Picture this. A friend of yours says, “I’m going to die. Then, on the third day, I’m going to rise from the dead.” How would you react? I think I’d have a really hard time not bursting out laughing!
But how would you react if your friend DID it? Would you be surprised? Of course! Would you understand it completely? Probably not right away. And … the next time your friend made a promise to you, do you think you’d listen? Absolutely!
The above scenario? That’s what Jesus did. He told his disciples on several occasions that he would die, and that he’d then rise. That’s exactly what happened.
Here’s how. After Jesus died—at 3:00 p.m. on Friday—several of his followers hastily buried him in a tomb cut out of the rock, like a cave. A stone was rolled in front of the entrance. The burial was hasty because the Sabbath Day began Friday at sundown—the Jews would not allow themselves to work on the Sabbath. The religious leaders remembered Jesus’ promise that he’d rise. Of course, they didn’t believe it, but they thought that the disciples might steal his body and claim he had risen. So, they asked Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, for permission to seal the tomb and post a guard. Pilate agreed.
Early Sunday morning an earthquake shook the whole area. An angel rolled the stone away from the front of the tomb, revealing that the tomb was empty. The grave clothes were still there, folded nicely. During that day, Jesus appeared several times to different groups of his followers, assuring them that he had risen, just as he’d promised.
During the next 40 days, Jesus appeared more than a dozen times after his resurrection, sometimes to individuals, sometimes to small groups, sometimes to his group of disciples, and one time he appeared before 500 people! He wanted people to know that he really had risen.
But so what? What does it mean? For the answer, listen to what the apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:17, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.” If Jesus didn’t rise, then his work was useless. If Jesus didn’t come out of the grave, you and I are stuck—stuck in our sins, with no way out. You and I would stand before God as guilty, to be condemned eternally.
But what if Christ HAS risen from the dead? What would that mean? That would mean that we’re no longer “in our sins.” That would mean we’re forgiven! That would mean that we stand before God as innocent! Christ HAS been raised! He did come out of the grave! That is God’s ULTIMATE proof to you that you’re forgiven, and by faith in the risen Christ you have a new life now and the sure hope of heaven forever!