The first Easter was much different than the ones you and I often celebrate today. The first Easter was not sunny and cheery, but dark and gloomy. The first Easter was a difficult day for the Lord’s disciples. There was no dressing up and going to church. The Bible says that they were hiding in fear behind closed doors.
Before we are too quick to criticize them, we should pause and reflect upon what they had experienced. The whole ordeal was very violent. From the soldiers coming to arrest Jesus in the garden to the religious leaders demanding His crucifixion, the disciples had witnessed the hatred men had towards Jesus. They saw Jesus die on the cross. They looked upon His body that had been beaten beyond recognition. They heard His cries while on the cross. “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken Me?” This had not been a good weekend for the disciples. And added to all of this was the possibility that some of them could be arrested at any moment and crucified as well.
Sometimes life throws us a curve ball that is too tough to handle and in moments like this we are tempted to be like the disciples. We’re tempted to retreat within ourselves and to hide. We’re tempted to become bitter. We’re tempted to doubt as to whether or not it’s true and real. Is Jesus really alive?
This morning I would like to take us through many of the events of that first Easter. It was much different than many of the Easters we experience today. There were no pretty dresses and special music. It was a day that started out in darkness and gloom, yet ended in joy and worship.
Much of our study today will come from Luke 24.
I. The Power of Disbelief
As I have prepared for this message I have read through each of the four gospel accounts of Jesus’ resurrection. One thing that has stood out to me was the disbelief that had griped them all.
A. The Disbelief of:
1. The Women
Luke 24:1 Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them.
Why were they coming to the tomb? We could say that they were coming because they knew that Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus had not had time to properly prepare the body of Jesus for burial. They has rush to do what they did before sundown and the beginning of the Sabbath. Or we could say that they came out of love. They loved their Lord and they wanted to see Him honored, even in His death. But primarily they came because they didn’t believe in the resurrection. They expected to find His body still in the tomb. As a matter of fact, they expected to find a huge stone in front of the grave and they were wondering how in the world they would ever move it so that they could enter into the tomb.
2. The Disciples
The women were not the only ones who didn’t believe. None of the disciples believed.
Luke 24:10 It was Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women that were with them, which told these things unto the apostles. 11 And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not.
Not a single one of the disciples believed that Jesus could possibly be alive. Even though Jesus had told them repeatedly that He would be crucified but then rise again the third day, none of them believed Him. Why didn’t they believe what Jesus had told them? As I have pondered over this I have concluded that they were guilty of what a lot of us are guilty of. Sometimes we get our minds set in one certain direction and we will not hear or accept anything else.
Mark 8:31 And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 And he spake that saying openly. And Peter took him, and began to rebuke him.
You would think that their reaction would have been – “Wow! This is amazing! You’re actually going to rise again the third day? You’re actually going to come back to life after they have put You to death? Wow! Boy that will convince the world that You’re really the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Yet not even Peter who had just said this listened and believed what Jesus was trying to tell them. Peter actually rebuked Jesus for saying that He would die and rise again. Why? It was because they had their minds set and would not change.
3. Peter and John
Luke 24:12 Then arose Peter, and ran unto the sepulchre; and stooping down, he beheld the linen clothes laid by themselves, and departed, wondering in himself at that which was come to pass.
Peter and John went to the tomb when the women came and told them that they had seen angels who told them that Jesus was alive. John must have been younger, or at least in better shape because he outran Peter to the tomb. But when John got there, he only stooped down and looked in. Peter, went right on in and examined the empty grave clothes.
Now you would think that at this point these two disciples would have been pumped up. Yet John tells us in his gospel that they left the tomb went to their own homes. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15 that Peter was so distraught that the Lord had to pay him a one-on-one visit to convince him that indeed He was alive.
4. The Remaining Disciples
Peter and John didn’t believe; neither did any of the other disciples. Verse 11 tells us that they regarded the women’s report as being pure nonsense.
Luke 24:11 And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not.
