“1But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb… 2 And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. 5 …the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” 8 And they remembered his words, 9 and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest…11 but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.” – Luke 24:1-12
One of the great things about Resurrection Sunday, is that for many people, it is a time to pause, take a breath, step back from the worries of life and celebrate the most important event in Human History. But let us not forget the state of the world in which we are celebrating the Resurrection…
There continues to be a deep sense of uncertainty and insecurity characterizes the world today. You can almost feel it in the air. Indeed, it is difficult to keep up with all the wars, terrorist attacks, violent conflicts, and threats that are erupting across the globe.
In the midst of turmoil, people tend to look for someone who can solve the problems; for some institution or individual leader to provide answers. Often times, people have looked to the government for solutions to our most serious problems. Some form of socialism is seen by many to be the path to take. But more and more people are beginning to realize that governments are often part of the problem. The confidence they once had in the State is beginning to crumble.
Many years ago, I heard Ravi Zacharias tell the Story of Billy Graham meeting with the Chancellor of Germany, Konrad Adenauer, shortly after WWII. This political leader had the responsibility of picking up the pieces left by the most destructive war in history. He was tasked with trying to rebuild the nation that had been the cause of so much devastation and suffering.
During the course of their conversation, the Chancellor asked, “Mr. Graham, do you really believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ?” Billy Graham was unsure about where this question might be going. He thought about it briefly and then responded, “Mr. Chancellor, if I did not believe in the resurrection, I would have no gospel to preach.”
Let us pause from this story and think about the Chancellor’s question and Billy Graham’s answer.
First, consider the significance of the Chancellor’s question…
Ask it of yourself, “DO I REALLY BELIEVE IN THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS CHRIST?” This is one of the most important questions that anyone can ask. “Do I actually believe that there was a man who lived 2,000 years ago in history, who died a terrible death on the cross, and then rose bodily on the 3rd day?” How you answer will determine the course of your life. Do you believe it? Or does it seem to you to be “an idle tale”?
Second, consider Billy Graham’s response to this question. “Yes, I believe in the Resurrection. If I didn’t I would have no good news to preach.”
Why did he make such a strong statement?
Perhaps Mr. Graham was thinking of Paul’s radical claim that the Resurrection is the foundation of Christian Faith. In I Cor. 15:14 & 17, he says, “14And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 17And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.”
For the Christian faith, everything hinges on this event. Christianity is not just a religion, a philosophy, a body of beliefs, or set of teachings. Christianity is rooted in the person and work of Jesus. It stands or falls on this question – Did Jesus rise from the dead or didn’t He?
Let’s come back to the natural inclination that many people have had through history to look to a political leader to save them or to solve their problems. This is not something new.
In the New Testament era, King Herod’s dynasty was very wealthy & powerful.
Herod the Great built the huge Herodian Fortress which can still be toured today. It was a marvelous feat of engineering and an imposing sight to behold. Herod’s mighty fortress casts a long shadow that falls across a small, seemingly insignificant town called Bethlehem. Hoku and I saw the Herodian when we visited Bethlehem last year. As Bible teacher Ray Vanderlaan suggests, in the early New Testament people would have looked to the Herodian Fortress and took notice of the power and wealth that it represented. But very few took notice of who was born in Bethlehem.
The people of Judea were looking for deliverance. Similar to today, there was a sense of fear and insecurity. They felt threatened by the Roman Empire. Perhaps they were looking to their leaders to provide solutions.
In this setting of political turmoil which marked first century Palestine, we find this interesting passage about the beginning of Jesus’ ministry: Luke 3:1-2
“In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene— 2 during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness.”
Notice that this passage lists seven well known rulers of the time. But, they did not have the solutions to society’s problems. The word of God was not revealed to any of them. It was revealed to some odd guy named John who had no political titles and no official place of distinction. It was John who prepared the way for Jesus.
Hope does not come from governments, rulers, scientists, economists or other man-made institutions. In a tiny corner of the Great Roman Empire, literally in the shadow of a great king’s monument, a baby was born. He lived a perfect life. He claimed to be God. He suffered a terrible death. He proved his power and His authority as God through his miraculous resurrection from the dead.
The Roman Empire came to an end. Jesus is still alive.
Through His resurrection He brought life to the world.
The people of that generation wanted physical deliverance. But Christ first brings spiritual deliverance: He gives us new hearts & spiritual transformation. But it is from these individual transformations that comes societal transformation.
Let’s return to the story of Billy Graham and the German Chancellor, Konrad Adenauer. After Graham’s declaration of belief in the resurrection, the Chancellor walked over to a window overlooking the bombed out ruins of Berlin and said,
“Mr. Graham, outside of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, I know of no other hope for mankind.”
In this troubled generation that we live in, let us not forget that there is only one hope. We are not looking for deliverance or working toward freedom. Rather, we are fighting from a freedom and a victory that has already been accomplished through the resurrection of Jesus!
Just before He went to the cross, Jesus said to his disciples, “Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.” – John 14:19
Our only hope is in the resurrection of Jesus and the new life He offers.
We serve a Risen Lord. A living hope. HE’S ALIVE!