The cornerstone of Easter is the resurrection of Jesus. How can we know for sure that Jesus was raised from the dead? If he was, what does this mean exactly? Why do we care so much about this? Alec Rowlands of Westgate Chapel in Edmonds breaks it all down explaining the evidence and reminding us that we can stand confidently in our faith!
- Westgate Chapel
- Evidence that Demands a Verdict
- Special thanks to our sponsor George Fox University!
Alec Rowlands: We can stand confidently after the scrutiny of all kinds of, of scholarship, looking at it from every which direction, that we can say that our faith and our confidence in the reality of Jesus’ resurrection is something that has as much earthly evidence supporting it, as anything else that we can imagine.
Narrator: Revive your faith with Purposely Equipped. In this special five-episode podcast, Experience Resurrection, we’re looking at what the resurrection really means to our Christian faith, and why, what Jesus did on the cross, is so important to our lives today. Special thanks to our friends at George Fox University, ranked among the top Christian colleges in America by Forbes.
Be known at George Fox University; personally, academically, and spiritually. Today’s special guest is Alec Rolands from Westgate Chapel in Edmonds, Washington. You can find out more about Westgate Chapel at westgatechapel.com.
Alec Rowlands The centerpiece of our Holy Week or Easter celebration, really is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. There are three things that irrefutably give evidence for the deity of Jesus Christ, and one of those is the resurrection. First, there’s the impact of his life on world history. There’s never been anyone whose, whose reputation, whose testimony, whose story, has circled the globe as consistently over the last 2000 years as the story of Jesus. He has impacted world history. In fact, call me old fashioned, but I will never adopt the world’s new methodology for marking before the common era BCE, or after the common era like they do now in academia. I still will use B.C. and A.D. because it’s the resurrection of Jesus Christ that splits human history.
And so that I will always use that. So, Jesus has had an incredible impact on world history. And then also, secondly there are over 300 prophecies in the Old Testament that were fulfilled in Jesus’s life. Most of which he had no control over Himself. And so, it’s, that’s the second great evidence for the deity of Jesus Christ.
And then lastly, of course, is the resurrection, which is the focus of what we’re celebrating here, this Easter. No other world religion has an empty tomb. I’ve had the privilege of standing at Gordon’s tomb that they speculate could possibly have been the tomb that of Joseph that was used for Jesus’s body.
I’ve stood there. I’ve stepped inside. Tourists go inside and look, and I’m happy to report to you that the tomb is empty. No other religion in the world can claim that their God has victory, even over death. And that the founder of Christianity that’s been so called, ever since Jesus’s life, death, resurrection, and Ascension, can go back to that empty tomb and say, he’s not here.
He is risen. In fact, on the day of Pentecost Peter’s whole sermon, the first evangelical sermon preached in the history of the world, was preached by the apostle Peter on the day of Pentecost. And it all hung on, it was all predicated, on the resurrection. First of all, Peter explains Jesus’s. Secondly, he ties the life of Jesus in his sermon to the Old Testament prophecies.
Then he testifies to the apostles being witnesses of seeing and being with the resurrected Jesus for 40 days after his resurrection, they walked with them, they listened to him, teach. They watched him eat meals together with them. And so, these apostles carried with them that irrefutable evidence of having been witnesses themselves of the resurrection.
Peter uses that in, on his Pentecost Sunday sermon. And then, then Peter ties it all together to the experience of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, that at Pentecost, they were witnessing in the powerful outpouring of the Holy Spirit. They were literally witnessing the very thing that Jesus promised would happen after he ascended to the right hand of the Father, which itself is evidence of the resurrection.
Jesus said, I’m going to go away, and the reason I’m going away is so that I can send you the Holy Spirit. And if I don’t go away, the Holy Spirit won’t come. So Jesus says that to them, pre crucifixion and pre resurrection. And then after he’s been raised from the dead and the sin, to the right hand of the Father, which is in my opinion, just as important as the truth of the resurrection, is his Ascension to the right hand of the Father, where he ever lives to make intercession for us.
And as he ascends to the right hand of the Father, he and the Father send the Holy Spirit. And so, that marvelous, Pentecost experience, is itself evidence of the truth and reality of Jesus’ resurrection. And Peter says as much in his Pentecost day sermon. And then Peter uses all the above to assert Jesus as being validated by his death, resurrection, and Ascension. Jesus being validated as the Messiah, that the Old Testament promised, and therefore, the king in the lineage of king David over the kingdom of God. What an amazing thing we do believers during this Easter celebration, as we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection. In fact, Jesus himself frequently promised resurrection from the dead. Even before it happened. In, in Matthew 16, 21, Jesus says from that time, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes and be killed and be raised up on the third day.
