Posts Tagged ‘easter’

In this Resurrection Sunday message, we continue with Paul’s letter of 1 Corinthians as he reminds them of the gospel he had previously preached to them. The gospel is *central* to our faith. It is foundational, it is factual, and it is transformational. Hold fast to the gospel of Jesus Christ!

The Gospel

Posted: April 4, 2021 in 1 Corinthians
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1 Corinthians 15:1-11, “The Gospel”

Happy Resurrection Sunday! Today is Easter, the day Christians around the world celebrate Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. It is the day that marks Christianity apart from every religion in the world, the day without which we would not have Christianity. Although Christmas gets far more press and cultural attention (even having a full month+ designated for shopping and special music), Easter has far more importance. After all, Christmas is only special because Jesus rose from the dead. If He didn’t, no one would have cared how He was born. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the pivotal event of history, and it is the event that we celebrate this day and every Sunday.

What’s the big deal? The resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth is what makes the gospel the gospel. Without Jesus rising from the dead, there is no good news to share about Him. Without Jesus’ resurrection, we have no proof of His victory over death, no declaration of His deity, no eyewitness apostles, no reason for Paul to traipse around the Roman empire, nothing. Without Jesus’ resurrection, we have no news to share, much less good news. At that point, all we have is the reality of our sins against a holy God with no way of resolving them. We are left with hopelessness and judgment. We are left with the futile religions of men, trying to prove ourselves righteous and always failing. Those who try to earn their way into heaven are like trucks stuck in the mud, spinning their wheels wildly, getting only dirtier and deeper into the muck. We need a rescue and a Rescuer, and without the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we have none.

But praise God, Jesus is risen from the dead! Jesus is alive today, just as He has been alive for the nearly 2000 years since He first came out of the Jerusalem tomb. And because He is, we have good news to share and to believe. Not just “kind of” good news; the best news of all: the news of God’s salvation!

This was the news that Paul shared with the Corinthian church at the beginning of Chapter 15. Paul had just concluded his discussion of spiritual gifts, which came as a part of his longer discussion of orderly worship within the local church. On a broader scale, this was part of a section in the letter where Paul was answering some specific questions from Corinth – subjects he addressed after dealing with several issues of discipline. Paul had covered a full array of topics with this local congregation ranging from internal division to marriages to prophecy, and everything in-between.

At this point in the letter, Paul started to bring things to a close, and as he did, he addressed one more major subject – something that had been on his mind since the letter’s beginning. Back in Chapter 1, Paul wrote how the message of the cross was foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (1:18). Some of the Christians in Corinth had begun to stumble on some of the basics of the gospel itself – something foundational to our faith, without which we cannot be saved. Now, with the other issues out of the way, Paul turned to that which was most important: the wisdom of God seen in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

It quickly becomes apparent that the primary stumbling black of some in Corinth was the physical literal resurrection of Jesus Christ, as well as the ramifications that it held for the resurrections of those who believe. But before Paul can look at the details of the resurrection, he first needed to establish its place within the gospel message. This is what he does at the beginning of Chapter 15 as he reminds the Christians in Corinth about the centrality of the gospel to the Christian faith.

What a marvelous text to examine on Resurrection Sunday! The events that took place that glorious Sunday morning make it possible for us to be saved. The things that took place that day ensure that there is a gospel to share, that there is good news to tell. We have that good news and it is glorious! It is foundational – it is factual – it is transformational. It is essential to everything we have in God and it is all about Jesus.

Praise God this Resurrection Sunday for the gospel of Jesus Christ!

1 Corinthians 15:1–11

  • The gospel is foundational (1-2).

1 Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, …

  1. What was the first thing Paul wrote about the gospel? He had already preached it once to Corinth. He was about to preach it to them all over again. One of the oldest strategies in public speaking is this: “Tell them what you’re about to tell them. Tell them. Tell them what you told them.” Paul was in the “tell them what you told them” phase. He had already given them the gospel, so what he was about to write to them should seem very familiar. Why? Because it wasn’t going to change. What Paul had originally declared, that was what he was going to write.
    1. Why? Because the gospel does not change! No matter who the audience is, no matter what the preferences of our culture may be, the message of Jesus does not change. Certain methods of sharing the news might, but the message (i.e., the content) does not. How so? Today, we have technology of which Paul could not have imagined. His method of worldwide publishing was to write a letter by hand, have a bunch of people copy it, and then send the copies around the Roman empire individually, hand-carrying it from church to church as people walked to different cities. Today, all we need to do is click a button on Facebook or Twitter, etc., and it goes to a worldwide audience immediately. Paul preached to many cities, but he could only preach to one city at a time. For us, anyone with a cell phone can instantly post a global livestream. The methods are incredibly advanced. Even the media can vary. In addition to the spoken and written word is video, infographics, picture books, etc. Even things like puzzles and Rubik-cube like toys have been used to share the gospel. The news of Jesus goes out in a myriad of ways undreamt of by Paul or any of the original apostles.
    2. But the content does not change. The content must not change. The gospel is what the gospel is, and we have neither the right nor the authority to alter it. Some want to water it down, hoping to find a way to make it more palatable to the world, or at least not as offensive as it might be perceived. That is not our job! It is not our authority. We are stewards of this news; not the originators or owners of it. We cannot change what God has set forth.
    3. Beloved, beware that you do not change the message! Likewise, beware of any pastor, teacher, or evangelist who does change the message! In his letter to the Galatians, Paul put a warning in the strongest of terms: Galatians 1:8–9, “(8) But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. (9) As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.” How important is it to keep the message of the gospel unchanged? So much so, that even if Paul changed it, he was under the curse of God! Let us beware and be careful to leave the gospel intact, as given us in the Scripture.
  2. That is a lot of talking around the message of the gospel. What is the message itself? Paul will get to the details in a moment, but for now, let us look at the big picture. The words “gospel” and “preached” come from the same root word in Greek. The noun is euangelion (εὐαγγέλιον), in which you might hear the word “evangelism.” It is a compound word (or, at least a strengthened form of one word) placing a word for “good” in front of another word for “news / declaration.” In fact, that word is the same root from which we get our word “angel,” as an angel is nothing more than an heavenly being with a message from God. The angel brings divine news. So the eu-angel (~evangel) is the good declaration, the good news of God concerning Jesus Christ.
    1. Why does this matter? Because we tend to use the word “gospel” as an adjective for all sorts of things. There is gospel music, gospel literature, gospel action, gospel fill-in-the-blank, as if it is just another word in a Christian version of “Mad Libs.” And that is just the church; our culture uses the word in a different way, often as a synonym for “truth,” as if we might read a book that purports to be the gospel about politics, or sports, or other such things. This needs to stop. We need to understand this single point: the true gospel speaks only of Jesus Christ! If we are not referring to Jesus, we are not referring to the gospel at all. May we not allow this glorious word to be so easily diluted in our speech! Jesus is the gospel, the good news of God. Anything less is not the gospel at all.

