Easter: “Going All In”
April 4, 2021

An Easter Message
“Going All In”

Billy Graham once told Time magazine, “If I were an enemy of Christianity, I would aim right at the Resurrection, because that is the heart of Christianity.” (Billy Graham) (Crosswalk “A World Without Easter”)

You see, Christianity is all about Jesus going all in, that is, dying upon the cross, and rising from the dead. And so, what we might say is that Jesus not only went all the way into the grave, but also came all the way out.

But Graham wasn’t far off, because the world and scholars have been trying to disprove the Christian faith by aiming right at the Resurrection. This is seen in several of the myths and false theories that have been circulating for hundreds if not thousands of years, but they have no validity and have been rebuffed and proven false time and time again.

But there is an old adage that says, “If you keep telling the lie long enough, and passionately enough, then eventually it is going to be believed as the truth.”

And so, what are these various myths and false theories?

The Swoon Theory

The swoon theory says that Jesus didn’t actually die, but rather He went into a deep coma, or “swooned” on the cross from the severe pain and trauma from His Crucifixion. However, in the cool atmosphere of the tomb, they say that He “revived,” and it was in this state that He showed Himself to His disciples.

However, what we must understand is that the Roman guards were actually the first to report Jesus’s death (John 19:33–37). Further, they were experts at execution and would have been put to death themselves if they allowed a condemned man to escape death. They were so certain that Jesus was dead, they did not even bother to break His legs. And when the spear they thrust into Jesus’ side brought forth blood and water, this was the proof they needed that Jesus was indeed dead, because this only occurs when the heart stops beating.

Now consider, for the “swoon” theory to work, Jesus would have had to survive massive loss of blood through the scourging, the nail wounds, and the spear thrust.
• In addition to this He would have had to endure 40 hours without food or drink, manage to unwrap Himself from His grave clothes, which would have been no easy task seeing that his hands and arms were wrapped up as well.
• And then He would had to have the strength to roll away the massive stone closing the tomb, fight off and defeat both the Roman and Jewish soldiers that stood guard outside the tomb, and then convince His followers that He had risen from the dead.
• And to top it all off, He would have had to delude His disciples that He could somehow appear in the middle of the room without using the door to get in.

The Mass Hallucination Theory

This theory promotes that everyone who claimed to have seen the risen Jesus were actually having one mass hallucination out of an earnest desire to see Jesus alive again.

But consider that Jesus’s disciples never expected to see Jesus after His death and burial (Mark 16:10–11). It came as a complete surprise and total shock to them.

What’s totally ironic when it comes down to this is that it was those who didn’t believe in Him as the Messiah initially had more faith in Jesus’s words than His disciples. The chief priests and Pharisees came to see Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise.’ Therefore, command that the tomb be made secure until the third day, lest His disciples come by night and steal Him away, and say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead.’ So the last deception will be worse than the first.” (Matthew 27:63–64 NKJV). They remembered Jesus’s words concerning the Resurrection, while the disciples had apparently forgotten them!

The problem, however, with this being a mass hallucination is that I am told that it is impossible for more than two people to have the exact same hallucination, and here we’re talking about over 500 people.

The Stolen Body Theory

This theory says that Jesus’s disciples took His body in order to fulfill His words that He would rise again (John 2:19-21). According to Scripture, on the day is His resurrection, the temple guards told the chief priests what had transpired. The chief priests then bribed the guards, telling them to spread this story instead of what they had witnessed (Matthew 28:11–15).

But how could Jesus’s disciples steal His body. They fled and hid, and were convinced that He was dead, as we see when the women came with news of Jesus’s resurrection, it seemed nonsensical, and they didn’t believe (Luke 24:11). The apostles had no reason to counterfeit Jesus’s resurrection since they did not even believe it themselves.

Further, how could 11 frightened men, none of them soldiers, face trained Romans soldiers and temple guards that were surrounding the tomb. Earlier they fled for their lives while Jesus was still alive, and now they were able to muster the courage and ingenuity to steal the body from a guarded tomb, and then boldly start preaching and teaching about a Jesus they knew was dead?