Matthew 17:9; As they were coming down from the mountain, that’s the Mount of transfiguration, Jesus commanded them saying, tell the vision to no one until the son of man has risen from the dead. These are Jesus’s promises of the resurrection before the disciples were even able to comprehend what that would even mean. Matthew 20:18, Jesus said, behold, we’re going up to Jerusalem, and the son of man will be delivered up to the chief priests and scribes. These are the very words of Jesus, and they will condemn him to death and will deliver him up to the Gentiles, to mock and scourge and crucify him. And on the third day he will be raised from the dead. Then just very quickly, and some of this you can find in Josh, McDowell’s old evidence that demands a verdict, I want to read to you what Josephus, the Jewish historian wrote at the end of the first century, A.D., So not more than 50 60 years after Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection, and Ascension. Josephus, the non-believing Jewish historian writes in his passage called the antiquities, he writes, and when Pilot had condemned him to the cross, upon his impeachment by the principle man among us. There, Josephus is speaking about the high priest.
Those who had loved from the first did not forsake him, for, he appeared to them alive. On the third day, the divine prophets having spoken these and thousands of other wonderful things about him and even now, 100 A.D., The race of Christians, so named for him, has not died out. Those are the words of Josephus, a secular historian, not refuting the resurrection, but in reality, confirming the resurrection as an historical event that he is able to testify to. Then, just very quickly, also to talk to you about some of Jesus’s post resurrection appearances when Jesus appeared, obviously to the disciples throughout those 40 days that he was with them, and then after his Ascension, he literally appears to the apostle Paul in the book of acts while Paul is in prison. in the prison in Antonia fortress in Jerusalem. Paul’s not wondering if his life is over and his ministry is over, and not just a vision or an illusion, but, but Jesus physically appears to Paul in the prison cell to encourage him about his ministry, and to tell him that not to worry, he will indeed, as God had told him by the spirit, he will be witnessing to the, the gospel to the believers in Rome.
And so, Jesus shows up even post resurrection in his glorified body, in the prison cell, to encourage the apostle Paul. So, it’s no wonder that when we get to first Corinthians 15 and the apostle Paul begins to, to write about the, the reality of the resurrection, and it must have been based on first Corinthians 15, the resurrection must have been something that was somehow being contested in the church and the brand-new church in Corinth.
We’re not told who was contesting it or how, but it was obvious by Paul’s dialectic in first Corinthians 15, that some people were questioning the truth of it both outside and inside the church. So, so Paul says to them, I passed on to you, what was most important, and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the scripture said. He was buried and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the scriptures. He was seen by Peter, and then by the 12. After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time. Most of whom are still alive. Those some have died. You know, I want to stop there for a moment. When, when you read some of the evidence that demands a verdict that Josh McDowell so masterfully compiled. One of the things that, that one of the attorneys brings up in the apologetic for the resurrection, one of the things he mentions is that of those 500, and especially the apostles who were with him, after his resurrection and saw him in his glorified body. When they were martyred,
and most of them were martyred. When they were martyred, the principle thing they were martyred for was the gospel that they were preaching, and their worship of the Christ, whose messianic fulfillment and promises were all wrapped up in his resurrection. And so, they’re preaching the resurrection. And when they’re facing martyrdom, you know that the issue of the resurrection, which sets Christianity apart from every religion of that day, that was the issue that, that they were facing when they were facing their own execution. Some of them burnt. Some of them crucified upside down. Some of them beheaded. And this attorney said the fact that not one of them use that moment of extreme and excruciating pain they were facing, as a moment to recant and say, you know what?
It was all fake. We, we just made up the story of his resurrection. No. The fact that those apostles and many of those 500 followers that witnessed his life in his glorified body, after his resurrection, that when they were faced with execution for their faith in the resurrected Jesus, continued to maintain that confidence and that faith, even, even to the point of them being executed. That in him, that in itself said this attorney in Josh McDowell’s evidence that demands a verdict is enough evidence right there for the reality of the resurrection, that those firsthand witnesses saw.
