The Messiahs Fingerprint
Text: Luke 24
Proposition: The resurrection of Jesus is supported by the evidence.
Introduction: Lee Strobel in his book, ‘The Case for Faith’, uses a phrase that caught my attention the first time I saw it. It reminded me of the trend we see today for protection and security, we see it as pin numbers on debit cards, passwords on internet accounts, even passports and photo ID that ensure our security and identity. The phrase that Strobel used was, ‘The Messiah’s Fingerprint’, that which authenticates Who He is, what He claimed and what He did. To even begin talking about Jesus death and resurrection several things come to mind:
1. Always it will be an exercise of faith, that’s the design of God. He intends that we live by faith, Hebrews 11:6 even says. “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” What is your verdict, what do you find or believe as the jury?
2. The evidence that we read in Scripture was for those people fresh evidence, they had just seen Jesus, they were there on Palm Sunday, at the last supper, in Gethsemane and at the crucifixion. It was fresh evidence for them and they relate to it like that, but for you and I the evidence of Easter is 2000 years old, we can tend to minimize it or even disqualify it.
3. There is nonetheless a ‘fingerprint’ that identifies Jesus as the Christ, it points to not only the reality of His death and resurrection but also to the reality of what He said this would accomplish. Let’s look at a series of questions that if satisfied will be like the ridgelines of a fingerprint, the Messiah’s Fingerprint.
I. Did Jesus Ever Claim to be God?
When the women went to the tomb that early morning they were met by two angels who simply prompted them, “Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee saying, “The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and the third day rise again.” The Son of Man was a title that Jesus used to describe Himself, a term first used in Daniel 7 to identify an eternal King.
Perhaps as the disciples continued to remember they thought of the time at the well when Jesus told the Samaritan woman that He was the Messiah. Perhaps they remembered the time when Jesus said to the Pharisees, “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was, I Am.” (Jn 8:58) Not much later Jesus again said to the Pharisees, “I and the Father are One.”(Jn10:30) In both cases the Jews understood exactly what Jesus was saying, they understood that He was claiming equality with God and they tried to kill Him for doing so. There was the time Jesus healed a paralyzed man and then in front of the crowd He said the man’s sins were forgiven, knowing that only God could do that. When Peter proclaimed that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God, Jesus does not rebuke him but rather affirms that what Peter has said is true. Again and again Jesus told them that He was indeed equal in power and authority to the Father, which was tantamount to proclaiming that He was God.
II. Did Jesus Actually Die? The death of Jesus is recorded by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The details are extensive, from the severe beating and torture of being scourged, gouged with thorns, beaten and then being forced to drag a cross through down the Via Deloroso to Golgotha. At one point Jesus collapses, physically His body was beginning to go into shock from the loss of blood. The extent of this beating is indicated in the prophecy of Isaiah 50:6: "I offered my back to those who beat Me, My cheeks to those who pulled out My beard; I did not hide My face from mocking and spitting". Another prophecy in Isaiah 52:14 is even more graphic: "His form, disfigured, lost all human likeness; His appearance so changed He no longer looked like a man". The crucifixion was carried out by trained Roman executioners whose cruelty and effectiveness ensured their own survival from their overlords. Jesus was nailed through the wrists, crushing the median nerve causing absolute agony. The pain of crucifixion created a word that is still used today, the word ‘excruciating’ literally means, ‘out of the cross’. This ‘out of the cross’ pain would have been accompanied by a sense of suffocation as Jesus would push upwards in order to get the air He needed to say the last words to His disciples. Blood loss in both arms, feet and then being pierced with a spear, it’s tip ripping the stomach, lungs and heart caused an outpouring of blood and water. Jesus died on the cross, His dead body was taken down, wrapped in a shroud and placed in a burial tomb, His dead body was handled by at least 10 people. That’s what the facts proclaim.
III. What Happened to the Body of Jesus?
The first ones to the tomb that early Sunday morning were the women, they saw the stone rolled back, they saw the guards were gone, they saw grave clothes but the tomb was empty. The other disciples come and see this, in fact this was undisputed even by the Romans and the Pharisees, the tomb was empty. In Matthew it records how the guards who were watching the tomb from Friday night to early Sunday morning felt the earthquake that Sunday at dawn, saw the angels, saw the stone rolled back and were frozen with fear. They regain their composure and run to the city, to the chief priests and together they concoct the story that they fell asleep and the disciples came and took the body. Strobel in his book asks, ‘What would the disciples want with Jesus body, they didn’t even believe that He would rise from the dead, they were in hiding. The very first to discover the empty tomb were women. Surely if the disciples were going to perpetrate a deception the first to see it empty would have been the men because the testimony of women in the first century was not considered credible, their voice was discounted by the rulers of the day.’ At the tomb that early morning as the mist began to lift, Mary Magdelene was the first to see Jesus. She is looking for the smashed and broken form of His body, she sees a man and thinking him the gardener asks where he has put the body, thinking it was a rich man’s tomb it was put in and perhaps now that the Sabbath is over they have taken it out for a less dignified burial. Jesus says one word to her, it’s her name…Mary! That’s all it took, she looks at Him and sees it is Jesus, falling at His feet she grabs hold of Him weeping on the very feet that she once anointed with her tears and wiped with her hair. She was the forgiven one, the one who loved much because she was forgiven much. Within a few hours two more disciples saw Jesus as they walked on the road out of Jerusalem. They talked with Him, even sat down to eat with Him. That evening the eleven disciples saw Jesus in the locked upper room, after this more than 500 people saw Him. In days to come even His enemies and doubters saw Him, Paul and James. The resurrected body of Jesus is real, physical, able to be touched, able to eat food and even able to move beyond our laws of physics. Space and time were no constraint, the body of Jesus was risen from the dead. The stone was rolled back from the tomb, but not so that He could get out, it was so that we could get in. Jesus was resurrected from the dead just as He had said, but what did it mean?
IV. If the Claim of Resurrection Is True Then So Also Is the Claim of Salvation.
When Jesus first spoke in Nazareth He read from the scroll of Isaiah, it spoke about One who would have the Spirit of God upon Him, who would heal the broken hearted, proclaim liberty to the captives, sight to the blind and to bring freedom to the oppressed. Then, putting the scroll down, He said that this day the Scripture had become fulfilled in their hearing. Physically He set about doing that, it’s why we see the many miracles that He did. But spiritually He did it even more so, broken hearted, blind captives exist even today, people who have been ensnared with the foolishness of sin. In fact everyone is included in that description, for all have sinned, there is none righteous, no not one, that’s what the Scripture declares. The freedom that Jesus had in mind for us captives was a freedom that comes from the forgiveness of sin, a forgiveness that only God can ultimately grant. Jesus compared Himself to a door that we can enter by, to a Shepherd that knows us and calls us by name and keeps us, to vine from which come branches and that apart from Him can do nothing. He once compared His body to the Temple saying that in three days He would build it up again. Several times He compared His coming resurrection to the sign of Jonah saying that as Jonah was three days and nights in the belly of the whale so shall the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth. King David wrote this about the resurrection of Jesus in Psalm 16:10, “For Thou wilt not abandon my soul to Sheol; neither wilt Thou allow Thy Holy One to undergo decay.” Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 also contain references to His resurrection. There were over 300 prophecies concerning Jesus Christ in the Old Testament and He fulfilled them all! The claim of Jesus Christ was not only that He would rise again but that all who believed in Him would also be with Him. He once said, “I am the resurrection and the life, he who believes in Me though He die yet shall he live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” This is the Finger Print of the Messiah, He is who He says He is. Do you believe this?