David Jeremiah - He Really Is Alive
I grew up in a Christian home. My father was a pastor for a number of years. He pastored two churches that I was a part of, beginning in Toledo, Ohio, and then Dayton, Ohio. And when I was in the 7th grade, my father became the president of Cedarville College. I have people ask me all the time, "Did your father ever pressure you to go into the ministry"? And I tell them, "No, but he did name me David Paul Jeremiah, so I don't know what that's all about". For as long as I can remember, I've known about the Lord, I've known about the gospel. I've known about Easter. I went to a Christian college, went to Cedarville College and studied Bible there, and knew a lot about the faith and a lot about the Scripture. But it's interesting that I was a second year student at Dallas Theological Seminary before I really comprehended how critical the Resurrection was to our faith.
I remember it as if it were yesterday. I was, along with Donna, we were a part of a local church out in Garland, Texas, while we were students at Dallas and they had celebrated a certain time and season in their program where they had what they called friendship dinners. And a friendship dinner was where they would invite people in their church to bring a friend, a couple, with them to this dinner. They would tell 'em ahead of time, "We're gonna talk about what we believe," and then they would get a speaker who was good at doing this to come, and he would speak on the gospel. And it would introduce people to the importance of Christ. So, I had never been to one of those before and I was anxious to give it a try and was made even more enticing for me when I found out that one of my favorite professors, Dr. Haddon Robinson, was the speaker.
So Donna and I went to this friendship dinner, and I was fully prepared for Dr. Robinson to get up and give the gospel and have it centered in the cross and how Jesus died for us and paid the penalty for our sin, and I expected that. But to my surprise, Dr. Robinson got up and said almost immediately, "The most important doctrine in the Bible is the doctrine of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ". And then he gave a message about how critical the Resurrection is to the Christian faith. For the first time in my life, I think I understood truly why we celebrate Easter and why it is such a massive celebration across the world. For you see, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the validation that what he did on the cross was accepted and that it was real.
I would like to take some time today as I remember it to share some of the key things that I remember him saying. I just remember the major things that he said and I went back and looked them all up in the Scripture. And how critical Easter is. I hope that if you will open your heart to this message, Easter will become even more special to you than it already is. I know it's special to you because you're here today, celebrating it with your family and your friends. I think one of the most unknown things about Easter are all the little miracles that were a part of the big miracle. The miracle of the Resurrection is first of all the miracle of the predictions of the Resurrection by Jesus Christ himself.
Now, I know some people who have actually said to me, "I don't know why you make such a big deal out of the Resurrection because Jesus didn't even make a big deal out of it. I'm not even sure Jesus believed in the Resurrection". If anybody ever says that to you, you know something for sure. You know they haven't read the New Testament. Because in the New Testament, one of the amazing things about the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is that the Lord Jesus Christ himself predicted what would happen, exactly when it would happen, and how it would happen. Over and over again, the Lord Jesus talked about the Resurrection before it ever happened.
In Matthew chapter 16, and verse 21, Jesus is speaking and this is what it says: "From that time Jesus began to show to 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 the third day". In the very next chapter of Matthew, right after the record of the transfiguration of Christ, we find these words: "Now as they came down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, saying, 'Tell this vision to no man until the Son of Man is risen from the dead.'" "Now while they were staying in Galilee, Jesus said to them, 'The Son of Man is about to betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill Him, and the third day He will be raised up.' And the disciples were exceedingly sorrowful".
Once again, in Matthew chapter 20, we read, Jesus speaking: "Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man," Jesus speaking of himself, "will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death, and deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock and to scourge and to crucify. And the third day He will rise again". At the Last Supper, Jesus again spoke of his Resurrection, "And after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee". Think of the absurdity, men and women, of what Jesus said if it was not, in fact, true. In John chapter 10, in verse 18, Jesus explains all of this. He says, "No man takes my life from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have the power to lay it down, and I have the power to take it again". Jesus said, "Nobody's gonna take my life from me. I voluntarily lay it down and I have the power to take it back up again".
And that's what he did on that Resurrection Sunday. He took back the power of his own life and was resurrected from the dead. That's why when you get to the final book of the New Testament you read these words, spoken by Jesus and reported by John: "I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death". Jesus, at the end of the New Testament, says, "I am he who lives and I was dead but, behold, I am alive forever more and in my hands are the keys of life and death for every man, woman, child on this earth". Jesus Christ is the King of life and the King of death. Over and over again, Jesus predicted that he would be crucified, that he would rise again in 3 days. And the fact that he said it and then he did it, stands out as a grade A miracle, perhaps the greatest miracle of all time.
