Resurrection Reality - Bob Sawvelle

God in the Back Yard

When I was a boy, I had a sudden encounter with God. My brother and I were in the back yard of our parents’ home discussing God one day. I was in second grade and my brother in first. Our parents took us to church occasionally, but we were not a “religious” family. That day, I suddenly had this “God encounter,” even though at the time I had no grid for what was taking place. I had this sudden awareness that God was real and present. I was experiencing the presence of God for the first time in my life.

I asked my brother, “Do you believe God is real?” He shrugged his shoulders as if to say, “I don’t know!” I pressed it further with him, while having this “awareness” that God was real and present. I really wanted to know if he believed in God and was having a similar experience as I was. Going to church was one thing, but suddenly I was deeply pondering the reality of God—and God seemed real and present. Later as a young man, I would give my life to Jesus—and I discovered the reality of His resurrection and union with Him as a believer—His presence is tangible.

Recently, one of the moms in our church informed me that her son answered a question about why he believed the Bible was true, with this response, “Because I’ve seen God’s power.” For many, the reality of God’s presence and power is fact—not something that needs to be proved.

Doubting Believers

The gospel of Luke records:

Very early in the morning on the first day of the week, the women went to the tomb, bringing the fragrant spices they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they didn’t find the body of the Lord Jesus. They didn’t know what to make of this. Suddenly, two men were standing beside them in gleaming bright clothing. The women were frightened and bowed their faces toward the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He isn’t here, but has been raised. Remember what he told you while he was still in Galilee, that the Human One must be handed over to sinners, be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” Then they remembered his words. When they returned from the tomb, they reported all these things to the eleven and all the others. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles. Their words struck the apostles as nonsense, and they didn’t believe the women. But Peter ran to the tomb. When he bent over to look inside, he saw only the linen cloth. Then he returned home, wondering what had happened. (Luke 24:1-12 CEB)

Luke states that the testimony of the women was received with skepticism from the disciples, “Their words struck the apostles as nonsense, and they didn’t believe the women.” Most of us would have had the same response. Yet, Jesus explained clearly to the disciples before His crucifixion that He must die and be raised on the third day—the angels even remind the women of this. Saving faith embraces the mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection as fact.

To the natural mind, the resurrection of Jesus seems impossible and irrational. Yet, the reality of the resurrection of Jesus is the foundation of the Christian faith. The resurrection and glorification of Jesus are principal components to Christianity. Either He is risen and ascended on high to the right hand of God the Father, or as Paul states in Corinthians, “then we deserve to be pitied more than anyone else.” (1 Cor. 15:12-19)

The Essence of the Gospel is the Resurrection

The apostle Paul writes, “I passed on to you as most important what I also received: Christ died for our sins in line with the scriptures, he was buried, and he rose on the third day in line with the scriptures.” (1 Cor. 15:1-4 CEB)

Paul states that Jesus was seen after His resurrection by as many as 500 believers at once! (1 Cor.15:5-8). Think about this—500 people simultaneously observe Jesus in His glorified body. Were they all delusional? Not likely; many of these people died as martyrs for what they believed about Jesus and psychosis is experienced individually, not as a group.

Scripture says, “let every word be established by two or three witnesses.” Traffic cops will issue a ticket for an accident based upon one or two reliable witnesses describing who was at fault. So, here we have more than 500 witnesses seeing and experiencing the presence of Jesus after His resurrection. For the Christian, the resurrection of Jesus is reality, confirmed by eye witnesses then and experienced today through the Holy Spirit’s presence. Lee Strobel wrote a book in 1998 titled, “A Case for Christ.” He was an unbeliever who set out to disprove Christianity and help his wife leave her Christian faith. Another excellent book demonstrating the truth of Jesus and the gospel account was written by Josh McDowell, “Evidence that Demands a Verdict.”

Jesus dying for our sins and rising again on the third day is the basic gospel message, and part of early church creed, and is fundamental to our faith and preaching. Paul told the Corinthians, “If Christ hasn’t been raised, then your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.” (1 Cor. 15:17 CEB) As important as the death of Jesus is, the emphasis of the New Covenant is the resurrection of Christ. You must believe God raised Jesus from the dead to be saved:

Because if you confess with your mouth “Jesus is Lord” and in your heart you have faith that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Trusting with the heart leads to righteousness, and confessing with the mouth leads to salvation.” Romans 10:9-10 CEB

Our salvation is established in our identification with Christ—His death, burial, resurrection, and glorification. As a believer in Jesus, you are in Him! You are identified in Him. His death was your death. His resurrection is your resurrection. You are empowered through grace to participate in His life.

