SERMON

April 4, 2021

EVIDENCE OF THE RESURRECTION

John 20:1-18 Text vs. 7 “the face cloth, which had been around Jesus’ head, not lying with the strips of linen cloth but rolled up in a place by itself.”

The Gallup Poll takes opinions during political seasons. One poll, however, was not political. It asked, "Do you believe Jesus rose from the dead?" The purpose was to discover what percentage asked believed Jesus came back to life from the dead. How many said He did? How many said He didn’t? 69% said he rose from the dead And a LifeWay Research poll showed 66 % of adults said they believe the “Bible accounts of the bodily resurrection of Jesus are completely accurate”.It did occur! And the Bible tells you the Resurrection of Jesus is a 100% event of history. So, did it did happen? 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 says, "Jesus was seen by over 500 people at one time after His resurrection. And for 40 days up to the day He ascended to Heaven, He was seen, and He talked with several people". So, what’s your opinion? Did Jesus actually return to life after death! Is it true? Or is it not true? It’s a fundamental belief of Christianity which each individual Christian has to decide.The answer can become a stumbling block. Or it can be a steppingstone to the believer’s faith.

Now, the Gospel story of Jesus’ Resurrection goes back to the very first day after He was crucified. It’s where you learn about the tomb in which Jesus was buried. It was a borrowed tomb, in a garden close by Mount Calvary immediately outside Jerusalem's walls. It was owned by a rich man named Joseph of Arimathea. The exact location still is a matter of some disagreement. The Eastern Orthodox Church places it within the walls of Jerusalem under the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. It’s impressive. It’s dark. Lots of candles and old-style early Christian art. But the tomb site which appeals moreto evangelical Christians is the "garden tomb", a cave 820 feet north of the Jerusalem Wall outside the Damascus Gate. It’s carved into the vertical slope of the hill on which Jerusalem stands. It‘s a large, beautiful, secluded walled garden described in the hymn, “There is a green hill far away, without a city wall. Where the dear Lord was crucified, who died to save us all. Oh, dearly, dearly has He loved, and died our sins to bear. We trust in His redeeming blood, and life eternal share”.

Joseph of Arimathea had been a secret follower of Jesus. He feared the Jewish leaders. But after the crucifixion, he went to Pilate, the governor, and asked for Jesus' body. In doing that, he risked his reputation among the religious leaders. But he wanted to give his Lord a proper burial. The tomb chopped out of solid rock had a large, round stone that could be rolled to seal the tomb entrance. Inside was a stone slab. The body of Jesus had probably been on it. The tomb was big enough for one or two persons to sit or stand. But you had to stoop down to enter, as the entrance was less than 3 feet high. An adult would have had to practically crawl to get inside.

Now, the Bible says that on the first day of the week "the women who had come with Jesus from Galilee" went to the tomb with spices to anoint Jesus’ body with spices and perfumes,not to embalm, which was a distinctly Egyptian invention and method of preserving bodies of people and animals. Luke 23:55 says they went home after Jesus had been taken down from the cross, and prepared spices and perfumes. But didn’t do anything on the Sabbath, which was Saturday, in obedience to the commandment. So, on the next day, the first day of the week, Sunday morning, Mary Magdalene, accompanied by some of the other women who had been among Jesus’ followers, went to the tomb. When they got there the stone was rolled away.The tomb was empty. Mary ran to find Peter, the beloved disciple of Jesus, to inform him of the empty tomb. The other disciple who was with Peter ran on ahead and arrived at the tomb first. But Peter was first to go inside the tomb. By then there was enough light inside to see strips of linen cloth lying there. But there wasn’t a body! Now in our lesson, the Gospel writer John doesn’t say exactly where the linen wrappings were lying. It’s been translated as “lying on the ground”. Anyway, the burial wrappings were where the body of Jesus had been laid, lengthwise on a low shelf, like on a bench. Its three sides were in a U-shape facing the entrance. Graveclothes were still on the shelf where Jesus’ body had been.