“You’re crazy” is what they said to the women. “It’s impossible. I know you want Him to be alive, but He’s not. It’s all over. They crucified Him and He’s dead – forever!”
Thomas epitomizes all of it. “Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.” (see Jn 20:25) “Never, no not ever, will I believe.”
That’s pretty amazing for people who had personally witnessed on more than one occasion Jesus doing the impossible.
B. The Disbelief of Us Today
Maybe you don’t doubt the resurrection, yet I dare say that many of us sometimes struggle with believing God and what He has said in His Word. For many of us, there are situations in life that are just as impossible as the resurrection. As a matter of fact, we might be more likely to believe in the resurrection of Jesus than His ability to work in our behalf. We’re a lot like the disciples. We sometimes have our minds set that it has to happen in this way and we refuse to believe that God might have a better plan. The Bible says that unbelief will keep a man out of heaven. The Bible also says that unbelief will keep a Christian from experiencing many of God’s blessings. The children of Israel wandered in the wilderness for forty years because they refused to believe.
II. The Power of God’s Word
Something else that has stood out to me in the resurrection story is the power of God’s Word.
Luke 24:13 And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem about threescore furlongs. 14 And they talked together of all these things which had happened. 15 And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them.
16 But their eyes were holden that they should not know him. 17 And he said unto them, What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad? 18 And the one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answering said unto him, Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are come to pass there in these days? 19 And he said unto them, What things? And they said unto him, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people: 20 And how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified him. 21 But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, today is the third day since these things were done. 22 Yea, and certain women also of our company made us astonished, which were early at the sepulchre; 23 And when they found not his body, they came, saying, that they had also seen a vision of angels, which said that he was alive. 24 And certain of them which were with us went to the sepulchre, and found it even so as the women had said: but him they saw not.
The Bible doesn’t tell us exactly who these two disciples were. We know that they were not a part of the Twelve for one of them is named Cleopas. John Gill wrote in his commentary that Cleopas was the father of the Apostles James and Jude, and brother to Joseph who was the husband of Mary who was the mother of Christ. Some have also speculated that the other disciple was his wife.
It appears that they were struggling over whether or not they should believe the report of the women. The Bible says that they ‘communed together and reasoned.’ They were talking it out and questioning as to whether or not it was possible.
A lot of people struggle with believing; not only the resurrection but many things in the Bible and whether or not there is even a God. To be honest, I have at times. Every once in a while the thought goes through my mind, “Is all of this real or is our faith just some silly superstition that we’ve all made up?” A lot of people doubt the Bible. If that’s you, may I make a suggestion? Get a copy of the Bible and begin reading it for yourself. Approach it with an open mind, searching for the truth.
What do I expect to happen if you do this? Perhaps nothing. Perhaps you’ll read it and get nothing. But perhaps you’ll begin to sense that this is more than just an ordinary book. The Bible says of itself that it is alive and able to penetrate into the deepest part of our being. (see Heb 4:12)
As these two disciples discussed the possible resurrection, the Lord suddenly appeared and started walking along with them. Yet the Bible says that they didn’t recognize Him. Why? There are several reasons:
1) Perhaps their unwillingness to believe was blinding them.
2) Perhaps their preconceived notions of how life was supposed to be were blinding them.
3) Perhaps the Lord was intentionally keeping them from recognizing Him so that He could test their faith.
As Jesus began to question them about their sadness, they could not believe that this stranger hadn’t heard about the events of the last few days. “Where in the world have you been?” they asked him. “You must be the only person in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard about all that has happened.” “What things?, Jesus asked them. “Tell me about it.” Then they told Him not only about the crucifixion, but also about how all of their hopes and dreams had been crushed. “We trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel.” In other words,
“We put all of our hope in Him that He was going to be the One who would rescue us from all of our problems and make our lives better. But now He’s dead. Or at least we think He’s dead. Some of our friends say that He’s alive, but that seems impossible. To be honest, we don’t know what to believe at this point. We’re so confused.”
