Discovering the Truth: Exploring the Resurrection of Jesus

Transcript from Ps. Nathan Bell’s sermon Believe, preached on the 31st March 2024.

Have you ever had one of those “seeing is believing” moments? You know, when you heard something, but you had to see it to believe it. Has anyone had one of those moments in their life? life? I do remember, this is a sad moment, I remember September 11, 2001, and I was actually in New Farm that night working for a theatre company in there, working hard till late at night, and on the way home, I jumped in McCarran and the way home, put on the radio, and they’re talking about planes flying into the World Trade Center, and I remember thinking, this can’t be real. real.

And I got home and Shelley, of course, was up watching the TV, sure enough, it was real. You know, once you’ve seen it, you think this is actually happening. You believe it.

It didn’t really sink in until I saw it with my own two eyes. And the same thing happened to the disciples of Jesus. It wasn’t even a full TV show.

days after he had died on the cross, been crucified and laid in a tomb. They had their seeing is believing moment. I’m gonna read from John chapter 20, most of it today, because often, well, actually, always God’s words are better than mine.

I was gonna say often, that wouldn’t be right, but always God’s words are better than mine. and I want you to track along with this story this morning. Here we go from John chapter 20.

Early on Sunday morning while it was still dark, this is why we meet on Sundays these days by the way, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. She ran and found Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved. This is John writing about himself.

She said, “They have taken the Lord’s body out of the tomb and we don’t know where they have put him.” Peter and the other disciple started out for the tomb. They were both running but the other disciple outran Peter, John, outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He stooped and he looked in, and so the little linen wrappings lying there, but he didn’t go in.

Then Simon Peter arrived, slower runner, and he went in. He also noticed the linen wrappings lying there. While the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head was folded up and lying apart from the other wrappings, then the disciple who had reached the tomb first, John also went in.

and he saw and believed. For until then they still hadn’t understood the scriptures that said Jesus must rise from the dead. Then they went home.

Mary was standing outside the tomb crying and as she went she stooped and looked in. She saw two white robes -robed angels, one sitting at the head and the other at the foot of the place where the body of Jesus had been lying. Dear woman, why are you crying, the angels asked her, because they have taken away my Lord, she replied, and I don’t know where they have put him.

She turned to leave and saw someone standing there. It was Jesus, but she didn’t recognize him. Dear woman, why are you crying? Jesus asked her.

“Who are you looking for?” She thought he was the gardener, sir. She said, “If you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.” “Mary,” Jesus said. She turned to him and cried out, “Rabbi Naio,” which is Hebrew for teacher.

“Don’t cling to me,” Jesus said, “for I haven’t yet ascended.” to the Father, but go find my brothers and tell them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God. Mary Magdalene found the disciples and told them, I have seen the Lord. Then she gave them this message, that message, that Sunday evening, this is a little bit later now, that Sunday evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders.

Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them. That’s pretty cool. Lock doors, Jesus is there.

He says, “Peace be with you.” As he spoke, he showed them the wounds on his hands and in his side. and they were filled with joy when they saw the Lord. Again, he said, “Peace be with you, as the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Well, can you put yourself in that room? You know, Jesus appears, kind of does a little bit of of a show and tell.

Look, check it out just in case you think that this didn’t really happen. They all got to see and believe. Now, church, we didn’t get to see that, did we? But do you believe the resurrection of Jesus to be true? That Jesus Christ brutally crucified on Friday and buried in a tomb came back fully to full life.

You know, and he wasn’t walking around like this, completely healed. But the scars were still there. That question I just asked you, if you were unsure, is probably the most important question you will ever have to work out and answer.

Because if the claims of Jesus are correct, actually, for all people, our salvation and eternity depends on how we answer that question. Do you believe the resurrection is true? So may I suggest to everyone here today, shouldn’t you be sure? Shouldn’t you spend a decent amount of time looking into the claims of Jesus? Either Jesus died and rose again, and is therefore the son of God, as he said, and everything that he said about himself is true, or Jesus died in something else, happened to his dead body and he was just a deluded Jewish carpenter. See, there is almost no dispute about Jesus dying.

If you think it’s just those Christians in the Bible, actually it’s not. History, including outside of the Bible, says that there is no dispute about Jesus dying. definitely was a man named Jesus who made these claims and that he definitely did get crucified and die.

There’s also a broad agreement in and out of the Bible that there was an empty tomb on the Sunday morning. Those things are actually in history, not really disputed. where the major differences come is whether we believe the eyewitnesses reports that he actually appeared again after his death, that he came back to life.

And we just read one of those reports and there’s others. So people need to decide this. Is the resurrection of Jesus from death to life true? As I said, it’s the most important question you can ever answer because if your answer is yes, it’s true, then you have no choice but to recognize Jesus was telling the truth about who he was.

