October 16, 2022 . . .“Back to the basics: On the third day, He rose again from the dead” I Corinthians 15:3-5

October 16, 2022 . . .“Back to the basics: On the third day, He rose again from the dead” I Corinthians 15:3-5

October 16, 2022

“Back to the basics: On the third day, He rose again from the dead”

I Corinthians 15:3-5

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus.

Born in January of 1952 in Arlington Heights, Illinois, Lee Strobel first attended the University of Missouri where he received his journalism degree, and then Yale where he earned a Master of Studies in Law. And after serving as a journalist for the Chicago Tribune for fourteen years, he won first place from United Press International for his coverage of the Pinto crash trial. He even appeared on numerous television networks including Fox News and PBS.

But he didn’t believe in God. In fact, he said, “God didn’t create people. People created God. Why? Because they were afraid of death. So they made up this idea of heaven, afterlife, to make themselves feel better about dying.” And he said, “The mere concept of an all-loving, and all-knowing and all-powerful creator of the universe--come on, it’s crazy!”

Then to his utter shock and surprise, his wife, Leslie, suddenly became a Christian. And he hated it. He loathed it! He said, “I had married one Leslie--the fun Leslie, the carefree Leslie, the risk-taking Lesie--and now I feared she was going to turn into some sort of prude who would trade our upwardly mobile lifestyle for all-night prayer vigils and volunteer work in grimy soup kitchens.”

So what would he do? His first thought was divorce. After all, life would be a whole lot better without her! Instead, he thought that if he could just disprove her Christianity, if he could show that the resurrection of Jesus was just a lie, then maybe he could save her and their marriage after all.

So for the next two years, he set out to do just that. And using his investigative skills as a journalist, he consulted numerous leading Biblical theologians, scholars and experts. But that’s when he began to realize that the Christian creed was true after all. And finally, after coming to believe in Christ and celebrating forty-five years of marriage, he said, “God rescued our family, He saved our marriage. He changed my son, He changed my daughter, He changed me, He changed Leslie, and that’s my story.”

And it was all because he discovered that Jesus had risen after all.

The apostle Paul had something to say about Jesus’ resurrection. In fact, he had quite a lot to say about Jesus’ resurrection! You can find some of it in the words of I Corinthians 15. I’ll start at verse 3: “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve” (I Corinthians 15:3-5).

So far in our time together on the Apostles’ Creed, we’ve taken time to look at the First Article, “I believe in God the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth.” And we’ve taken a walk through the Second Article, “I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell.” Now we’ll look at what comes next: “On the third day, He rose again from the dead.”

It’s been said that these words are the “pivot point” of the Apostles’ Creed. Up until now, all the other events spoke of God’s desire to become one with us. He was conceived. He was born. He suffered. He died. And He descended into hell. Though He was the source of all light and life, He became one of us and one with us. He experienced humanity all the way down to darkness and death.

And if that would have been the end of the story, then it would have been the most beautiful, yet the most heart-breaking story ever told.

But then comes the pivot: “On the third day, He rose again from the dead.” And those ten words change everything!

I mean, think about it. Jesus, risen from the dead? Couldn’t be! Impossible! At least, that’s what those women thought as they made their way out to that cool, garden tomb. No streetlights, no headlights, not even a flashlight. And as they walked, they couldn’t help but mutter under their breath, “If only He hadn’t come to Jerusalem...if only His disciples could have kept Him hidden...if only Peter would have drawn his sword to fight…” They had hardly stopped crying since Friday.

Was He dead? Of that, there was no doubt. He had, after all, been beaten, mocked and scourged, made to wear a crown of thorns, forced to carry a heavy cross through the city streets until He collapsed, had nails driven through His hands and feet, was hung on a cross for six hours in utter agony until He breathed His last breath, and a soldier thrust a spear into His side, puncturing His lungs and heart.

He was dead. Of that, there was no doubt.

And when they arrived at the tomb, what did they expect to see? Most likely a Roman seal ordered by the governor himself, and sixteen, elite, Roman soldiers, dressed in full armor, with swords on their hips and spears in their hands.

And worst of all--a thick, heavy stone, weighing as much as four thousand pounds.

But who would have thought, who could have imagined, what they would see! For as Matthew records in his gospel account: “And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, as He said” (Matthew 28:2-6).

Isn’t that how it always was with Jesus? One day, there was a crowd of five thousand hungry men who had come to hear Him preach, with their wives and children. The disciples would have sent them away, to find their own supper.

But something else happened instead.

One day, as they crossed the Sea of Galilee, they left Jesus behind to pray. And they thought that He would have walked all the way around to meet them, on the other side.

But something else happened instead.

One day, they pushed little children away, because they were too young and too small to bother Him.

But something else happened instead.