Then, Paul goes on in verse seven of first Corinthians 15, then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles. Last of all, and here Paul is referencing his encounter with the Lord in the jail in Jerusalem, last of all, as though I’d been born at the wrong time, I saw him. For, I am the least of all the apostles. In fact, I’m not even worthy to be called an apostle. Jesus’s appearances to the apostles, including the apostle Paul, become a huge apologetic for the reality of the resurrection. And we can stand confidently after the scrutiny of all kinds of, of scholarship. Looking at it from every which direction, that we can say that our faith and our confidence in the reality of Jesus’ resurrection is something that has as much earthly evidence supporting it as anything else that, that we can imagine.
Obviously, there’s no literal proof. We nobody, yeah, there’s no law, nobody took a photograph. There’s no literal proof that we can hold today. But, the evidence that is stacked up biblically and historically is so significant as to overwhelm anyone who would raise an objection apologetically to the reality of Jesus’ resurrection.
But I’d like to go just a step further if I may, I’d like to say to you, and I hope this doesn’t offend anybody, that while apologetics are helpful, they’re extremely useful, some Christian universities have entire departments built around apologetics, which is the research of evidence for our faith. And we need it. I’m not belittling it whatsoever, but I want to suggest to you today that, that the evidence that is raised by apologetics for the resurrection is evidence that appeals to facts and logic and biblical accounts. It appeals basically to the mind. And that’s good. We need that. The Bible says that we’re to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.
And so, I’m not suggesting we disable our minds in our faith in the resurrection. But what I’m suggesting to you today is that it’s not in the mind that we are absolutely convinced of Jesus’ resurrection. It is really in our heart. There’s no greater argument for the resurrection of Jesus Christ then your experience personally, by the Holy Spirit of the conviction of sin that leads you to repentance and faith in Jesus.
There’s no greater evidence or argument for the, for the resurrection of Jesus Christ, then the revelation in your heart of his presence that you’ll discover when you read his word, if you read his word and your heart is open to the presence of God. And you will Excel, not every day, not in every verse you read, but if your heart is open and you’re inviting the Holy Spirit. Holy Spirit, I’m reading the word of God that you breathe into existence through men of old as they penned what you inspired them to write. Holy Spirit, come and let me hear the voice of the Father as I read the word today. And as you do that, you will, I promise you will experience the overwhelming sense of God’s presence there in your bedroom and your living room, wherever you are.
And that experience of the presence of Jesus, because when the Holy Spirit makes Jesus real to you, That’s the presence of Jesus. That’s his ministry. And when you experienced the literal forgiveness of sin, and I know those of you who are listening or listening to me have had your sins forgiven, and not only forgiven, but the guilt has been removed and you’ve experienced the joy of your salvation that the Bible talks about,
that is evidence that Jesus was raised from the dead ascended to the Father, sent us the Holy Spirit and is ministering to you. In fact, you experience the presence of Jesus through the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the, in worship, in the word when you’re with believers gathered in church services of which is why so important to have churches open and believers gathered together because when you get together and worship, the Holy Spirit helps you experience the presence of Jesus and he touches your heart and he warms your heart and He encourages you and blesses you and, and heals you. Heals your emotional wounds, heals your you spiritually. None of these things would be possible without the Holy Spirit. And if Jesus had not been raised from the dead and ascended to the Father, he would not have sent the holy Spirit
to us. I want to read one last verse of scripture to you here before we’re done, and it’s found in John’s gospel and chapter 16. And if you’ve got your Bibles with you, you may want to turn there to chapter 16:5, where Jesus says, but now I’m going away to the one who sent me, and not one of you is asking where I’m going, where I’m going. Instead, you grieve because of what I’ve told you, but in fact, it’s best for you that I go away because if I don’t, the advocate, the Holy Spirit won’t come. If I do go away, then I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world of its sin and of God’s righteousness and of coming judgment.
The world’s sin is that they refuse to believe in me. Righteousness is available because I go to the Father, and you will see me no more. He’s gone to the Father. He’s been raised from the dead. He’s seated at the right hand of God. And righteousness comes to us through faith in his name because we believe. Because he was raised from the dead. Because the tomb is empty. Because he ascended to the right hand of the Father. You and I can know that warmth of heart that John Wesley talked about when he received Jesus Christ, way back in the 1700’s. You can do it to. The resurrection power of God can be real in you through faith in Jesus Christ.
Narrator: Again, we want to thank George Fox University for sponsoring this episode of Experience Resurrection. To learn more about how you can be known at George Fox University, visit georgefox.edu. Thank you for downloading Experience Resurrection. And don’t forget to share it with a friend. Let’s keep building our faith together.
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