When we were serving in Louisiana one of our church members was coaching a kids baseball practice just before Easter one year, and he announced that they weren’t going to have practice or a game that weekend because it was Easter. He thought he would take this opportunity to share with the kids, and he asked them what Easter was about: some of the boys immediately yelled: “Eggs!” The coach said, no, there was something else. “Easter baskets” another boy called out. “No, there is something more special”, he answered. “What is it?” He saw a boy from the church waving his arm, so he figured he would get it right, and he called on him. His answer? “I know — chocolate bunnies!”
We need to make sure that we remember what it is that we are celebrating this weekend: not bunnies or chocolate or eggs, not spring weather, food, or even family, as good as some of those things are. What we are celebrating is the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. We find one of the best references to the Resurrection of Jesus in Romans 1:4, where Paul writes:
:4 “Who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord.”
I almost gave this message the title: “So What?” I had a seminary professor tell us once that we should look at every passage and ask, “so what?” — NOT in an irreverent or sarcastic way, but as a means of asking, “What does this mean to my life? What should I do in response to this?” As we come together this Easter Sunday, we should ask that question: “So What?” So we are marking the resurrection of Jesus from the grave — so what? What is the significance of that? What does it mean to us, and how should we respond? Let’s look together for a few minutes at this passage, and what it tells us about what the resurrection of Jesus from the dead means to us:
I. It Made a Declaration
:4 says that Jesus “was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead.” This word “declared” is the Greek word “horizo”. It means, “marked out; designated.” We get our word “horizon” from it. Just as the horizon “marks out” the boundary of the earth and sky, so God “marked Jesus out” as His Son by raising Him from the dead. The resurrection of Jesus is one of the strongest and most vital arguments that He was indeed who He said He was.
Paul says in I Corinthians 15:4 “That He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now …”. Paul says there that as many as 500 people at one time saw Jesus alive from the dead, and these people were still alive when Paul wrote this, testifying to what they had seen and heard. The resurrection of Jesus was a real event in history, that validated that He was who He said He was.
Several years ago, I was on a mission trip to India, and during the trip we were on the Ganges River in a little boat, and a man began to tell us the Hindu myth about the origin of the Ganges. He said that in ancient times, one of the gods stubbed his toe in his course around heaven, and punched a hole in the sky. A Hindu goddess fell through this hole down to earth, and when she hit, the Ganges River began, and it flows with healing power from this goddess. When he finished the story, I asked him, “Do you think this really happened? That there was really a ‘god’ who ‘stubbed his toe’ and made a hole in heaven, and this goddess fell out and started this river?” He never answered me, because of course no one would believe that this really happened; it is just a story, a myth, with no real basis in historical fact.
But the Resurrection of Jesus is NOT a fictitious myth. It is a historical fact, attested to by multiple witnesses: 500 people at one time saw Jesus alive! These disciples were transformed by the resurrection of Jesus. These men who had fled from the Jewish & Roman authorities, who scattered when Jesus was arrested; who like Peter denied Him before a servant girl — all of the sudden were going around sharing the gospel all over the world to anyone who would listen? What brought about this change? What brought it about is that they genuinely saw Jesus alive from the dead!
Chuck Colson, who was sentenced to prison for his role in the Watergate scandal but later was saved and wrote the book, Born Again, recently wrote:
“I know the resurrection is a fact, and Watergate proved it to me. How? Because 12 men testified they had seen Jesus raised from the dead, then they proclaimed that truth for 40 years, never once denying it. Every one was beaten, tortured, stoned, and put in prison. They would not have endured that if it weren’t true. Watergate embroiled 12 of the most powerful men in the world, and they couldn’t keep a lie for 3 weeks! You’re telling me 12 apostles could keep a lie for 40 years? Absolutely impossible.”
This is exactly one of the strongest arguments for the validity of the resurrection of Jesus. These witnesses went to their graves in the face of torture and death for the sake of Christ, and there is NOT ONE recorded case of ANY of them, in the face of that torture and death, who EVER said, “It’s not true; we made it up!” Peter was crucified upside down, John was boiled in oil, James the brother of John was put to death by the sword, Thomas was run through by a lance — every single one of the apostles went to torture and to their graves, testifying with their lives to the reality that they had seen Jesus alive from the dead!
The resurrection of Jesus is vital in declaring Who He is, because there was nothing that unusual about someone dying on a cross. People died on crosses all the time in the Roman world. The day that Jesus died, there were two others who were crucified with Him, “one on His right, and one on His left.” So there was nothing unique in itself about Jesus dying on the cross. What was unique about it is that it was the perfect Son of God who died on the cross for our sins — but how we KNOW that it was? Because God raised Him from the dead! God “declared Him the Son of God by the resurrection from the dead.” That means that of all the men who ever lived; of all the prophets and teachers and religious leader who ever walked the earth, God said, “I am going to show you which one of them is My Son: I will raise Him from the dead.” That is God’s “seal of approval” that Jesus was His Son, and that He did what He said He did. If He had never risen from the dead, we would have no reason to believe He was the Son of God.