Ladies and gentlemen, only a foolish man goes around preaching his own Resurrection unless that man is God. So one of the first things I learned about the Resurrection that I did not know was that the Lord Jesus himself had predicted that it would happen, not only in these Scriptures but in many others, and that what happened was exactly as Jesus said it would be. And then I remember Dr. Robinson going through some of the Scriptures in the New Testament and reminding us all of how many ways the Resurrection is proved in the New Testament. If you look at all of the New Testament Scriptures, you will find at least ten appearances of Christ to his followers after he came out of the tomb, having been resurrected from the dead. Christ appeared to men and to women, to groups and to individuals. He appeared in a house and on a street, to disciples who were sad, and to disciples who were happy, on occasions that were momentary and on occasions that were stretched out, in different localities and at different times.
The variety of the Lord's appearances after the Resurrection is one of the reasons why those who have studied the Resurrection consider it to be so well documented. According to the Apostle Paul, after Jesus was raised from the dead, "he was seen by over 500 brethren at one time, of whom the greater part remain to the present," said Paul, "and some have fallen asleep". When Paul gave this message, he told the people that over 500 people had seen Jesus Christ alive after his death and Paul said, at the time that he wrote it, that many of those people were still alive, who could have come up and discounted what Paul said, but none of them did because it was true.
The post Resurrection appearances of Jesus Christ are easy to document. Just start reading through the gospels and this is the progression you will find. He appeared to Mary Magdalene by the tomb. He appeared to the other women, returning from the tomb. He appeared to Peter later that same day. He appeared to two disciples on the road to Emmaus. He appeared to the disciples inside a locked room, first of all when Thomas was not there and then later on, when Thomas was there. He appeared to the 7 disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, to a multitude of over 500 believers on a Galilean mountain, and again to the 11 apostles. He appeared to James and he would later appear to Saul on the road to Damascus, and to John on the Isle of Patmos, and to Paul in the temple.
One of the proofs of Christ's Resurrection is the number of sightings from individuals to large groups over a period of 40 days, at all times, at all sorts of places. He appeared in Jerusalem, in Emmaus, in Galilee, and on a mountain. His appearances were documented by people who saw him and heard him and touched him and watched him eat in their midst. Jesus wanted to make dead certain that his Resurrection was proven beyond all doubt to his disciples. In fact, when Luke wrote the introduction to the Book of Acts, he introduced it in these words: "To whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs". Jesus proved himself alive after his death by many infallible proofs, undeniable proofs. So the question now is, what do we do with this? What do we do with this evidence?
You know, many have tried to dismiss the Resurrection. They say it was simply a lie that was made up to continue the myth that the disciples were trying to keep going about Jesus Christ. But I want you to think about those who witnessed this resurrected Christ. Who were they? More than 500 people could say they had seen him. And the character of these witnesses is what sets them apart. Who were these people? They're the people who gave us our Bible. They're the people who were men and women of great courage and character, men and women who gave our world the greatest teaching and examples of service it has ever known. Men like the apostles who were willing to give their lives for this very truth, the truth of the risen Christ.
Think for just a moment about the disciples. If you know the story of the New Testament, you know at first the disciples were nothing to write home about. They might have been called disciples but that was a stretch of the word. Because the Scripture says when Jesus was suffering and he was being taken to the cross, he gets to the cross and here's what the Scripture says about his disciples: "They all forsook Him and they fled". In fact, at the cross, only one of them is left: John the apostle standing at the foot of the cross with the mother of Jesus. The Bible says they were hiding out. We find out later, they were hiding out in the Upper Room and they were cowardly. They were afraid. They knew that what happened to Jesus would surely happen to them if they didn't get out of circulation. So they ran away and they left Jesus to suffer by himself.
Don't tell me the apostles were just naturally courageous people who took the gospel to the world. They were not. They were cowards, until that night when they were in the Upper Room. The death of Jesus was well documented. They were sorrowing over the death of Jesus, probably feeling very guilty that they had betrayed him. And the Scripture says that all at once the Lord Jesus appeared in their midst. And the Scripture's very clear. He didn't come through the door or the window. He just was in their midst. It's a portrait of what's gonna happen to us someday in the future 'cause we're gonna have bodies like Jesus and the Resurrection body of Jesus wasn't hindered by any of the walls or doors. He just was there. And the apostles saw him and they knew that this was the Jesus they had walked with all those years. They recognized him. This was the same one. And they saw the scars in his hands and felt the print in his side and his feet. And they knew without any doubt, this was the Lord Jesus Christ that they had known and loved, who had died on the cross and now was absolutely, certainly alive.
