He is risen, He is risen indeed – John 20:1-10

The power has been unleashed, the horse has bolted, or as the song goes ‘who let the dogs out!’  There is no turning back, no changing of time, no looking at the past; the world is now a different place.  Jesus has risen from the grave; halleluiah!   The resurrection is the power that drives Christianity; it is the source, energy and heart of the Christian faith; our faith.  Without it, with out Jesus rising from the dead, we would have no need to be here.  In fact we wouldn’t be here, there wouldn’t be a church and there wouldn’t be a religion called ‘Christianity’.

The power of the resurrection is like the power of a car engine; it’s what makes it go. The key component to a car is the engine; it’s the power that drives the car. It is the force and heart of the car which makes it go. Without an engine, a car would be pointless, in fact totally useless and irrelevant to any body.  Without an engine, there would be no such  thing as a car.  The internal combustion engine changed the world forever; it changed us as a society and changed the way we do things;.

Surprisingly, for such a big world changing thing, the engine is really quite small and quite a simple invention.  The elements of fuel and air are brought together, compressed, and then burned to produce energy and that energy is spent on driving the wheels of a car. Most people don’t really know how the engine works, they just trust that when they turn the key, they can make use of the power; it is the life changing power they are after.

The resurrection is the engine that drives Christianity; it changed the world forever and it powered civilisation into a new era.  Even though the resurrection is such a small blip in human history, it is the power, the force, the heart of Christianity and it is what you and I believe in.  St Paul is convinced the resurrection of Jesus is so central to our faith, he writes ‘If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.  And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith; you are still in your sins.’  Just like a car is useless with out an engine to power it, our faith is useless without the power of Jesus’ resurrection.

Is it no wonder then, that the devil is constantly trying to disprove and discredit the resurrection as nonsense and a trick.  Is it any wonder, people have been trying to prove the resurrection is false for the last 2000 years.  Some, like Sigmund Freud would argue that the story of the resurrection is just a projection of the inner desires of the disciples; a story brought about by their extreme circumstances and imbalanced mental state.  They so desperately wanted Jesus to rise from the dead, Feud would say, that they convinced each other he did.  The resurrection story is just a wish coming from their subconsciousness.

Others argue that we cannot place trust is 2000 year old writings.  We can’t be certain they got it right.  Yes, because Jesus rasing from the dead is the power of our faith, it is the first thing the devil attacks.  Perhaps you have also questioned the resurrection; is it real, did it really happen, perhaps Jesus never died or someone actually did steal his body?  Yes, I think we all, at one time or another, wonder what if…?

We shouldn’t be surprised about this.  Something so central, so important, something that is the power and heart of our faith, is always going to come under attack from the devil.  If he can take the resurrection away from us, he knows we have nothing.  There is no hope and so no faith to believe in.  There is no forgiveness and no life after death. The devil wants to take the power out of our engine, the God event that drives Christianity; Jesus raising from the dead.

Well let’s give our engine a once over; let’s take a look at the resurrection, and like a tune-up on our car, we’ll analyse its power, check for faults and reaffirm its solid truth  as a reliable engine, suitable to be at the heart of faith.

Archaeologists have found an abundance of original copies of New Testament manuscripts dating back to the first centenary after Jesus ascension.  In fact over 24,000 copies are known to be in existence today.  And they are identical to the gospels you and I read in our bibles.  Luke wrote at the beginning of his gospel “authentic evidence” concerning the resurrection. Sir William Ramsay, who spent 15 years attempting to undermine Luke credentials as a historian, and to refute the reliability of the New Testament, finally concluded: “Luke is a historian of the first rank . . . This author should be placed along with the very greatest of historians. ”

What about the Roman seal which was broken when the stone was rolled away?
The consequences of breaking a Roman seal were extremely severe. If this ever happened, the Federal police of the Roman Empire were called into action to find the man or men who were responsible. If they were apprehended, it meant automatic execution by crucifixion upside down. People feared the breaking of the seal. Jesus’ disciples would not have done this as they displayed signs of cowardice when they hid themselves. Peter, one of these disciples, went out and denied Christ three times. They were not courageous men willing to do such a thing!

The large stone rolled away
On that Sunday morning the first thing that impressed the people who approached the tomb was the unusual position of the one and a half to two ton stone that had been lodged in front of the doorway. All the Gospel writers mention it.  Those who observed the stone after the resurrection describe its position as having been rolled up a slope away not just from the entrance of the tomb, but from the entire massive sepulcher. It was in such a position that it looked as if it had been picked up and carried away. Now, I ask you, if the disciples had wanted to come in, tiptoe around the sleeping guards, and then roll the stone over and steal Jesus’ body, how could they have done that without the guards’ awareness?

The Roman guards fled. Why else would they flee, other than from fear over being on duty when their superiors arrive to inspect. The fear of their superiors’ wrath and the possibility of death meant that Roman soldiers paid close attention to the minutest details of their jobs.  Dr. George Currie, a student of Roman military discipline, wrote that fear of punishment “produced flawless attention to duty, especially in the night watches.”  The guards fled because they had no explainable excuse for the seal being broken and the stone rolled away.

John, a disciple of Jesus, looked over to the place where the body of Jesus had lain, and there were the grave clothes, neatly folded with the Jesus’ face cloth separated and also neatly folded. The first thing that stuck in the minds of the disciples was not the empty tomb, but rather the empty grave clothes–undisturbed in form and position; Why would grave robbers unwrap Jesus’ body and fold the linen cloths?  No, Jesus must have risen and placed them there.

The women were the first to spread the good news of Jesus’ resurrection.  At the time of the resurrection, a woman’s testimony was not valid in a court of law, only a man’s.  So why, if the disciples wanted to trick people into believing Jesus raised from the dead, would they get the women to spread the news when most people would not believe a woman’s testimony?

SO there we have it, just some of the proofs which will help you to place your trust in the power of the resurrection.  Some inexplicable proofs yes, but finally and ultimately, there is really only one proof we need, Jesus own words.  He said ‘I am the resurrection and the life’, who ever believes in me, even though they die, yet they will live.  Do you believe this?’  Yes Lord we believe. He has risen….He has risen indeed; halleluiah.

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