…which also you received and in which you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, …

  1. The Corinthians received the news of Jesus. They did not reject it, but believed it as Paul declared it. Likewise, they stood in the news of Jesus, having planted their feet in the truth that was preached, not moving from that spot of faith. And because of that, they were currently being saved through/via that same news of Jesus. The ESV brings out the present tense grammar in verse 2 as Paul wrote, “by which you are being saved.” More than a one-time act of forgiveness, the effect of the gospel of Jesus upon the Corinthian Christians was present and ongoing.
  2. The Bible speaks of salvation in three tenses: past, present, future. (1) We are saved from our sins of the past by being justified by Jesus. His death on the cross serves as the punishment for our sins and when we place our faith in Him, He justifies us, wiping out our debt against God. (2) We are presently being saved from our sinful nature in the process of sanctification. In this, Jesus frees us from the power that our sinful nature has on us, that we need not give in to the slavery of temptation. (3) We will be saved in the future in the day we are removed from the presence of sin through the act of glorification. One day, our bodies will be resurrected along with Jesus (which Paul addresses later in the chapter), and in that day we will live in Jesus’ kingdom altogether free from our sinful condition.
  3. Paul’s point for Corinth was that they already experienced the first two tenses. Because they received the gospel and stood in it, they were justified by Christ. They were truly forgiven of their sins and made new creations by the grace of God. And because of their ongoing faith, they were currently being saved, being continually sanctified by the grace of God as they were made more and more into the likeness of Christ. God had done a mighty work among them, in which they could rejoice!

Yet there was one disclaimer…

…if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

  1. The “if” stands out to us in a major way. All of what Paul wrote was true for Corinth, if they held fast to that gospel. It needs to be pointed out that the grammar used by Paul indicates that this was not a strong fear of his for the church. He was certain that this was indeed the belief for the Corinthians. Even so, their one guarantee of their salvation was to “hold fast” to the gospel preached to them, not being those who “believed in vain.” Make no mistake: there are some who believe in vain. There are some people who walk through the doors of a church, who know all the right words, and who can even recite some basic Biblical doctrine about Jesus (particularly on an Easter Sunday morning) yet who do not hold fast to the message. They do not themselves believe. For them, the words they know are empty words – the faith they pretend is a façade. There is a theological term for this person: a false convert. Maybe he raised his hand during a preacher’s invitation wanting to go to heaven, but he did not surrender himself to Jesus as his Lord. Maybe she was told she could fill the spiritual void in her heart, but she did not turn from her sins to follow Jesus, never truly believing upon Christ for who He is. Whatever their faith was in, it was not in the Lord Jesus Christ, crucified for their sins and risen from the dead. They may have believed in something, but they did not believe the true gospel. All their other belief was in vain.
    1. Don’t let that be you! Especially on Easter, on Resurrection Sunday, take the time to examine yourself to see if you are in the faith. Take a hard look at your beliefs and determine if you hold fast to the gospel, the good news about Jesus. Only those who do have any assurance of their salvation. If your hope in heaven in based on anything other than Jesus, then you have no hope of heaven. At that point, you are not being saved. But you can Hold fast to the gospel of Christ!

You can’t get much more important than this! The gospel is foundational to our eternal salvation. It is the access we have to the promises of God. It is the assurance of our deliverance from sin and future in presence of God. It is essential to believe and to keep.

  • The gospel is factual (3-8).

3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: …

  1. In verse 1, Paul already wrote how he preached the gospel to the church at Corinth, as this was the message he was going to deliver to them all over again. Guess what? It was a message that was delivered to Paul himself. Paul did not invent the message; he (like every other gospel preacher) was a messenger. It had been given to him; he passed it along to others.
  2. That Paul “received” this message confirms that it existed long before the writing of 1 Corinthians. Paul likely learned this formulation from the initial Christians he met in Damascus following his own conversion, some 20 years earlier. Considering that Paul wrote this letter around 54-55AD, having first ministered in the city around 51AD, we can place his conversion somewhere around 36AD. This means that a fully formed Christian creed (confession of faith) existed outside of Jerusalem within 3-5 years of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. – For all the skeptics who claim that the story of Jesus’ resurrection was a myth that developed over time, the historical facts simply do not allow that as a possibility. It takes years and even decades for myths to develop. In this case, doctrine was being formulated and taught within only a couple of years from the event itself. Presidential terms last for a longer period of time than what it took for the gospel to be systematically taught to new believers! – It underscores the idea that the gospel is historical fact. This good news of God is not “too good to be true;” it is good because it is true.

