TEXT:     John 20:1-31


There is no event greater in human history than the resurrection of Jesus Christ! If there is no resurrection, there is no Christianity! The apostle Paul says this clearly: (I Cor. 15:17-19) "And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men."

The Christian faith rises or falls on the resurrection of Christ. There is deep evidence of Christ's resurrection, both from history and from nature. Every cycle of this planet is a "death-resurrection" cycle. In fact, it is a known fact of science that life springs from death. It is therefore appropriate that Spring is the time we celebrate Christ's resurrection.

This is the greatest joy in Christianity, no Christian can ignore the resurrection of Christ, it is what makes us Christians!

ILLUS:On the Easter just before he died, D. William Sangster painfully printed a short note to his daughter. A deeply spiritual Methodist, he had been spearheading a renewal movement in the British Isles after World War II. Then his ministry, except for prayer, was ended by a disease which progressively paralyzed his body, even his vocal chords. But the last Resurrection Sunday he spent on earth, still able to move his fingers, he wrote: "How terrible to wake up on Easter and have no voice to shout, 'He is risen!' Far worse, to have a voice and not want to shout." -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 167.
PROP. SENT: The Bible teaches us that Christ opens a way for man to have fellowship with God, and it is through His son Jesus Christ who died for us and now ever lives. Those who receive Christ as Lord and savior will also live forever with Him.