Luke 24:25 Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: 26 Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?
We might say to someone today – “Why are you being so foolish and stubborn?” The problem for some folks is that they’ve never heard and therefore they don’t know what to believe. The Bible says that people can’t believe in what they’ve never heard and therefore somebody must tell them. But then there are others who have heard and do know what to believe, yet they’re just unwilling to do it.
Luke 24:27 And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.
Don’t you wish that Luke had recorded that Bible lesson? I have read that there are at least two hundred prophecies found in the Old Testament concerning Christ and Jesus fulfilled everyone completely. What are the odds of one individual fulfilling over two hundred prophecies? One in a million? One in ten million? More than that. One mathematician calculated that the probably of one man fulfilling less than ten prophecies, but less over two hundred prophecies is 1 in 10 to the 28th power. If I’m calculating right,that’s more than 1 trillion times 1 trillion. I don’t even know what that number is.
Did you know that the Bible prophesied that Jesus was die by crucifixion even before crucifixion had ever been invented? The Bible prophesied how Jesus would die, what He would say, what others would say and even how the sky would turn dark during the crucifixion.
The Bible also prophesied why Jesus would die.
Isaiah 53:3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Like a lamb that was slaughtered as a blood sacrifice, so Jesus, the Lamb of God, was crucified for our sins. “He was pierced because of our rebellions and crushed because of our crimes. He bore the punishment that made us whole; by his wounds we are healed.” (Is 53:5 CEB)
Jesus quoted passage after passage of scripture to these two disciples and then told them what each passage meant. It’s a good thing that it was a seven mile journey for I’m sure that this was quiet an extensive Bible study.
Luke 24:32 And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?
I believe the biggest mistake many people make is not reading the Bible. Most people who discount the Bible as being true have never taken the time to read it. Unfortunately many Christians also rarely ever read their Bible. I encourage you to take a few moments and read about the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. You might experience what these two disciples experienced that day. You might experience a burning in your heart as you examine God’s Word.
III. The Power of a Personal Relationship With Christ
But then something remarkable happened.
Luke 24:36 And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. 37 But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. 38 And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? And why do thoughts arise in your hearts? 39 Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. 40 And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat? 42 And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. 43 And he took it, and did eat before them.
Why did Jesus eat the fish and honeycomb? Perhaps He did so because He was hungry. After all, it had been several days since He had had His last meal. However, I believe that He ate before the disciples for another reason. I believe that He wanted to show them that He had actually risen from the dead. They were not looking at a ghost or a spirit. This was the same Jesus who had been crucified. How do we know that? He showed them the wounds in His hands and feet. Sometimes people ask me if Jesus will have His scars in heaven. I believe so and here’s one of the reasons why.
It took this personal encounter with the resurrected Savior to help them believe. The Bible says that the Lord met the women personally as they were leaving the tomb and going to the disciples. (Mt 28:9-10) Jesus met personally with Mary Magdalene as she stood outside of the tomb. (Jn 20:11-17) Jesus met personally with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. (Lk 24:13-27) He met personally with Simon Peter as well as the Lord’s half-brother James who later became a leader in the church. (1 Cor 15:5-7) He met personally with His disciples and remained with them forty days after His resurrection. And He met personally with the Apostle Paul on the Road to Damascus.
I can honestly say that the Lord has met personally with me as well. No, I haven’t seen Him with my physical eyes, but I have seen Him with my spiritual eyes. I haven’t heard Him speak with my physical ears, but I have heard Him speak often with my spiritual ears. As Nicole C. Mullins says – “I know that He lives because I talked with Him this morning.”
During the preaching of this message I erroneously stated that there were Roman documents that verified that there were Roman guards who stood watch over the tomb of Jesus to prohibit someone from stealing His body. That statement was incorrect and I should not have included it in my message. In my zeal to proclaim the resurrection, I allowed myself to make this false statement. I deeply apologize for my error.
Pastor Terry Covey April 6, 2015