The Witnesses of the Resurrection
Biblical Sermon Outline
By Pastor Ron Jones, www.titusinstitute.com
We want to look at the eye-witnesses of the resurrected Christ. We want to answer the question: "How do we know Jesus rose from the dead?"
"How do we know that Jesus Christ burst forth from the grave and proved that He was indeed God become a man?
The answer is "we have eyewitness accounts of the risen Christ."
This is how the apostles themselves proved the resurrection to others to whom they preached the gospel.
Acts 2:22-24, 32
There is always the element of faith.
But our faith as believers in not just in a statement that Jesus made that He rose from the dead and we need to believe it.
Christ wanted our faith to be based on the eye-witness testimony of those who saw Him. That is one reason why he appeared over a period of 40 days so there would be no question that He was resurrected.
Who are these eye-witnesses that all claim that Jesus Christ rose bodily from the dead and that they saw Him.
In 1 Cor. 15:3-8 Paul lists these eye-witnesses.
In Corinth, there was a group of people who were denying the resurrection of believers. They were saying that Christians are not going to rise from the dead at the appointed time.
Paul writes 1 Cor.15, to prove that there will be a resurrection of believers because there was a resurrection of Jesus Christ.
In v.3-8 Paul reminds the Corinthians what he had already told them about the resurrection of Christ.
It is divided into two parts:
I. God's testimony of the resurrection of Jesus
II. The eye-witness testimony of the resurrected Jesus
I. God's testimony of the resurrection of Jesus Christ V.1-4
Paul establishes that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is an essential part of God's redemptive plan and therefore the gospel.
Paul gives three essential elements of the gospel:
1) Christ has died for our sins
2) Christ was buried (his dead body was placed in a tomb)
3) Christ was raised on the third day
"According to the Scriptures"
And these events, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ were according to what was predicted in the O.T. Scriptures.
The doctrine of the resurrection is not something that was made up and added later by a group of zealous disciples who wanted others to believe in Jesus.
It had been predicted in the O.T. It was part of God's redemptive plan and thus a part of the testimony of God Himself that it would occur.
If it had not happened, the testimony of the O.T. Scripures would have been discredited forever.
We should not be surprised that Jesus resurrected from the dead, if we believe the O.T. Scriptures. We should be surprised if he hadn't.
This is God's stamp of approval on the eye-witnesses of the resurrection Paul is about to list.
God said the messiah would rise from dead. These people say they saw Jesus risen from the dead. Their testimony matches God's testimony.
Paul was in the habit of sharing who saw Jesus Christ as a regular part of his sharing of the resurrection.
The eye-witness testimony is God's apologetic for the resurrection.
In v.5-8, Paul lists these witnesses. These witnesses all said the same thing.
Jesus Christ rose bodily from the dead.
Paul brings in six groups of witnesses. These were not all the witnesses.
Each witness or group of witnesses had a unique testimony because of who he or they were.
Let's look at the first one.
1. A coward who became a witness with strong credibility
V.5 "And that He appeared to Peter..."
The literal Greek has "Cephas" Peter's Aramaic name.
Peter was the first one of the eleven disciples to see Jesus after Mary Magdalene had seen him.
The two on the road to Emmaus see Jesus and return to the eleven disciples. When they get there before they have a chance to tell the disciples of the appearance to Jesus to them the disciples are proclaiming that the Lord has risen because Simon has seen him.
Jesus' appearance to Peter took place some time on that Sunday.
This was a private appearance to Peter himself by His Lord.
We have it only mentioned here and in 1 Cor.15. But it was a well-known fact.
I think Paul mentions Peter first because Jesus chose Peter to be the first of the apostles to see Christ and because Peter's credibility in the first century church was surpassed by none.
The eleven as a group do not believe the women. But Peter and John believe something happened and head to the tomb.
Sometime after that Jesus appears to Peter when Peter was alone.
Why in Lu.24:34, do they believe Peter.
Because even though Peter had denied knowing Christ, the other disciples except John weren't even around to have the temptation of denying Christ they were too busy hiding. Peter was greatly respected by all the apostles and was their leader.
Peter had a powerful testimony. He had been so afraid for his life that he denied knowing Christ.
Yet, after the resurrection, it was Peter that stood up in the midst of the 3000 in Acts 2 and proclaimed Christ.
It was Peter in Acts 4 who stood up in front of the very men he had been afraid of - the Sanhedrin - and courageously proclaimed Christ even though it might have meant his death.
How could this man have made such a radical change?
Because he saw Jesus Christ risen from the dead and that changed His life.
He knew that Jesus Christ was God and that all of the things that Jesus said was true and must be proclaimed.
That was the testimony of Peter.
But he wasn't the only one who saw Jesus.
There were more.
The next on the list is a group.
2. The closest associates of Jesus who changed from fearful doubters to courageous proclaimers
V.5 "And then to the twelve."
This is a term used to describe the twelve disciples minus Judas.
This title was used of the apostles whether all were present at a meeting or not. It is similar to "elders" or "deacons". We say the elders or deacons met whether they all were present or not.
This probably refers to Christ's appearance in Luke 24.
Look at Lu.24:36-49
This meeting took place on Sunday evening of the resurrection.
This is the same appearance as recorded in Jn. 20 when Jesus appears when Thomas was gone. Jesus suddenly appears.
Notice the disciples response. They are scared at first. They think Jesus is a spirit.
Many people say that the disciples got together and made up the story of Jesus rising from the dead and then worked together on the four gospels.