I remember back in the early 1990’s, when I was the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Beggs, Oklahoma, that the federal government raided the compound of the cult leader, David Koresh. Some of you remember that. Koresh claimed to be the Messiah. And he claimed that 3 days after he died, that he was going to prove that he was the Messiah by rising from his grave. Well, 3 days later, David Koresh was still in his grave. And his grave is still there in Memorial Park cemetery in Tyler, Texas today — which only goes to prove what we all knew: that he never really was the Messiah.
And the same thing is true for all of the so-called “messiahs” and “christs” throughout history. You may go to their graves, just like you can to David Koresh’s. They did not get this seal of approval. The Buddah did not get this seal of approval. Muhammed did not get this seal of approval. Joseph Smith did not get this seal of approval. Of all the religious leaders who ever lived, there is only ONE who received this seal of approval from God. There is an empty grave in Israel today, because God raised Him from the dead, declaring that of all who have ever lived on earth, THIS ONE is truly the Son of God and the way to heaven! Jesus said in John 14:6 “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father except through Me”, but it was not an empty claim. God “marked Him out”; the resurrection made a declaration to us that Jesus is truly the Son of God.
II. It Demonstrates His Power
Notice that :4 says it declares that He is “the Son of God with POWER.” That word “power” is a key word. We know that Jesus is “The Son of God with Power” because of His resurrection from the dead. What is the “power” He has that this verse speaks about?
First of all, the resurrection demonstrates that Jesus has the power to forgive sins. In Matthew 9, they brought to Jesus a paralytic lying on a bed. When Jesus saw Him, He said, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” And some of the Jewish religious leaders said that He was blaspheming — who could forgive sins but God alone? So Jesus said to them: “So that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” — He told the paralyzed man to get up, take up his bed and go home — and he did! Anybody could have gone around saying that they had the power to forgive people of their sins, but that miracle demonstrated that Jesus did indeed have the power to forgive the sins of that man, just as He said.
How much more so with the resurrection of Jesus from the dead? He had said at the Last Supper that the cup represented His blood, which was going to be shed for the forgiveness of our sins. How do we know that His blood forgives us? How do we know that the cross was really effective? His resurrection demonstrated that He has the power to forgive sins.
In the same way, the resurrection demonstrated that He had the power to give eternal life.
When Jesus was crucified, the Bible says there were two thieves crucified with Him, one on His right, and one on His left. The Bible says that initially both of the thieves mocked Him along with the Jewish leaders and many of the onlookers. But later one of the thieves repented. He told the other, we are guilty, but this Man has done nothing wrong. And he asked Jesus: “Lord, remember me when You come into Your Kingdom.” And Jesus told that thief: “Truly I say to you, this day you will be with Me in Paradise”. What a glorious promise! But how do we know that He could really promise that? How do we know that that man really got to go to heaven? Because Jesus rose from the dead three days later! He showed that He really did have the power to grant eternal life. TODAY that thief that hung on the cross by Jesus is worshipping Him in glory — perhaps at this moment he is singing “Mercy there was great and grace was free; pardon there was multiplied to me; there my burdened soul found liberty; at Calvary!” — we don’t know what he is singing, but we KNOW that he is there right now because Jesus rose from the grave. His resurrection from the grave demonstrates that He has the power of eternal life.
And He can do the same thing for us. It was not only to that paralyzed man that Jesus said that your sins can be forgiven. It was not only that thief that Jesus said could live forever in heaven. He made that promise to all who would come to Him:
— He said in Matthew 11, “Come to Me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
— His word says in Acts 10:43 that “everyone who believes in Him receives the forgiveness of sins”
— He says in Romans 10:13 “Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.”
How do we KNOW this? How do we know that He has the power to forgive our sins and save us? Because He was declared the Son of God with power to forgive sins by the resurrection from the dead. When He rose from the dead, He showed that His words about forgiving our sins were not empty. He was shown to have that power by rising from the dead.
The resurrection showed us that Jesus has divine power to transform our lives; to save us and change us:
— our son-in-law was a college student in Colorado whose life was all about drugs and rock-n-roll, but Jesus saved him and changed his life, and now he is the most loving husband and father, and is studying at one of our Baptist seminaries to go into the ministry. His life has been transformed by the power of Jesus.
— we had a church secretary in Moss Bluff who had been a chain smoker, but when she gave her life to Jesus, He gave her the power to lay those cigarettes down and never pick them up again. Her life was totally transformed.
— part of my wife Cheryl’s testimony is that when she really gave her life to Jesus, God’s word became different to her. She had tried to read it for some time, but never really got that much out of it personally. But when she was saved, God began to really speak to the specific issues of her life through it; she began to really walk with God every day, and hear from Him personally. He gave her the power to walk with Him every day in His word.