And what happened was these cowards went out of that room no longer cowards but flaming evangelists for the gospel. And the Bible says that those same disciples, after seeing the risen Christ, turned their world upside down. They went everywhere preaching the gospel. They threw them in jail, and as soon as they were in jail the Lord would get 'em out and they'd go right back to the same corner and preach it again. Nothing stopped them. They didn't care what anybody thought. They knew one thing for sure. This same Jesus who was crucified is now alive and we are his witnesses to the Resurrection. Read the Book of Acts. Every sermon in the Book of Acts is about the Resurrection.
So the disciples who were cowardly now became courageous, and the only explanation of it was the Resurrection of their Savior. They now knew beyond any doubt that Jesus was the Messiah. He was the one he claimed to be and the fulfillment of all the prophecies of the Old Testament. Just the change in the lives of the apostles is a testimony to the power of the Resurrection. The bottom line is this. The body of Moses lies in a grave somewhere. The body of Muhammad lies in a tomb. The remains of Lenin lie in a glass-covered casket in Moscow. On his casket are these words: "He was the greatest leader of all peoples, of all countries, of all times. He was the Lord of the new humanity. He was the savior of the world". But when Lenin went to bed on January 20, 1924, he never woke up. No one has ever heard from him since that night. He's dead, like every other human being who's ever lived and one day stopped living.
If Lenin is the savior of the world, we're in a lot of trouble. But on the authority of the Word of God, I am here to tell you that Jesus Christ who said he would die and rise again is the Savior of the world, the Lord of lords, the King of kings. He alone conquered death, and because of that, he can offer us eternal life. So, you have the predictions of our Lord's Resurrection in his own words. You have all of these proofs, these evidences of the people who saw him, and whose lives were transformed.
And someone will say, "Yes, but that's back then in history. What about today"? Well, let me just suggest to you that today there are several lines of evidence of the reality of the Resurrection. Not all of the evidence of Christ's Resurrection is in the past. I think of at least five things that are currently true that scream out at us about the reality of the Resurrection. First of all, let's talk about the Christian faith. I don't know if you noticed it, but this is a big Sunday for churches. I mean, more people go to church on Easter Sunday than any other Sunday in the year. More than Christmas. There's no other Sunday even close. More than Mother's Day. Everybody goes to church on Easter.
Now, I don't know what that means and I'm sure not one of those pastors who wants to fuss at you if you haven't been here since Christmas. I'm glad you're here. Thank God you're here. But why do we do that? What keeps all of this alive? It's what we call the Christian faith. And the Christian faith is Resurrection. The Christian faith is welded to the Resurrection. Paul said, "If Christ is not risen, our preaching is empty, your faith is empty, and we are found as false witnesses". Paul said if there isn't any Resurrection, there isn't any Christianity. And I know that Christianity is hurting in some places and waning in others, but I wanna tell you Christianity is alive and well and in many places in this world it is flourishing and multiplying, and hundreds of thousand, yes, millions of people are being touched by the message of Christianity. The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the very citadel of the Christian faith.
Someone has said that if the Resurrection of Christ is not an historic fact then it is our duty to dig a new grave, bury in that grave not a man but a religion, and that religion is Christianity, the only hope of the world. Do you wanna know why I believe in the Resurrection? Just look around. Everybody is going to church. Everybody is talking about their faith. Everybody is singing worship songs. Everybody's looking into the important message of the Bible. The Christian faith, the largest religion in the world. And it's the result of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Let me talk to you about the Christian church. If the Crucifixion ended the disciples' experience of Jesus, if that's all there was, it's really hard to understand how the church could continue at all. Because, you see, the sole reason the church survives and flourishes today and why it flourished back then and can celebrate Easter Sunday is simply because Jesus broke out of the tomb, declaring that there's life after death. Do you think that for a moment the early church could have survived even for 1 week in an hostile surrounding if Jesus Christ had not been raised from the dead? Listen carefully. The Resurrection of the one on whom the church was founded was preached within a few minutes of the tomb where Jesus was buried. As a result of the first sermon that was preached, Peter preaching that sermon, 3000 people were converted. A few days later, within a week, he preached again and 5000 people were saved.
