The Apostles record that Jesus performed many miracles. John says that if everything Jesus did was recorded, the world could not contain all the books (John 21:55).
The greatest miracle in Jesus' ministry was His last, and that was His resurrection from the dead. Feeding the 5000 and walking on water would be meaningless if he had not been raised from the dead, His final triumphal miracle.
Tonight, I want to describe the details surrounding the greatest event in history - the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
A stone (3-4' circular) rests over a space cut in the side of a mountain where Jesus rests after His suffering and death on the cross. A seal is on the stone so no tampering will take place.
The body is wrapped in several layers of bandages soaked in spices. These were tightly wrapped with spices in between layers.
His head is covered with a folded sheet.
Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus have laid Him here on Friday afternoon after receiving permission to remove the body.
Several guards are watching.
Sunday, 5:00 a.m. an earthquake shakes the ground and an angel in bright white appears and rolls away the stone announcing Jesus' resurrection.
The frightened soldiers fall to the ground and eventually run to the high priest to tell what has happened.
They are bribed to say that the disciples took the body while they slept.
Soon after, Mary Magdalene and some other women arrive at the tomb with the hope of finishing the embalming that had begun on the body, but had to be stopped because of the Sabbath.
They see the stone rolled away and the empty tomb.
Mary Magdalene leaves immediately to tell the disciples that the body is no longer in its place, but she leaves the other women at the tomb.
Angels then appear to these women and announce that Jesus has in fact risen from the dead.
At this point, they also leave to tell the disciples what they have seen and heard.
Mary returns with Peter and John and they look inside the tomb.
Bandages still intact, not cut or loosened or unwrapped. Jesus went right though them. The form is still there, but the bandages are empty. In a corner, the sheet for the head is rolled up in a corner.
Peter and John leave the place and return home, and leave Mary Magdalene alone and crying, confused, frightened.
Angels then appear to Mary and ask her why she is crying - and she answers that someone has taken away the body of her Lord.
At this point, the Bible describes the 12 recorded appearances.
First Appearance: Mary Magdalene - John 20-11-18
While weeping, Jesus calls her name, she turns thinking it is the gardener and then exclaims "Rabboni" (Teacher) and clings to Him. He gently pushes her away, reassuring her that she will not lose Him. He tells her to go tell the good news to the others. She runs and tells the Apostles what she has seen, but they do not believe her.
Second Appearance: The Women - Matthew 28:8-10
In the meantime, the other women are still on their way to tell the disciples what the angel has told them when Jesus appears to them too. They worship Him and He tells them to tell the disciples that He will see them in Galilee.
Third Appearance: Peter - Luke 24:34, I Corinthians 15:5
After the women have reported the news to Peter and he disbelieves them, Jesus appears to Peter alone. We have no details of this meeting, only that it took place.
Fourth Appearance: Two Men - Mark 16:12, Luke 24:13-17
Two men leaving Jerusalem, going to Emmaus (7 miles), they meet a stranger and begin discussing the events of the past week and the story of the women seeing the angel at Jesus' tomb. They are confused; the stranger starts to tell them about how the resurrection was in accord with Old Testament prophecy. They invite the stranger home, and as they are eating, they recognize that it is Jesus. He then disappears. They return to Jerusalem and report this to the Apostles that same night.
Fifth Appearance: First Time to the Apostles - Luke 24:35-49
While these men were explaining their experience, Jesus suddenly appeared among them. "Peace be with you". They were afraid, they thought they had seen ghost. He shows them His hands and feet, asks for some food - they give him a fish to eat. He teaches them about the resurrection and how this was happening according to the prophecies in the Old Testament. He gives them understanding of the scriptures concerning Himself and His work. Tells them that they will have to go and proclaim His resurrection, but to wait until they receive power from the Holy Spirit before beginning.
These first five appearances happened on the first day of His resurrection.
Sixth Appearance: Thomas - John 20:24-29
Apostles tell Thomas that the Lord is risen and has appeared to them, but he does not believe. One week later, Jesus again appears to all 11. This time Thomas is there. He touches the Lord, he falls down and worships Him saying, "My Lord and my God."
Seventh Appearance: Apostles on the Shore - John 21:1-24
Apostles are restless, still waiting for the Spirit and power. Peter decides to go fishing. They catch nothing all night. Jesus is on the shore, He tells them to try on the other side of the boat. Great catch. They eat with Him on the shore. Tells Peter to feed His lambs, asks three times, "Do you love me?". At His death he denied Him three times, now at His resurrection he confirms his love three times.
