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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Robert Jeffress » Robert Jeffress - Grave Matters

Robert Jeffress - Grave Matters

Robert Jeffress - Grave Matters
TOPICS: Easter

Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to "Pathway to Victory". Over the years, I've met well-meaning but very misguided people who told me this. They said, "When Jesus died, I believe his Spirit went to heaven, but I don't think he rose from the dead". So, what do you believe? And what's the big deal about a physical resurrection of Jesus? Well, today, I'm going to share five reasons why it's extremely important. My message is titled, "Grave Matters," on today's edition of "Pathway to Victory".

In an article entitled "Grave Matters," the New Testament scholar N.T. Wright wrote of an interesting article that appeared on Palm Sunday 1996 in the London "Sunday Times". It was an article that declared that an archaeological discovery had now shaken Christianity to its very foundation. What was that discovery? In Israel, in a family plot, so to speak, there were a number of ossuaries, bone boxes is what they are, that had some interesting names on them. One had the name of Mary, one that had the name of Joseph, one, somebody named Judah, and there was a bone box with the name "Jesus" on it. Oh, they were so sure this was the smoking gun that proved that the Resurrection was a myth. Now, of course, all those names are familiar names in the Middle East. There's nothing to suggest that it belonged to the family we know, but even if it did belong to them, so what?

I have a grave reserved for me in Van Alstyne, Texas, but I'm not in it. Just having a place for your future burial doesn't mean anything. But what they didn't realize was by pointing out this bone box discovery, they were actually making an argument for the Resurrection instead of against it. Let me explain what I mean. In the Middle East, there was a two-step burial process. When somebody died, and their body was wrapped in spices to prevent a premature decay of the body, and the body was placed on a shelf in a tomb, just like Jesus was. It would take about a year for the body to completely decompose. And after about a year, the relatives would come and collect the bones and put it in an ossuary, a bone box, so that the shelf was clear for the next family member.

Now, just think about it. If indeed, this bone box were for Jesus, it would have meant that after a year after his death, somebody would have gone back to collect the bones. Can you imagine what that would have done to the Christian movement? If after a year, just as soon as Christianity was getting off the ground, the bones of Jesus were discovered? It would have destroyed the Christian movement from the very beginning. There were no bones in that bone box because there were no bones left behind. When Jesus was raised from the dead, he was raised bodily, literally, not just spiritually. Now, not everybody believes that's a big deal. For example, one scholar was talking about why he didn't believe that an empty tomb really mattered that much. He said, "I think the resurrection of Jesus really happened, but I have no idea if it involves something happening to his corpse. And therefore, I have no idea if it involves an empty tomb. So, I would have no problem whatsoever with archaeologists finding the corpse of Jesus. For me, that would not be discrediting of the Christian faith or of the Christian tradition".

The apostle Paul begs to differ. He says a literal bodily resurrection is the core of our Christian belief. He wrote in 1 Corinthians 15: "But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain". Why is an empty grave important? I want to share with you this morning briefly, five reasons an empty grave matters. First of all, an empty tomb verifies the truth of scripture. It verifies the truth of the entire scriptures. Throughout the New Testament, we find over and over again the prophecy and the declaration that Jesus rose from the dead. In Acts chapter 2, Peter stood on the southern steps to the temple and preached the first sermon in the history of the church. He said, "But God raised Jesus up again, putting an end to the agony of death since it's impossible for him to be held in its power".

Verse 29: "I, Peter, may confidently say to you regarding the patriarch David that he both died and he was buried," and his tomb is with us to this day. We know where David is. We know where his body is. Verse 32: "But this Jesus, God raised him up again to which we are all witnesses". It was the central message of the newborn church. Jesus prophesied in John 2:19: "He answered to them, 'Destroy this temple, this body, and in three days, I will raise it up.'" In Matthew 16:21, the Bible says, "From that time on Jesus began to teach his disciples how he must go to Jerusalem, how he must suffer at the hands of the elders and chiefs and scribes, and how he must be killed and raised up on the third day".