And when they saw Him die on that cross, they thought His life was over and His kingdom and power had come to an end.

But something else happened instead.

The seal was broken, the tomb was open, and the stone had been rolled away. And angels, sent straight from the wonder and the glory of heaven, were privileged to say: “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, as He said.”

So just how important are these words, “On the third day, He rose again from the dead”? As one author wrote, “If I were an enemy of Christianity, I would aim right at the resurrection, because that is the heart of Christianity.”

And that’s exactly what some have done! Back in the 1970s, a man named Robert Funk doubted the resurrection. He wrote: “The tales of entombment and resurrection were latter-day wishful thinking. Instead, Jesus’ corpse went the way of all abandoned criminals’ bodies. It was probably barely covered with dirt, vulnerable to the wild dogs that roamed the wasteland of the execution grounds.”

When Thomas Jefferson wrote his version of the life of Christ, he refused to mention any of Jesus’ miracles, His virgin birth or His resurrection. In fact, this is how the “Jefferson Bible” ends: “Now in the place where He was crucified, there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulcher, wherein was never man yet laid. There laid they Jesus, and rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulcher, and departed.”

That’s it. That’s the end. He died and they buried Him. No mention of the resurrection.

Back in the 1940s, back when Billy Graham was just beginning to preach, there was another young evangelist named Charles Templeton. In fact, the two of them even preached together at youth rallies across the United States and Great Britain. And Templeton was gifted, talented, articulate and polished. Everyone respected and admired him.

But in the years that followed World War II, he began to question his Christian faith. At one point, he even told Graham to get his nose out of the Bible or else he’d never be able to connect to the people of the world. And after pastoring a church in Canada for a few years, he eventually gave up his Christian faith altogether. Finally, after becoming the host of a late-night talk show that made him the “Johnny Carson of Canada,” he attacked the very faith he had once preached. He even published a novel called Act of God, saying the bones of Jesus had been discovered in Jerusalem.

So does the resurrection of Jesus matter?

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, famed creator of Sherlock Holmes, once wrote: “There’s a keen and grim old huntsman on a horse as white as snow. Sometimes he’s very swift; sometimes he’s very slow. But he never is at fault, for he always hunts on view, and he rides without a halt after you. The huntsman’s name is Death; his horse’s name is Time.”

And he wrote: “He is coming. He is coming as I sit and write this rhyme. He is coming, he is coming as you read the rhyme I write. You can hear his hoofs low drumming day and night. You can hear the distant drumming as the clock goes tick tack, and the chiming of the hours is the music of his pack.”

Someday, our life on earth will come to an end. Of that, there is no doubt. And while sophisticated modern medicine may replace a mirror held before your mouth, and cosmetic embalming may take the place of pennies on eyelids and canvas shrouds, young or old, rich or poor, the grim reality of death is still the same.

So how good and how precious are the words of the apostle Paul: “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (I Corinthians 15:20).

And there’s more! When Peter preached in Jerusalem, barely fifty days after Easter, he said: “This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses” (Acts 2:32). And in Acts chapter 4, even when men threatened to beat him, he said it again: “Let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that this man is healed is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, but whom God raised from the dead” (Acts 4:10).

Paul wrote to the Romans: “Just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (Romans 6:4). He wrote to the Galatians: “Paul, an apostle--sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead” (Galatians 1:1). He wrote to the Philippians: “That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection” (Philippians 3:10). And Peter wrote in his first epistle: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade, kept in heaven for you” (I Peter 1:3-4).

And in the last book, the book of Revelation, Jesus Himself said it again: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I am He who was dead and am alive forever. And I hold the keys of death and hell” (Revelation 1:17-18).

One more thing. If you’re a sports fan, you might know the name Bob Buford. Over his seventy-eight years of life, he was a cable-TV pioneer, writer, and philanthropist. His books, Halftime, and Gameplan, have changed the lives of thousands.

But in January of 1987, his only son, Ross Buford, was tragically killed in a drowning accident on the Rio Grande River. He was only twenty-four. And from that moment on, Bob’s life was never the same.

Later he said that, one day, he felt as though God told him to draw a horizontal line on a piece of paper. So he took a pencil and drew a line. Then God said, “Now write a number, the largest number you can think of below that line.” So he did. He wrote a one with all kinds of zeroes across the width of the page. Then God said, “Now on top of that line, write the number 24.”

Then He said: “Now look at that. So far, you’ve only spent 24 one trillionths of the time that you will spend together with your son Ross.”

We could change the name. We could change the numbers. But the answer will always be the same.

And that’s why we, even today, are so bold to believe and confess: “I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell. And on the third day He rose again from the dead.”

We thank You, Father, for Jesus’ life and death and especially His resurrection from the dead. Grant that we may rest, with all confidence, in His saving name and grace, for His sake. Amen