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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Dr. David Jeremiah » David Jeremiah - The Seven Signs of Easter

David Jeremiah - The Seven Signs of Easter

David Jeremiah - The Seven Signs of Easter
TOPICS: Easter, Resurrection

Israel is a very special place for anyone who goes, and I always wondered, until recently, why, when you walk the streets of Jerusalem or you walk in Israel, there's this kind of aura that comes over you, and I finally figured it out. I was reading and studying for a book, and I found five passages that said that Jerusalem was God's city, Israel is God's nation, it's where his people are in terms of the future. And so, when you go to Israel, it's really amazing, and I've had some pretty interesting experiences in Israel. But never more impressive, never more important, never more moving than this. Every year, we have a service in the garden there, and I always go into the tomb and just stand there for a moment and realize that I'm in the place where my Lord was, and that he came forth in victory over the grave, and that's why I have the life that I have in Christ.

And I always like to tell them the story of what it must have been like for the first people that came to the tomb on that first Easter Sunday. The Bible says it was, "Mary Magdalene and the other Mary," that's how they describe the visitors. And they came early on Easter morning, having in their mind at least an idea of seeing some soldiers, a stone. They had heard the rumors of what had happened. When they approached the tomb, they were quite surprised, soldiers were gone. That's quite an interesting story, because, you see, the Jewish officials had panicked because thousands were turning to Christ, and they had heard of Jesus's prediction that he would come back again on the third day, and so they realized they had to do something to protect themselves from this story. So, when they placed Jesus in a tomb, they knew that it was to their advantage to make sure that he was put away for good.

Now, when they came to secure the guard, they did so with a Roman unit, which was 4 to 16 men, and each man was trained to protect 6 ft of ground. And so the four men who were trained to do that would stand in front of the place they were guarding, the others would be around in a semi-circle waiting for their turn so that there was a fresh guard guarding whatever they guarded throughout the whole day. And so, to steal what these guards were protecting, thieves would have to walk over those who were asleep and then deal with the guards who were not asleep.

This explains Matthew 28:11-15, listen to these words. "Now while they were going, behold, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all the things that had happened. When they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, saying, 'Tell them, "His disciples came at night and stole away the body while we slept". And if this comes to the governor's ears, we will appease him and make you secure.' So they took the money and did as they were instructed; and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day".

Let me fill in what happened. The Bible says that an angel came from heaven, and there was an earthquake, and the stone was rolled away, and it actually says that the guards were shaken. I like to say they were freaked out. And I always love this little insight, I don't know if you've ever seen this before, it says the angel came, rolled away the stone, and when they came, the angel was sitting on the stone, kind of like, "So what else do you want me to do"? The guards were so afraid when that happened, they vacated their position, and they all went into the city. And they came and told the people who had hired them what had happened, and the people that hired them gave them some money so that they wouldn't tell the truth about what had happened.

Now, although the idea that the disciples stole the body of Jesus explains the fact that the body was missing, the idea is more absurd than any of the godless theories that have ever been put forth to explain Jesus's resurrection. For instance, it is impossible that the soldiers would have all slept through the disciples moving the stone away from the mouth of the tomb and stealing the body of Jesus, they couldn't have slept through that. And secondly, if all the soldiers were asleep, how did they know who stole the body? Everybody go, "Hm-hm". So when the two Marys got there, the soldiers were gone and the seal that covered the mouth of the tomb, it was obviously gone. You see, when the Roman soldiers came and sealed the tomb, the seal was like a rope that had wax on each end of it. They would affix it here and fix it here, covering the opening, and the only purpose for that was to make sure that nobody tampered with the thing they were securing.

So, when the women got there, the seal was long gone, the seal was long gone because the stone was moved. The Bible says that the stone that was placed in front of the tomb had been put there by Joseph of Arimathea. In Matthew 27, we read, "When Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and he laid it in his new tomb which he had hewn out of the rock; and rolled a large stone against the door of the tomb, and departed". And Matthew 28:2 says, "There was a great earthquake; and an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it". Did you ever see that before? It kind of reminds me of the way God looks at all the things we try to do to thwart his work, he sends an angel down here to fix it and tells the angel, "Why don't you sit on the stone? Let them know we're in charge up here".

