This sermon was preached in our sunrise service yesterday morning. The notes are not as fully developed at some points as they are normally.
In the book The Case for Christ, Lee Strobel tells the tragic story of Addie Mae Collins, a fourteen-year-old African-American girl murdered in a 1963 church bombing along with three others in Birmingham, AL by white racists. For thirty-five years after the event, family members had returned to her grave to pay their respects and leave flowers. Finally in 1998, the family decided to mover her grave to another cemetery. However, when the workers went to dig up the body, they found that the grave was empty! Understandably, the upset family sought answers. The cemetery officials tried to find out exactly what had happened. Several theories were proposed, the most credible being one which stated that the tombstone had been erected in the wrong place. Interestingly, no one proposed that Addie Mae had experienced a resurrection. The reason, says Strobel, is that it takes more than an empty grave to prove a resurrection.
This is precisely why the Scriptures not only assert that the tomb of Jesus was empty on the third day after his crucifixion, but that he was also seen alive by a multitude of trustworthy eyewitnesses. One such eyewitness was the apostle Peter who was transformed from a cussing coward to a mighty missionary by his encounter with the resurrected Christ. His message on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2:22-41 was the first sermon of the Christian church. At the heart of this sermon was the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave. This is remarkable in that this message was preached in the same town, Jerusalem, where the miracle of the resurrection had reportedly occurred less than fifty days before! What’s even move amazing is the fact that 3,000 people were so convinced by this sermon that they became followers of Jesus Christ. Skeptics could have easily disproved the message of Peter by producing the body of Jesus from his tomb, but no one did. Instead they believed in mass that Jesus was truly the Messianic King who David prophesied would come and who the grave could not conquer. Why did they believe? Because of the empty tomb and the testimony of eyewitnesses.
Let’s consider Peter’s eyewitness testimony in Acts 2:22-41.
Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know — 23 Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; 24 whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it. 25 For David says concerning Him: “I foresaw the LORD always before my face, For He is at my right hand, that I may not be shaken. 26 Therefore my heart rejoiced, and my tongue was glad; Moreover my flesh also will rest in hope. 27 For You will not leave my soul in Hades, Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption. 28 You have made known to me the ways of life; You will make me full of joy in Your presence.” 29 Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, 31 he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. 33 Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear. 34 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself: “The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, 35 Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.” 36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ. 37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” 38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” 40 And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” 41 Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.
I. The Statement of the Facts, vv. 22-24.
In these verses Peter gives his version of “Just the facts.” He asserts that Jesus was shown to be from God by the miracles, wonders and signs which he performed among them. This Jesus was taken by wicked hands and crucified and put to death! This was all a part of God’s eternal plan. God raised Jesus up because it was impossible for death to have the final say on Him. This gospel in a nutshell compares favorably to Paul’s explanation of the gospel which he preached among the Corinthians found in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4. There Paul asserts that the gospel which he had declared and which the Corinthians had believed was that Christ died according to the Scriptures, was buried, and rose again the third day according to the Scriptures. These two texts share in common the essentials of the gospel message: the death and resurrection of Christ.
A. Christ Died. 1 Corinthians 15:3
The Death of Christ is the means by which God satisfied his wrath toward sin. He poured out all of His wrath against the believer’s sins on Christ. Therefore, Christ died in our place, as our substitute.
1. For our Sins.
II Cor. 5:21 “For he has made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”
I Peter 2:24 “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree…”
I Peter 3:18 “For Christ also has once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust.”
2. According to the Scriptures
He was the Lamb of God slain from before the foundation of the world. See Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53.
B. He rose again the third day
“The crucifixion loses its meaning without the resurrection. Without the resurrection, the death of Christ was only the heroic death of a noble martyr. With the resurrection it is the atoning death of the Son of God.” R.A. Torrey
This was the preaching of the early church. We see it here in Acts 2 as Peter preaches it on Day of Pentecost in Jerusalem. In Acts 4:33, “And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.” In Paul’s sermon in Athens in Acts 17:31, “Because he hath appointed a day, in which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead”
II. The Testimony of David, vv. 25-31.
In these verses Peter quotes from Psalm 16:8-11 and applies them directly to Jesus. David had prophesied that God’s Anointed One would not see corruption and His soul would not be left in Hades (the grave, or abode of the dead). Peter argues that this did not refer to David, but to David’s greater Son who is the promised Seed of David who will reign forever more. David’s body did suffer corruption. David is still in the grave, but Jesus is alive and well and seated on the throne!
III. The Evidence of the Eyewitnesses, v. 32.
See Acts 1:3, 1 Corinthians 15:5-8. We believe the evidence, not in spite of or against the evidence.
Appearances of the Risen Christ
1. To Mary Magdalene, John 20:11-18
2. To the other women, Matt. 28:8-10
3. To Peter, Luke 24:34
4. To ten disciples, Luke 24:36-43
5. To the Eleven including Thomas, John 20:26-29
6. At his ascension, Luke 24:50-53
7. To the disciples on the Emmaus Road, Luke 24:13-35
8. To five hundred people at once, I Cor. 15:6
9. To James and the apostles, I Cor. 15:6
10. To Paul, Acts 9:1-6
IV. The Exaltation of Christ, vv. 33-36.
Compare Philippians 2:9-11. Jesus is now enthroned as the Davidic king fulfilling the Old Testament prophecies.
V. The Response of the People, vv. 37-41.
They were convicted! They were convinced! What a testimony! The crowd understood that if Jesus is still dead then He must have been a sinner like all of us and is paying the penalty for His sin, eternal death. If Christ is not raised, he is just another in a long line of sinners who has received the just reward for his sinfulness.
Romans 4:25 states that Christ was “raised again for our justification.” I believe what Paul means there is that Christ’s resurrection is proof of our justification. As someone has said, “The Resurrection is God’s ‘Amen!’ to Christ’s statement, ‘It is finished.” ‘
There was an empty tomb, but there was a living Christ also who was seen by multitudes. We serve a risen Savior!
Jesus was believed upon by thousands who would have had access to any contradictory evidence! You can trust in Him too!