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Pastor Zach Terry is driven by a desire help people achieve their maximum life through Jesus Christ. He is known for his ability to teach complex ideas in simple terms with practical implications for daily life.

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary selected him as the recipient of the Westminster John Knox Press Award for excellence in preaching and teaching the Christian scriptures. In 2016 he was honored as one of the Connect Faith’s, “Agents of Change“.


Apr 3, 2018

INTRODUCTION: No aspect of the Gospel is terribly difficult to believe except the resurrection. 


  • It’s not hard to believe that Jesus was unjustly tried and convicted. 
  • It’s not hard to believe that Jesus was given the death penalty and sentenced to death by crucifixion. 
  • It’s not hard to believe that Jesus died upon that cross. 

But it’s the Resurrection that brings out the skeptic in all of us.

Difficulty #1 - Our naturalistic world view is stacked against the belief that a person three days dead can live again.

  • Most people in our culture can believe in God as a distant concept. 
  • AND, most people believe in science. 


But when we look at this middle ground, where Heaven spills over into our current reality and violates the principles of science - we have difficultly. 


Difficulty #2 - What C.S. Lewis called - Chronological Snobbery - There is a tendency to think that the poor ignorant souls who lived 2000 years ago would have believed anything. They are given to superstition and myths. 


But, Here is what I want you to understand –
It wasn’t any easier for them to accept than it is for us…

You see, throughout Jesus ministry he had promised to be raised on the third day - 


  • Matthew 12:40
    40. for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
  • Mark 8:31
    31. And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.
  • Mark 9:31
    31. For He was teaching His disciples and telling them, “The Son of Man is to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him; and when He has been killed, He will rise three days later.”
  • Mark 10:34
    34. “They will mock Him and spit on Him, and scourge Him and kill Him, and three days later He will rise again.”
  • John 2:19-22
    19. Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20. The Jews then said, “It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?” 21. But He was speaking of the temple of His body.
  • Even his enemies remembered the promise - Matthew 27:62-64
    62. Now on the next day, the day after the preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered together with Pilate, 63. and said, “Sir, we remember that when He was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I am to rise again.’ 64. “Therefore, give orders for the grave to be made secure until the third day, otherwise His disciples may come and steal Him away and say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last deception will be worse than the first.”

So one would assume that on that first Easter Sunday morning the disciples would have gathered at the tomb of Joseph of Aramathia where Jesus had been buried - counting down in unison! 3, 2, 1!!!


TEXT: John 20:1
1. Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene  came early to the tomb, while it was still dark, and saw the stone already taken away from the tomb.

Ok, the big day they’ve all been waiting on arrives and where are all of Jesus’ followers? The best we can tell they are still in bed.


Mark tells us in 16:11. When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices, so that they might come and anoint Him.

So they were there, but were they expecting to find Him raised? NO! They were paying last respects. They would anoint the body and burn incense to mask the scent of the decaying flesh. BECAUSE DECAYING FLESH IS WHAT THEY EXPECTED TO FIND! 


Think about it - All their life they had been taught - 

  • the wages of SIN is DEATH. 
  • The soul that sinneth must surely die. 
  • From Adam to their present day - each man had a date with death. 


You see it in the genealogies…. 

  • So and so, begot so and so… and he died. 
  • This one, begot that one….and he died


Resurrection NEVER interrupted that rhythm. 


What about Lazarus? - Friend Lazarus was raised, only to die again - as awesome as that was - it was not a glorified resurrection. Death was an undefeated enemy. 


Notice how Mary reacts to the empty tomb -  2 So she ran and came to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.


So Mary did not assume resurrection - she assumed relocation.


If you’ve ever doubted the resurrection - you are in very good company. They all doubted it. They were all trying to figure out what good came out of the life and ministry of Jesus now that he is dead. 

 3 So Peter and the other disciple went forth, and they were going to the tomb. 4 The two were running together; and the other disciple ran ahead faster than Peter and came to the tomb first;


Now, “The other disciple” is John, the author… don’t you love how he worked into the story the fact that he ran faster than Peter? 


 5 and stooping and looking in, he saw the linen wrappings lying there; but he did not go in. 6 And so Simon Peter also came, following him, and entered the tomb; and he saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7 and the face-cloth which had been on His head, not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself. 


Everything nicely folded and put in place. If this was a thief or grave robber, he was a very tidy criminal. 


8 So the other disciple who had first come to the tomb then also entered, and he saw and believed. 9 For as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead. 10 So the disciples went away again to their own homes. 


So Peter and John are getting it… but it still hadn’t clicked for Mary. 

11 But Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping; and so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb; 12 and she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying. 13 And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.” 14 When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” 


Now look at her2 angels in front of her, the resurrected Jesus behind her and she is still worried. Oh, how she is a portrait of so many of God’s children. God’s grace and glory literally surrounding us and yet we are blind to it. Thanks be unto God - Jesus doesn’t leave her in this condition. 


16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means, Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.’ ”

Some suggest, perhaps this was Jesus spirit - but notice she clings to Him, you can’t cling to a ghost. 

18 Mary Magdalene came, announcing to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and that He had said these things to her.



NOW if the resurrection of Christ were put on trial, we would wish to see evidence that it really happened. Let me offer the most compelling evidence I have seen.


1. Sabbath Worship Changed - The early church stopped worshiping on Saturday, as Jews had for thousands of years, and suddenly began worshiping on Sunday in memory of Jesus’ Sunday resurrection. The Sabbath was so sacred to the Jews that they would not have ceased to obey one of the Ten Commandments unless Jesus had resurrected in fulfillment of their Old Testament Scriptures. Yet, by the end of the first century, Sunday was called “the Lord’s Day.


