Sunday April 9, 2023 | Greg Boyd
For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures and that he was buried and 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 and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.
This sermon offers six reasons why we can trust in the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It also explains what the resurrection means for us, as it offers a sense of hope enduring, everlasting beauty in the midst of fleeting goodness.
Robert Frost’s poem: “Nothing Gold Can Stay” reads as follows:
Nature’s first green is gold,
her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower,
but only for an hour.
Then leaf gives way to leaf,
so Eden sank to grief.
So Dawn gives way to day
nothing gold can stay.
—- Robert Frost
Frost’s poem captures a universal truth. In this fallen world, it seems what is most beautiful, what shines gold, lasts only for a moment. It’s there for a moment, and then it’s gone. Nothing gold can stay, and eventually life ends on a sad and tragic note. We must ask, is this the full story? Is there more?
The Good News of Easter Morning is that, because of Jesus’ resurrection, we can be confident that the grave does not have the last word. When Jesus rose from the dead, he opened up the world to a new kind of life. While this fallen world can’t ever hang onto to what is gold, God’s eternal life and love is everlasting gold. The Good News of Easter proclaims the truth that “nothing gold shall fade.”
This is the proclamation of Easter, but is it merely wishful thinking? Why should we believe it to be true? Are there any compelling reasons for believing Jesus actually rose from the dead? The rest of this sermon offers six reasons why we can have confidence in the resurrection.
First, we must consider the longing of the human heart. C.S. Lewis wrote,
If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.
We are designed with this natural intuition that gold should remain, that the beauty and goodness that we experience in this world should continue. The fact that we long for this is in itself a pointer that there is something more, something that the resurrection unveils.
The remaining five arguments are derived from the focus scripture. The second reason we can trust in the resurrection is because early church leaders like Paul were passing on a sacred tradition that they had received. We read in the focus scripture that 20 years after Jesus’ death, the report of his resurrection, including the list of all who claimed to have seen him, was already a sacred tradition that they had been passing along. Paul received this tradition from the other apostles when he met with them some time after his conversion to make sure they were on same page. This developed so close to the actual occurrence that there was not time for it to develop into a legend or a myth.
Third, there were many eyewitnesses. First there were the twelve, then the five hundred. This means that anyone who had questions could actually check with someone who saw what happened. One is James, the brother of Jesus, who did not follow him while he was alive. But after he arose, he became a leader in the church. Being that James would have known the details of Jesus’ death and the message of the resurrection in a very intimate way, we can only conclude that he became a follower because what he knew was actually true.
The fourth reason for trusting in the resurrection was the fact that women first saw that the tomb was empty. Women were given no credibility in the first century. But all four gospels tell us that women were the first to witness the resurrection. In a patriarchal culture, women would not have played such a role if the resurrection was something that was being contrived.
Fifth, the Easter message was counter cultural. There are many aspects of the resurrection story that have no precedent. They most likely would have never been included as a part of the story if it were not actually true.
The transformation of the disciples is sixth reason we can trust in the resurrection. Overnight, disciples went from a band of scared, confused, discouraged disciples to being fearless evangelists who turned the Roman empire upside down. They suffered vicious persecution, gave up family, jobs, and social standing. They clearly were convinced that they were speaking the truth when they claimed that Jesus made the divine claims for himself, did miracles, died and rose from the dead. Why would they have done these radical things if the resurrection that they preached was not true?
If we accept the resurrection as true, it changes everything. It offers us a hope that the world cannot give and the world cannot take. The beauty that we experience now is passing, but the resurrection shows us that this beauty is actually enduring. And while we experience a world where the foundations are unraveling, we can know the peace of God will reign.