…that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures,

  1. Christ.” Note that Paul gives a title rather than a name. Not that anything is wrong with the name of Jesus. Far from it! The name “Jesus” encapsulates the gospel itself, meaning “YHWH is salvation,” or, the shortened form of “Yah saves.” This is the name specifically chosen by God during Mary’s pregnancy for His only begotten Son. It is the name that is above every other name. It is wonderful! But for Paul’s purposes here, it was also wonderfully common. “Jesus” is the anglicized Greek equivalent of “Joshua,” a name extremely common among the first century Jews. Imagine if Paul wrote that “Josh died for our sins according to the Scriptures.” While theologically correct, his readers might have asked, “Which one?” They may have known a dozen men named Joshua/Jesus, and they needed some distinction. Paul could have done this legitimately by writing “Jesus of Nazareth,” which was the name that Peter used in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:22), but Paul didn’t. He wrote “Christ.” Why? Because this specific title has a specific meaning. The Christ is the Messiah, the Man anointed by God to be King of Israel and the Savior of the world. The Christ/Messiah is the Man to whom Scripture points as the fulfillment of the promises of God, stretching all the way back to Adam and Even in the Garden of Eden. This is a Person of great importance – this is the Man upon whom rests the fate of the universe – this is the Man at the center of the good news of God. The gospel is about Christ.
    1. Don’t gloss over that! The gospel is not about life-fulfillment, good feelings, material riches, or anything that this world offers. The gospel is not even ultimately about eternal life in heaven. That is a benefit of the gospel, but it is not the gospel itself. The gospel is about Christ. It is about the Lord Jesus of Nazareth as God’s Messiah. It is about who He is and what He has done. The good news of God all about Him; not us.
    2. This gets us back to the warning against changing the gospel. If we make it all about us and what we can get out of God, we are no longer preaching/believing the gospel. If the preaching is all about seeing what we can gain (be it prosperity, physical healing, supernatural power, etc.), it is not gospel preaching because true gospel preaching is going to be about Jesus as the Christ. We dare not dilute nor diverge from that message. It is far too important!
  2. Christ “died.” Again, remember whom it is of which we speak. Christ the King, the Messiah, the Anointed One of God, the God-Man Himself died. The One who existed before time began, the 2nd Person of the Trinity who had no beginning, the One through whom God created the world – this Man died. That alone is a mind-blowing thought. How is it possible that the Christ could die? Without question, this was unthinkable in the minds of the 1st century Jews. They anticipated Messiah’s arrival, looking forward to a great military victory He would bring over the Romans and restore Israel to its kingdom and prominence. Certainly, this was on the minds of the original disciples, which was why they scattered so quickly when Jesus was arrested. It was why they hid themselves behind locked doors when Jesus died on the cross. Their hopes for Messianic reign had been dashed, so they thought. The Man whom they trusted was gone. He had been bruised, beaten, and nailed to the cross, and it was upon the cross that He died. The weight of this was crushing to them. Looking back 2000 years later, we might chastise them saying, “But Jesus warned them. They should have listened!” Yes, they should have…but they were humans just like us. They did not want to believe that Jesus could suffer and die on the cross, but He did, and they were devastated.
  3. But there was a reason for Jesus’ death, one which we dare not forget. This too is part of the gospel. Specifically, “Christ died for our sins.” This is what we remember on Good Friday, though we dare not limit it only to then. Jesus died as a sacrifice, as a substitution. And this is why it had to be Christ, and not just anyone. Because it was Jesus, because it was the Son of God incarnate as the Christ, the death that Jesus died served as a sufficient substitute for sinful people like you and me. Because we live in 21st century western culture (and a primarily Gentile one at that), we have a difficult time understanding the need for sacrifice. To us, “sacrifice” is something that we give to another. It might even be valuable, like the sacrifice of time or money. It might even be the sacrifice of the life of a soldier for the country which he loves. But it is a one-sided sacrifice – something without a correlating response. To the ancient Hebrews following the law of Moses, “sacrifice” was something far different. That kind of sacrifice required blood – it required the life of an animal that served as a judicial substitute for one’s own sins. You had sinned against God, and the wages of your sin was death. But you couldn’t personally pay that price, for obvious reasons. So, you put an animal in your place, and the death that you should have received was administered to that animal, and you knew the blood that came pouring out from its neck should have been yours. Of course, there was a problem: you kept sinning and you had to keep giving animal sacrifices. Moreover, the value of an animal never equals the value of a person. Thus, the sacrifice was always insufficient. – This is where the death of Christ comes in. His sacrifice is His death was given in place of your death. The punishment He received should have been your punishment. The blood that poured out His body should have been yours, but it was His – and because it was His, it serves not only as a sufficient payment for your sins, but an overwhelming payment. As the hymn says, “Jesus paid it all.”
  4. Christ was “buried.” This too, is part of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Why? Because it is a reminder that Jesus was really dead. It is a reminder that even His initial disciples believed it was over. When Jesus died on the cross, it seemed as if all their hopes had died with Him. As the two men walking on the road to Emmaus on Sunday morning said to Jesus (before knowing it was Him), “We were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel,” (Lk 24:21). They hoped He was the Messiah, but in their minds, how could He be if He was dead? They needed a living Christ for the promises of God to be true. With Jesus dead, those hopes had died. Thus, they buried Him. Joseph of Arimathea gave his own unused tomb for the body of Jesus, and he and Nicodemus the Pharisee packed Jesus’ body with 100 pounds of spices, wrapped it according to Jewish custom, and rolled a massive stone in front of the door. They would have done none of it if they expected Jesus to rise. Moreover, there was no chance they would have done it if they had any suspicion that Jesus might still somehow be alive! Of course, the Roman centurion had already verified the death of Jesus by piercing Jesus’ side with his spear, but if neither the cross nor the spear had killed Jesus, surely the smothering of the all the spices and wrapping would have finished off the job! The point? Jesus was truly dead. The price was truly paid. Without the real and verified death of Jesus, we have no payment for our sins. But it was real, it was verified…to the point of His literal burial in a literal tomb.
  5. Christ “rose again.” This is where the good news becomes good! This is why the gospel is the gospel! On the third day after Jesus gave His life on the cross for our sins, Jesus rose again to new and glorious life. We remember the Biblical account, how the women who believed in Jesus still wanted to somehow attend to His body in devotion, even though they did not have the opportunity on the day He died. The sun had set and the Sabbath had begun, so the women had no choice but to wait until Sunday morning. They started out at their earliest opportunity, right as light was beginning to break, going to the tomb with their spices and material. How they were supposed to move the stone was a part of the puzzle they hadn’t yet figured out, but all they knew is that they needed to get to Jesus’ grave. As it turns out, the stone wasn’t a problem at all! An angel appeared, rolling back the stone, revealing that the tomb was already empty (Mt 28:2). Jesus had already departed the tomb, having been risen from the dead, an event unheard of in all history. Several people had been raised from the dead in the past (some by the hand of Jesus Himself), but none had ever risen from the dead by their own power. Jesus did. Just as Jesus willingly gave up His life, committing His spirit into the hands of God the Father, so did Jesus take up His life again on the third day!
    1. What does it show? Everything! It shows that Jesus is the Son of God (Rom 1:4). It shows that Jesus truly is Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36). It shows that Jesus is the One who will one day judge the world (Acts 17:30). Moreover, it shows that the price for sin has been paid that that we have the promise of new life in His name! The resurrection of Jesus is the Easter story and it is the reason that the gospel of Christ is good news.
    2. Is this the news you believe? This is the news by which we can be saved, but we will never be saved if we do not believe it. Think of it: Jesus died on the cross and rose from the grave nearly 2000 years ago in the past. His sacrifice has already been completed in full. The work has been done, but not everyone is saved. Why hasn’t everyone in the past 2000 years automatically been given the promise and assurance of heaven? Because not everyone believes. Jesus’ work has been done but it is only effectual for those who have faith. The apostle John put it this way: 1 John 5:13, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.” You need to believe!
  6. Note: all of it was “according to the Scriptures.” Nothing that happened to Jesus was according to random chance; it was all according to the Scriptures. It was all according to the revealed plan of God. Which Scriptures? Paul does not list them here. And for good reason…there are far too many! There are over 300 prophecies in the Old Testament that speak of the earthly ministry of Jesus, ranging from His family line to the city of His birth to the events surrounding His death, and more. As to the specific Scriptures that speak of His death, burial, and resurrection, one need look no further than Isaiah 53. The entire chapter speaks of the substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus, but is also specific on these lines: Isaiah 53:9–10, “(9) And they made His grave with the wicked— But with the rich at His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was any deceit in His mouth. (10) Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, And the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand.” Jesus died, having been crucified next to two robbers (most likely terrorists). Jesus was buried, placed by the rich Joseph of Arimathea in his own tomb. Jesus rose again, having seen His “offspring” of the church and having His days prolonged. This was the plan of God regarding His Son and it came true to the letter!

