Risking Eternity on the Resurrection
Our text today takes us to the sealed tomb where Jesus Christ was placed three days prior. He was buried within this rich man’s tomb, after He, as the self-professed and self-proved sinless Son of God, gave Himself as a ransom for many by bearing their sin upon His body on the cross and putting it away by the sacrifice of Himself so that all who believe in Him may be forgiven and forever reconciled to God with His eternal life.
In this text one finds the answers to the question: Is Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, the Son of the Living God? Did God really become flesh and dwell among us? Did the Creator of heaven and earth condescend and take upon Himself the limitations of His creation? Did the Infinite wrap Himself in the finite? Did the Maker of man live as one? Is Jesus of Nazareth, truly one with the Father? Is He the I AM? Is He the image of the invisible God? Does all the fulness of the Godhead actually dwell in Him? Does He explain the Father? Is Jesus of Nazareth the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His nature?
In the account before us, one finds the answer to the question: Did Jesus make an actual atonement for sin upon the cross? Did He who knew no sin really became sin on our behalf? Did He, as the sinless and perfect Lamb of God, truly bear our sin on His body on the cross? Did He in fact became a curse for us? Was He indeed pierced through for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquity? Did He truly pour out Himself to death bearing the sin of many? Has God actually been satisfied by the sacrifice of His only Son whom He loves, so that all who believe in Him will be made right before Him?
In our portion of Scripture today, people can find the answer to the question: Is there truly life beyond the grave? Is the hope of the Christian legitimate? Is our confident expectation of eternal life in Christ justifiable? Is it true that though our bodies will eventually return to dust our spirits will return to the God who gave it? Is it a fact that the dead will live either to everlasting life, or to eternal disgrace and contempt?
All of humanities eyes should, therefore, be on the tomb of a rich man to see whether it contains the body of the One who was placed in it three days prior.
Many of us are well aware that Christianity lives or dies upon the validity of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. As the Apostle Paul logically pointed out to his Corinthian in audience in 1 Corinthians 15:14-19:
“14 If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. 15 Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; 17 and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.”
It was Charles Spurgeon that eloquently summed it all up by saying this:
“Upon a life I did not live, upon a death I did not die, I risk my whole eternity on the resurrection.”
We should remember that the resurrection is not just an important matter to believers, but to all the unbelieving world as well, for the truth of the resurrection means that they are above all people most to feel sorry for. It demonstrates that they truly are dead in sin, cut-off from the life of God, incapable of working their way back to Him, and destined to perish for all eternity under His holy justice. It should be no surprise to us that since the validity of Christ’s rising from the dead reveals such a horrific reality to the unbelieving world that many theories have arisen through the years to explain it away:
- The Swoon Theory, which suggests that Jesus did not die upon the cross, but simply lost consciousness and eventually revived within the tomb rather than resurrecting. This theory is refuted by the abundant evidence of Jesus’ death upon the cross under the reign of the Roman procurator, Pontius Pilate. His death was not merely confirmed by His closest followers, but by:
- The Sanhedrin who asked for His death to be expeditated and His tomb made secure.
- The Centurion who saw that He was dead and confirmed it by piercing His side.
- Pilate who permitted Jospeph of Arimathea to take Jesus’ body after he ascertained that He was dead.
- The Hallucination Theory, which maintains that those who claimed to have seen the risen Christ were hallucinating and only perceived to have seen Jesus. This is refuted by the fact that the disciples were not looking for a resurrected Christ to begin with, and when they did hear that He had risen from the dead they were reluctant to believe it. Second, Jesus’ appearances happened many times and within many different circumstances. The risen Christ appeared:
- To Mary Magdalene at the tomb.
- To the other women disciples on the road.
- To two disciples on the way to Emmaus.
- To Peter.
- To ten of the disciples.
- To all the disciples.
- To seven of the disciples.
- To the disciples in Galilee.
- To over 500 people at one time.
- To his half-brother, James.
- To all the apostles.
- To all the disciples at His ascension.
- To Paul on the road to Damascus.
- To Paul imprisoned in Jerusalem.
- The Impersonation Theory, which asserts that people did not see Jesus personally, but someone else pretending to be Him. This is refuted by the fact it would have been impossible to impersonate Christ’s wounds which He suffered on the cross. Thomas refused to believe until He saw such wounds.
- The Spiritual Resurrection Theory, which holds that Jesus did not physically come back to life. In other words, He did not raise in bodily form. Those who hold to this theory need to ask themselves a question: If Jesus was only raised spiritually, where did His body go? If it was just a spiritual resurrection His body would have been found in the grave, but it was not found because He physically rose to life.
- The Theft Theory, which insists the disciples stole His body from the tomb. This is refuted by the testimony of Jesus’ enemies who made the grave secure so the disciples could not steal the body, and when they were faced with the reality of Jesus’ resurrection they fabricated the lie that the disciples managed to steal the body.