His resurrection proved it. And so we should find out what that means for each one of us and respond. If you say the resurrection story is not true, then it’s important to be able to articulate what why Jesus was telling the truth.

that? Why would I say that that’s not true? There is evidence that it is. We just read a firsthand account. So I wanna encourage you all today, spend time exploring the claims of the Bible about Jesus so you can make an informed decision.

He says, your eternity depends on it. Today I’m going to give you five reasons why I think the historical reliability of the biblical accounts of the resurrection is true and why there’s good evidence. The first thing is, and this is the most important, obviously there was an empty tomb.

Yes, some have claimed his body was stolen by his followers, but that’s almost impossible. We need to know that. consider that there was great lengths taken to ensure that wouldn’t happen because people thought that could be a possibility, they’re going to take him and claim something so they went to great steps.

Pilate gave specific instructions, seal it with a big stone and guard it with Roman soldiers. Make sure nothing happens to him. his body.

And you know if you’re a, hey, if you’re a Roman soldier and you don’t do the job you’re supposed to do, it’s not just time in army prison, whatever they call it. It’s probably something more severe, like possibly even death. So we know those soldiers were doing their job.

They made it and no one came. within that proximity for that period. The second piece of evidence is, and this one’s a little bit out of left field, but it actually makes sense, it was the choice of women as the first verbal witnesses.

John didn’t cover this one in as much detail as the other gospels who said that there were more women there besides just Mary Magdalene. Magdalene. But if Matthew, Mark, Luke and John wanted to convince the original readers that Jesus is the resurrected one, and he wasn’t, if they were trying to convince people and make up a story, they wouldn’t, sorry ladies, in that culture, in that time, they would have had the men be the first ones in their stories, in their accounts.

It’s not something we would agree with today, but that was the story. case in that culture. If it was a fabricated story, they wouldn’t have done it that way.

The third thing is the unified accounts of Jesus’ post -resurrection appearances. The fact that there are small differences between some of those accounts actually works in our favor, because if they were all identical, that would say collusion. was happening.

They either saw him for themselves, or they heard from eyewitnesses who did, but they were all in agreement. Jesus was seen by many people, hundreds in fact, and he’d come back to life. The fourth thing that supports the reliability of the biblical account of the resurrection is the transformation of his followers, of the disciples.

And I love this one, because they went from being very fearful followers to being fearful. followers after they saw Him, not after His death, after His resurrection. And they were bowled in the face of severe persecution, and they launched the church around the world, and hundreds of millions, I could even probably say, billions of people over 2 ,000 years have believed and received that message.

They were significantly changed, not after his death, after his resurrection. And the fifth thing that is convincing is that it makes no sense just to follow a dead man, right? Especially when it comes with this extreme persecution, most of them, a lot of them had to flee homes and probably jobs and businesses. And some of them, for some of them, it costs there.

life. If Jesus didn’t rise and the disciples didn’t see him, why would you follow a dead man with all of that that comes with it? All of the followers face this persecution and yet most of them held to their faith, some of them were arrested and killed for it. What would you do that for a dead man? man? Proclaiming his resurrection did not buy them any favor with their world, with their culture.

In fact, the opposite. Unless it’s true, hundreds saw Jesus alive again and they shared with thousands of others. He came back from the grave.

That means everything he said about himself was true. He was the Messiah. He really did die on the cross.

cross for all of humanity. So they put their lives on the line. They knew the eternal benefits were gonna be true.

So therefore we’re following him, whatever the cost. ‘Cause they had a seeing his believing moment. For John, he believed when he saw from verse eight, the disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in and he saw, and believed and you may have noticed in the story even though John ran ahead of Peter he let us know about that he didn’t he didn’t go into the tomb straight away two different personalities isn’t it Peter he’s getting in there John’s gonna stop and think about it apparently he wanted to stop stop.

I think John was experiencing that significant moment, seeing is believing. The realization of who Jesus was, I’d say in that moment it probably dropped into the deepest part of his heart. It’s all true.

It’s all true. I suggest that you stop. hesitated not because he didn’t want to believe, but because the magnitude of those implications.

It’s got to be overwhelming, doesn’t it? Yes, he loved Jesus. He followed him. He saw the miracles.

He sat under his teaching. Everything was going to change from that moment for John. Jesus had proved himself to be the Son of God and now, and divine in nature, and now John’s belief was complete.

There was no doubt in him. Let’s keep reading, remember the disciples, they’re now gathered back in that, in town, in the rooms. One of the 12 disciples, Thomas, nicknamed a twin, was not with the others when Jesus came.

They told him, “We’ve seen the Lord.” Lord.” He replied, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in His hands and put my fingers into them and place my hand into the wound on His side.” Eight days later, the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was with them. The doors were locked again. Suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them.

