Every Easter Sermon Is Built on the Reliability of the Gospel Eyewitnesses
guest post by J Warner Wallace*
Christian leaders have been preaching Easter messages for over two thousand years. In fact, the first Christian leaders were eyewitnesses of the Resurrection and their message was, in large part, simply their eyewitness testimony. In the years immediately following the Resurrection of Jesus, the apostles preached in a variety of geographic locations and cultural situations. Wherever they went, they shared the case for the Resurrection. The eyewitnesses built their case directly upon their own personal experiences with the Risen Christ. Thousands of years later, pastors and Christian leaders are still preparing Easter messages, and the reliability of the gospel eyewitness accounts is still critically important.
I was interviewed earlier this week by Kevin Boling of the “Knowing The Truth” radio program and we talked about the importance of the New Testament gospel eyewitness accounts. As a pastor, Kevin has preached many Easter sermons. He shared a common outline he has used on Easter Sundays:
The Resurrection Was Prophetically Predicted
Kevin begins by reminding his congregation of the many Old Testament prophecies related to the coming Messiah. These prophetic predictions were fulfilled by Jesus throughout the course of his life, ministry, death and resurrection.
The Resurrection Was Credibly Confirmed
The life of Jesus is faithfully and reliably recorded in the gospel eyewitness accounts and these narratives describe the many evidences Jesus provided to verify His Deity. The miracles, Resurrection and Old Testament prophecies confirmed Jesus’ claims.
The Resurrection Is Eternally Experienced
The history of Christianity is replete with millions of conversion experiences. Believers are continually restored and transformed by the power of the resurrected Christ. The resurrection is a fact of history and is continually experienced by those who have trusted in Jesus.
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As I listened to Kevin describe the three points of his Easter outline, I began to think about the centrality of the eyewitness accounts and the importance of their reliability. Kevin’s Easter message, like all Easter sermons, is dependent upon his second point, the credible confirmation of the eyewitness accounts. If these records are not reliable, Kevin’s entire message falls like a house of cards.
If we can’t trust the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus was accurately described by the eyewitnesses, we can’t trust the Old Testament prophecies were truly fulfilled. If the gospels are elaborate fictions crafted with prophecy in mind, the alleged fulfillment of the Old Testament predictions is meaningless. The reliability of the gospels (point two) is required if we hope to find Kevin’s first point persuasive. In addition, if we can’t trust the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus was accurately described by eyewitnesses, we can’t trust our personal experiences are grounded in truth rather than emotion. If the Gospels are inspiring fictions misrepresenting Jesus (like, for example, the Book of Mormon), we have no reason to believe our transformation is anything other than our own individual effort or emotional evaluation. The reliability of the gospels (point two) is required if we hope to find Kevin’s third
The reliability of the gospel eyewitness accounts is central to every Easter sermon. The messages we hope to deliver as pastors, Christian leaders, or followers of Christ, are dependent upon Biblical accuracy and reliability. That’s why every one of us ought to take the time to know why these accounts are trustworthy. We ought to be able to communicate this truth to others. Let’s use this Easter season to talk about the New Testament accounts as reliable history so we can point to the reality of the Resurrection with confidence and boldness.