I Have Seen the Lord
I find it interesting that over the years the debate about the resurrection has changed. Have you noticed that also? When I was young, the argument was over whether the bodily resurrection is something that could have historically happened. It was important what you believed about the resurrection back then. You either believed in the reality of the resurrection of Jesus Christ or you didn’t.
If you believed in the reality of the resurrection of Jesus, then generally you believed the rest of the Bible, . . . you called yourself a Christian, . . . and you began to live by faith in a relationship with Jesus as your Savior. If you didn’t believe in the resurrection, well, then you were choosing to not be a Christian. To me, it seemed very clear cut back 50 years ago, when I was young, because you chose to believe in the resurrection or you didn’t. It was one or the other, nothing in between.
Its seems to me that in our day, it is not so much a matter of believing in the reality of the resurrection but whether the resurrection even matters to people. In other words, today many individuals would say to us, “The resurrection may or may not have happened, I really don’t care. If the resurrection did or didn’t take place . . . it makes no difference to me.” Today, people approach this subject with ambivalence or uncertainty. They make no commitment one way or the other and don’t think anyone should tell them they have to.
So, does our belief in the resurrection matter? Let me tell you about a situation that happened with the Apostle Paul in Athens. The Apostle Paul was preaching to the people in Athens, at the Areopagus, a place where they worshipped the gods. They believed in many gods and had idols for each one that they knew of. But just in case they might have missed one, they had an idol to the “unknown god.” Paul uses that idea that there might be a god out there they don’t know about to preach to them about the Lord God of Heaven and earth.
He tells the people of Athens that . . . one day they will have to answer to the God who created them for the sins of their life . . . and that God will judge the world for sin by the One He has appointed, . . . and of course he is referring to Jesus Christ. Paul proceeds to tell them that God is calling all people to repentance and that one day they will be judged by the righteousness of the One God has appointed, the One God has raised from the dead.
Paul says that they can be assured of this because God raised, this One He has appointed, Jesus, from the dead. Then you know what happened when they heard this, people immediately chose to either believe and receive it or reject it.
Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, "We will hear you again about this." So Paul went out from their midst. But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.
So some believed and some mockingly rejected the idea of the resurrection. But the point I am trying to make here is that it mattered what they believed concerning the resurrection. Those who believed in the resurrection became disciples of Jesus Christ and began to tell the Good News of salvation to others. You see, salvation hinges on our understanding of the resurrection. Why? Because one day we will stand before a living God, not a tomb with Jesus’ body in it.
Our Savior lives. Unlike every other religion in this world, our Savior lives, because He rose from the dead. We are assured of the judgment of this world for sin, because of His resurrection from the dead. You can be assured that one day we will all stand before Him and we will either stand in light of our repentance . . . clothed in Jesus’ righteousness or we will stand in our sin. Our standing before God is dependent on what we chose to believe concerning the resurrection.
So, you might be asking right now, how can we be sure of the resurrection? We weren’t there! There are no pictures, no videos, no digital data, none of the evidence that we think we need today. So how do we know?
Witnesses to the Resurrection
There are witnesses. You see, the resurrection is known and recorded for us through the mouths of witnesses. Real people who know what they saw and who it was they talked to. Peter was preaching one day to Cornelius about the good news of salvation and listen to what Peter said about his being an eye witness to the resurrection.
And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead.
God wanted to make sure we know about the resurrection through witnesses. He wanted us to know that we will be judged by Jesus, who was raised from the dead. We have many proofs recorded for us in Scripture, but John 20 is one of the most extensive proofs of the resurrection. You see, John was one of the many eyewitnesses to the resurrection and so he gives what he knows about the resurrection in John chapter 20.
Listen closely to John’s accounting of the events on that Sunday morning when Jesus rose from the dead. Note the details given about those who witnessed this miraculous event. This is the accounting of actual events that took place that day. Listen to how John concludes this chapter, he is giving this evidence to us that we may choose to believe that Jesus is the Christ, and that by believing you may have life in Him.
Read John 20
“That by believing you may have life in His name.” Believing what? Believing that Jesus is the Son of God and that He rose from the dead! Let’s go back and look at these witness accounts for just a moment. Are these eye witnesses reliable?
Mary Magdalene and the Women (vv. 1-2, 11-18)
Mary and two other women came to the tomb of Jesus early in the morning, it is still dark we are told. Did Mary Magdalene believe Jesus rose from the grave at first. No, she thought someone stole the body. She went to tell the disciples that someone took the body.
It wasn’t until she returned later that morning that Mary saw the risen Jesus, recognized His voice and exclaimed “Rabboni,” which means teacher. The next time Mary goes to see the disciples what does she say? “I have seen the Lord” (v. 20). I am telling you, the eyewitness account of Mary Magdalene is powerful. At first, Mary was convinced someone stole the body. She had heard the teachings of the resurrection and yet when it really happened, at first, she didn’t believe.
But when Mary sees the resurrected Jesus and recognizes His voice, instantly she became a powerful eyewitness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. How else can we explain her change from believing the body was stolen to saying, “I have seen the Lord?”
Peter and John (vv. 3-10)
What about Peter and John in verses 3-11. When Mary first told them that someone stole the body of Jesus, they went running to the tomb only to find it empty. They both look into the tomb. What did they see? They both see the linen cloths lying as if they were undisturbed, like the body vanished from inside them. First off, if grave robbers took the body they wouldn’t have taken the time to unwrap the body and beside that, it wasn’t like a body was unwrapped and the linens set in a pile, they were lying there undisturbed.