- The Unknown Tomb Theory, which argues that Jesus’ disciples did not know where He was buried. This theory refuses to acknowledge the historical narrative of Christ being buried by Joseph of Arimathea, and that the women disciples knew exactly where Jesus’ body was placed.
Our portion today shows that these theories illogical and proves that Jesus is exactly who He says He is. Mark’s account confirms that we, as believers in the One who did indeed die yet forever lives, are not to be pitied, because our preaching is not futile, our faith is not empty or worthless, we have been graciously forgiven our sins and made alive in Christ, who has brought us near to Himself by His blood, and He will forever love us not because we first loved Him, but because He first loved us and gave Himself for us.
The resurrection proves this, and we have three events before us which give testimony to it: The Empty Tomb, The Testimony of Angels, and the Testimony of Eyewitness.
The Empty Tomb
Let us begin by considering that fact that the tomb Jesus was laid in three days prior was empty. Mark 16:1-4 reads:
“When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices, so that they might come and anoint Him. 2 Very early on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. 3 They were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” 4 Looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away, although it was extremely large.”
We see the women coming out with spices on the first day of the week, which was a Sunday, to anoint Jesus. The fact that these women were not expecting a risen Savior is evidenced by two things: First, they brought spices which were used to lessen the stench of a decaying corpse. If they were anticipating a resurrection, they would have no need for the spices. Second, they expected to see the extremely large stone securing the tomb. As they came to the tomb they were discussing who would roll it away for them so that they might have access to the body of Christ. As Mark points out for us, “Looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away, although it was extremely large.” Matthew 28:2 records for us how the stone had already been taken away:
“2 Behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it.”
As the women come to the tomb they see the stone rolled away, and Luke 24:3 says:
“3 But when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.”
It was empty. Jesus’ body was not there. Why? God did what He said He would do through David. He did not abandon His holy One to the grave, nor did He allow Him to undergo decay. As Isaiah said of the Son of God:
“If He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, and the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand.”
Even Job said, “As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives…” The implication in Job’s statement is that his Redeemer would first taste of death before He lives again, thus purchasing Job’s salvation.
In 1 Peter 1:10-11, Peter says:
“10 As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, 11 seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow.”
Christ’s resurrection is one of the glories that followed His suffering, and the empty tomb testifies that He lives.
The Testimony of Angels
In Mark 16:5-8 Jesus’ resurrection is confirmed not only by the emptiness of the tomb, but by angelic testimony. Mark says:
“5 Entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting at the right, wearing a white robe; and they were amazed.
Matthew 28:3-4 says:
“3 And his appearance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. 4 The guards shook for fear of him and became like dead men.”
Mark records the angel saying to them:
6 “Do not be amazed; you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified. He has risen; He is not here; behold, here is the place where they laid Him. 7 But go, tell His disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see Him, just as He told you.’”
Matthew 28:5-7 says:
“5 The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. 6 He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying. 7 Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going ahead of you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you.”
Luke 24:4-8 says:
“4 While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men suddenly stood near them in dazzling clothing; 5 and as the women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living One among the dead? 6 He is not here, but He has risen. Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, 7 saying that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.8 And they remembered His words.”
The angelic testimony clears away any confusion over what happened to Jesus’ body, and confirms that Jesus went just as He said He would:
“Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
The Testimony of Eyewitnesses
Mark then sets the stage for eyewitnesses to confirm the resurrected Christ:
“8 They went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had gripped them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”
Matthew 28:8 gives some clarity to this:
“8 And they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy and ran to report it to His disciples.”
Luke 24:9-12 says they:
“9 Returned from the tomb and reported all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now they were Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James; also the other women with them were telling these things to the apostles. 11 But these words appeared to them as nonsense, and they would not believe them.”
Let us take the time to consider John 20:1-18:
“Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came early to the tomb, while it was still dark, and saw the stone already taken away from the tomb.2 So she ran and came to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.” 3 So Peter and the other disciple went forth, and they were going to the tomb. 4 The two were running together; and the other disciple ran ahead faster than Peter and came to the tomb first; 5 and stooping and looking in, he saw the linen wrappings lying there; but he did not go in. 6 And so Simon Peter also came, following him, and entered the tomb; and he saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7 and the face-cloth which had been on His head, not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself. 8 So the other disciple who had first come to the tomb then also entered, and he saw and believed. 9 For as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead. 10 So the disciples went away again to their own homes.11 But Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping; and so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb; 12 and she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying. 13 And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.” 14 When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means, Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene came, announcing to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and that He had said these things to her.”
There is only one simple thing I wish us to see here, and it magnifies the graciousness and compassion of our Lord. Yes, it is true that a woman was the first to be deceived in the beginning in the garden and was instrumental in bringing sin and death into the world. What do we see here? Emmanuel, God with Us, having just conquered sin and death appearing in a garden to a woman so that she may be the first to herald the message of life, because He lives!
