The Gospel of Luke - Part 104
Evidence of The Resurrection — Luke 24:9-12

February 10, 2008
(These notes are based on lesson notes prepared by Rob Mahon for connection class leaders at Hoffmantown Church.)

Review:

Last lesson, we focused on the women who had traveled with Jesus from Galilee and their return to the empty tomb early on that Sunday morning after Jesus had been placed in the tomb.

From the text it is clear that Jesus was really dead and that they did not expect him not to be there or to have risen. Jesus had told him he would, but they just didn’t get it or believe it.

Then the angels told them that Jesus had risen from the dead, just like He had told them He would.

This morning, let’s focus on the Disciples. When the women returned from the empty tomb, they hurried to the Disciples…

...and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the Apostles, but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened. —Luke 24:9-12
The Apostles were so convinced that Jesus was dead that they refused to believe the testimony of the women. Peter went to the tomb to check things out for himself.

It’s clear that the Disciples knew Jesus was dead and had no expectation of Him being raised from the dead. Why is this important? Because it shows us that the evidence that persuaded them had to be compelling and convincing.

Only when Jesus appeared to them visibly and personally did they finally believe.  John's Gospel adds some interesting details here. John apparently accompanied Peter to the tomb:
So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. —John 20:2-4
John arrived first but Peter entered the tomb first
Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there. —John 20:4-6
Peter and John both saw the burial cloths lying there, and the body gone
Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed. —John 20:6-8
At this point, John apparently believed Jesus had risen from the dead.

The Life Application Bible suggests: People who hear about the resurrection for the first time may need time before they can comprehend this amazing story. Like the disciples, they may pass through four stages of belief.
(1) At first, they may think it is a fairy tale, impossible to believe.
(2) Like Peter, they may check out the facts but still be puzzled about what happened.
(3) Only when they encounter Jesus personally will they be able to accept the fact of the resurrection.
(4) Then, as they commit themselves to Jesus and devote their lives to serving him, they will begin fully to understand the reality of his presence with them.  At this point it is clear that

HE IS RISEN!
Let’s look at the importance of the resurrection of Jesus and the evidence of it.

Amazon.com, the world’s largest bookstore, lists over 300 books whose titles include the words “That Changed The World”. Some of these books include:

Some of these books obviously overstate the importance of their topic. But there is one book that lives up to the claim of its title:

“The Weekend That Changed The World: The Mystery Of Jerusalem’s Empty Tomb”

This last book is about the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. And the author is correct — this was a weekend that changed the world. And as important as the crucifixion of Christ is, His resurrection is equally important.

What's so important about the resurrection anyway?

Before we go any further in our study of Luke Chapter 24, let’s answer that question. We need to appreciate just how important, how significant it is that Jesus literally died and literally rose from the dead. We also need to understand that the evidence clearly supports the fact that Jesus did rise from the dead.

Josh Mc Dowell wrote in his book “More Than A Carpenter”

A lawyer, Frank Morison, set out to refute the evidence for the resurrection. He thought that the life of Jesus was one of the most beautiful lives ever lived, but when it came to the resurrection he thought someone had come along and tacked a myth onto the story of Jesus. He planned to write an account of the last few days of Jesus. He would of course disregard the resurrection. He figured that an intelligent, rational approach to Jesus would completely discount his resurrection. However, upon approaching the facts with his legal background and training, he had to change his mind. He eventually wrote a best-seller, Who Moved the Stone? The first chapter was titled, "The Book That Refused to Be Written," and the rest of the chapters deal decisively with the evidence for Christ's resurrection.

It's important for us to at least be aware of the evidence for the resurrection. We need to understand both the importance of this event and the evidence. supporting it.

Let’s start with

The Evidence For The Resurrection

One of the most common misconceptions about the gospel is that it takes “blind faith” to believe in Jesus. The assumption most people make is that there is no supporting evidence to back up the claims of the gospel. This just isn’t true! As we will see, Paul clearly pointed to external evidence (that is, outside the Bible) to support the truth of the Gospel. He pointed the Corinthians to the actual eyewitnesses of the resurrection. There are at least 10 appearances recorded.

When Luke spoke of Jesus’ resurrection, he referred to the fact that their faith was based on compelling evidence:

To them he presented himself alive after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. —Acts 1:3
This verse is also important in that it tells us how long Jesus remained physically on earth after His resurrection — 40 days.

