38 Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.”
39 He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
Dear Friends in Christ,
Recently I read a story about a man who was observing a brand new building being constructed near his home. After they poured the foundation, they brought in a big silver box with the aid of a crane and they set it right in the center of the slab and then proceeded to dry-wall and build all around it. This fellow thought it rather odd that this big box would be brought in so early in the construction process, so he inquired about it and found out that the building being constructed was a bank, and that big box was the vault. Because of the important role that the vault plays in a bank, they wanted to make sure they got it in early during the construction process since it wouldn’t fit through the door later on.
Now, a bank without a vault is not really a bank, is it? And I would suggest to you this morning that a church without the Bible is not a church. Because what the vault is to a bank, the Bible is to the church. It’s where we find and where we store our treasures. And just as the vault needs to be absolutely 100% reliable for the bank, so the Bible must be equally reliable for the church. We need to be certain that what this Book contains is true, that the treasures within it are truly treasures that come not from the minds of mere fallible imperfect human beings, but from the very mind and heart of God himself.
And so this morning, to help us accomplish that goal, we’re going to begin looking at what I’m going to call “The 7 Wonders of the Word” which will help us to see and understand why we can believe the Bible for what it says, why we can trust it as reliable, why we can accept it as absolute truth.
And reason #1 is a rather curious one. I’ll simply refer to it as the resurrection of Christ. Now you might think that’s a strange place to start. Shouldn’t we begin with archaeology or historical evidence or something like that? We’ll be getting to those things eventually. But I really believe that the #1 flagship reason why we can believe the Bible is the resurrection of Jesus. Let me tell you why.
If Jesus really did rise from the grave and this death-conquering, sin-defeating, eternally living, all-powerful, all-knowing Savior believed in and even endorsed the Bible, do you think that just might increase the validity and credibility of Scripture? I sure do. In fact, I would go so far as to put it this way: “IF THE TOMB IS EMPTY, THEN THE SCRIPTURES ARE NOT.” (repeat) So how about it? Was the tomb empty? Did Jesus really rise from the dead? That’s the question of Easter, isn’t it? And I know we’re several months removed from that celebration, but we can still ask it today. Was the tomb empty?
Throughout history there have been many who have doubted and tried to disprove the physical resurrection of Christ. These skeptics have offered a number of intriguing explanations for what they think may have happened. For example, some say Jesus never died. He just swooned or passed out while on the cross and those who were in charge of his crucifixion made a mistake when they pronounced him dead.
Now how credible is that theory? Think for a moment about all that Jesus had been through. The agony in the garden which forced him to sweat blood, his betrayal by Judas, his arrest, his trials, the pummeling he received from the members of the Jewish council, the scourging from Pilate’s soldiers, the crown of thorns that pierced his scalp, the blood loss, the dehydration, the 6 hours on the cross, the spear in his side. In addition to all of that, experienced executioners examined him to see whether he was dead or not. And they concluded he was. Those who loved him most were close enough to him to cleanse his wounds and prepare his body for burial. And you know that they would have given anything for just the slightest sign of life, but it wasn’t there. So they had no doubt Jesus was dead. Then he was placed in a cave-like tomb that was sealed with a heavy round stone and guarded by a group of Roman soldiers.
Now those who hold to this swoon theory as it’s sometimes called want us to believe that on the morning of the 3rd day in that tomb Jesus woke up, that he was strong enough to push the stone away, that he overtook the soldiers, and he then appeared to all of his disciples with enough vigor and vitality to convince them that he had indeed risen from the dead. Do you buy that? I don’t either.
One thing is for certain when it comes to the cross. Jesus died. He took a final breath. His heart had a final beat.
OK, some will say, he died. So how about another theory? Could it be that his enemies, the Jews, took the body? Or maybe the Romans did. Those are a couple of other suggestions offered to explain away the resurrection. And all I would say in response to those is, Why? Why would they do that? And even if they did steal the body, then why didn’t they produce it when news of the resurrection began to spread? All they would have had to do was parade the corpse of Christ up and down the streets of Jerusalem and this fledgling movement known as Christianity would have instantly fizzled like a burning torch thrown into a lake.
Alright, some will say. Then how about this? The disciples took the body. These Galilean fishermen, laborers, and tax collectors overpowered the highly experienced and very efficient Roman soldiers, took the body of Jesus and hid it somewhere, and then proclaimed he had risen from the dead. In other words, the resurrection was a hoax. It was staged. Well, this might seem like a possible explanation until you examine the lives of the disciples. They willingly left family and friends and in some cases fortune to go all over the world and talk about this One who had risen from the dead. They willingly exposed themselves to persecution and hardship, imprisonment and unimaginable torture. Most ended up giving their lives for this living Savior they proclaimed. Now honestly, do you really think the disciples would put themselves through all of that and ultimately die for what they knew in their hearts was a lie? Of course not!