Peter and John saw the empty tomb, but what did they do? Our text simply tells us that they went home not understanding what this meant. They knew about the Scriptures and what Jesus taught them about rising from the dead. But as of yet, they did not believe in the resurrection. It was sometime later that they believed Jesus rose from the dead. It was either through talking with Mary later or when Jesus appears to the disciples that they believe Jesus rose from the dead.
The Disciples (vv. 19-23)
John tells us in verse 19-23 that on the evening of the resurrection day that Jesus came to the disciples who were gathered in a room somewhere in Jerusalem, hiding in fear. Why were they afraid? The Jewish leaders had killed Jesus and they thought that as His disciples they might come after them also. They were hiding in fear because they didn’t believe in the resurrection yet. They were meeting together behind locked doors.
But Jesus appears in the room with them and shows them His hands and His side, . . . the very wounds of His crucifixion. Though Jesus’ body was resurrected and transformed, . . . in His spiritual form, Jesus still maintained the image of His crucified form. We are told elsewhere in Scripture that one day when we see Him, we will recognize Jesus because He will somehow have the image of his crucified form. In fact, the book of Revelation, chapter 5, talks about the Lamb at the throne, standing, but as though He had been slain. Jesus is the Lamb who is standing alive, but somehow still has the visage of His crucifixion, the day He was slain.
So now Mary and most of the disciples are eye witnesses to the resurrection. But for some reason, Thomas was not with the disciples that day and we find in verses 24-29 that he doubted what the disciples told him. He also did not believe in the resurrection at first.
Thomas (vv. 24-29)
You see, Thomas may have thought that the disciples saw a ghost or had some kind of dream. He was not convinced of the resurrection and so he says that unless he can see the marks of the nails and put his fingers in the wound on Jesus’ side, he will not believe them. Thomas needed physical proof of Jesus’ resurrection.
But eight days later the disciples were altogether again, and Jesus appears to them again. Jesus knew the situation with Thomas’ doubts and so immediately Jesus goes to Thomas and tells him to touch the nail scars in His hands and place his hand on Jesus’ side. Jesus said, “Do not disbelieve, but believe.”
Did you notice Thomas’ reply in verse 29? He exclaims, “My Lord and my God!” Thomas is now an eye witness to the resurrection. You see, Thomas and the rest of the disciples were not gullible to believe just anything, they needed tangible evidence to believe in the resurrection of Jesus. But Scripture tells us that were many more eye witnesses to our risen Lord.
Many Other Witnesses (1 Corinthians 15:3-8)
The Apostle Paul reminds believers to hold fast to their belief in the resurrection. Why? Because it is confirmed with so many eye witnesses.
1 Corinthians 15:3-8
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.
So many witnesses and yet today we say we don’t know whether to believe in the resurrection or not. I want to go back to John 20 for a moment. Did you notice what Jesus said to Thomas after he acknowledges seeing Jesus resurrected?
Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."
Jesus makes it clear that there will be those who will believe on Him and never see the tangible evidence Thomas is seeing. How does anyone else believe that Jesus rose from the grave? Because we read of the eye witness accounts and thus we know it is true. Certainly, something like this is not a made up story with so many witnesses to it. How can we not believe in the resurrection?
This morning as I close, I wonder, do you believe in the resurrection? Can you, like Mary, say “I have seen the Lord?” Or call Him by name as Rabboni? Can you like Thomas say, “My Lord and my God?” You can, if by faith you put your trust in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.
The last two verses of John 20 make it clear that we can believe because we have heard what the eye witnesses have told us.
“But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.”
We must choose whether we are going to believe or not. If we don’t choose Jesus, we are rejecting Him. We have the proof we need! God made sure of it with many eye witness accounts recorded for us. So why does it matter what we believe about the resurrection?
Today every person is born as a sinner, condemned to separation from God for eternity in a place described to us as hell. Jesus, took that condemnation upon Himself on the cross of Calvary. He suffered and died a death that was designed for criminals. Jesus died a horrific death and yet He never sinned. If Jesus were to have stayed dead, He would have been no different than Mohammed, Krishna, Joseph Smith, or any other religious founder. But Jesus is alive. We have eye witness accounts to prove it.
By His resurrection, Jesus has conquered death and hell and lives to reign in and through our lives if we will let Him. Do you know my Jesus? Have you put your faith and trust in Him as your Savior? As your risen and living Lord? Have you seen the Lord?
We are told that there will be a day when everyone will bow before Jesus for all that He has done. That because of His death burial and resurrection, God will exalt the name of Jesus and every knee will bow.
And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has 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.
Jesus is not only Creator and sustainer, the Holy God of Heaven and earth, but He is Savior. Unable to die for the sins of humankind as a God, He became a human, lived perfectly, and died a horrific death. But it doesn’t end there. He rose from the dead conquering death, the grave, and hell.
Nothing can compare to the name of Jesus. The name that represents victory over sin. A name that has no rivals, the powerful name of Jesus.
What a Beautiful Name - Hillsong
Do you know Jesus as your Lord and Savior today?
Does this song reflect what you believe about the resurrection?