Jesus prophesied it was going to happen. You know what's interesting? Even Jesus's enemies knew that a literal body resurrection, that that was essential to Christ's message. How did they know that? Look at Matthew 27, verses 62 to 64. Jesus died on Friday. He was buried before sundown on Saturday. Notice what happened: "Now on the next day, Saturday, the day after the preparation, the chief priest and the Pharisees gathered together with Pilate. And they said, 'Sir, we remember that when Jesus was still alive, that deceiver said, "After three days, I'm going to rise again". Therefore, give orders for the grave to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body away and say, "He has risen from the dead," and the last deception will be worse than the first'".

Now, if Jesus meant by resurrection, that his Spirit would go to heaven, how would anybody know if that happened or not? The reason they had to guard the tomb was they understood that Jesus was claiming his body would be raised from the dead. And if the disciples stole the body, then that would mean Jesus's claim was true, that he was the Messiah. And so they said, "We're gonna do whatever we need to make sure that body is not stolen and give a false verification that Jesus is actually the Son of God". That's why the angel said to those who had come searching for the body of Jesus, in Matthew 28: "Do not be afraid, for I know that you're looking for Jesus who has been crucified. He is not here. He has risen, just as he said. Come, see the place where he was lying".

Why is an empty grave necessary? It verifies the truth of what the scripture said about the literal bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Secondly, an empty grave is important because it ratifies the sufficiency of Christ's death. It ratifies the sufficiency of Christ's death. A bodily resurrection proves that Christ has forgiven you of your sins. In Romans 4:25 Paul said, "Jesus, who was delivered over because of our transgressions, was raised because of our justification". He was crucified to pay for our sins, but he was raised to prove that that payment actually went through, so to speak, that it was sufficient for our sins. Here's what I mean by that. Anybody can go around saying, "Oh, I will pay for your sins. I'll pay for your sins". But how do you know if he actually accomplished it? It's the Resurrection that proves that God accepted his payment.

Let me illustrate it for you this way. Just imagine that our executive pastor Ben Lovvorn comes into my office tomorrow and he said, "Pastor, I'm just really down," and I say, "Well, Ben, what's going on"? He said, "Well, you know, we're just under a lot of financial pressure. We've got that baby coming at the end of the week. And not only that, Paris has spent too much time at Nordstrom buying all this stuff for the baby and getting ready for it. And our Visa card is charged up to the maximum. I don't know what we're gonna do". And I said, "Well, Ben, I don't want you to be under that pressure. Give me the Visa bill. I'll pay it for you". And Ben lightens up and he says, "Pastor, you're even more wonderful than I thought you were. Thank you so much for doing that". I said, "No problem".

A month later, Ben gets a call from Visa: "Where's our money"? Ben says, "Oh, well, my pastor, Dr. Jeffress, paid that for me. Don't you have a record of his check"? And they search the computer. "Oh, yeah, we see Dr. Jeffress did send in a check, but that was to cover his Visa bill. There's nothing left over for you. You're still on your own". Now, I know that's a silly illustration, but it's an illustration of exactly what Christ did. He claimed to pay for our sins. He said on the cross, "Tetelestai," it is finished, paid in full. But how do we know if that payment was accepted by God? Listen to me. If Jesus, after he died, remained in the grave, then it meant he was paying for his sins, not our sins. But the fact that God raised him from the dead proves that we are justified, declared righteous, by believing in the crucified and the risen Christ. That's what I mean. It is an empty grave that proves the sufficiency of Christ's payment for our sins.

Thirdly, it is the resurrection, the empty tomb, that clarifies the nature of eternity. The resurrection clarifies the nature of eternity. The late Dr. Tim LaHaye was a friend of mine. He was a great writer. The "Left Behind" series, great books on Bible prophecy. Tim says that one of the things that prevented him from becoming a Christian earlier in life was the thought that all Christianity had to offer was the promise that one day we would be some disembodied spirit floating around on a cloud, plucking a harp. And Tim wasn't real interested in that. But it's only when he understood what the Resurrection was that he came to understand what we're gonna be like in all eternity.