The Fact of the Resurrection
The irrefutable fact of the resurrection proves to the entire world that Jesus Christ is exactly who He claimed to be. His living never to die again vindicates Him as the Son of God. As Paul says in Romans 1:4, Jesus “was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead.” Declared is translated from the Greek word Horizo, which is where we get our word for horizon. Just as the horizon makes a clear distinction between earth and sky, through the resurrection, God clearly distinguished Christ from all of creation as the Eternal Son who is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
The undeniable reality that Christ is not decaying somewhere in the earth, but is alive and well at the right hand of the Father, proves that our pardon is secure. As Peter says:
“For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit.”
Jesus Christ was delivered over because of our transgressions, and He was raised because of our justification. Christ secured for us an eternal redemption with His blood. He appeared once to put away our sin by the sacrifice of Himself, and He will appear a second time without reference to sin for those who eagerly await for Him. Since He lives, He is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him. His resurrection confirms our faith in Him.
The indisputable truth that Christ rose to life on the third day never to die again validates both the believers hope of eternal life, and the non-believers dread of eternal death.
The Christian knows with certainty that since God raised up the Lord, He will also raise us up by His power. We who have been raised up with Christ have been promised that when Christ is revealed in glory we too shall be revealed with Him, for we have died and our lives are hidden in Him with God. We know that when He appears we shall be like Him. We know that we shall be changed. We know that we will be glorified, not on the basis of our person and work, but on the basis of faith in His substitutionary work on the cross as the sinless Son of God. As Spurgeon said:
“Upon a life I did not live, upon a death I did not die, I risk my whole eternity on the resurrection.”
The good doctor, Doctor Martin Lloyd Jones, said this many years ago during one of his Easter sermons entitled, A Living Hope of the Hereafter:
“This morning as I look over this evil, sinful world it does not depress me, because I expect from it nothing better. Whatever may be going against me, whatever may be happening in my own body, this is what I must expect, because of sin. But though I die, I shall rise again. I shall see Him face to face. I shall see Him as He is, and I shall be like Him, like Him in a body glorified, with every power renewed. And I shall be living in a realm that is incorruptible and undefiled, a realm that can never fade away. That is the living hope of the resurrection. That is the message of this Easter morning. And that hope is absolutely safe and secure. The resurrection itself guarantees it all. Every enemy has been destroyed. Christ has conquered them everyone….
Christ is our Forerunner. He has gone to prepare a place for us, and He will come again to receive us unto Himself. We shall ‘reign with Him as kings and priests.’ We shall ‘judge the world.’ We shall even ‘judge angels.’ That is Christ’s guarantee, and nothing can stop it. Can death? Of course not, for He has already conquered death! Can the devil? No, Christ has vanquished the devil. Can hell? No, no! ‘O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? …Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! The resurrection of Christ announces that He has conquered every enemy. He has vanquished every foe. He has risen triumphant from the grave. Neither death nor life, neither hell nor anything else, can prevent or delay the coming of His Kingdom in all its glory. He alone is King of kings and Lord of lords.”
 Hebrews 9:28
 Matthew 16:16
 John 1:1,14
 Philippians 2:5-8
 John 10:30
 John 8:58
 Colossians 1:15
 Colossians 2:9
 John 1:18
 Hebrews 1:2-3
 2 Corinthians 5:21
 1 Peter 2:24
 Galatians 3:13
 Isaiah 53:5
 Isaiah 53:11-12
 Isaiah 53:10
 Ecclesiastes 12:7
 Daniel 12:2
 Biblical Doctrine: A Systematic Study of Bible Truth, John MacArthur and Richard Mayhue; Page 319
 Mark 16:11; John 20:11-18
 Matthew 28:9-10; 24:9-11
 Mark 16:12-13; Luke 24:13-32
 Luke 24:34; 1 Corinthians 15:5a
 Luke 24:36-43; John 20:19-25
 Mark 16:14; John 20:26-31; 1 Corinthians 15:5b
 John 21:1-23
 Matthew 28:16-20; Mark 16:15-18
 1 Corinthians 15:6
 1 Corinthians 15:7a
 Luke 24:44-49; 1 Corinthians 15:7b
 Mark 16:19; Luke 24:50-53; Acts 1:4-11
 Acts 9:1-6; 18:9-10; 22:6-11; 26:12-18
 Acts 23:11
 Matthew 27:62-66; 28:11-15
 Psalm 16:10
 Isaiah 53:10
 Job 19:25-27
 John 2:19
 Strong’s Exhautive Concordance; Declared, NT Number: 3725
 Hebrews 13:8
 1 Peter 3:18
 Romans 4:24
 Hebrews 9:12
 Hebrews 9:26,28
 Hebrews 7:25
 1 Corinthians 6:14
 Colossians 3:1-4
 1 John 3:2
 1 Corinthians 15:51
 Hebrews 6:20
 John 14:2-3
 1 Corinthians 15:55-57
 The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Mark 9-16, John MacArthur; Page 405