Eighth Appearance: Apostles on the Mountain - Matthew 28:18-20, Mark 16:15-16
Apostles gathered at designated place on mountain in Galilee. Jesus comes to them there and gives them instructions concerning:
- His authority (Heaven to earth)
- Their ministry (Preach, baptize, teach)
- Their power (ability to do miracles to confirm their ministry)
Ninth Appearance: 500 Brethren - I Corinthians 15:6
Jesus appears to over 500 brethren at one time during a special gathering.
Tenth Appearance: James - I Corinthians 15:7
He appeared to James (epistle) who was His brother and had not believed in Him while he was preaching before His death.
Eleventh Appearance: Apostles before Ascension
And one more time to the Apostles before His ascension.
*Over 500 people - women, men, old, young, educated and not, close associates, disciples, day night, indoors, outdoors. For over a period of a month, Jesus ate and talked with touched and comforted His disciples, and then later called Paul to Apostleship.
Twelfth Appearance: Appears to Paul - Acts 9
** I have said that the resurrection of Jesus was His final and greatest miracle. It was also His most necessary miracle because through the resurrection, Jesus accomplished three things:
The Purpose of the Resurrection
The Resurrection Establishes Jesus as the Divine Messiah
Many say they believe in reincarnation, even that they once were alive in another form - but Jesus claims to have returned Himself. And this accomplishment entitles Him to be considered Lord and Christ. Paul point in Romans 1:1-4.
Resurrection matters because it fulfills scriptural proof of Jesus' identity.
Resurrection is Important Because it Produces Faith
We can demonstrate that the Bible is an inspiring book/revelation of God in different ways:
- Accuracy of prophecy (no other book has fulfilled prophecy)
- harmony of complex material
- superiority of thought
But note that Jesus did not send His Apostles out to convince men according to the accuracy, harmony or superiority of the Scriptures, but rather by their personal eyewitness of the resurrection.
You see, doubters and disbelievers are not persuaded by logical arguments about God's word, but by God's power as seen in the resurrection.
*Prophecy, accuracy of Scripture, superiority of thought may make you believe that the Bible is a special book but that in itself will not save you. (Lots of people believe the Bible is special).
It is faith in Jesus as the Son of God, produced by the witness of the resurrection recorded in the Bible, that saves men from hell, not the belief that the Bible comes from God. Without the resurrection, faith is not possible.
The Resurrection is Important Because it Eliminates Men's Greatest Fear - Death
Hebrews 2:14-15 - From the fall of Adam this has been man's greatest fear.
People give themselves over to this world, to sin and are discourages in the doing of good because they believe in death's final power.
They think that this is all there is so they might as well live it up.
I Corinthians 15:54-57 - Paul describes the final victory of the Christian, the victory over death made possible by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Someone may ask, "How does the resurrection of Jesus 2000 years ago give us resurrection in the future?"
Jesus answers them in John 6:39-40:
- The resurrection is necessary to destroy the fear of death. To show that death is not final, that it can and has been defeated and that the one who defeated it also has the power to give that victory to others.
- The greatest promise of the Gospel is that for all who believe in Jesus Christ, personal resurrection for the dead will be a reality for them in the same way that it was a reality for Jesus.
God requires faith, but not blind faith. He promises us that there is life after this life and He has provided the resurrection of Jesus Christ as the "Once for all" proof that this is so.
The resurrection was the final miracle and the most important for us because:
- It is what separates Jesus Christ from every other religious prophet or leader in history. None of them have ever claimed personal resurrection - only Jesus. Through His resurrection, God established Jesus as His only divine Son, Lord of all creation; Savior of all the world - according to His Word.
- The resurrection is important because it is the spark by which the flame of our faith is lit. Skeptics and doubters are not convinced by the love of God, but by the power of God as seen in the resurrection. I can believe what Jesus said and obey what He has commanded me to do because of this unmistakable sign.
- The resurrection gives me real hope for my own resurrection. Prophets and astrologers and spiritualists can write all they want about the "tunnel" or "light" they have experienced in near death situations. Only Jesus dies and came back three days later, and promises me the same.
John 10:17-18 - Jesus has the ability to promise me this thing because He has the power over life and death and His resurrection is the proof.
Before the final miracle of resurrection occurred in Jesus' life, He had to bear the cross. First there was the death and burial, then there was the glorious resurrection.
Sets a pattern for our own lives. The final miracle will be our own glorious resurrection from physical death to be with God forever in heaven. But before this can happen we cut undergo the death and burial and the resurrection of our spiritual man here on earth first.
Paul tells us that this recreation takes place in the waters of baptism (Romans 6:3-5): die to sin in repentance, buried in the waters of baptism, resurrected by faith in Jesus Christ.
If you believe in the resurrected Jesus and desire His resurrection for yourself, I encourage you to repent of your sins, confess your faith and be baptized into Christ. Your final miracle awaits you if you come to Jesus tonight.