And just as a side note, what sort of confidence would anyone have to say that Jesus rose from the dead seeing that the guy was dead.

Now, there are other theories floating out there, along with those who twist the scriptures to fulfill their rendition, like when they say that Jesus only tasted death, in other words, He really didn’t die but tasted what death would have been like.

A Big Cover Up

Today, our society and culture have gone so far as to move people away from the message about the resurrection of Jesus Christ that they invented a real fable and called it Easter, and how a rabbit can lay eggs, and not just eggs, colored eggs at that. And just so no one misses this, it takes far more faith to believe in that than it does to believe that Jesus rose from the grave.

Yet, you don’t see society up in arms about this, but rather they embrace it, and that’s because Easter is one of the more profitable days in retail.

But the truth is that Jesus went all in, that is, He died and was buried.

Now, while we looked at the adage about telling lies long enough that they become people’s truths, there is something else that is true, and that is, those who do not believe in Jesus’s resurrection, and say there is no evidence that Jesus died and rose again, what they are really saying is that they don’t recognize the evidence as proof, because they have their own version and beliefs.

But, if I could, let me say that one of the main reason, if not the main reason, why people do not want to believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ is because they don’t want to follow Him and do what He says.

Proof of the Resurrection

The Empty Tomb

The empty tomb is attested by early independent sources. Both Matthew and John quote multiple sources as seeing the tomb being empty. It is also mentioned as a fact in the Book of Acts in Peter’s first sermon after Pentecost.

He said that while King David is both dead and buried, and his tomb can easily be checked, God had sworn an oath that the Messiah would be raised from the dead, so His flesh wouldn’t see correction. And in the end, he said, “This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses.” (Acts 2:32 NKJV)

Now, for those who would disagree or want to squash such a claim made by Peter, all they had to do is go and open the tomb and produce His body. But, because no one ever did, and I’m talking about the Jewish high counsel and the Romans, it therefore must be concluded that it was and still is true.

The second proof of the empty tomb is that the gospel writers talk about women being the first on the scene and that they were the first ones who saw the empty tomb. Why is that significance? It’s because in the Jewish society back then women weren’t highly regarded, and thus not permitted to testify as a witness in a court of law. Yet, it was the women who they used as witnesses to testify as to the reality of the empty tomb.

The Appearances of Jesus

There were quite a few people who saw Jesus alive after the resurrection. You have the 11 disciples along with Mary Magdalene, his brother James, and least 500 who then witnesses His accession, most who were still alive when Paul wrote his first letter to the Corinthian church where he outlines this for further consideration.

We also have Thomas’s declaration. He wasn’t there the first time, and so he wanted to make sure that Jesus really did rise from the death and not some imposter masquerading as Jesus. He said, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” (John 20:25 NKJV)

And when Thomas had witnesses Jesus He cried out, “My Lord and My God (John 20:28 NKJV) What we might say is that this is the strongest evidence for the resurrection that there is, because as a Jew, Thomas would never call anyone else by the name of God than God.

And here is the blessing for all of us today who believe, and yet have not seen Jesus as they did. Jesus said, “Because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29 NKJV)

Changed Lives

Probably the most telling proof to the resurrection would be the lives of the early Christians. They went everywhere to share the message of the resurrection. They weren’t rewarded with prestige or power; instead, they were beaten, stoned, tortured, thrown into prison and the lions, and crucified.

The disciples radically changed as well, going from cowering men to being fearless in the face of death. Every one of them was persecuted and martyred for their faith, with the exception of John, which while they tried, he never died. And here’s the question, if it was all a lie, and if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, then why would they want to die for a lie. They wouldn’t have, which is proof of His resurrection.

Saul of Tarsus, whom we know as the Apostle Paul went from being a persecutor of Christians to becoming a believer and missionary for the one in whom he persecuted others for following, after his encounter with the risen Jesus, and then was himself persecuted for his faith.

And then there is our own testimonies of how our lives changed when we came into the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, who was crucified, buried, and who rose from the dead, and it is that belief that changes our lives.

Historical Records

What we have are historical accounts of Jesus, and so for those who would deny his existence, these accounts would prove just the opposite.