This is the message regarding Jesus, the good news of the gospel. And it is good! But is it true? The best story in the world does nothing for us if it is just a fairy tale. How can we know that Jesus actually rose from the dead? That is what Paul goes on to describe. We can know this is true because Jesus was seen. His physical person was witnessed not just by one, but by many people.

5 and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve.

  1. That “Cephas” (Peter) is mentioned first among the apostles is not just a matter of historical record; it is a demonstration of great grace. We need to acknowledge that Peter was not the first person to see the risen Lord Jesus; that privilege was given to Mary Magdalene and the other women who steadfastly followed Him and believed in Him. But Paul isn’t writing here of every witness; he names the ones that the Christians in Corinth would have known. Considering they had a personal experience at some point with Peter/Cephas, it is only fitting that Paul begins the list of eyewitnesses with him. The issue of grace is important due to Peter’s last interaction with Jesus prior to Jesus’ crucifixion. After boasting how he would never leave Jesus, how all the other disciples might abandon Him but that Peter himself would never deny Him, Peter had a massive failure. The “mighty” Peter, the de facto leader of the apostles did deny Jesus in a major way. He crumbled at the questions of a little girl, along with others at a campfire within eyeshot of Jesus. Like so many of us, Peter temporarily turned his back on the Man he claimed as his Lord. Peter failed.
    1. The good news for Peter? His failure was not final! Jesus died for the sins of Peter, just like Jesus died for your sins and mine. When Jesus rose from the grave, He made special effort to ensure that Peter knew that Jesus was risen. Peter saw Jesus, and later even had a special meeting with the Lord restoring him to full ministry. Peter found forgiveness in the risen Lord Jesus, just like anyone can.
  2. It wasn’t only Peter who saw Jesus, it was all “the twelve.” Interestingly, the official “twelve” had dwindled to eleven after the betrayal by Judas Iscariot. That said, there were other men present, as acknowledged by Peter when Matthias was officially added to the number prior to the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:26). But just as there was grace shown to Peter in Jesus’ resurrection, so was grace shown to all the apostles. Remember that although Peter denied Jesus in a particular way, all the apostles abandoned Jesus. Aside from a brief time when John came to stand at the foot of the cross, all the men who faithfully followed Jesus for three years were scattered like scared sheep. Even after Jesus’ death, they still feared for their lives, hiding behind locked doors. Yet locked doors are no problem for the risen Christ! Jesus appeared in their midst, showing them the wounds in His hands and side. And He did it not just once, but twice. Thomas was not initially with the disciples when Jesus first appeared and despite the glorious news told to him, he stubbornly refused to believe for a full week. Only then did Jesus once more appear specifically for Thomas, to which Thomas replied, “My Lord and my God!” (Jn 20:28).
    1. Isn’t it good to know that the original apostles were not “perfect” Christians? They were men just like us. They had failings like every man and woman today. And Jesus gave them grace in His resurrection…just like Jesus offers us grace in His resurrection. This is the good news! How we need to believe!

6 After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep.

  1. When did this meeting with “five hundred brethren” take place? Scripture does not directly tell us. Many scholars believe it to be the gathering in Galilee when Jesus gave the Great Commission (Mt 28:18-20). Paul was less interested in giving the details of the meeting than he was giving the Corinthians other references and eyewitness testimonies. He was basically telling them, “You don’t have to take my word for it, or even Peter’s word. Go ask folks from the crowd of 500. Most of them are still alive today. Go check it out for yourselves.” According to Hebrew law, it only took the agreement of 2-3 witnesses for a matter to be established as judicial fact. A man could even be put to death on the testimony of 2-3 witnesses (Dt 17:6). How many witnesses did Paul name thus far? 512 and counting! The amount of eyewitness testimony was overwhelming.
  2. Objection: “But it’s just eyewitness testimony. That doesn’t prove anything.” On the contrary, yes it does. There are two ways of establishing fact: scientific testing by which phenomenon can be reproduced, or judicial/historical testimony as in a court of law. Historical events, by definition, happened in the past and cannot be reproduced scientifically. There is no experiment one can set up to “prove” that Columbus crossed the Atlantic Ocean in 1492. What we can do is look at the historical documents and the testimonies of the people who lived at the time. The same thing happens in criminal courts every day all over our nation. Evidence is presented to a judge, sometimes the only evidence being eyewitness testimony. The testimony of one person may not be afforded much credibility, but the more people who corroborate a story, the more likely it is true. — How much eyewitness testimony is available regarding the risen Jesus? An astounding amount! Literally hundreds of people saw Him alive, and at the time Paul wrote this letter, those testimonies could be verified.