The Life Application Bible Notes says:

Luke says that the disciples were eyewitnesses to all that had happened to Jesus Christ — his life before his crucifixion (“suffering”), and the 40 days after his resurrection as he taught them more about the kingdom of God. Today there are still people who doubt Jesus’ resurrection. But Jesus appeared to the disciples on many occasions after his resurrection, proving that he was alive.
Lee Strobel was a journalist for the Chicago Tribune before he came to faith in Jesus. He was an agnostic who was very cynical and skeptical about Christianity. He describes how he examined the claims of Jesus before becoming a Christian. He writes:
So I wanted to know, "How many witnesses met this person named Jesus? How many heard His teachings? How many watched Him perform miracles? How many actually saw Him after he supposedly returned from the dead?" I was surprised to discover that there wasn't just a single eyewitness; there were many, and the New Testament contains actual writings by several of them. For instance, there are Matthew, Peter, John, and James — they were all eyewitnesses. There's the historian Mark, who recorded Peter's firsthand account; there's Luke, a physician who wrote a biography of Jesus based on eyewitness testimony; and there's Paul, whose life was turned upside down after he said he had encountered the resurrected Christ. Peter was adamant that he was accurately recording firsthand information. "We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ," he wrote, "but we were eyewitnesses...." (2 Peter 1:16)
Strobel also wrote:
Not only were these people eyewitnesses, but, McDowell pointed out, they were preaching about Jesus to people who had lived at the same time and in the same area that Jesus did. This is important because if the disciples were exaggerating or rewriting history, their often-hostile audiences would have known it and thrown them out. But instead, they were able to talk about matters that were common knowledge to their audiences. For instance, shortly after Jesus was killed, Peter spoke to a crowd in the same city where the Crucifixion had taken place. Many of them probably had seen Jesus put to death. He started out by saying: "Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know."

In other words, "C'mon, everybody — you know what Jesus did. You saw these things for yourself!" Then he pointed out that although King David was dead and still in his tomb, "God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact." The audience's reaction was very interesting. They didn't say, "We don't know what you're talking about!" Instead, they [were cut to the heart] and wanted to know what they should do. On that day about 3,000 people [came to faith in Christ and were baptized] and many others followed — apparently because they knew that Peter was telling the truth.

Ask yourself, "Would Christianity have taken root as quickly as it undeniably did if these disciples were going around saying things that their audiences knew were exaggerated or false?"
Here is a quick summary of the evidence supporting the fact of Jesus’ resurrection:

1. The empty tomb:

Luke 24:1-8 says so. We have been studying these verses.

The Jewish religious leaders and the Roman political leaders could have caused Christianity to be still-born if they could have done one thing — produce the body of Jesus. But the empty tomb was compelling evidence that Jesus rose from the dead. The empty tomb also separates Jesus from all the world’s great religious figures — Moses, Mohammed, Buddha, etc. All of them also died and were buried. But only Jesus arose to leave an empty tomb.

2. His appearances after His death:

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the Apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. —1 Corinthians 15:3-8
Lee Strobel wrote that:
The New Testament references at least 515 people who were eyewitnesses — they themselves saw Jesus after He rose from the dead; there were many different appearances over a period of 40 days.

Let’s say this is a trial to determine whether or not the resurrection actually occurred. If we were to call each of these witnesses and give them 15 minutes to testify — their testimony would take eight hours a day for 16 days!! Who could listen to this and walk away unconvinced?
3. The subsequent events:

     a. The Pentecost message:

“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know — this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. —Acts 2:22-24
All the religious leaders or the Roman leaders would have had to do put a stop to Christianity was to produce the body of Jesus or provide proof that He had not risen. But they could not. So thousands of people in Jerusalem became believers because everyone was convinced that Jesus had risen from the dead.
So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. —Acts 2:41
      b. The changes in the disciples:
This image graciously provided by clipart.Christiansunite.com And as they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand. On the next day their rulers and elders and scribes gathered together in Jerusalem, with Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. But seeing the man who was healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. But when they had commanded them to leave the council, they conferred with one another, saying, “What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is evident to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” Acts 4:1-20
Peter had denied Jesus three times. All the disciples had abandoned Him at His arrest. None of the disciples believed He would rise from the dead. After the crucifixion, we see them without hope and in hiding. So what changed them?

Here in Acts 4, they are boldly proclaiming Christ. They refuse to stop even when arrested and threatened by the religious leaders. What changed them? They were changed by their encounters with the risen Christ.

     c. Sunday worship:

On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight.—Acts 20:7
Christians, even Jewish Christians, began meeting for worship on Sundays. Why? Jesus was crucified on Friday. We might expect them to make Friday the day of Christian worship. But instead they choose Sunday. Why? Because that was the day Jesus rose from the dead.

Even today, hundreds of millions of people all over the world go to church each Sunday, commemorating the resurrection of Jesus!

4. The claims of people throughout history to having a personal relationship with Christ:

Finally, we have the claims of countless believers who each say that they have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. They say He lives with them and within them.

The old hymn, “He Lives”, expresses the belief of every Christian that Jesus our Savior is as alive today as He was in the first century.

I serve a risen Savior, He’s in the world today;
I know that He is living, whatever men may say;
I see His hand of mercy, I hear His voice of cheer,
And just the time I need Him, He’s always near.

He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today!
He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way.
He lives, He lives, salvation to impart!
You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart.

Let’s stop here, and next week we will look at the importance of the Resurrection, now that we have looked at the evidence of the reality of the Resurrection.