The problem with that is they were not expecting Christ to rise from the dead. They heard him say it, but they didn't really believe it.
They weren't in the upper room waiting for Christ to rise, they were hiding, trying to figure out what to do now.
When he does appear, they don't believe it.
Does that look like a group of men destined to pull off the greatest hoax in history?
These were fearful men, doubters. Yet later we see these very men proclaiming the resurrection everywhere they went.
In Acts 2,3 and 5 in the hostile city of Jerusalem they are saying things like
"The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead....V.32 we are witnesses of these things."
They claimed this message for the rest of their lives serving the Lord unto death.
What could have changed these men?
Certainly, one man, such as Peter could have changed, but all those men?
All those men giving their lives for the same message - Jesus Christ is risen!
Were these men deceivers?
Could deceivers give to the world the greatest ethical teachings from their Master ever handed down?
Could all these deceivers be willing to die for what they all knew was a lie?
Paul brings in the next group of witnesses.
3. A group of more than five hundred disciples
Paul now moves from the quality of the witnesses to the quantity of the witnesses.
V.6 "After that He appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen alseep."
Jesus chose a place and time where He would appear to hundreds of disciples at one time.
Paul is the only writer who relates this incident to us with no details.
Many commentators believe that this occurred at the site of the Great Commission in Mat.28:18.
There is no way to accurately say when this happened.
But it did. The Corinthians must have known about this appearance. It was probably well-known by all the churches.
V. 6 And Paul says "most of them are still alive."
There were others in the churches who saw Jesus alive from the dead and talked about it.
They were still living at the time of this letter which was probably around 55 A.D.
One of the issues that often comes up is how do we know that what the apostles wrote was true?
One way is by the testimony of the myriad of others who also witnessed the life of Christ and in this case the resurrected Christ.
The churches in Jerusalem and Judea and the Mediterranean world had people in them who could verify many of the events that the apostles wrote about.
The testimony of so many people at the same time destroys the theory that the disciples made up the doctrine of the resurrection or that they hallucinated or were in some way self-deceived.
Too many people verifying the events of Christ's life.
Then Paul brings in his next witness.
4. A skeptic relative of Jesus
V.7 "Then he appeared to James"
James was the half-brother of Jesus.
He is named along with his brothers in Mat.13.
Before Christ's death, he and his other brothers were skeptical of the true identity of Jesus
They were mocking Jesus. They did not believe He was the messiah.
Yet later we find James and his brothers assembled together with other believers.
The half-brothers of Jesus including James had become believers.
I believe that Paul gives us the clue. James saw the resurrected Christ and when He saw Him he repented of his sins and came to faith in Jesus Christ as the Lord of the universe.
James later became the head of the Jerusalem church, wrote the epistle of James, and was considered along with Peter and John a pillar of the church.
What could have changed a man who mocked his own half-brother for claiming to be the messiah?
The resurrection. Seeing Jesus risen from the dead. That's what changed James.
5. Those Jesus chose to proclaim His resurrection and carry on His work
V.7 "then to all the apostles"
Paul is moving chronologically to the next appearance of Jesus to eye-witnesses he wants to mention
"the apostles" This refers to the twelve again, minus Judas and probably refers to the appearance in Acts 1 when Jesus gives His final instructions
I think that Paul brings them up again and uses their title "apostles" to show that these were no ordinary disciples who loved Jesus Christ.
These were men selected by Jesus Christ Himself to take the message of His death for sin and resurrection to the world.
The testimony of the apostles is the testimony of the highest credibility because they were the ones who were officially appointed by Him to speak of His resurrection and take that testimony to the world.
The apostolic ministry was a ministry of resurrection testimony. That is one reason why you can't have apostles anymore today. Because to be an apostle, a person had to have seen the resurrected Christ.
Even though to an unbelieving world these men could be lying, their testimony must be considered first above all others because of all men they were the ones who were commissioned by Christ to proclaim His resurrection.
Even though we may not believe them we want to hear what they have to say and evaluate it for ourselves.
For us as believers in Jesus Christ the apostles were in the position of knowing what happened and were given the ministry of bearing witness to the resurrected Christ.
Their testimony is unquestioned.
Others today may question that testimony, but they weren't there, the apostles were.
Then Paul brings in the last witness and a powerful one - himself.
6. A persecutor and enemy of Jesus
V.8 "and last of all He appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born."
Paul knew Christ had resurrected because Paul saw Him risen from the dead.
The changed life of Paul is one of the greatest testimonies of the risen Christ.
Paul was a persecutor of the church. He hated Christ and His people. He did not accept this Jesus as God or messiah.
His goal in life was to destroy these people who had attached themselves to this dead man whom they now claimed was alive.
Paul had only one problem. Jesus was alive and had a plan for Him.
After Paul saw Christ he knew he had been wrong. Jesus was the Christ. He must be obeyed. He must be proclaimed.
Paul calls himself one "abnormally born."
V. 8 "as to one abnormally born."
This refers to how Paul became an apostle. It was not the normal way. It was abnormal or unusual. He had not been someone who followed Jesus throughout Jesus' ministry or saw Jesus risen along with the other apostles.
Jesus had selected Him in a special way for a special task with a special appearance to Him. He was to take the message of the resurrection to the Gentiles.
Paul is proclaiming the resurrection to the philosophers of Greece.
Paul didn't care if the philosophers rejected Him. He knew whom he had seen and God had given Him the task of proclaiming the risen Christ. And that's what Paul did.
Well, these are eye-witnesses of the risen Jesus. Men who saw Jesus bodily resurrected from the dead.