Introduction – Overview of Acts 1:3
If the resurrection is as important as we said last week, then the whole weight of our position rests upon it. If the resurrection is false, then all of Christianity is false. The gospel is false. We have no salvation and no hope. But if the resurrection is true, then the entire gospel is true, and our salvation is certain.
Everything hangs upon this one great fact.
God has not left something so important to blind speculation.
Faith is not, “a blind leap in the dark.” Faith is “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction/evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). True faith is not speculation; it is based on facts, truth, reality.
What did Jesus do during the 40 days between the resurrection and His ascension?
- He presented Himself alive. They did not simply resume life as usual. Our Lord deliberately showed Himself, so that all could see that He was indeed risen from the dead.
- The Lord presented Himself to the apostles (Acts 1:2-3) They were not the only ones, nor the first. Mary and the women discovered the empty tomb. Mary was the first to see the risen Lord. Mary was “an apostle to the apostles.” But our Lord singles out these men “whom He had chosen” (see Acts 10:40-41)
- He presented Himself by many convincing proofs. He presented Himself to them in specific ways to destroy their unbelief and leave irrefutable proof that He was alive.
- “Many” – i.e. abundantly, often, plenty
- “Convincing proofs” – “denotes that from which something is surely and plainly known; a proof”
- God has not called us to believe something unreasonable without any evidence. Like the apostles, God has given to us “many convincing proofs” that He has raised Jesus from the dead.
- Charles Hodge, “It may be safely asserted that the resurrection of Christ is at once the most important, and the best authenticated fact in the history of the world.”
Men are not converted by apologetics, but by the preaching of the gospel. But the gospel is historical fact. We must preach the resurrection of Christ, not as an abstract theological construct, but as an indisputable fact of history.
The resurrection of Christ was clearly prophesied about – the testimony of Scripture
The idea of the resurrection was not something invented by the apostles. As we saw last week, it was a dominant theme in the Old Testament. Our Lord Himself often foretold that He would be raised from the dead.
The empty tomb (John 20:1-8)
Jesus was buried, the grave was sealed, a large stone laid in front of the entry, and it was guarded by Roman soldiers. “Make it as secure as you know how.”
But when the women come to the tomb, the stone is rolled away. [Some have eloquently noted: the stone was not rolled away to let Jesus out, but to let the women in!]
In itself, the empty tomb does not prove the resurrection. But it does require explanation. What happened to the body? Did grave robbers come and steal it away while the guards slept?
The testimony of the angels (Matthew 28:1-6)
The Scriptures testify that Jesus was raised from the dead. So do angels.
He appeared to many people (1 Corinthians 15:5 – 8) (testimony of men)
This event was not witnessed by literally hundreds of people. Many of these witnesses were still alive while the New Testament was being written.
He appeared to the same people who observed His life, His death, and His burial
There was no question that this was the same Jesus.
The women: Luke 8:2-3, 23:55 – 24:10. They saw His ministry, His death, His burial, the angels, and the risen Lord (Matthew 28:9-10)
The apostles: Acts 1:21-22, God set it up so that those who bore witness to His resurrection were the same men who had been with Him from the very beginning of His ministry.
He appeared many times over a period of 40 days
Counterexample: The apostles are overwhelmed with sorrow, they are disillusioned, and they are fasting. And in this setting suddenly someone sees a vision of Jesus, and says, “He’s alive!” And because all of them want the resurrection to be true, they all believe it.
That’s not even close to how it happened. There were several appearances over an extended period of time. Many of them saw Him multiple times. “Many convincing proofs.”
His appearances were specifically designed to prove that He was raised from the dead (Luke 24:39)
Counterexamples: He didn’t appear in dreams. He didn’t appear from a great distance away so that someone else might have been mistaken for Him. He “presented Himself to them alive, by many convincing proofs.”
Jesus is on a search-and-destroy mission, demolishing any argument or objection. He even singles out individuals who had special needs:
Peter – Mark 16:7, “Go, tell His disciples and Peter
Thomas – John 20:25-27
God authenticated the resurrection by working miracles
The Scriptures testify that Jesus was raised from the dead. The angels testify that He was raised from the dead. Many credible witnesses, men and women, testy that they saw Him. But God Himself testifies with them.
Hebrews 2:4, 3 how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? [a]After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, 4 God also testifying with them, both
by signs and wonders and by various [b]miracles and by [c]gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will.
The miracles attending His resurrection
Matthew 27:52-53, 52 The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the [a]saints who hadfallen asleep were raised; 53 and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many.
The miracles of the apostles in the book of Acts
Acts 3:16, 16 And on the basis of faith in His name, it is [a]the name of Jesus which has strengthened this man whom you see and know; and the faith whichcomes through Him has given him this perfect health in the presence of you all.
Acts 4:14-16, 14 And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they had nothing to say in reply. 15 But when they had ordered them to leave the [a]Council, they began to confer with one
another, 16 saying, “What shall we do with these men? For the fact that a noteworthy [b]miracle has taken place through them is apparent to all who live in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it.
The radical change in the lives of the disciples
1. The apostles were transformed from unbelieving cowards to joyful sufferers
The shocking unbelief of these men is a powerful proof that the resurrection is true. They didn’t invent it
– they themselves only believed when the force of evidence became so overwhelming. Mary Magdalene reported that He was risen, but “they refused to believe” (Mark 16:10-11)
The two disciples who saw Him on the way to Emmaus reported to them, “The Lord has really risen,” but they still didn’t believe.
Jesus Himself appeared to them, and showed them His hands and His feet, but “they still could not believe” (Luke 24:41). Incredible! They were “slow of heart to believe.”
The fact that these same men later suffered and laid down their lives testifying that Jesus had risen from the dead,
The gospel was not a conspiracy, a lucrative money-making scheme. These men suffered and died for the truth. It was not a hoax. It was not a deception.
Most striking example: the apostle Paul
How do you explain the transformation in his life? He was the most powerful man in Judaism. Suddenly, he denounces his whole way of life and embraces the scandal. He sides with the despised Galileans. He suffers countless tortures, and eventually martyrdom. How can this be explained?
2. The ongoing testimony of the Christian church
The apostles laid the foundation for the truth of the resurrection. But this same truth is confirmed by the ongoing testimony of believers in every age. Every believer knows that Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead, by the inward testimony of the Holy Spirit. [“He lives within my heart!”]
John 20:29, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.”
There is a sense in which the greatest evidence that the resurrection is true, is that people who have not personally seen Him believe it so strongly. The power of the risen Christ transforms multitudes of hearts from God-hating rebels to Christ-worshipping saints. From every period of time and from every part of the world.
Hodge, “The effects produced by his gospel, and the change which it has effected in the state of the world, admit of no other rational solution than the truth of his death and subsequent resurrection.”
Schaff, “It is certainly easier to believe that Christ truly rose from the dead, than that the Christian church…should have arisen from a deception or a lie. Here, if anywhere, we must bow before the overwhelming force of a most glorious fact.”