I. TERROR OF DEATH     20:1-9

A. Fearful     20:1-7 1. Mary Magdalene arrives at the tomb on Sunday morning early, she had come to properly prepare Jesus' body for burial. a. She had been unable to do this earlier because all the shops were closed due to and the law forbid it on a sabbath and Passover. b. This was the first day by Jewish law she could embalm Jesus' body. 2. What makes the idea crazy that the disciples somehow stole Jesus' body to make up a story of a resurrection is the fact that none of them expected Jesus to rise from the dead...the disciples were in hiding for fear, and the women were buying spices to properly embalm Jesus' body....none of them were hatching plans to deceive the whole world! a. Besides this, there was stationed a special guard of soldiers to make sure this didn't happen anyway. b. And a huge stone had been placed over the tomb to seal it, it would not be possible for a few women to move it. 3. Jesus' friends and loved ones were all afraid...they were too afraid to deceive the world. a. Like most people, death brought fear into their hearts. b. They saw Jesus' death as final, they weren't even thinking resurrection! c. Ironically, the only ones concerned about this possibility were the Religious leaders who hated Jesus, that is why they got Pilate to station a band of soldiers around the tomb because of the teachings of Christ that He would rise again! d. The enemy was more worried about this than the disciples! 4. Mary probably hoped the soldiers would remove the stone so she could enter and dress Jesus' body for burial. B. Final?     20:8-9 1. Did Jesus' friends think he would rise again? NO! a. Why would Mary bring embalming spices with her if she believed this? b. Why would the disciples hide in fear if they thought Jesus would rise again? c. Those who came to the tomb to see Jesus' body expected a dead man, they came crying, not rejoicing! like most people today, death was a final act in their minds. 2. They were in for a surprise however! a. When Mary gets there, the soldiers are gone...they had fainted in fear when the angel rolled away the stone and had gone back into town to report this. b. The soldier's story doesn't make any sense...they claimed that the disciples came during the night and stole Jesus' body while they slept! IF THIS WERE TRUE..how would they have known the disciples did this, didn't they say they were ASLEEP WHEN IT HAPPENED!? This is an obvious contradiction ... you can't know something has happened or who did it while you are sleeping! Their statement actually helps us to realize that this was a ploy on the part of the authorities to discredit Jesus' resurrection, it doesn't make sense! c. The other way we know this was a story made up by the authorities is that soldiers on duty who deserted their post and failed on guard duty were ALWAYS executed by Roman law...these soldiers not only lived after their failure, but they were suddenly rich, given a bribe by the authorities to keep their silence about the truth. 3. The other story of course that is popular today is that Jesus simply passed out on the cross and awoke in the tomb after a couple of days...BUT: ILLUS:A woman wrote J. Vernon McGee: "Our preacher said that on Easter Jesus just swooned on the cross and that the disciples nursed him back to health. What do you think?" McGee replied, "Dear Sister, beat your preacher with a leather whip for thirty-nine heavy strokes. Nail him to a cross. Hang him in the sun for six hours Run a spear through his heart. Embalm him. Put him in an airless tomb for three days. Then see what happens."-- Robert Russell, "Resurrection Promises," Preaching Today, Tape 151. 4. Imagine a weak revived Jesus rolling away this huge stone too? 5. The rolled away stone and the empty tomb however demonstrate that death isn't so final after all! a. Why did Jesus even have the stone rolled away? That same day He appeared to His disciples by walking right through a locked door and appeared in the room to speak with them...he didn't need the stone rolled away to get out, IT WAS ROLLED AWAY NOT TO LET HIM OUT, BUT TO LET US IN TO SEE AN EMPTY TOMB! b. Mary found it empty, Peter found it empty, John found it empty...and the "FINE LINEN" grave clothes undisturbed! c. It was not uncommon in that day for grave robbers to break in to get the "FINE LINEN" that bodies were wrapped in, but there are no stories of robbers who broke in to steal a naked body and leave the expensive fine linen like this!! 6. What is obvious here is that Jesus was alive and well...and He conquered death! a. He left the door open so man could walk into an empty tomb and realize what had happened! (The door is still open on Jesus' tomb in Israel!) b. Christianity is the only religion on the face of the earth with its founder's grave empty today...all the others contain the bodies of their founder still intact! 7. It is stamped into our hearts to want to live forever, just look at what people will do to try and avoid death! ILLUS:Number of deceased people frozen in hopes of someday being brought back to life: 50 Price for these services, including storage: $120,000 Price for freezing and storing only the head of the client: $41,000 -- Health, 1-2/93. "To Verify," Leadership. 8. The open door, the empty tomb, the appearances of Jesus all point to one thing: Death is not final!!! II. TRIUMPH OVER DEATH     20:10-23
A. Frustration     20:10-23 1. As even further proof that there was no plot by His friends to make this story of resurrection up, Mary is still distraught and unbelieving even after finding the tomb empty, she assumes the gardener or someone took Jesus' body somewhere. a. It would be pointless looking for a body if she thought He was alive! b. It states that she "wept"...this word in Greek literally means, "a loud wailing!"...this was no small expression of grief, she doesn't have faith here, she is distraught. 2. Death leaves most people distraught and frustrated, for we discover how helpless we really are to control our lives ultimately! 3. Even when Jesus stands in front of her she doesn't expect to see Him, she assumes he is the gardener. 4. The truth is hard to see and accept, her faith and that of most of the disciples was non existent at this point...though Jesus was obviously there, she fails to see Him for who He really is! a. How many people do this today, they attend Church, and they sense God's presence and yet fail to accept Christ as Lord. b. How many people today hear stories of God's work in other people's lives and still fail to see Jesus right there!? 5. She could have ended her frustration and instead found great joy if only she realized Jesus was right there...He makes the difference! B. Free!     20:16-23 1. Jesus simply speaks one word...her name, and immediately her eyes are opened! a. Immediately she becomes aware that the most incredible thing to believe can actually happen...Jesus rose from the dead! b. This of course changes everything! c. She clutches at Jesus' feet, a symbol in that day of acknowledging your place as servant before a master. 2. Jesus tells her to quit trying to cling so hard to him that He cannot complete His journey to His father in heaven, a journey necessary to prepare a place for them and for us. 3. Is this so incredible to believe, can something destroyed really become whole again? a. If man can do this, why not God! ILLUS:A workman of the great chemist Michael Faraday accidentally knocked a silver cup into a solution of acid. It was promptly dissolved, eaten up by the acid. The workman was terribly disturbed by the accident. The chemist came in and put a chemical into the jar, and shortly all the silver was precipitated to the bottom. The shapeless mass was lifted out and sent to the silversmith, and the cup was restored to its original shape. If a human genius can do a things like this, why should we doubt that God can raise the dead? --James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 166. b. God has all power, even over death! c. Death is not the end! 4. Jesus appears to his 10 disciples... Judas is dead, and Thomas was missing this night of His first appearance. a. He appears through solid walls and a locked door, this is why we know that the stone was rolled away to let us in, not to let Him out! b. His body is real, this is no ghost, Jesus comes to them! c. He is trying to come to you today, will you believe? III. TEST OF A DISCIPLE     20:24-31 A. Faithless     20:24-25 1. Thomas reflects the attitude of many people today, doubts are strong! a. Another good piece of evidence that the disciples didn't perpetrate a scam over humanity, Thomas was one of Jesus' disciples and even after his friends said they saw Jesus alive he didn't believe them! b. These were hardly candidates for pulling the wool over humanity's eyes! 2. Thomas insists that he won't believe unless he can actually touch Jesus' body and prove to himself that He was real and really alive! a. Thomas was an interesting guy, he appears in the Bible to be kind of a pessimist, but never quite walks away from a commitment. b. There are many Thomases in this world today too! 3. Thomas clearly says he won't believe without proof! B. Faith!     20:26-31 1. A week later, again behind locked doors Jesus appears to them all, this time with Thomas present.... a. If he didn't believe, what kept him there for a whole week? b. Somewhere down deep the hope that his friends were right kept him in the group. 2. Jesus offers Thomas what he asked for...but Thomas doesn't need the proof, in fact, he doesn't touch Jesus when allowed to, he simply falls on his knees and confesses that Christ is Lord! a. In his heart he knew! b. And if many people today were to search their hearts they would be surprised to find a faith that they don't want to admit is there! 3. The world says, "SEEING IS BELIEVING", but faith makes it: "BELIEVING IS SEEING!" - that is how faith works, opposite of this world's way of thinking! 4. Jesus now expresses His last beatitude: "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." This is the heart of faith! ILLUS:A true story is told about a distinguished man, the only white person buried in a Georgia cemetery reserved exclusively for blacks. He had lost his mother when he was just a baby. His father, who never married again, hired a black woman named Mandy to help raise his son. She was a Christian, and she took her task seriously. Seldom has a motherless boy received such warmhearted attention. One of his earliest memories was of Mandy bending tenderly over him in his upstairs bedroom each day and softly saying, "Wake up--God's mornin' is come. As the years passed this devoted woman continued to serve as his surrogate mother. The young man went away to college, but when he would come home on holidays and in the summer she would still climb the stairs and call him in the same loving way. One day after he had become a successful statesman, the sad message came: "Mandy is dead. Can you attend her funeral?" As he stood by her grave in the cemetery, he turned to his friends and said, "If I die before Jesus comes, I want to be buried here beside Mandy. I like to think that on Resurrection Day she'll speak to me again and say, 'Wake up, my boy, God's mornin' is come!"' -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) pp. 163-164. 5. What do you believe? How you answer that can determine where you will spend eternity! a. For those who receive Christ, His life beats in their soul and they will live forever with Him! b. For those who reject Him there is only the certainty of eternal life without Christ. 6. Two destinies, but really only one choice....what will yours be? CONCLUSION:   The angels didn't roll away the stone to let Jesus out! That same night He walked through a solid locked door, the stone was rolled away to let us in! Why? To see that the tomb was empty! Jesus conquered death and all those who believe in Him will live forever too! The tomb now is a womb into everlasting life! Do you believe?