In Mark's account of the resurrection, we are told the stone was extremely large, some manuscripts describe the stone as a stone which 20 men could not roll away. The tomb in which Jesus was buried was a new tomb that had been hewn out of the solid rock, as you saw in the picture. And the Jewish tombs usually had an entrance of 4.5 to 5 ft in height. When I go there and go in the tomb, I have to bend down, I can't just walk in. When Peter and John ran to the tomb, we are told that John leaned over and looked in, he had to lean over because the entrance was only 4.5 ft tall. And early sepulchers had a groove or a slot cut into the rock in front of them, and that groove held the stone, the stone was not a boulder, it was like a cylinder, and the cylinder was rolled in front of the tomb. And the lowest part of the groove is where the opening to the tomb was. So they'd roll the cylinder down and it would cover up the mouth of the tomb.

Several studies have been done to try to determine how big a stone would be needed to cover an opening 4.5-5 ft tall, and the conservative estimates are that such a stone would had to have weighed in at 1.5 to 2 tons. And the Bible tells us that on that Sunday morning, the first thing that impressed Mary Magdalene was that the stone was not in place. In fact, John 20, verse 1, gives us an even added insight. "Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb".

Here John uses a word that means to pick something up and carry it away. Not only was the stone not in place in front of the tomb, it had been moved out of the groove and was some distance from where it would have been, had it simply been rolled back up the groove. And the angel came and took that 2-ton stone and just plopped it over there, and then, for all of our humor, sat on top of the stone. So, now the stone is removed and the two women get closer to the sepulcher, and as they get to the sepulcher and began to examine it, a voice from an angel is heard. And the voice said, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus whom you crucified. He's not here; for He has risen, as He said. Come, and see the place where the Lord lay". And John 20 says, Mary Magdalene ran after that, "And came to Simon Peter, and the other disciple whom Jesus loved".

By the way, that's always John. In the Gospel of John, whenever John refers to himself, he calls himself, "The disciple Jesus loved". I've always thought that's kind of strange. And Mary said to them, "They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him". Now, everybody agrees that Joseph's tomb, at this moment, is empty, even those who deny the resurrection. The rumors of resurrection could never have gained credibility if people could have visited the tomb and found the body of Jesus still there, no way the gospel message would ever have gone past two days. The question has not been, "Was the body gone"? The question has always been, "What became of it"? Did the authorities deliberately remove the body in order to prevent the disciples from spreading the rumor that he had risen?

This is really hard to believe, it's hard to believe because when the apostles began to proclaim Jesus and the resurrection, all the authorities would have had to have done to shut down this new movement was stand there with Jesus. "Hey, Jesus isn't risen, let me tell you why I know that, he's standing right here". But he wasn't available for them to do that, because he had risen from the dead. The resurrection could not have been maintained in Jerusalem for one single day, not even one hour, if the emptiness of the tomb had not been established as a fact for everybody concerned.

Did the disciples steal the body as a hoax? Well, that's an impossible theory, you know why? The disciples suffered and died for the gospel, they were willing to become martyrs because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. People don't die for something they know to be a farce, they died because they knew it was true. And the disciples did not go off to Rome or Athens to preach Christ raised from the dead, they went right back to the city of Jerusalem, where, if what they were saying was false, the message could have been disproved. There really is no explanation for the empty tomb except that God raised Jesus from the dead. When you visit the garden tomb in Jerusalem, it has this profound effect on you.