7 After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles.

  1. The fact that “James” is mentioned is incredibly important. This is not either of the two apostles named James during Jesus’ earthly ministry; this was the James who was the half-brother of Jesus, who ended up being a prominent leader in the church at Jerusalem. If there were anyone prone to be a skeptic of Jesus’ claims of deity as the Messiah, His siblings topped the list. Sure, they would have heard from Joseph and Mary that Joseph was not Jesus’ father, but it’s doubtful they would have believed too many of the stories. They certainly did not believe in Him during Jesus’ earthly ministry (Jn 7:5). Why would they? They were his brothers. They grew up next to Him, they played games with Him, they maybe even attempted to play pranks on Him. They would not have given Jesus more authority than absolutely necessary. No brother does. Yet something Something massive changed James’ mind to where he was convinced that his own half-brother was God and that James owed Jesus his worship. What could it be, other than the resurrection? Jesus “was seen by James” and it changed his life.
  2. Who were the other “apostles” mentioned here? We cannot say exactly. The official twelve were already mentioned by Paul. This second grouping surely included the twelve as well as other men like James and Jude (as the half-brothers of Jesus), Justus (as the other potential choice from Matthias), and perhaps some other men who had been with Jesus in His earthly ministry, thought not named with the twelve. The overall point is clear: the risen Jesus was seen by all kinds of people, and even the people who were most skeptical towards Him during His ministry believed. They were converted, being absolutely convinced that Jesus is the risen Messiah.

8 Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.

  1. Finally, there was Paul. Paul’s own conversion is recorded three times in the book of Acts, as his personal testimony was something he often shared. And for good reason: it was powerful! (Something which he details in the next several verses.) But the point here was that Paul was apparently the final eyewitness of the risen Jesus. Paul was not part of the original group of disciples, nor was he included in the group of men and women who came to faith in Jesus in the earliest days of the church. On the contrary, as Saul of Tarsus, Paul was steadfastly against Jesus…yet Jesus still appeared to him. And like a baby being born unexpectedly, so was Paul reborn as an apostle of Jesus Christ, an eyewitness to the risen Lord. He could add his own voice to the chorus of testimonies surrounding Jesus.

Question: What about today? We are nearly 2000 years removed from Jesus’ resurrection. Any eyewitness to Jesus’ resurrection from the tomb is long-dead and buried. Sure, there are occasional stories of visions, of varying credibility. Some stories are plainly lies; others are perhaps grounded in truth. But as for anyone laying eyes on the physical resurrected person of Jesus of Nazareth? Those days are over. 

Yet it does not stop us from testifying of the risen Jesus. (1) We still have the eyewitness testimonies in the pages of the New Testament. The four gospel accounts are based on the testimonies of the men and women who were there. Paul’s own letters speak of his experience, as well as the book of Acts. The other epistles testify of the authors’ experiences with the risen Jesus. We may not have access to the 500 men and women mentioned by Paul to Corinth, but we do have the eyewitness testimonies of the apostles! (2) We have our own personal testimonies of Jesus Christ. No, we have not seen the risen person of Jesus, but we have experienced Him through faith. Every single born-again Christian has a real relationship with the real, resurrected Jesus Christ. It cannot be otherwise, if you are saved. If you do not believe in the risen Jesus, you are not born-again, period. That means we pray to the living God. That means we interact with the living God. It means we have been saved by the living God, known in the person of the risen Jesus. You can testify to someone else of Jesus because you know that Jesus is risen from the dead! (And if you don’t, you can know Him today!)

Jesus’ resurrection is a fact! This is not some myth based on the imaginations of deluded men. This is not invented dogma by a cultic group. This is historical, factual truth.

  • The gospel is transformational (9-11).

9 For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy 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 toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.

  1. Here is where Paul writes of the effect of Jesus’ resurrection on his own life. Yes, he was the last to be called by Jesus as an apostle and eyewitness, but it was a privilege to be called! Paul was “not worthy to be called,” but he was. Paul “persecuted the church of God,” but he was given grace. How much grace? An abundance! Three times in one verse, Paul writes of the grace of God that he received. Grace made Paul who he was as an apostles – the grace of God was effectual in Paul’s life, not being in vain – the grace of God enabled him to engage in ministry. Everything that the Corinthians knew of Paul was all due to the grace of God. Grace transformed Paul totally. It changed him from a persecutor to one who was often persecuted. It changed him from one who hunted the church to one who planted the church. The grace of God changed everything!
  2. How did this grace come? Through the gospel! How might we be transformed? Through the gospel! When we respond to the good news of Jesus Christ, we are showered with the grace of God. His grace forgives us of every sin, cleansing us from our past, making us who we now are as new creations. His grace enables us to live for His glory, empowering us by the Holy Spirit to do things we never thought possible. Who were we, other than wretched sinners? Who was I, other than a wretched sinner? And apart from the grace of Jesus, that is what I still am! But in Christ? I am saved! Because of the grace of God through Jesus Christ, I am what I am, sealed and filled with the Holy Spirit that I might live to the glory of God. That is my testimony and it is the testimony of all who believe! 

11 Therefore, whether it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

  1. Paul brings it back to where he began. He gave this church the gospel and he could testify of the risen Jesus and the grace that Jesus provides. Even if Corinth heard it from someone else, it didn’t change the message. Jesus changes lives and eternal destinies because Christ died, was buried, and rose again, according to the Scriptures. It happened with Paul, and it happened with Corinth.

It can happen with anyone. Why? Because the gospel is transformational.

Conclusion:

What better news to share on Resurrection Sunday than the good news? This is the central message of the Christian faith and it is all about Jesus. It is foundational – it is factual – it is transformational. It is what we celebrate not just one day per year, nor one day per week; it is to be celebrated every day of our lives! Because Jesus died, was buried, and rose from the grave, we are saved. That is something that ought to come out in our prayer and devotions every morning or evening, or whenever you spend time with the Lord. This is the news that ought to be on the tips of our tongues, ready to share with whomever the Lord puts in front of us. If this is the news that changed Paul – if this is the news that changed you – then this is the news that can change anyone.