First there is Luke, whom many historians call his record one of more accurate concerning life and the people of that day.

But then you have two historians who had no skin in the game so to say. First there is Josephus, a Jewish historian from the 1st century who references that Jesus was crucified and then how it was reported that He rose from the dead and was alive. Now, he didn’t see it or witness it, but recorded what was common knowledge.

Tactius, Roman Historian, wrote concerning the fire that destroyed most of Rome by Nero, but instead of supporting Nero, he wrote what happened. “But all human efforts, all the lavish gifts of the emperor, and the propitiations of the gods, did not banish the sinister belief that the conflagration was the result of an order. Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus.”

Now, of these records there have been thorough studies made, and what they have found should give us hope.

There is the testimony of Simon Greenleaf. Greenleaf, who himself was Jewish, was a distinguished law professor in Harvard’s School of Law. The London Law Magazine called him the most highly esteemed legal authority of the 20th century. In fact, you can still order his multi-volume law book, “A Treatise on the Law of Evidence.”

After a thorough study of the evidence of the death and resurrection of Jesus, Mr. Greenleaf endorsed the truth of the resurrection and has written several books on the accumulated evidence.

Next there is Sir Edward Clark, a British High Court judge, who also after a thorough legal analysis said, “To me the evidence is conclusive, and over and over again in the High Court I have secured the verdict on evidence not nearly so compelling. As a lawyer I accept the gospel evidence unreservedly as the testimony of truthful men to facts that they were able to substantiate.”

Michael Green, a British theologian said, “The appearances of Jesus are as well authenticated as anything in antiquity…There can be no rational doubt that they occurred, and that the main reason why Christians become sure of the resurrection in the earliest days was just this. They could say with assurance, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ They knew it was he.”

And so, since Jesus went all in, He desires for us to do the same.

Jesus said something interesting to the disciples in the last Passover meal He had with them. As He picked up a wash basin and towel to wash the disciples’ feet, He said, “I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.” (John 13:15 NKJV)

Now, this was in the area of being a servant, seeing that washing someone’s feet was given to the lowest servant in a household, but I see this as having further ramifications. Jesus is our example, and has given us an example to follow, and that is going all in when it comes to our discipleship, even to the point of dying to ourselves so that we can live for Him.

Jesus gives us this example as He died upon the cross.

And Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” (Luke 9:23 NKJV)

And so, if we are to follow His example, we too must go all in. We must become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ. And while we might think that this is too hard, as Jesus and the Bible calls us to do things we may not like or don’t want to do, there is a blessing that comes from it.

Consider once again that Jesus went all in, He went all the way, even though He wished and prayed for another way and outcome.

In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me.” But then wanting the Father’s will and way and not His own, Jesus went on to say, “Nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” (Matthew 26:39 NKNV)

Jesus was then arrested, unfairly tried, unmercifully beaten and whipped, and put upon the cross where He died. He was then placed in the tomb, and a large stone covering was rolled in place, and sealed. You might say, Jesus went all the way in.

But Jesus also came all the way out. On the third day, the day we are celebrating today, Jesus rose from the dead and exited the tomb alive.

It says on the first day of the week, or Sunday, the women came to the tomb, but when they got there, the stone was rolled away, and there they met an angel who said, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.” (Matthew 28:5-6 NKJV)

And so, when we go all in with Jesus, where He is not only our Savior, but also He is our Lord, that as our Lord, we are to completely follow Him, and the outcome is not only an abundant life right here and now, but eternal life in heaven once this life is over.

The Apostle Paul tells us that because he has been crucified with Christ, that is, putting to death all fleshly passions and desires, it is no longer his life that he lives, but that Christ lives in him (Galatians 2:20, 5:24). Therefore, he is now a new creation, where the old is passed and gone, and now everything has become new (1 Corinthians 5:17)

And Jesus said that while Satan is out to steal, kill, and destroy, He came to bring abundance to our lives (John 10:10). And then Jesus also said that whoever loses their life for Him, they will actually save it (Mark 8:35).

And so, as we think about Easter, it’s all about going all in, all in in our relationship with Christ, and then in the end we come out save, sanctified, and eventually glorified in heaven with Him.

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