You know you're standing on holy ground, you're standing in a place where something miraculous took place. The two Marys came to the tomb on that first Sunday, they saw the soldiers had gone, the seal was broken, the stone was moved, the sepulcher was empty, but not quite. Because the Bible tells us, in John 20, verses 3 through 8, that the shroud which had clothed Jesus was still there, and not just still there, still there in a very strange way. "Peter therefore went out, and the other disciple, and were going to the tomb. So they ran together, and the other disciple outran Peter". There's John patting himself on the back again in his own epistle. "And he, stooping down and looking in, saw the linen cloths lying there; yet he did not go in. And Simon Peter came...and went into the tomb; and he saw the linen claws lying there, and the handkerchief that had been around His head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded together in a place by itself. And the other disciple, who came to the tomb first, went in also; and he saw and he believed".

The not-quite-empty tomb still had the grave clothes. In a literal sense, the grave was not empty, because the grave clothes were there. And when John leaned over and looked into the grave, he saw something so startling that he did not enter the tomb, he looked over the place where the body of Jesus had been and there were the grave clothes in the form of a body, slightly caved in and empty, like the empty chrysalis of a caterpillar's cocoon. That was enough to make a believer out of anyone, and John never did get over that. The first thing that stuck in the minds of the disciples was not the empty tomb, but really the empty grave clothes. John's explanation of this to Peter probably went something like this.

"Don't you see, Peter? No one has moved the body or disturbed the grave clothes, they're exactly as Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea left them on the eve of the Sabbath, but the body is gone. It's not stolen, it's not been moved, it must have passed right through the clothes, leaving them as we see them now. Jesus must be risen". The linens would not have been there if the body had been stolen, you don't undress a body before you steal it, and leave the clothes in the tomb. The sign destroys the idea that Jesus resuscitated himself and walked out of the grave, leaving the grave clothes in the shape of a body? Come on. These grave clothes prove the reality of the resurrection.

So, this is all that happened in the garden on that first Easter. The soldiers were gone, the seal was broken, the stone was moved, the sepulcher was empty except for the clothes that were still there in the tomb. Jesus had indeed, as he said he would, risen from the grave on the third day. Now, the Bible tells us that, after that, the disciples were meeting together in the upper room, Thomas was not there, and Jesus appeared in their midst, and the disciples tried to convince Thomas, Doubting Thomas, that Jesus was alive and that he had been in their presence. And Thomas said, "I won't believe that, I'm not gonna believe that unless I see it for myself".

So we read in John 20 what happened next. "And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas was with them. And Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, 'Peace to you!' And he said to Thomas, 'Hey, reach your fingers here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, put it in My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.' And Thomas answered and said to Him, 'My Lord and my God!'" What a moment that must have been, when Doubting Thomas became Believing Thomas because Almighty God, through his Son, accommodated himself to the doubts of one of his followers.

Now we move past that first day and we begin to examine what happened next, during the time between Jesus's resurrection and his ascension back to heaven. During those days, Jesus began to show himself alive to many people. If you want to read the chronicle of it, it's in 1 Corinthians chapter 15, there you will see the list of people that Jesus made himself apparent to. And it was men and women, groups and individuals, but the most astounding one in my estimation is where we are told a group of 500 saw him at one time and they all witnessed that he was truly the risen Lord.

What an amazing moment that must have been. So this was not just a fleeting observance of a shadowy figure by one or two people. No, there were multiple appearances to numerous people, several of the appearances being confirmed in more than one of the gospels of the New Testament. He was alive, he was back from the dead, he had put his foot on the throat of Satan and come out victorious over the grave. So, what does that mean, where does that leave us, what do we do with that? We're not just historical students, we didn't just come here to study the history of Jesus's resurrection. No, the resurrection has a lot to do with you and me, it changes everything about us. First of all, it changes our past. I read that one official of a big hospital said that if he could just get people to realize how important it was to forgive one another, there wouldn't be many patients left in his hospital.