2. Observance of the Ceremonial Law Changed - The early church rejected the observances of the law because they saw it as having been fulfilled in Jesus; thus, the law was no longer binding upon them in the same way as it had been for over a thou­sand years. 


3. Ordinances were Instituted – The Early Church worshipped not with the sacrifice of animals, but rather with the Lord’s table and Baptism, which pictured the death and resurrection of Jesus. 


4. Key Emphasis of Preaching – Read through the sermons in the book of Acts. They don’t emphasize the miracles of Jesus, the words of Jesus, the virgin birth of Jesus - They almost entirely focus on the resurrection. 


5. The Early Church did not Enshrinement of Jesus’ tomb -

  • Judaism looks back to Abraham, who died almost 4000 years ago, and still cares for his grave as a holy site at Hebron. 
  • Thousands visit Buddha’s tomb in India every year. 
  • Islam founder Mohammed died on June 8, 632, and his tomb in Medina is visited by millions of people every year.

Yet, according to James D. G. Dunn, there is “absolutely no trace” of any veneration at Jesus’ tomb. The obvious reason for this lack of veneration is that Jesus was not buried but instead resurrected.


6. We are worshipping Jesus hear today – The best evidence may be the immediate explosion of Christianity. 


7. The Deaths of His Followers

BUT THE GREATEST PROOF I SEE FOR THE RESURRECTION, is the change that took place in those who had been followers of Christ. 


Remember - they didn’t even show up on the 1st Easter Sunday


  • Mary (who scripture tells had 7 demons cast out) was turned into the first Christian evangelist proclaiming the Gospel. She became the Apostle to the Apostles. Now if you were making up this story - it is very unlikely you would have chosen a woman in that day, much less a woman who had been demon possessed to be the first proclaimer of the resurrection - the only viable explanation is that’s how it happened.


  • Those guys who weren’t even there on the third day all ended taking the Gospel throughout the world and ultimately,  dieing for their testimony in Christ. 


Bartholomew was beheaded – for his testimony that Christ is the risen Savior and Lord.

James son of Alphaeus, was beaten, stoned and clubbed to death. for his testimony that Christ is the risen Savior and Lord.

Andrew martyred in western Greece "he was bound, not nailed, to the cross, in order to prolong his sufferings. for his testimony that Christ is the risen Savior and Lord.

Peter was crucified upside down in Rome during the 60s. for his testimony that Christ is the risen Savior and Lord.

Thomas the doubter took the Gospel to India where excited the rage of the pagan priests, and was martyred by being thrust through with a spear." for his testimony that Christ is the risen Savior and Lord.

James son of Zebedee was executed, with a sword, by order of King Herod Agrippa I in the year 44 AD: for his testimony that Christ is the risen Savior and Lord.

Philip was scourged, thrown into prison, and afterwards crucified, A.D. 54." for his testimony that Christ is the risen Savior and Lord.

Matthew was killed with a spear, in the city of Nadabah, A.D. 60." for his testimony that Christ is the risen Savior and Lord.

Jude was crucified, at Edessa, A.D. 72." for his testimony that Christ is the risen Savior and Lord.

LISTEN FRIEND - Only the insane will die for a lie that they know to be a lie. Nothing in the character of these men would lead us to think them insane. 


  • ILLUSTRATION: An Islamic extremist may die for a lie that he believes to be true – but who would die for a lie that they know to be untrue. 


  • Perhaps they were liars? Friend hypocrites and martyrs are not made of the same stuff. 

ILLUSTRATION: Now suppose our Worship Director Gary Wright said, “Pastor, we got here early today and at 7AM we saw that podium levitate 2 feet off the ground”. Now I might say to myself, “well your a worship guy” you guys are seeing weird stuff all the time…. I might say… that’s real nice Gary and go on about my day. But suppose the band said, “No pastor we all saw it - it raise two feet off the ground at 7AM” I would begin to wonder… you see some of these guys are not given to wild speculation. Then suppose over 500 others said, “Pastor we were standing at every angle and all of us witnessed that podium levitate 2ft off the ground. At that point I would have to assume: 


  • This is a massive April fools joke
  • This is an instance of mass hallucination 
  • Or perhaps, they really saw it. 


Suppose those 500 people gave the rest of their lives trying to persuade others that they saw it? 

Suppose that many of them lost their lives over claiming they saw it. 

What happened? The only explanation for the change in the life of these men is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. 


Let me as you a question - Do you believe? 

Has your faith moved you to leave the comforts life’s typical ebb and flow and to speak truth of Easter to those in your circle of influence? 


It is ludicrous to assume that a person can look deeply at the reality of the empty tomb, to embrace it as true and not be forever changed. 




CONCLUSION: Tradition tells of a story about Alexander the Great. One night during a campaign, he couldn’t sleep and left his tent to walk around the encampment.  As he was walking he came across a soldier asleep on guard duty – a serious offense.

The penalty for falling asleep on guard duty was, in some cases, instant death; the commanding officer sometimes poured kerosene on the sleeping soldier and lit it. 

The soldier began to wake up as Alexander the Great approached him.  Recognizing who was standing in front of him, the young man feared for his life.

“Do you know what the penalty is for falling asleep on guard duty?” Alexander the Great asked the soldier. “Yes, sir,” the soldier responded in a quivering voice.

“Soldier, what’s your name?” demanded Alexander the Great. “Alexander, sir.”
Alexander the Great repeated the question: “What is your name?” “My name is Alexander, sir,” the soldier repeated.  A third time and more loudly Alexander the Great asked, “What is your name?”  A third time the soldier meekly said, “My name is Alexander, sir.”

Alexander the Great then looked the young soldier straight in the eye. “Soldier, either change your name or change your conduct.”