Christian: hold fast to what you have heard! Do not underestimate the importance of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Let it be that to which you cling every morning and every evening. This is what we need to preach to ourselves, all day every day. Why? Because we sin all day every day! How many times do you and I fail even before breakfast in the morning, much less through the rest of the day? Our thoughts turn to selfishness, or we get upset at the news headlines, or we get irritated at traffic, or at the dog, or at a half-dozen other things before we even get to the office (or wherever). It is in those times we need to remember Christ came, Christ died for our sins, Christ was buried, and Christ rose again. Jesus did all of that according to the plan of God, that God would be glorified and that we might be bathed in His grace. It is in the truth of that message, by the work of that Person, that we are saved and assured. Hold fast! Hold to it like a life-preserver in the middle of an ocean, like the parachute to which you cling as you jump from the plane. However you do it, just do it! Hold fast to the gospel, clinging tightly to the risen Jesus. He is our only hope.

Some of you do not yet know that hope. You can. You should. Maybe you have been a false convert, showing up in church but believing in vain. Or maybe you know that you haven’t believed, thinking that it did not affect you. I implore you: cast yourself upon the mercies of Jesus today! You have heard the good news. Jesus is the Christ of God, crucified for your sins and risen from the dead. This is a historical fact and your lack of faith does not change that. One day you will stand before Jesus in all of His glory, and you will be judged for your life based on how you responded to the gospel. Once you’ve heard the truth you cannot “unhear” it. Today you know and you must respond. Respond in humility and faith! Respond with repentance and trust. Turn away from your sins and trust Christ today.

The Answer of the Resurrection

Posted: April 12, 2020 in Mark
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Resurrection Sunday 2020

Mark 16:1-20, “The Answer of the Resurrection”

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! That is good news – gloriously good news! That Jesus is risen from the dead is the declaration from God that Jesus is God, and that the price He paid on the cross for our sins is fully sufficient. That Jesus is risen from the dead is our assurance that our sins can be forgiven, and that we have the opportunity to be made the children of God and go to heaven, living in everlasting life. It is good news…if you believe. It is good news available to all the world, but we know that all the world is not saved. Only those who believe this news are those who experience its benefits, and for that, we need faith. Not fear, not doubt; faith. We need to trust that Jesus really is the Son of God crucified for our sins and risen from the dead. Only those who fully believe those facts, fully entrusting ourselves to the Living Jesus are saved.

That’s exactly what we read in all four gospels, including the gospel of Mark. Of all the resurrection and post-resurrection account, the gospel of Mark’s is perhaps the most controversial. In many Bible translations, verse 9 and following are included in brackets or somehow otherwise set apart, with an explanatory note saying how the ending of Mark 16 is not included in the oldest available manuscripts. That statement is true, but it is also true that verses 9-20 of Mark 16 are included in the vast majority of Biblical manuscripts around the world and was referenced by Church Fathers older than the oldest manuscripts.

For our purposes today, we are not arguing that Mark the Evangelist was necessarily the original author of these words; only that these verses were the ending of his gospel as accepted along with the rest of the book by the early church as being received Scripture. These are verses that have taught and blessed the church for nearly two thousand years, continuing to do so today.

Why look at these verses at all, being that they’re so controversial? Especially on a day like Easter / Resurrection Sunday, why pick this chapter out of all the other chapters we could read? First of all, any account of Jesus’ resurrection is appropriate, because any of the other Biblical accounts are Biblical. This includes Mark, and his account shows something unusual, though important. On this day that we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, we can see that the initial reaction of the initial Christians wasn’t so great. The earliest witnesses to Jesus wrestled with their own fears and unbelief. They weren’t sure how to handle the news of the empty tomb in light of the world around them.

We might find ourselves in a similar position today. As wonderful as the news of Jesus’ resurrection is, we also struggle with fear, skepticism, and unbelief. We’re also uncertain what to do with the empty tomb in our world as we know it today. Even if we take comfort in our assurance of eternal life, we still have this present life in front of us, and it has become something we barely recognize. We have to deal with coronavirus, financial uncertainties, and other fears about the future. How do we handle these things in light of the resurrection? What does Jesus’ resurrection offer us today?

In a word: hope. The good news of Jesus’ resurrection is not only news for the future, but for the present. Jesus offers us hope to walk in faith; not fear – to live in confidence; not unbelief. Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. Don’t fear; believe. And once you believe, preach Him!

We’ll see it in three main words that sum up the major sections of Mark 16: fear, unbelief, rebuke. When the women were at the empty tomb, they feared. When first told of the news, the disciples did not believe. When Jesus appeared to all, He rebuked them and commissioned them.

In His resurrection, Jesus gives us what we need to face this world…we need to face it in faith!

Mark 16

  • The women’s fear (1-8)

1 Now when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, that they might come and anoint Him. 2 Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen.

  1. As Mark 16 opens, several questions are asked and answered off the bat: Who came to the tomb? Several of the women who believed in Jesus. Two of the Mary’s and Salome. Their backgrounds can be dealt with at another time – suffice for now, that these were women who had loved Jesus as their King, followed Him faithfully as female disciples, were present during the course of His crucifixion, and had seen Him buried after He died. These were women truly devoted to Jesus, and their devotion continued after His death.
  2. When did they come? After “the Sabbath…very early in the morning, on the first day of the week.” e., in the wee hours of Sunday morning. By some accounts it was still dark, while by other accounts light was just breaking. Those who are routinely up at 5am know exactly what that’s like…it is the twilight before the dawn, when it is both dark and with the barest hint of light. The bottom line for the women is that they came at their first opportunity. They were not allowed to go anywhere on the Sabbath, which started Friday at sunset, lasting until Saturday at sunset. They wouldn’t go anywhere Saturday night after dark, so they went first thing Sunday morning. They weren’t wasting any time whatsoever.
  3. Why did they come? To pack Jesus’ body with “spices,” a cultural practice among the Jews at the time. The gospel of John tells us that Jesus’ body was already well-packed with spices (a hundred pounds’ worth! – Jn 19:39), but the ladies wanted to express their devotion as well. Although they couldn’t afford the kingly gift of Nicodemus or Joseph of Arimathea, they could give what they had…and surely their widows’ mites were abundantly sufficient!

3 And they said among themselves, “Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?” 4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away—for it was very large. 5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a long white robe sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed.