The Bible says we're not going to be a disembodied spirit. We were created body, soul, and spirit. There's never been a time we haven't always been body, soul, and spirit, and there never will be a time that we exist without a body. The Bible says God made us with a body. What is that body going to be like? 1 Corinthians 15:20 gives us a hint: "But now Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first fruits of those who are asleep". Later in 1 Corinthians 15, Paul continues that analogy of our resurrection with a harvest. And he said, there are two things you need to know about this harvest, the spiritual harvest that's coming. First of all, the harvest is superior to the seed. In verse 37, Paul says, "And that which you sow, you don't sow the body which is to be, but a bare grain perhaps of wheat or something".

In other words, what you plant is inferior to what you receive at the harvest. The harvest is superior. In verse 38, Paul said, "But God gives it a body just as he chooses, and to each of the seeds, a body of its own". Every seed is different. You don't plant an apple seed and harvest a kumquat. What you plant is what you get. There's some similarities between the two. That was true in Jesus's body. Even though his body was superior from what he had on earth, his disciples recognized him. There were some features that were similar. Even the way he broke bread was similar. Whether he was right-handed or left-handed, we don't know, but some things remained. What Paul is saying is that this clarifies the nature of eternity.

Fourthly, why does an empty grave matter? Because an empty grave energizes the people of God. That writer N.T. Wright I mentioned a few moments ago, notes that half of the references in the Bible to running have to do with the Resurrection. Did you know that? Half of the times the Bible talks about running, it's in reference to the Resurrection. Matthew 28, verses 7 and 8. "An angel of the Lord said, 'Go quickly, and tell the disciples that he has risen from the dead and behold, he is going ahead of you into Galilee and you will see him.' And the women left the tomb quickly and with great fear and great joy, and they ran to report it to the disciples". The women ran from the empty tomb, the man ran to the empty tomb. But everybody was running. Why? There was a sense of urgency. There was a sense of excitement when they saw the risen Christ. And we need to have that same energy today as well.

Finally, why is an empty grave important? The empty grave is important because it exemplifies the victory of God. It exemplifies the victory of God. Now please, stay with me on this. God's original plan for the world had no death as a part of it, no mourning, no crying, no pain. That was never a part of God's plan. The Bible says it is the usurper, Satan himself, who brought those things in the world through a willing vehicle in Adam and Eve, "For by sin, death came into the world, and death spread to all men because all sinned," Romans 5:12 says. That wasn't a part of God's plan. It is Satan, Jesus said, who is the thief who comes to kill and steal and destroy. Now, here's what I want you to listen to.

If when we die, God says, "I'm gonna take your spirit to be with me, but I can't do anything about your body. I can't do anything. Satan won that victory when he brought sin into the world, but I'll bring your spirit into heaven. And not only that, I'll bring you to be with me here in heaven, but you can't remain on the Earth. Satan has that. He owns that land. It's his real estate whatsoever, but just come up with me in your spirit to heaven and we'll reside in this corner of the universe and we'll let Satan have the world that he's claimed for himself".

Do you think God's gonna allow that to happen? Do you think God is going to let Satan have the final word in what happens to our bodies or what happens to the Earth that he created for your eternity? Not on your life. God is not going to allow Satan to have the last word on this. And the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is just a hint about what God is going to do one day. The resurrection of Jesus is just the beginning of God's process of completely reclaiming this world for himself. And that's why an empty grave matters.

I think about Easter Sunday, April 8, 1945. A godly pastor was imprisoned. His name was Dietrich Bonhoeffer. And on that Easter Sunday, Bonhoeffer preached his last message. His text was, "By his stripes, we are healed," and he had not finished his sermon when the prison doors opened, and one of the soldiers said, "Prisoner Bonhoeffer, come with us". He leaned over to a friend and he said, "This is the end. But for me, it is a new beginning of life". The next morning under the gray skies of the Flossenbürg concentration camp, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was hanged on the gallows. Although he is gone, his words remain with us today. This is the end. But it's also the new beginning of life for us. A.W. Tozer said, "If the Resurrection proves anything, it proves who won and who lost". "I am the resurrection and the life," Jesus said. "He who believes in me, though he were dead yet shall he live again". That's why an empty grave matters.
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