“The Difference of the Resurrection”

SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS MCCARTHY

EASTER SUNDAY

APRIL 21, 2019

Title: “The Difference of the Resurrection.

Text: “Then the same day at evening the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in their midst, and saith unto them, peace be unto you.  And when he had said so, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord” (John 20:19-20.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the badge of authority for the Christian faith.  On Calvary Jesus suffered and died for the sins of humanity. There were three crosses on that Good Friday.  What gave validity to the life and words of the man on the central cross? It was the resurrection. When he arose from the grave, the world had to acknowledged that all of his former words and deeds were true.

This is the secret of the resurrection: It gives Christianity its stability.  Actually, the symbol of Christianity is more an empty tomb than a cross. The empty tomb gives meaning to the cross.  That is the difference of the resurrection! Were it not for the empty tomb, the cross would have been a tragedy. That is the difference of the resurrection.

It was only right that the witnesses of Jesus’ crucifixion and burial were also witnesses of his resurrection.  Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were the first to receive news of the risen Lord and to encounter him. They had been at the cross; they had been there when he was laid in the tomb; and now they received love’s reward-they were the first to know the joy of the resurrection.    

Jesus resurrection did not happen without resistance from the enemies of righteousness.  They remembered that Jesus had said he would rise from the dead, and they remembered it before it occurred.  Thus they sealed his tomb (Matthew 27:63). It is sad to note on the other hand that the disciples did not remember Jesus’ words until after his resurrection (Luke 24:8).  With the dread of a potential resurrection of Jesus Christ in his enemies’ mind, they proceeded to try to prevent any incident that might lead people to believe that the resurrection actually occurred. People would try to influence us from believing anything about the resurrection, it is the power of the resurrection that gives us courage to stand up for what we believed.

When we read Matthew’s account of the resurrection, one would see attempts to prevent the resurrection.  We see paltry people struggling against eternal truth. They imagined the Lord to be a deceiver and the disciples to be cunning men with a scheme to make the resurrection appear to be real.  They took it upon themselves to try to prevent the resurrection, an event that would make the populace think that Christ was raised from the dead. We will see that religious teachers in ignorance and malice tried to prevent the resurrection.  They had come to Pilate out of hatred and ignorance seeking to destroy Jesus (Matthew 12:14). Now that he had been killed, they were going to see that his deathly defeat remained a reality. They approached the cowardly Pilate knowing that they could manipulate him.

Pilate in uncaring complacency played along.  Pilate had seen and heard enough about Jesus Christ.  He certainly did not want a rumour circulating about Jesus’ resurrection, so he gave the chief priests and Pharisees a detachment of soldiers, concurred in their efforts to secure the tomb, and issued the weakest statement of encouragement the world had ever known.  Pilate said, “Make the tomb as secure as you know how” (Matthew 27:65 NIV). What a scene of futility: mere men seeking to secure a tomb that God himself had declared would be opened (Matthew 16:21; 17:22-23; 20:18-19).

The soldiers in regimental obedience try to abate this process. The soldiers acted with regimented obedience as they sought to carry out Pilate’s command.  They went to the grave site and made sure the rock was sufficiently placed in the tomb’s entrance. They then sealed the rock, thus making it a trespass against the law of the Roman government for the tomb to be opened. They, to make certain the edict was enforced, the soldiers stood guard by the tomb. But still, this did not stop the resurrection from occurring.  Jesus Christ rose from the grave. The tomb is empty. That is the difference of the resurrection! People will try to steal our joy of the risen Lord, our resolve to stand our ground and do God’s work.

The first two Scottish missionaries sent to the New Hebrides Islands were killed and eaten by cannibals on the day they arrived. After that it proved difficult to find missionary volunteers. But even when John G. Paton agreed to go, well-meaning people in the church tried to dissuade him. One elderly man warned that he would be eaten by cannibals. Paton replied, “I confess to you, that if I can but live and die serving and honouring the Lord Jesus, it will make no difference to me whether I am eaten by cannibals or by worms; and in the Great Day my resurrection body will arise as fair as yours in the likeness of our risen Redeemer.” After fifteen years of fruitful ministry, almost everyone on the island of Aniwa where Paton ministered was converted.

Serving God is not a guarantee of an easy life. But we are called to a life of service, even if it means giving up everything. “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).

The difference of the resurrection is that it assures us of a living Christ.  Jesus assured the early disciples of his presence. Jesus showed himself to the apostles to satisfy them of the reality of his resurrection.  Later he appeared to Thomas to convince him.

Scripture records eleven different approaches to Jesus during the forty days between his resurrection and ascension.  Reading the narratives of the appearances of the risen Christ, we are struck with the fact that the Christ whom people saw was certainly the same person they had known days earlier.

Jesus continues to assure people of his continued presence. If Christ is risen, people can continue to encounter him.  R. W. Dale, a great preacher from Birmingham, England, described how one day while he was writing an Easter sermon, the fact of the resurrection broke in on him as it never had before.  The reality of the resurrection came as a burst of sudden glory. He said, “Christ is alive? The evangelist paused again and said. “Christ is alive!” This reality made a difference in his life and can also make a difference in our lives today.

One other difference of the resurrection is that Christ brings us immortality. Jesus defeated death.  Throughout his ministry, Jesus affirmed that he ruled over all powers, including death itself. He assured his disciples that even if he died he would rise again.  “From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priest and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life” (Matthew 16:21 NIV). When Jesus died on the cross, death felt that it held its prey.  But Jesus rose from the grave, he proved that death had been defeated. The living Lord gives us victory over death. Since Christ won the victory over death, his followers share his victory. “Because I live, ye shall also” (John 14:19). Easter morning brought immortality to light.

When Jesus Christ resurrected he assigned us a task.  Jesus assigned the disciples a task. Jesus appeared to the Eleven and gave them an assignment: “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:19-20). Jesus commissioned these men to go out and make the kingdom of the world into the kingdom of God.

The risen Christ has also given us a task.  Modern disciples also have been entrusted with a task: We are to continue Jesus’ ministry in the power of the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit within us can enable us to be Jesus’ witnesses by word and deed. His abiding presence can enable us to awaken people to the depth and urgency of their need.  By God’s power, we can lead people to Jesus, the one in whom their needs can be met.

It is a difference of the resurrection that the risen Christ brings us sustenance for life.  Jesus Christ after he was risen helped the disciples in number of ways after the tragic event of the cross.  Thomas doubted. The two disciples on the road to Emmaus gave in to depression. Peter and some other disciples thought the cause of Christ was lost, so they returned to fishing.  Jesus ministered to their needs during the forty days after the resurrection, renewing, strengthening, and sustaining them. The risen Christ sustains us during life’s trials. Those who respond to the Lord in faith find comforting presence as they pass through times of conflict and suffering.  Let us rely on the resurrection for its difference are obvious.The difference of the resurrection is that the resurrection assures us of a living Christ. The resurrection brings us immortality.  The resurrection assigns us a task. The resurrection brings us sustenance in the trials of life. “I serve a Risen Savior, he is in the world today. I know that he is living, no matter what men may say.  I see his hands of mercy and hears his voice of praise. Whenever Ie need him, he is always near. He Lives! He Lives! Christ Jesus Lives Today. He walks with him, and talks with him along the narrow way! He Lives! He Lives! Salvation to impact.  You ask me how he live, He lives within my heart!” God bless you!