  1. The women had a plan to go to the tomb, but they didn’t have a plan as to what to do when they arrived. They knew the tomb was blocked with a massive stone, and they didn’t have a clue as to what they were going to do about it. Beyond the weight of the stone, there were other problems, namely the Roman guard and the seal placed over the front of the grave (both unmentioned by Mark). Moving the stone was a massive problem (literally), but it wasn’t the biggest one they faced. They also had to deal with the weight of the Roman empire standing in the way between them and Jesus.
  2. As it turns out, neither was a problem! Instead of a stone, instead of a Roman guard, they found an angel of God. Granted, the actual term “angel” is not used, but there’s little doubt as to what this being was. Notice there is no description of wings or halos or cherubs; instead, it is of a young man clothed in white, “sitting on the right side” (which itself an interesting detail, not from a theological viewpoint, but just as an affirmation of an accurate eyewitness account). Doubtless the angel was not “young” from a chronological point of view (being that the angels were likely created before humans), but it looked young. In fact, from Mark’s telling of the event (which was likely Peter’s own account), this angel did not look imposing at all. Certainly, he could The angel that passed through Egypt and passed over the houses of the Hebrews caused the death of thousands upon thousands. The angel that protected Jerusalem during the reign of Hezekiah killed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers in a single night (2 King 19:35). The angel could have appeared imposing, as a massive bronzed hulk shining bright with God’s own glory, but he didn’t. Instead, he appeared as a young man in a white robe. Why? Because the angel was the most impressive thing there – the angel wasn’t supposed to be the center of attention. That belonged to Jesus’ resurrection, and the empty tomb.
    1. In our celebration of Easter (and in our Christianity in general), we need to keep the main thing, the main thing! It isn’t about our fanfare – it isn’t about our traditions. As much as we might miss our sunrise services, our Sunday feasts, or our large worship team of musicians – those things aren’t the main thing. The main thing is Jesus, risen from the dead. If all we can do this year is remember the Resurrected Jesus, then that is more than enough!
  3. The reaction of the women? “They were alarmed.” One Greek dictionary describes this word as “to be moved to a relatively intense emotional state because of something causing great surprise or perplexity,” (BDAG). (Ya think?!) It is no wonder that these women were alarmed! They had the surprise of their lives in front of them, and no doubt their emotional state was “intense,” to say the least. Who among us wouldn’t? Male or female, any one of us would have been in a state of near-panic upon encountering an angel at the tomb. It was shocking enough to see the stone rolled away, akin to visiting the grave of a loved one only to find the dirt dug up and thrown to the side. But then to see a shining figure of a young man calmly awaiting your arrival (or two men, according to Luke, with only one of them speaking). “Alarm” would be the bare minimum of our emotional state!

6 But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him.

  1. Amen! The first-ever announcement of Jesus’ resurrection! The proclamation of the gospel is seen in the change of tenses. It’s all about “Jesus of Nazareth,” the Man who these women had believed to be the Messiah of God. He truly “was crucified” – He had been killed on the cross, verified as dead by the Roman centurion, and taken down by His (once secret) followers and friends for burial. That was what had happened. The women had seen all these things with their own eyes, and knew it to be their recent past. But it wasn’t their present. Presently, Jesus “is risen,” (something which never changes) and then-currently “is not” Jesus’ body was not in the tomb, but that fact by itself could have been very bad news. Maybe there was a grave-robbery – maybe there was a conspiracy by the Romans and Jewish priests. But there was a wonderful explanation for the absence of Jesus’ body: “He is risen.” Jesus is alive, and Jesus will always be alive. He is forever risen from the dead, never to die again!
    1. That’s not only wonderful news, but it is wonderfully unique. Remember that these women had seen Jesus raise the dead before. During His earthly ministry, Jesus revived several people who had recently died, and He even resurrected Lazarus when Lazarus was four days dead and in the grave. Lazarus’ body wasn’t only dead, but had begun the process of rot and decay – something which initially caused his sister Martha to be hesitant to see Jesus work a miracle (Jn 11:39). But all of these raisings were temporary. Not a one who was raised or revived was guaranteed to remain alive. Each one of them would die again. Not so, with Jesus. With Jesus, “He is risen,” something that is just as true today as it was nearly 2000 years ago when announced to Mary Magdalene and the others. Jesus is the only One who is risen, being the firstfruits of those risen from the dead, and this is the definitive proof that Jesus is vastly more than just another son of Mary raised in Nazareth; He is the Son of God sent to save the world.
    2. Is this what you believe? Those who do have the promise of living in heaven with our living Risen Jesus – we have the guarantee of God for eternal life. It is as Jesus told Martha: John 11:25–26, “(25) Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. (26) And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”” Those who believe, live eternally with Jesus; those who don’t, don’t. Be one who believes!
  2. The angel knew what the women sought, and he couldn’t show them what they were seeking. Instead, he showed them something far better: nothing. Instead of an occupied tomb where the women might use their spices and place flowers, there was an empty bench where Jesus’ body would have originally laid. There were grave clothes tossed aside, along with a face-napkin neatly folded (according to John). There was nothing they expected, but there was something infinitely better! (Some unmet expectations are wonderful!)

