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Easter sunday - John 20:24-31

This is a sermon by Malcolm Peters from the Riverside Church service on 8th April 2007.

Click here to read the bible passage. Click here to use larger text.


[Picture of Daisy at the Deep on screen]

Whoís this? Of course, itís my puppet friend Daisy. And last Sunday, Daisy was telling us about her trip to the Deep with her Granddad. But sadly Daisy canít be with us today. Letís have an Ahhhh!

And Iíve got another puppet friend. Would you like to see a picture of him? [Canít hear you? Would you like to see a picture of Him?] OK here he is: [picture of Sam the Cam on screen] Samís 13 and he canít be bothered about much. But one thing heís mad about is football. And Sam reckons that Wayne Rooneyís the best footballer in the world.

What do you think? No Iím not so sure either. Whatís the evidence? Cos even after Wednesdayís goal, Iím not convinced.

And itís the same when it comes to Easter Sunday. [Blank screen] On Easter Sunday, Christians celebrate Jesusís resurrection. As Christians, we think thatís the best news in the world, donít we.

[Hello/ is anybody there: as Christians we think the resurrection is the best news in the world donít we???] So every time I say, He is risen; I want you lot over here [on my right] to say: he is risen indeed. And then you lot over there [on my left] to say: Hallelujah. Ok, letís have a practise. He is Risen.

So Easterís all about Jesusís resurrection. He is Risen [response]

But the point is: is it true? Whatís the evidence? Well in John chapter 20, thereís 3 pieces of evidence for Jesusís resurrection. [Meet the king Banner for session 6] So weíre going to investigate them. And for each piece of evidence, thereís a clue hidden in an Easter Egg. So Iím going to need some volunteers to help me with the investigation. [And after weíve found the clue, the volunteer gets to keep the remains of the Egg!]

The Empty Tomb

So can I have my first volunteer. [Picture of empty tomb in egg and when opened, then on Screen]

Whatís this then. What the picture showing?

Thatís right. Early on the first Easer Sunday morning, Mary Magdalene went to Jesusís tomb. It was a sort of cave cut out of the rock, a bit like the one in that picture. And after the funeral, a big stone was rolled across the entrance. And to make sure no one nicked the body, some Romans Soldiers like these [picture of guards on screen] guarded the tomb over the weekend.

But when Mary got to the tomb, they were gone. [picture of empty tomb back on screen] The guards were gone. The stone was gone. And Jesusís body was gone. All that was left was Jís clothes neatly folded up in the corner. The tomb was empty. After Mary had seen it, the disciples came to see it. As the news spread, no doubt lots of other people came to see it too. Itís an undisputed fact of history: the body was gone. The tomb was empty.

So the issue is this: what happened to Jesusís body? Who could have got rid of the guards and moved the stone? Who wouldíve wanted to nick Jesusís body? And even if theyíd managed to pull off such a stunt, why didnít they produce the body when Christians started talking about the resurrection?

No the most believable option is what the Bible says: an angel moved the stone. The guards ran away frightened. And God raised Jesus back to life. He is risen.

Eyewitnesses of the Risen Jesus

That was the first piece of evidence. The empty tomb. So I need another volunteer to help me investigate the second. [Picture of risen Jesus with disciples in egg and, when open, then on Screen]

So what have we got here? Exactly, weíve got the risen Jesus talking to his special friends, the apostles. Eyewitnesses of the risen Jesus. And thatís what we find in the rest of Jn chapter 20. First in v11-18, Maryís the first to see the risen Jesus. Next in v19-23, as we can see in the picture, weíve got the risen Jesus meeting 10 of his apostles. But that day, one of the apostles called Thomas wasnít there. He knew about the empty tomb. Heíd heard the evidence of Mary and the other apostles. But he wouldnít believe it. ĎUnless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger in them, I wonít believe ití said Thomas.

So a week later in v24-29, the risen Jesus appeared to his apostles again; and this time Thomas is there. ĎSee the nail marks in my handsí he says to Thomas. Can you see the nail marks in Jesusís hands in the picture? ĎCome and put your fingers in the holesí. But Thomas didnít need to. ĎMy Lord and my Godí he said.

Eyewitnesses of the risen Jesus. Mary; the apostles. And the rest of the NT tells us that the risen Jesus appeared to many people over the next 40 days; different people, at different times. On one day, the risen Jesus appeared to more than 500 people all at once. When the apostle Paul wrote about it he said this: look: Ď500 people saw the risen Jesus all together and many of them are still alive. Go and ask them if you donít believe me.í And lots of people probably did. I would have done, wouldnít you. Go and talk to someone whoíd seen the risen Jesus.

Eyewitnesses of the risen Jesus. Mary, the apostles and at least 500 others. But maybe they were liars. Or maybe they were deluded. What all of them? Itís unbelievable isnít it? No the most believable option is what the Bible says: God raised Jesus from the dead. He is risen.

The Bible

[Investigator picture back on screen]

Weíve investigated the empty tomb. Weíve investigated the eyewitnesses. Weíve got one more piece of evidence to investigate. So I need one last volunteer. [picture of the Bible in the egg and, when opened, then on the screen]

Whatís this? [interaction]

Thatís right. Itís the Bible. Straight after Thomas said my Lord and my God, Jesus said this in v29. ĎYouíve believed because youíve seen me; blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.í

And straight after that the Apostle John wrote this:

20:30 " Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that by believing you may have life in his name.

