Speaker: Ps Luwin Wong
Sermon Title: What if Jesus was Raised?
Translation: Deacon Shawn Seah
Scripture Text:1 Corinthians 15:12-20
Introduction: The two “IF”s of Easter
12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. 20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
Philip II of Macedon, the father of Alexander the Great, was on a conquest of the Greek empire. The city of Sparta remained one of the last that stood in his way.
So he sent them a message:
“You are advised to submit without further delay, for if I bring my army into your land, I will destroy your farms, slay your people, and raze your city.6
The King of Sparta replied with a single word: “If.”
What a difference an “if” makes. It could be the difference between the destruction or survival of a city. If can make a tremendous difference to things.
The reason why we’re here, celebrating Easter, is because we believe that on that Easter morning Jesus Christ rose from the dead.
Let me first address my fellow Christians with the first “If” of Easter.
What if Christ has not been raised? What if there had been no resurrection from the dead? If that’s the case, then Paul says, we Christians messed up big time. Imagine self-denying and suffering and living for the eternal kingdom and there is no eternal kingdom. There is just this world, which we have been trying our best to forsake for the next, and there is no next. That’s pretty sad isn’t it? That’s pitiful. Paul says we are of all men most to be pitied.
Remember this is the apostle Paul, once upon a time he had it all, a rising star in the ranks of the Pharisees, well respected by his peers, honoured by the Jews and protected by the Romans. Now he finds himself hated and persecuted by all sides. All because he became convinced that he encountered the resurrected Jesus of Nazareth. How pathetic, how pitiful, if that had only been a figment of his imagination, you know, a fevered dream, a silly fantasy.
If Christ had not been raised, we can end this service now. You can turn off your stream now. Members and visitors of Hermon and Gerizim we can go home now, and we never need to come back. And I’ll go home and update my resume.
If Christ has not been raised, then we Christians are wrong and they are right. Our faith is futile and this entire weekend has been a waste of time. If.
But here’s the second if of Easter, and I’ll address the non-Christians now.
If Christ has been raised, allow me to be blunt, then we are right and you are wrong.
We are not right about everything, oh man, of course not, far from it. But on the question of God, at least, we are right.
If Jesus of Nazareth rose from the grave on that first Easter morning, then we Christians are right about God. And you may be wrong about him.
You may be mistaken on at least one of these three things:
In an of itself, a resurrection isn’t really proof of God’s existence. It merely proves that a dead person came back to life again. It’s not even that uncommon, people flatline in hospitals around the world each day and are successfully resuscitated with a combination of CPR and a shot of adrenaline. That doesn’t automatically mean that God exists. And Christians certainly don’t advocate the worship of the revived patient.
But the resurrection of Jesus Christ is situated in an altogether different context. Here’s the context: Jesus of Nazareth, while he was on earth, went about claiming to be one with the Father. In other words, he’s claiming to be divine; he’s claiming to be God.
So what do you say to someone who walks around your neighbourhood claiming to be God? You say, “Shut up, you lunatic.” Right? That’s what you say, because those are the words of a madman.
But what if turns to you and say, “okay, say what you want, but here’s the evidence. Someone will be murdered in public, my body will subsequently be buried, and three days later I’ll come back to life.” What do you say? You say, “Shut up, you lunatic.” Because, again, these are the words of a madman.
But what happens if his words came true? You witnessed his death, read in the news that he was buried, and then three days later you saw him in the flesh. And he says, “told you.”
What happens then? You begin to wonder if you were in fact the one who has gone crazy. Right? Because you can no longer simply dismiss this person as a lunatic. You’d have to consider the possibility that he knows what he’s talking about. That what he’s saying is the truth; because the evidence backs up his claims.
You’d have to confront the likelihood that he is not mad, that he is, in fact, God.
And that’s the historical context of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. If Jesus rose from the grave on that first Easter morning, then the most straightforward interpretation of that event is that Jesus is who he claims to be. That Jesus is God.
And if Jesus is God, then God exists. So if Jesus Christ rose from the dead, you would be wrong to believe that God does not exist. If the resurrection is true, then you ought to reconsider atheism.
I was on a cab the other day. I had called a grab from church. And the driver could see that this was a church building and he asked me if I worked here, and I said “yes I do”, and he asked what I was working as, and I said, “I’m a pastor”, and he said, “Oh that’s good.”
So I asked him, “Are you religious?” And he said, “I’m a Buddhist”, and perhaps because he didn’t want to make things awkward, he quickly added “But I believe that every religion is right, Buddhist are right to believe their religion, Christians are right to believe in their religion. Everyone can believe in what they want to believe.”
And I really wanted to ask him, and I regret that I didn’t but he had changed to subject and I didn’t want to force the issue, but I really wanted to ask him, “What if Jesus was right?”
What if Jesus was right and it’s not the case that all religions are equal, or that they’re all right? What if Jesus was right and he is the only way to God?
Perhaps he would say that every monotheistic religion says the same thing, that Judaism, Islam and Christianity all claim that their faith is the only way to God. What makes Christianity more credible than them?