“Peace be with you,” he said. That’s been his message three times now. “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “All right, put your fingers here and look at my hands, but put your hand into the wound in my side.

Don’t be faithless any longer. Belief. “My Lord and my God,” Thomas explained.

“My Lord and my God.” Just making sure everyone hears that bit because Jesus is God. My Lord and my God. Don’t be faithless any longer Thomas believe.

Thomas’s only response to seeing him was to acknowledge. He saw the evidence and he believed what a great moment for him as well. But as good as that, Jesus then speaks to you today, all down through the ages.

You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me. He speaks to us who don’t get to see him in the flesh.

Just a handful of days after he was crucified and rose again, he speaks to us here today, reading his words, and he says, “Blessed are you for believing.” When you read the words of Jesus and hear of his resurrection from the dead, the truth of who Jesus is, I hope it comes alive in your heart. That’s what happened to me. I pray it does for you too.

All who respond to him and believe will be blessed. Well, you say, “Well, how is that?” We sang about it in the first song today. He’s a big one.

For this is how God loved you, the world. He gave his one and only son, Jesus, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. life.

God must really love you. I hope you see that today. God must really love you, gave his life for you.

We walked the darkness on Friday with Jesus. Remember, he could have stopped at any moment, could have called angels in, the Romans would have had an angel. no chance but he kept going and If you believe in him and commit your life to him, the blessing is forgiveness and peace with God.

Remember how Jesus kept saying Peace be with you. He wanted you to have that message today I’m the resurrection Peace be with you And you get an eternity with him. The beautiful story of Thomas is that Jesus loved him even though he doubted.

Isn’t that great? He asks us to believe. I love, if you go back into John chapter seven, this is way back during the ministry of Jesus. And he was at a feast and there’s crowds of people and then the last day.

I love this story, he stands up, I imagine, you know, tension everybody. Anyone who is thirsty may come to me. Anyone who believes in me may come and drink.

For the scriptures declare, rivers of living water will flow from his or her heart. And I think he just sits back down. And today I’m asking you to seriously consider if you believe the resurrection of Jesus Christ to be true.

And therefore Jesus is who he said he is. And if you wanna believe, if you really wanna know the truth and have the truth in your life, you’re like, but I can’t promise them a little bit. bit here.

I didn’t get to see the holes in the hands. I got some doubts. You’re in good company.

Thomas had the same doubts. And that guy got to walk around with Jesus for years. Jesus says, just come to me.

That’s the step of faith. In another part of the Bible, he says, “You only need faith the size of a little tiny seed, and he will begin to fill you with his thirst, quenching, holy spirit.” A little step of faith from us opens up to a river. That’s my invitation to you today.

Maybe you’re sitting there and you’re thinking, “Still not sure? Still got the big doubts?” Well, you saw the advertisement for Alpha at the start of the message today. I invite you to come to that. It’ll be in the hall next to this church on April the 14th.

It’s a Sunday night at five o ‘clock. You’ll even get some food and begin to explore. is it, what is the evidence? What is the evidence for Jesus? Why do you guys believe the Bible? You’re welcome to ask questions and even disagree.

That’s how Alpha works. It’s not to make you believe anything. Just to give you an opportunity to hear.

Because your eternity depends on it. Or there’s this option today. today, what Jesus said, don’t be faithless any longer, believe.

You heard the eyewitness account from a man who had nothing to gain from the world by proclaiming this story, but he had everything to gain. in it for his eternity and his life with Jesus now. Don’t be faithless any longer, believe.

Maybe you’re just feeling in your hearts like I think I do want to. I invite you today, a step of faith, says I believe in you Jesus. He died and rose again.

“I’m gonna commit my life to you today.” Would you bow your heads and pray with me now? And if that’s you, I want you to just pray quietly in your heart, something along the lines of what I’m gonna pray now. Lord, I might be, I might have some doubts. but a sense you’re telling me that this is real, that you are who you claim to be, and I admit today I need you, I believe.

believe, I believe you are who you said you are. You are the Son of God. And I commit my life to you today.

Forgive me for all that I have done. done. I follow you.

Amen. If you did pray that prayer today, welcome to God’s family. Please come and see me.

I’d love to just quickly encourage you before you go home today. today. Jesus said this, “I am the resurrection and the life.” He’s actually saying he didn’t just rise, he is the resurrection.

You too, receive that from him. You too, rise. The old person, gone, a new life in Christ.

If you can testify to a new life in Christ, can I see your hands up this morning, all around the church? I am the resurrection and the life. As you go out today, live the resurrected life. Live the resurrected life.

Life. Not the dead life. The resurrected life.

Watch the full sermon here