did die and he did rise again…
That you will be forgiven of everything you’ve ever done.
Because you’ll be believing that Jesus died for your sins.
Your faith in Him is the only thing that wipes them away.
And because you are then forgiven, you will get to spend eternity in heaven, and not in hell.
Because without faith in Jesus, …that pile of sin…is never removed.
And then, WE, must pay for it in hell.
No matter how many other good deeds we do…somebody needs to pay for our sin.
Let Jesus pay for it!
And I believe there are some people in this room that are ready to make this choice today.
To become a follow of Jesus for the first time.
To start a relationship with Jesus…who is ALIVE!
Because we don’t just believe and move on.
If this really happened, we believe…and then follow Him!
I believe some people are ready to be forgiven for the first time.
To know that you’re going to spend eternity in heaven for the first time!
And for those of you that want to make that decision today, I want to give you an opportunity to start that relationship with Him right now.
I want this to be a special moment between you and God, so let’s just have everyone bow their heads and close their eyes
If that’s you…and you do want to tell God for the first time today that you believe God sent his son for you, and that you want to start a relationship with Him…and you want to spend forever with Him in heaven…in a minute…I’m actually going to ask you to respond by quietly standing up right where you are.
It’s a symbolic way to say to God, “God, I believed you died in my place and resurrected from the dead…I will follow you!
This is how you can be forgiven, go to heaven, and have a relationship with God…it’s by making this decision.
Jesus died and rose for moments like this and decisions like this!
NO ONE will be looking at you…no one (don’t even think about that!). This is about you and God.
So wherever you are, if I’m talking to you.. and you’d like to become a follower of Jesus Christ, to enter into a relationship with Him, and accept his gift of forgiveness, I want you to stand up wherever you are. (you can stay standing for a minute as others join you)
If God is nudging your heart in this…that means He’s talking to you. That means…it’s TIME. If you feel it in your pulse…in your heart…that’s God. Accept His forgiveness. Start a new life with Him. It’s amazing!
If you’re standing up, would you pray this prayer with me?
This is not a magic prayer…but just a prayer to tell God where you’re at… the Bible says, we 1) believe in our hearts and 2) confess with our mouths.
So I want you to say it out loud with me. Repeat after me
IN fact, there are a lot of other believers already in the room, and this is what we believe.
So, let’s all say it together with these new believers.
Repeat after me
I confess to you, that I have sinned against you.
But God I believe, that you sent your Son Jesus, to take my place
And God I thank you, for forgiving my sins.
And now I commit, to following you, with my life.
As everyone else still has their eyes closed, I want to talk to those of you who are standing for just a moment
I need you to do one more thing for me.
It will only take a few small minutes, but I believe these are a few of the most important minutes of your life.
You’ve just made the most important decision of your life, and I believe in any scenario, that requires some more information…
So here’s what we’re going to do…In just a second, one of our leaders is going to pray, but right before he does that, I need you to quietly sneak out of your row, and head towards the hallway where it will be quiet.
I’m going to go out there with you…and I want to give you some extremely important resources & next steps to get you started on the most important journey of your life.
I promise you’ll be able to sneak right back into the service & back into your seats in just a few moments.
All right, one of our leaders is going to pray
But for now, would you please had out there with me.
Go ahead. We can all go together.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
You may use this material all you like! We only ask that you do not charge a fee and that you quote the source and not say it is your own.