How many of you know that forgiveness is a big deal for many people? Jesus said that our forgiveness and his death are forever linked together. The Bible says that, "The wages of sin is death," and Jesus said that he was gonna die for our sin and that his death would bring forgiveness, and he would spare us from spiritual death. When Jesus went to the cross, he paid the penalty for all that we have done that has offended the Father, and he offers to us absolute forgiveness if we will just receive it. What happened when he died on the cross was verified by the fact that he came out of the grave the third day, as he determined and prophesied that he would. So the bill for our debt of sin was paid at the cross and the receipt for that bill is the resurrection. And when we trust in him as our Savior, he casts our sins behind his back, he puts them in the depths of the sea, he removes them as far as the East is from the West, and he remembers them no more, says the Scripture.

And I know some people that say, "Oh yes, Pastor, I know that when I became a Christian all my sins before that were covered, but now that I'm a Christian I gotta take care of my own sins". And I always ask them this question, listen carefully. "How many of your sins were future when Jesus died"? All of them. "How many of your sins did he forgive"? All of them, even sins you haven't committed yet, that I hope you won't commit, but if you do, Almighty God has provided forgiveness for you. So, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is God's verification that the death of Christ solves the sin question for all of us if we will put our trust in him. Number two, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is about your present.

I always love this passage in Ephesians, where Paul wrote to the Ephesian people and he said this, he said, "You Ephesians, I want you to know something really cool. You know the power that brought Jesus out of the grave, that very power is available to you to live your Christian life, you can have the same power in your life, every day, that brought Jesus back from the dead". You say, "How does that work"? Well, if you've been a Christian very long, you know that Christianity is not natural, it's supernatural, it's not impossible. If you don't have an answer for the impossibility of the Christian life, you can't live it. But here's what Paul said to the Ephesians. "If you put your trust in Christ and you allow God to take over in your life, he will enable you to do things in your life that you never dreamed were possible. He will change you from the person you are to the person he created you to be". The Bible says when you become a Christian, "Old things pass away, and all things become new".

So what happens when you become a Christian is such an amazing thing, you get changed from a cruel, hateful person to a kind and caring person. This same power that transforms you from selfish, lustful, immoral people into selfless, loving, godly people. There is nothing on earth that can do that except the gospel of Jesus Christ and the power of the resurrection that he puts in your life when you become a Christian. How can you be the person that, down in your heart, you really desire to be? Only if you allow Christ to come, take up his residence in your heart, and begin to give you his strength and his power for every day. You cannot live the Christian life victoriously for one day without the power of God, I am convinced of that, I've spent 50 years proving that, you can't do it, you need God and he has promised his availability.

And then, thirdly, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is not only about your past, about your present, it's about your future. The Bible says that when Jesus Christ came out of the grave, he was the firstfruits of those who sleep. I don't know if you've ever seen that phrase, but let me unpack that for you. Firstfruits means he was the number one, he was the down payment, he was the earnest money. And "those who sleep" is a term that's used in the New Testament only for one group of people, Christians who have died. The Bible says that God has made a priority place for those Christians who die before he comes back, they shall rise first. And that's what Paul means when he says that Jesus was the firstfruit, his resurrection is the proof that everybody else is gonna be raised when he comes back. All I'm saying to you is this, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is not just a historic reality, it's a present-day reality for all of us. Because of what Jesus Christ has done, my sins are not fatal, my life is not futile, and my death is not final.

One of the great testimonies to the reality of Christ is that people who don't even believe in Jesus celebrate Easter. Can you believe that? But how do you really celebrate it? You celebrate it by, first of all, examining your own heart and saying, "Is Jesus alive in me"? Have you ever accepted him as your Savior, have you ever opened your heart up and said, "I'm not complete unless Jesus Christ is in my life"? Have you ever decided, "I wanna be a Christian, I wanna know Jesus in my life, I wanna know this power that he's promised, I wanna be sure that when he comes back I go to be with him"? Only way you can ever do that is by inviting Christ into your life. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. And no one comes to the father except through Me". You can't get to heaven except through Jesus Christ, he's the only way. You say, "That sounds pretty exclusive". It is exclusive, this is what Jesus said. You wanna go to heaven? You gotta have Jesus, can't go to heaven any other way.
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