Listen to me. Any one of those people could have walked right down there to the tomb and, if the body of Jesus was in that tomb, it would have been the laughing stock of the community. But it wasn't there then and it's not there now. Jesus Christ is not in the tomb. Donna and I are going back to Israel. We've been there five or six times. And one of the great moments when you go to Israel is the service in the Garden where the tomb is. Many people believe that we're actually in the very place where Jesus was buried and the tomb from which he was resurrected. In the Garden, you can go to where the tomb is and you can walk into the tomb. It's open, but the opening's very small. I have to bend way down to get in. When you get in, you can see the ledge where the body of Christ had been placed.
I walk into that tomb every time and I think I'm gonna be under control, but when I stand in that space, I wanna start singing the "Hallelujah Chorus". "He is alive, he is alive. Jesus is alive". I've been there five times. I've been in that tomb five times, and every single time, it was empty 'til I walked in. I'm here to tell you that the tomb where Jesus was placed has never been occupied since the day he walked out of there in victory over death. And I know that this Savior of mine is the risen Lord indeed. The Christian church. One of the most astounding current evidences of the Resurrection is the Christian Sunday.
Let me tell you the story. The very fact that you and I attend church on Sunday is evidence of the Resurrection. You say, "How does that work"? Well, the original day of worship for all of those in the early days was Saturday. You see, the most reverent thing that a Jewish person could ever do was to observe the Sabbath and to keep it holy. It was the highest expression of their devotion. But Christians began meeting on Sunday, the first day of the week after it was acknowledged that Jesus came back victoriously from the grave on Sunday. Remember, the early church was made up predominantly of Jewish Christians. To make the change for Sabbath worship to Sunday worship signified that something earth-shattering had occurred. What was that something? It was the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave.
As Jesus rose from the grave on Sunday, followers of Jesus worship on Sunday and Sunday services now are a testimony to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and the practice goes all the way back to the 1st century when those who actually beheld the risen Lord with their own eyes began to change their day of worship from Saturday to Sunday. The Sunday observance of worship for us is attributed specifically to one thing and one thing only. That Jesus Christ came back from the grave on Sunday. Can you think of any other historic event that is celebrated 52 times every year? The most rational explanation for this phenomenon is that Jesus appeared personally to people after his Resurrection and convinced them that it was true. The Christian faith, the Christian church, the Christian Sunday.
Let me talk with you briefly about the Christian ordinances. Now, for those of you who don't know what that is and don't mean to be confusing, and the ordinances are the two things we practice as a part of our church beside worship and teaching. In our church, according to the New Testament, those two things are baptism and the Lord's Supper. Let's talk about baptism. Every week, almost without fail, we have someone who is baptized by immersion in our baptistery. They give their testimony and then the officiating pastor says, "I baptize you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit". They are placed under the water and they are brought up out of the water. And the Scripture teaches us that every time we do that, we are giving an example of what happened to Jesus. He went into the tomb and he was raised victoriously out of the tomb.
And when a believer is baptized, he is identifying with the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. He is saying, "I once was this way, but old things are passed away and behold, all things have become new". Baptism is a testimony to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. And the Lord's Supper, which is also a testimony. As you know, the cup is a representation of the blood of Christ, and the bread of the body of Christ. It is a remembrance of his death, but when you read Acts 2, you discover that you're supposed to participate in Communion with joy, looking forward to the fact that Jesus is risen from the dead.
One of the great apologists of our day is a man by the name of J.P. Moreland. He explains the significance of Communion like this. He said, "What's odd is that these early followers of Jesus did not ever get together to celebrate his teachings or how wonderful he was. They came together to have a celebration meal for one reason: to remember that Jesus had been publicly slaughtered in a grotesque and humiliating way. Now," he said, "think about this in modern terms. If a group of people loved John F. Kennedy, they might meet regularly to remember his confrontation with Russia, or his promotion of civil rights, or his charismatic personality. But they're never going to celebrate the fact that Lee Harvey Oswald murdered him". Because, you see, for him that was the end. That was awful. That was despair, that was death, that was it.
But when Jesus was crucified and came back from the grave, it wasn't the end. It was the beginning. It was the beginning of hope for all who feared death because now, their leader had come through the process of death, walked out of the tomb, put his foot on Satan's neck, and said, "I have gained victory over death and because I have done it, you if you put your trust in me, can do it also". We celebrate the death, burial, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ because it's the only hope that we have as followers of Christ.
