Rev. Trevor Johnston and Eric Stewart

Easter Weekend

Sermon:  Epicenter

  1. Have you ever visited Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris?  If so, what were your impressions?  If not, share about your impressions from the most beautiful cathedral you’ve ever seen. 
  2. There is more artwork and architecture based on Jesus of Nazareth than any other person who has ever lived.  This is strange given that he was a Jewish peasant who lived 2,000 years ago and died a shameful death as a criminal.  Why is there so much artwork and architecture based on Jesus?   
  3. An epicenter is the place where you can trace back the beginning or source of an earthquake.  Name some things that some people mistakenly think are the epicenter of the Christian faith. 
  4. Paul described the actual epicenter of the Christian faith in 1 Corinthians 15:1-11:  “Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.  //  For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas (Peter), and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.  //  For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. 11 Whether, then, it is I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.”
  5. What do you notice here?  What questions or comments come to your mind from the above passage?
  6. If we’re honest, we have to admit that the core beliefs of Christianity are pretty weird.  Normally, dead people stay dead.  So it sounds crazy that the epicenter of the Christian faith is that a man named Jesus died and then rose from the dead.  Have you ever struggled to believe that this really took place?  Be honest and share your thoughts with your group. 
  7. Paul points out the two most important events in Christianity and then backs each of them up with some evidence.  Let’s break these down a bit: The first one is that Christ died for our sins …according to the Scriptures (This phrase shows that Jesus’ death wasn’t an accident.)  …and he was buried (His burial was evidence that he was really dead.)  There are 39 ancient historical sources outside of the Bible that mention Jesus’ death.  No credible historian disputes the fact that a Jewish man named Jesus lived 2,000 years ago and was crucified.  What would you say to someone who thinks that Jesus didn’t exist or that he didn’t really die on the cross? 
  8. The second event Paul points to in 1 Corinthians 15 is even more important than Jesus’ death.  It’s the true epicenter of Christianity – that Jesus was raised on the third day… according to the Scriptures (Again, this phrase shows that his resurrection was planned, not a surprise.) …and (now Paul gives some evidence for the resurrection) …he appeared alive to lots of people, including….  (1) people who were already followers of Jesus  (like Peter and the rest of the disciples).  How did Peter and the rest of the disciples change from the time of Jesus’ death compared to how they behaved for the rest of their lives after Jesus appeared to them?  How does their behavior change support the idea that they really did see Jesus alive after he died?
  9. Paul tells us that Jesus also appeared to 500 other people at once.  Why is this detail helpful as evidence for Jesus’  resurrection?  
  10. Jesus also appeared alive after his death to (2) people who weren’t followers of Jesus  (like Jesus’ brother James and Saul/Paul).  Describe the changes that took place in James after Jesus appeared to him alive. 
  11. What changes took place in Saul/Paul?  What explanation did Paul give for those drastic changes?
  12. Read Matthew 16:21:  “From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”  Jesus actually predicted his death and resurrection numerous times before it took place.  How does this impact the believability of the resurrection? 
  13. Another piece of evidence for Jesus’ resurrection is the rapid rise of Christianity.  It’s a historical fact that a new religious movement exploded within a couple months of the crucifixion of a poor Jewish rabbi named Jesus.  Today, this is the largest religion in the world.  If Jesus didn’t really rise from the dead, what other explanation would you suggest to explain this phenomenon?  
  14. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:14 and 32:And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith….  ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.’”  What is Paul saying here? 
  15. Paul points out in 1 Corinthians 15:17 that “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.”  What is Paul saying here?
  16. Read 1 Peter 2:24: ‘‘He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.”  What does this verse tell you about the purpose of Jesus’ death?  Based on 1 Peter 2:24 and 1 Corinthians 15:17, if it is true that Christ has been raised, what implications are there for us? 
  17. Another implication of the Jesus’ resurrection is given in 1 Corinthians 15:52 and 54, “…the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed….  Death has been swallowed up in victory.”  From what Paul says here, a significant result of Jesus’ resurrection is that his followers will have immortal life after we die.  If this is true, how could this change your perspective on your life right now? 
  18. If you still find it difficult to believe in Jesus’ resurrection, we get it!  It’s not an easy thing to believe that a dead person walked out of his grave alive.  We encourage you to check out our next Skeptics class in the fall, which we’ve designed so people can have honest conversations about faith and ask questions in a safe atmosphere with no judgment.  For more information, email [email protected].

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