However, God is rich in mercy. He brought us to life with Christ while we were dead as a result of those things that we did wrong. He did this because of the great love that he has for us. You are saved by God’s grace! And God raised us up and seated us in the heavens with Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:4-6 CEB

Further, when Jesus returns, we will be resurrected and given a glorified body. Death is swallowed up in victory! (1 Corinthians 15)

Walking with Jesus to Emmaus

Luke records that after the resurrection of Jesus, He appears to two disciples who are walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35). Jesus asks them, “What is this discussion you are having?” Sad, they tell Him the story of Jesus betrayal and death. They tell Jesus, not knowing that it is He, “But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel.” (Luke 24:21)

All of Jerusalem was expecting that when the Messiah appeared, he would not only be a miracle worker, but he would also take the throne and topple Roman tyranny. The Jews and the early followers of Jesus did not understand that He must first come as a suffering Messiah. His death and resurrection was the pathway for Israel’s, and all of humanity’s’ redemption; instead the cross of Christ created despair and hopelessness for His followers.

What about you? Often, we expect God to act or move in our lives in specific ways. Tragically for many, their faith is crushed when desire is not realized as expected. Our hope, if misdirected, can cause us to miss what God is doing in our midst. In Hebrews 1:2 we are told that, “God has spoken to us in these last days by His son.” God reveals Himself and speaks to us in many ways, but foremost He has spoken to us through the person of Jesus Christ, His cross and His resurrection.

Jesus corrected the disciple’s slowness of heart to trust in what God had spoken through the prophets and His word (Luke 24:25-26). They had immature faith. Many today in the church have underdeveloped faith—a mental assent of Jesus—but not deep abiding faith that comes from the heart born out of encounter with God.

Moses through the Prophets

Luke records that Jesus gave these hopeless disciples a great sermon, “And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.Luke 24:27 NKJV

The Old Testament, written over a 1,000-year period, contains more than 300 references to the coming Messiah. All of these were fulfilled in Jesus Christ, and they established a solid confirmation of His credentials as the Messiah, son of God. Many of the prophecies concerning the Messiah were totally beyond human control: Birth: Place, time, manner of; Death: People’s reactions, piercing of side, burial; His Resurrection. Probability of just eight of these prophecies coming true is 1 in 100 trillion.

I read this illustration once regarding 8 of the 300 prophecies coming true:  If we take 100 trillion silver dollars and lay them on the face of Texas, they would be two feet deep. Now we mark one of these silver dollars and thoroughly stir the whole mass—all over the state. Now blindfold a man and let him travel as far as he wishes, but he must pick only one silver dollar. What chance would he have of picking the marked one?  The same chance that the prophets would have of writing just eight of these prophecies and having them all come true for any one man if they had written them without God’s inspiration!

Here is a brief list of some of the hundreds of prophecies concerning Jesus: Virgin Birth—Isa 7:14; Birthplace—Micah 5:2; Burial—Isa 53:9; Resurrection—Ps 16:10; Hos 6:2; Ps 30:3,9; Isa 53:10; Ascension to right hand of God—Ps 110:1; 68:18; Prov 30:4.

Is it any wonder that the disciples said to one another after Jesus left them, “Did not our hearts burn within us while He was talking to us on the road!” (Luke 24:32)

Emmaus Represents the Place we go to Escape

The disciples were sad and lost hope. They were leaving Jerusalem for a while—the place of their pain and disappointment. Emmaus could be whatever we do or wherever we go to make ourselves forget our pain, the evil in the world, or our disillusionment with God. Perhaps a movie, fantasy, or a long vacation. Worse, maybe an addiction. However, we have hope in this world, Jesus is victorious and ever present.

Jesus meets us at Emmaus, in the ordinary places and experiences of our lives, and in the places to which we retreat when life is too much for us. He meets us there in unfamiliar guises and when we least expect Him. Are you looking for Him amid your trial?

Emmaus became a sacred moment, it was unplanned and they didn’t recognize it at first. God’s presence can be elusive, fleeting in our thoughts and experience. However, God is ever present—sometimes in greater measures. For the believer, you must be able to perceive God’s presence consistently to maintain faith, hope, and expectancy.

Often what seems as coincidence is God interacting in our world. Like Moses, we usually only see the back side of God as He passes by (Exod. 33:23). Like Job, “Look, he passes by me, and I do not see him; he moves on, but I do not perceive him.” (Job 9:11 NRSV).

The disciples shared their Emmaus encounter with the others. It was a transforming reality to them and to those they shared the story with. There is life-giving power in the testimony! The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy (Revelation 19:10).

Resurrection Reality

Jesus did not go to Jerusalem or the cross as a discouraged, defeated man. He did not enter Jerusalem as a victim! None of these events fazed Him, He knew it was God’s plan, for it was prophesied long ago. By embracing the cross, Jesus remade and is still remaking, the world.  It is Christ crucified, and His resurrection victory that has given our world hope!

Jesus is risen and He comes back to meet us on the road to Emmaus. Have you met Him there?  Is the resurrection of Jesus truth to you? Don’t ignore the truth of Who Jesus is! He wants to frequent the road with you. Expect encounters with God. Every encounter with God leads you into deeper relationship with Him. Jesus is alive, there is eternal hope for you and me!

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Bob Sawvelle

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