By the way, it would do you well to learn those common refutations of the resurrection we’ve just looked at in case you’re ever called upon to defend your belief in the risen Christ. “But Pastor Meyer, I’m not very good at remembering things like that.” I understand that because I have the same problem. That’s why I come up with little devices and acronyms to help me remember. Let me show you what I mean. Look once more at the refutations of the resurrection we just considered. Some say Jesus never died or the enemies, the Jews, stole the body or the Romans stole the body or the disciples stole the body. N-E-R-D. Why, you’d have to be a nerd to believe any of those suggestions, wouldn’t you?
Listen, my friends, the resurrection happened. It is a historical reality. And how that applies to our understanding of the Bible is very important because if Jesus rose from the dead, if he entered that tomb on Friday as a corpse and walked out of it alive on Sunday, then what he has to say about Scripture should carry a lot of weight, don’t you think? So what does he have to say?
Well, that takes us to our 2nd wonder of the Word, our 2nd reason for believing the Bible and that is because time and time again Jesus endorsed the Scriptures. Whether he was walking with his disciples or teaching the multitudes or struggling with Satan, Jesus’ language was seasoned and punctuated with Scripture verses from the Bible of his day. Even in his final hours on the cross, we find him turning to the Scriptures to articulate what he was feeling as his life slowly ebbed away. For example, did you know that when Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” he was quoting directly from Ps. 22:1? Or when he spoke his final words, “Into your hands I commit my spirit,” he was quoting from Ps. 31:5. Even his words “I thirst” were a direct fulfillment of Ps. 22:15 and the Gospel writers remind us of that – that when Jesus spoke those words he was doing it to fulfill the Scriptures.
So Jesus placed a high premium on the Scriptures. Consider the following facts. In the King James Version of the Bible the 4 Gospels contain 3779 verses. Of these 1934 come from the lips of Jesus. And out of these 1934, 180 are quotations of Scripture. In other words, one out of every 10 times Jesus spoke, he was quoting Scripture. So Jesus endorsed the Bible. He endorsed the account of Adam and Eve. He endorsed the account of Sodom and Gomorrah. He endorsed the account of Noah and the flood, Moses and the burning bush, Elijah, David, Solomon, and even Jonah who was swallowed by a great fish and who lived to tell about it, a story that over the years has especially found itself on the receiving end of criticism and doubts by skeptics. And yet, as we heard in our text before, Jesus actually used the biblical account of Jonah to foretell his own resurrection from the dead.
So there’s no getting around it. Jesus believed in the Bible. Now why does that matter? It matters because if the risen and living Son of God believed in the Bible, then surely I can believe in the Bible. One Bible scholar by the name of John Stott says that Jesus’ endorsement of Scripture is the ultimate defense of the truthfulness of Scripture.
Now it’s quite possible that there are some here today who still aren’t absolutely convinced that the Bible is reliable and trustworthy, that it is the inspired, inerrant, and infallible Word of God. And to those people I would say, “Well, I’m not quite finished yet.” We’ve only covered 2 of the 7 wonders of the Word today: the resurrection of Christ and the endorsement of Christ. We have 5 more to go. And we’ll be looking at them in my next 2 sermons. But as you perhaps wrestle with what has been said here today, let me ask you a question in closing. If you’re not going to trust in the Bible, then what are you going to trust in? Grandma’s advice? Common sense? Barak Obama, Rush Limbaugh, Dear Abby, CNN? And once you have identified what you’re going to trust in, let me ask you another question: How reliable is that? Does it pass the same muster, the same tests, that we’ve subjected the Bible to this morning? Doubtful, right? So why don’t you sink your teeth – or better yet, your faith into something that has the backing and the endorsement of the One who loved you enough to die on a cross for you and who went on to defeat our great enemy Death by his own victorious resurrection. For like I said before, if the tomb is empty, then the Scriptures are not. Let’s pray:
Our gracious God and Father, we thank you for your Word in which you have imparted to us all the treasures that you have to offer. And we thank you that we don’t have to check our brain at the door when we come to church to hear your Word or when we open its hallowed pages and read it on our own. We can believe the Bible as we’ve heard here today because Jesus believed it. He endorsed it. He authenticated it. And if the One who defeated death found the Scriptures to be reliable and trustworthy, then so can we. Help us then to take the teachings of Scripture to heart, to lean on them, to build on them, especially that glorious Gospel message that Jesus himself proclaimed so clearly when he told an inquisitive and questioning Nicodemus: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” May this holy Book then be the foundation upon which we build our lives, our homes, and especially our eternities. For we ask it in Jesus’ name.