And of course the greatest of Jesusís miracles or signs is the resurrection. We canít go and see the empty tomb. We canít go and talk to the eye witnesses because they all died long ago.

But what we do have is a written eyewitness account. And in a court of law, the written testimony of an eyewitness is top quality evidence. The Bible isnít a giant Chinese Whisper. No, ancient historians agree: not only is the Bible reliable; the NT is by far the most reliable ancient book in the world. You can be confident that the Johnís Gospel weíve read this morning is an accurate copy of what he actually wrote.

Do you remember all the fuss about the Da Vinci Codeís last year? The book was pure fiction and the film was even worse; but the stormís been and gone. Before the Da Vinci Code, there was Holy Blood Holy Grail. And no doubt thereíll be another best seller in the same mould sooner or later. The Bible has been constantly attacked ever since Jesus's day; but it always stands up to close scrutiny. The Bible contains eye witness testimony. And itís not a Chinese Whisper. And itís by far the most carefully preserve piece of ancient literature in the world.

We canít visit the tomb. The eye witnesses are dead. But, in the Bible, we have got a reliable eye witness account. 3 pieces of evidence.

[Investigator picture back up] The empty tomb. The eyewitness. And the Bible. And all the evidence tells us that Jesus really was raised from the dead. He is risen.


[Black screen]

But so what you might be thinking. So what if Jesus rose from the dead. Whatís that got to do with me? Well the cash value for us is that one day weíre all going to die. And after death comes judgement. A judgement that none of us would pass, because none of us is perfect. The bad news is that, without Jesus, weíre all heading for hell.

Well letís come back to Wayne Rooney for a moment. Is he the best footballer in the world or not. You think one thing and I might think another. But the end of the day, it doesnít matter what any one person believes. What matters is the truth. And when it comes to matters of life and death, thereís no room for my truth and your truth. When it comes to life and death, thereís only one truth.

Now someone was telling me this week about a small fire theyíd had. One of the neighbours spotted it and let them know. And thankfully I was put out really quickly, no one was hurt and there was no damage. But imaging if your house was on fire big time and I was walking past. Iíd want you to know about it so you could get out.

Iíd be banging on your door. Your house is on fire, get out. Thereís no time for a discussion about whether you believe the house is on fire. Itís on fire. So Iím not going to start saying: I say: Iíve seen some smoke being emitted from your abode, and the conclusion I draw is that, there might possibly be a fire in your house and it would be a jolly good idea to investigate the possibility of an unfortunate combustible incident. Of course not: youíre house is on fire Ė get out! Not my truth and your truth. When it comes to life and death, thereís only one truth.

And itís the same with eternal life and death. The Bible warns us that weíre all facing His just judgement because of the way weíve treated God. Because of the way weíve rejected him or pushed him to the edge of our lives. Naturally, each and every one of us is facing an eternity in hell as the just punishment for our sins.

But the good news about Easter, is that Jesus took the punishment in our place. If youíre a Christian, Jesus was punished in your place so you donít have to face hell when you die. And the resurrection proves itís all true. Thatís the great news about Easter. He is risen.

But the question is: is it true? Whatís the evidence? Because atheists like Richard Dawkins donít even believe in God. Muslims believe in the prophet Jesus. But they donít believe he was god or that he was crucified on Good Friday, let alone raised on Easter Sunday. Catholics believe that Jís death wasnít enough to save us on its own. And others who call themselves Christians think J's resurrection was just a spiritual resurrection; they donít believe that Jesus literally rose from the dead; no, they believe his memory lives on as people remember him and His teaching; itís a spiritual resurrection they say. So Jesus is in the same boat as Elvis, Jesus F Kennedy and John Lennon. They all live on in their spiritual resurrections.

But real Christians have always believed that Jesus physically rose from the dead on Easter Sunday. In another part of the NT, the Apostle Paul tells us that if Jesus wasnít raised from the dead, then our faith is a waste of time. No resurrection, no Christianity. He is risen.

But whatís the proof? Whatís the evidence? Well from this morningís passage, weíve looked at the Empty Tomb, the Eyewitness and the written eyewitness testimony in the Bible.

So if you know youíre not sure about this; if you know that youíre not a real Christian here this morning, then donít be an ostrich. Donít avoid the evidence. Investigate it. Is Jís physical resurrection really true or not? Itís a matter of eternal life and death. You canít sit on the fence for ever. Thereís no halfway house between heaven and hell. And if you want to investigate Jesus, come and speak to me after the service. Every term we run a Christian basics course called CE, so why not put your name down for the next one starting on 10 May. Or come back next term to learn more about the risen Lord Jesus. And as I said in the notices, youíll find details of all our courses, events and teaching programmes on the cards and leaflets on the Information Stand.

Easter is all about Jesusís death and resurrection. He is risen.

But the question is, do you believe it? Really believe it. Because if you do, then you can look forward to eternal life in the heavenly new Creation. And if thatís you, then I want you to go home singing praises to the risen Jesus in your heart. Your faith rests on solid facts. Be strengthened and stand firm against falsehoods the keep coming up every few years like the Da Vinci Code. Be secure in Jesus and donít be thrown by the next one. Your faith rest on solid ground. Because Jesus Christ is risen today. He is risen. Amen. Letís pray:

Closing Prayer

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for sending Jesus at the first Christmas. And thank you that at the first Easter he died and rose again to take away the sin of His people. Help each and every one of us to be convinced by the evidence, and rest secure in the sure and certain hope of heaven.

In Jesus name and we pray, Amen.

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