— when I got sick a couple of years ago, and lost my pastorate, and my income, and my house, and had nothing but uncertainty ahead of me, I had the power to face those uncertain days with a peace in my heart because He lives!
Jesus is the Son of God with power: power to save, power to change, power to lead, power to comfort, power to forgive, power to give eternal life — power to face the most uncertain days and to walk through the valley of the shadow of death. He has that power, and He showed it with the resurrection. The resurrection demonstrated the power of Jesus.
III. It Demands A Personal Decision
At the end of Romans 1:4, Paul calls Jesus: “Jesus Christ OUR Lord”. That is significant. Sometimes it is just the smallest word that makes all the difference. Here it is that little word “our.” Paul doesn’t just say that Jesus Christ “IS” Lord, he says he is “OUR” Lord — indicating that he and those with him have made a personal commitment to Jesus as their own Lord & Savior. It wasn’t just a “fact”; it was personal to them.
David did this in the Psalms. In one of my favorite verses, Psalm 3:3, he says, “For You O Lord are a shield about ME; MY glory, and the lifter of MY head.” God was not just “a shield, a glory, and the lifter of heads”, He was HIS shield, HIS glory, the lifter of HIS head. It was personal to David. He didn’t just say in Psalm 23 “The Lord is A shepherd”, but “The Lord is MY shepherd.” It was absolutely personal to him.
And if everything the Bible talks about is going to be real to us, we must make it personal too.
HOW do you make personal application of the Resurrection of Jesus?
First, you need to realize that God created you to know Him, and walk with Him — just like He made Adam & Eve to know Him and walk with Him in the Garden of Eden. But just like Adam & Eve, when given the choice to sin, you did in fact sin, and you have been cut off from your relationship with God because of sin. Isaiah says, “Your iniquities have caused a separation between you and your God.” But that is why God sent Jesus to earth. He didn’t want us to spend eternity separated from Him because of our sins, so Jesus came to die on the cross, and pay for our sins — that is why we call last Friday “Good Friday” — it was a horrific day in many ways, but so gloriously good in another, because the greatest good ever was done: “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross.” But He didn’t stay dead; He rose from the dead, proving that He really was the Son of God, with power to forgive sins and give eternal life in heaven with God. But it is not enough to KNOW that; you have to make a personal decision to repent (turn away) from your sins, and to trust Jesus as YOUR personal Lord & Savior. You must make it personal. Your life will not be changed unless you do.
James said it is not enough to know the facts about God; we must make it personal. “You believe that God is One; you do well. The demons also believe, and shudder.” Just “knowing” without acting on it, won’t save you. In fact, it will only condemn you.
If you walk out of this church today knowing more about Jesus than you ever have before, but without making a personal commitment to Him, all you have done today is bring more condemnation upon yourself at the Day of Judgment! You must make a personal commitment to Jesus as your Lord & Savior.
In John 11, when Jesus’ friend Lazarus had died, and had been in the tomb for 4 days, Jesus came to Bethany, and Lazarus’ sister Martha came out to meet Him. She told him that if He had come earlier, Lazarus would not have died. It was then that Jesus spoke those famous words in :25-26, “I am the resurrection and the life … whoever lives and believes in Me will never die.” We often quote those words at funerals and other times. But I have rarely ever heard it quoted with the last part of the verse; that is not the end of it, for then Jesus added a question to Martha, “Do you believe this?” That is significant. It was not enough for Jesus just to share the fact of His power to grant eternal life; He knew that for it to become a reality in Martha’s life, she had to make a personal decision regarding it. She had to make it personal, and decide to believe it for herself: “Do YOU believe this?” He was calling for a personal decision. And Martha responded with a personal commitment: “Yes Lord, I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God.” And those words, “I have believed” come from a Biblical Greek word that means that she had believed in the past, with the result that she believed to this day. It was a settled, committed conclusion in her life. She had believed and trusted Jesus personally.
We need to understand that the message of Jesus comes to each one of us today with that same question. It is not enough to hear that there was a person named Jesus who lived, and who died on the cross. It is not even enough to understand that Jesus rose from the dead. These facts come with a question, just like it was to Martha that day, that is personal: “Do YOU believe this?” And not just “do you ‘believe’ it, the way every schoolchild “believes” that there was a person named Abraham Lincoln, but do you BELIEVE it in the sense of making a personal, once-for-all, commitment of your life to Jesus as Lord & Savior like Martha had made.
Romans 1:4 says that Jesus “was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead.” But then the question comes to each of us: “Do YOU believe this?” That is the question that you must respond to today.
Martha’s answer was, “Yes Lord, I have believed.” What about you? What is your answer to the resurrection of Jesus today?
The resurrection declared Jesus as the One-and-only Son of God.
The resurrection proved Jesus’ power to save and change lives.
But the resurrection of Jesus is not going to change your life until you make a personal response to turn from your sins, and to turn to Him as YOUR living Lord & Savior. And you can do that right now …