Last but not least, here is to me the most visceral of all of the evidences and that is the changed lives of people today. We know the Resurrection is true because we see what the risen Christ does in our lives. It's like many of us have our own resurrections, isn't it? We are dead. We are lost, and then Jesus Christ comes and he gives us new life. I know that the Savior lives today because he lives within my own heart and I witness what happens to people when they give their hearts to Christ. He makes them into new people from the inside out. That's why I love to preach on Easter because the story of the Christ who came back from the dead is the greatest story ever told.
I want to leave you with two thoughts. One thought is for those of you who are already Christians. You already know the Lord, you believe in the resurrected Christ, you've accepted him. And one is for those of you who may be searching and you're not sure about all of this. Both of them happen to be involved with resurrection. One of them with the Resurrection of Christ, and one with the resurrection of Lazarus. On Jesus' Resurrection morning, two women went to the tomb, as you know, to visit the tomb and, instead of finding Jesus' body when they got there, they found two angels in the tomb. And the angels said to the two women, "Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, he is risen".
Today, like the women at the tomb, if we are not careful, we often seek for the living among the dead. We try to find peace and hope and forgiveness, even as followers of Christ, in the wrong world. It's not in that world because he's not in that world. We often look among the dead for our hope and peace and forgiveness but he is not there. He is risen. Don't find your hope there. My hope isn't there. My hope is in Jesus Christ. If my hope were in the world, I'd be in despair today. He is risen. He's alive. Don't be looking for the living among the dead, amen. I have to say it myself, I will. Number two, one day Jesus stood at the tomb of Lazarus, and he was comforting Lazarus' sister because Lazarus had died. He was in the tomb. The Bible says he was so dead, he had begun to stink. He was stinking dead.
And Jesus was trying to comfort Lazarus' sister. And I want you to listen to what he said to her. He said, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this"? Wow. What did Jesus say? He said, "I, Jesus, am the Resurrection and the life. If you believe in me, though you may die, you shall live". That sounds like double-speak. What does he mean? Well, the word "die" has two meanings. The word "death " has two meanings. The word "death" itself means separation, and so death is first of all physically, the separation of your soul from your body. When you die, your soul leaves your body. Your body stays here but you aren't there because the real you has left.
The New Testament says for a Christian, when you die it's absent from the body, present with the Lord. So death is first of all physical. It's when we die physically, our soul is separated from the body. But the Bible says there's a second kind of death and that's the death you don't ever wanna mess with. The second death is the separation of your soul from God forever. Now, go back and read the verse with me again. "Jesus said, 'I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, physically, will never die spiritually, but he will live. And whoever lives and believes in Me will never die". Never be separated from God. And then Jesus said to her, "Do you believe this"? And that's what I wanna ask you today. Do you believe this? You say, "Well, I understand it". I'm not asking you if you understand it. I'm asking you, "Do you believe it"? "Well," you say, "how do you believe it"? You decide to believe it. You decide to believe what the Scripture says concerning Jesus Christ.
I'm more convinced than ever that that's what it is. It's a matter of us saying, "I have determined to believe this. I have determined to bet my life on Jesus Christ and what he said. If he can say that he's gonna die and be buried and come back the 3rd day and he can pull that off, I'm pretty sure he can take care of me. And I'm gonna bet my life on him. I choose to believe that he is the Resurrection and the life and that if I put my trust in him, I will never die". And I wanna ask you, will you make that decision? It's not about a feeling. It's not about an emotion. It's about determining my life is going to be committed to Jesus Christ. I'm gonna believe in him.
And when you make that decision, he will come and live within your heart. He will start a project on you you won't believe. He will make you all over again, from the inside out. He will turn you into the person you really want to be, if you'll put your trust in him. But you have to decide. Nobody can decide for you. Jesus didn't say to the group, "Do you believe"? He said to her, "Do you believe"? And I'm asking you today, "Do you believe this"? You say, "Well, Pastor, how do I convey that I believe"? You do that through prayer. You say that to the Lord. If you have never put your trust in Jesus Christ, I want you to pray this prayer in your heart, and the prayer is like this:
Dear Lord, I believe you are the Resurrection and the life. I believe you are the Son of God. I believe that you came to this earth to die on the cross and pay the penalty for all of my sin. And today, I choose you. I choose to believe in you and accept you as my Savior. Lord Jesus, today, I am making a decision to put you in control of my life and invite you to come and take me under control. Lord, I know how much you love me. I know what you did for me. I know that you say your offer is a gift and today, I accept your gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ, the Lord. It's in his precious risen name that I pray, amen.