Now a lot’s been said about the facecloth not being with the strips of linen cloth, but rolled up in a place by itself. Some think the graveclothes which had been wrapped around Jesus’ body were the graveclothes seen by Peter and the other disciple when they entered the tomb. If so, the body of Jesus, when resurrected, would have passed right through them. They wouldn’t have been rearranged or disturbed by doing that. And the face cloth being rolled up wouldn’t refer to its being folded. It would have been in the same shape it had been when wrapped around Jesus’ head. It’s more likely the phrase face cloth meant,it was put in a different place inside the tomb, away from the other graveclothes. That seems to be the conclusion Peter and the other disciple reached. “They saw and believed.” (vv. 8-10). So, the condition of the graveclothes would have shown the body of Jesus had not been stolen by thieves. Anyone coming to remove His body would not have bothered to unwrap His body before carrying it off. Even if they had, they would certainly not have bothered to take time to roll up the face cloth and leave the other wrappings in an orderly fashion. What did the other disciple believe he saw? He at first believed Mary Magdalene’s report that the body had been stolen, because he did not yet understand the resurrection. But John, this Gospel writer, wanted you to understand when the other disciple entered the tomb after Peter, and saw the graveclothes, he believed Jesus had risen from the dead. Why?

There was a Jewish custom that when a table was prepared for dinner, a cloth was used as a napkin and placed by the eating utensils. After dinner, if the master had finished with his meal and was through, he would wipe his hands and face with the napkin, crumble it up, and leave it on the table near his plate as the signal he was finished dining and wouldn’t be back. If, however, he folded the napkin and left it a bit farther away from his plate, it meant he would be returning to the table to finish his meal. Now, read your text verse again, with this in mind.If you get up mid-meal, you either crumble up your napkin and leave it beside your plate as a signal you’re not coming back. Or you place it neatly on the table or chair, to signal you will be returning to finish. So, if you get up to leave for good, leave your napkin crumpled on the table. And where was Jesus’ face cloth? .“The face cloth, which had been around Jesus’ head, was not lying with the strips of linen cloth, but rolled up in a place by itself.” It was Jesus’ signal. He would return! And return, He did!

"Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. 13 They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” 14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there. But she did not realize it was Jesus.15 He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking He was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have put Him, and I will get Him.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary. ”She turned toward Him and cried out in Aramaic, (Aramaic language includes Hebrew). “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”). 17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that He had said these things to her.”

He was alive! He had stood beside Mary. Talking with her. Just as I am standing beside this pulpit talking with you! And when He spoke, she recognized Him. Just as you recognize me by my voice! She was convinced. He was alive! Are you convinced He was? I know, it’s difficult to understand what was going on, because you weren’t part of that event. But wouldn’t it be mind-blowing if Jesus would appear and stand beside you right now! Those who have believed He rose from the dead, believed it. And it was after the fact.So, how can you know how they felt when they saw Him alive, again? It’s easy to see why some thought it was too good to be true. They weren’t sure just how to respond to the Good News.

But the first post-resurrection appearance of Jesus was to Mary. That’s 1. And the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. That’s 2. Then He appeared to His disciples in the Upper Room on Sunday night. That’s 11. They were all there, except Thomas. The door was locked. They were all afraid of the authorities and whether they were going to get arrested. Then Jesus came to them and walked right through the wall. He ate with them. Both of those are facts. They tell you a little about His glorified body. He can walk through a wall. And eat a meal.That happened Sunday night, in Jerusalem in the Upper Room. The following Sunday Thomas was there with them in the Upper Room when the Lord appeared again. And since Thomas had not been there the first time,and had been doubting the reality of the resurrection, Jesus asked him to reach out his hand and touch His side. Touch His wounds. Thomas said, “Lord, I have no more doubt.” That’s 12. So, for eight days between those two Sundays, Resurrection Day and the following Sunday, those appearances of Jesus happened. After that, the Lord began appearing on a regular basis over the remaining 32 days and was with over 500 of His followers in Galilee where He gave the Great Commission. “Go into all the world. Preach the gospel. Make disciples. Baptize and teach them to observe whatever I have commanded you, and lo, I am with you to the end of the age”.

And that’s where you are today. The Great Commission is for everyone who believes in the Resurrection of Jesus. It’s to be a part of your daily life. "Go" is in the present tense. It means you should be making disciples as you are going NOW! You don't have to travel to a third world country to share the Gospel. You can share it right where you are here in Everglades City, Plantation, Chokoloskee, Naples. Or wherever you are! Where you work. Where you live. Where you play. That’s your mission field. You’re always on Mission. Every day of your life. It’s not a part-time job expanding His Kingdom. So, don't be afraid to share this Gospel story. Tell how He died for your sins. How He came back to life so you may have eternal life with Him. Tell your story. Tell His Story on this Easter. Tell how you came to Christ. Let His abundant love shine brightly through you, so others can see the Resurrected Christ living in You, today. And let us all say,

HALLELUJAH! HE IS REISEN!

AMEN