And I’d say what makes Christianity more credible than the rest is that God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Remember, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is bound up within a historico-theological context.
Which is to say, that the resurrection of Christ is evidence that he is the Son of God. The Son of God who does not lie. The Son of God who makes the claim that he is the way, the truth and the life, and there is no way to the Father except through him. That there is no other name under heaven by which man can be saved.
If God raised Jesus from the dead, then however palatable it may be, you simply cannot go on believing that all faiths are equally true, that your religious belief or opinion is just as right as any other.
If Christ is risen, then there is a God, and Jesus is the only way to Him. He is not irrelevant to your life. He is, on the contrary, your only hope for redemption, salvation and reconciliation with God. He is your good news.
What’s more, the bible says that God raised Jesus from the grave, he raised him to the highest place. Philippians 2:9-11 “God highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
If Jesus was raised, then he is Lord, and you will someday bend your knee before him as your king. Much better to do so as a friend then as a rebel. Jesus Christ is therefore not a footnote in your life. Is not someone safe to ignore, he is your king. His will is your command. His kingdom is your home.
So if Christ is risen, and you don’t know him, and you are largely living without consciousness of Him, you ought to reconsider his relevance in your life. If Christ is risen, he is king. Your King. You might, at the least, want to get to know him, and be right with him.
Finally, the resurrection of Jesus might mean you are wrong about the character of God.
Before Abraham Lincoln became president of the United States, he was lawyer. A very skilled and respected trial lawyer at that. In 1858, William Duff, was accused of murdering James Metzker with a slingshot moments before midnight. Lincoln was friends with the Duff family, and so he offered to defend William Duff at his murder trial, pro bono.
The principal witness of the prosecution was a man named Charles Allen. He took the stand to testify that he witnessed the murder from about 150 feet away. When it came to cross-examination, Abraham Lincoln asked him just one question: “How did you tell, from that distance, in the middle of the night, that it was in fact William Duff who committed the murder?”
Allen replied, “By the light of the Moon.”
Abraham Lincoln then produced an Almanac, which showed that on that night, at the time of the murder, there was no moon up in the sky which could have shone light onto the scene of the crime. There was no way Charles Allen could have identified William Duff from 150 feet away “by the light of the Moon.”
And that was that. The judge and the jury agreed, and William Duff was acquitted by that one single piece of evidence. Why? Because that evidence was just that strong. It was just that convincing.
Perhaps the reason you aren’t a Christian is not because you don’t believe that God exists, or because you don’t think that Jesus is who he clams to be. Perhaps the reason you aren’t a Christian is because you’re aren’t convinced that the Christian God is worthy of worship.
You have reservations about his character. You have questions about his morality, about his goodness, and his love for mankind. You look around at the world and your life, and you ask, “Does he actually care, is he actually good, does he really love me?”
If God raised Jesus raised the dead, then Jesus is the Son of God. Which raises the the question, why did the Son of God have to be raised in the first place? In other words, why did he even die? Immortality is supposed to be an attribute of divinity. It’s not at all intuitive that the Son of God would wind up dead.
First, why does anyone have to die? The bible says because of sin. Remember how God is king? Sin, is rebellion against God. It’s disobeying the king. Which takes the form of human greed and pride and envy and strife and hatred, things which is present in my heart and yours. Things which goes against the values of the king and his kingdom. And the consequence of defying the king is death. And so since sin resides in the heart of every man, so death comes to all man.
What about Jesus Christ? He is the King, and no sin is found in him, he never rebelled against the Father. So why did he die and then have to be raised from the grave?
The bible says that it’s because God the Father gave up the life of his Son, in exchange for ours. God sacrificed Jesus Christ for you and I. And this is evidence that he loves us.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
The only plausible explanation for why God gave up his beloved Son for us is because he loves us that much. You can speculate as much as you like about whether God was righteous in killing the Canaanites, whether a place such as hell is justified or who is responsible for the evil and suffering we see in the world and why doesn’t God just prevent it if he loves us so much. And these issues might be fertile ground for debate.
But is there really any debate about what the death of Jesus reveals about the Fathers heart for us? Will you really go to a Father who gave the life of his son to save you, and say, “I’m still not sure if you truly care for me”.
What is the reasonable argument can you summon against this piece of evidence? What more convincing do you need to be assured of God’s love for mankind?
Christians believe that the best explanation for that first Easter morning is that God God raised Jesus from the dead, so God exists. God raised Jesus not just to life, but to heights of his throne, so Jesus is Lord of all. God sent Jesus to the cross for our sins, and raised him to life again, so that in Christ, we might live eternally. And God did this because he loves us.
If Christ has not been raised, then I am mistaken, and you must disregard everything that I have said. But if Christ has been raised, I implore you reconsider your views about the existence, and the relevance and the heart of God for you today. I invite you to speak to a Christian friend about the message of Christianity, or come to Mt Hermon to find out more.
If Jesus is risen, we have good enough reason for Christianity.