7 But go, tell His disciples—and Peter—that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.”

  1. Not only did the angel give the first post-resurrection gospel message, he also gave the first post-resurrection gospel command. The women were told to engage in evangelism – not of the masses, but of their friends, the disciples of Jesus. The eleven who survived (Judas Iscariot having departed after betraying Jesus, and soon killing himself for shedding innocent blood) were to be told of Jesus’ resurrection. Not only that, they were to be told of Jesus’ continuing work. “He is going before you into Galilee.” That was where Jesus had done the bulk of His earthly ministry, and it was as if Jesus was picking right back up where all of them had left off prior to going to Jerusalem for the Passover. The price for sin had been fully paid, but there was more ministry to be done, more preparation and teaching for the disciples before they were sent out as Jesus’ ambassadors and heralds to the world. The disciples (and all who followed the Lord at this point) would see Him for themselves…exactly as Jesus had planned for them to do. (“…as He said to you.”)
  2. Notice the specific call-out of Peter with the rest of the disciples. Peter was himself a disciple, but no doubt he felt unworthy to be numbered among them. Thursday night going into Friday, Peter had failed the Lord Jesus miserably, having caved to the people who noticed he had been a follower of Jesus, and Peter denied the Lord. Earlier that night, he swore vehemently that every other disciple might fall away, but Peter himself would never deny Jesus. (That itself being a denial of Jesus’ own prophetic gift and knowledge, as Jesus told Peter exactly what would happen.) Of course, the sad irony was that all of the disciples left Jesus to some extent, but Peter’s failure was worse than all of them put together (excepting Judas). Peter didn’t only leave Jesus’ side; Peter denied even knowing Jesus, pretending to be an ignorant stranger to what was happening. Yet what was the word of the angel to Peter (via the women)? Peter was still one of the disciples, and Peter was to join the rest of them in Galilee. Peter, just like the others, would see Jesus for himself. Although Peter had abandoned the Lord, the Lord would not abandon him. Jesus was still extending His compassion and grace.
    1. Have you ever failed Jesus? More accurately: when was the last time you failed Jesus? We’ve all done it, and sadly, we’ll all do it sometime again. But there is good news to us who believe: Jesus does not fail us! Jesus does not abandon us. Though we are faithless, He is faithful. He loves us and extends His compassion and grace to us, just like He did with Peter. All it takes is for us to seek Him in humble repentance, and His restoration is at hand.

8 So they went out quickly and fled from the tomb, for they trembled and were amazed. And they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

  1. The women were obedient in going out, but their attitude and emotion as they left might seem to be unexpected. Instead of rejoicing at the news of the angel and dancing all the way home, they “fled from the tomb” in trembling fear, being overwhelmed at the things they saw. The emotion that described them best in this moment wasn’t joy, but fear, “for they were afraid.
  2. Why? Should they have been fearful – or was this a lack of faith on their part? There is certainly a lack of faith among the disciples of Jesus (which we’ll see in a moment), but for the women, we need to give them the benefit of the doubt. It doesn’t seem to be that they disbelieved the angel…it seems that it took a while for the news to sink in. And why wouldn’t it? We look back with nearly 2000 years of familiarity with the events of Easter Sunday; they walked through it in real-time for the first time. Although Jesus had told His disciples on multiple occasions that He would suffer and be crucified in Jerusalem to later rise from the dead, all of that seemed so unreal at the time that it never really sunk into the hearts of those listening to Him. That would have included the women as well as the male disciples. Surely, Jesus was speaking in hyperbole (so they thought) – surely He was using some sort of spiritual expression they did not yet understand. They didn’t realize that when Jesus prophesied His suffering, death, and resurrection, that Jesus spoke literally. There was no spiritualized underlying meaning; it was simple, literal truth. Now that it was all happening, it is no wonder why the women didn’t know what to make of it. Their fear was all too understandable.

Fear is understandable…it’s something to which all of us relate. The person who claims never to fear is a person who not only lies to others, but lies to himself. To be sure, none of us has to continually walk in fear, because God hasn’t given us a spirit of fear – and we won’t walk in fear when we walk in faith. But that doesn’t mean that fear won’t assail us from time to time. It doesn’t mean that we won’t get hit by a tragedy, and lapse into fear, if only briefly. Fear is natural – it’s a part of the fall, and all of us experience it.

Fear is especially natural when it comes to death. Even those of us who have full confidence and faith that we will see Jesus face-to-face in heaven still deal with some level of fear with dying. None of us wants to die on the operating room table. We pray for one another to be healed from sickness. We don’t want to leave our beloved family behind. There are all kinds of uncertainties that accompany death, even for born-again Christians. But this is where the good news of the resurrection comes in: Jesus has conquered death, so Jesus takes away our reason for fear. Jesus has defeated death, so Jesus’ resurrection defeats the grip that death’s fears have on us.

Fear may be natural, but it need not last. Why? Because Jesus is risen from the dead!

  • The disciples’ unbelief (9-13)

9 Now when He rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven demons. 10 She went and told those who had been with Him, as they mourned and wept. 11 And when they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe.

  1. Before the account tells us of the apostles, it first gives us a bit of background on Mary Magdalene. Although many people have associated her with having a background as a prostitute, the Bible never actually makes that direct connection. What it does tell us is her hometown (Magdala, in which there were many prostitutes), and her past demon possession. She was a former demoniac, freed by the grace and power of Jesus. That in itself is a wonderful testimony. So, why is the reader reminded of this here? Because it had a direct affect on her credibility. From a cultural standpoint (wrong as it was), the testimony of a woman was not as valuable as a man. A woman’s word could be easily doubted. That a woman would be the first to testify of a Risen Jesus made the account doubtful enough. Combine it with the fact that she had a past history with demons (seven demons, at that!), it made the testimony of Mary more than a little sketchy with the male disciples. They would naturally wonder if she was hallucinating, or perhaps falling back into past events. There she was, telling the most unbelievable story: Jesus’ body was gone from a tomb sealed and guarded by Roman soldiers, that there was an angel, and that Jesus was bodily alive and would meet them in Galilee. No doubt, several of the men were saying to themselves, “Poor dear, she’s beside herself.” 
  2. Of course, the problem wasn’t with Mary; it was with the disciples. She had all the credibility required, being an eyewitness to the empty tomb, as well as receiving an angelic testimony that supported Jesus’ own previous prophetic words. She had far more evidence for Jesus’ resurrection than the apostles had for doubting her. But doubt, they did: “they did not believe.” Literally, faith was negated within them – they had no belief whatsoever in her words.
  3. It doesn’t speak highly of the apostles, does it? These were men who had followed Jesus for years, seen His miracles, and were fully convinced He was the Messiah. They knew His words of prophecy, including the (seemingly) unbelievable ones that He would rise from the dead. Yet when given the glorious news that Jesus had risen from the dead, what was their first reaction? Faithlessness…unbelief.
    1. It may not speak highly of the apostles, but it certainly speaks highly of the truth of the gospel record! Their reaction of unbelief to the testimony of a former demoniac woman tells us much about the historical fact of Jesus’ resurrection. How so? Because people who make up stories about themselves always make themselves look good. If a group of Galilean fishermen wanted to invent stories about Jesus to make Him look like the resurrected Messiah, then they wouldn’t have had His first witness be a woman (much less a former demoniac), nor would they have painted themselves as a bunch of skeptical unbelieving scaredy-cats. Instead, if they wanted the most people possible to believe them, they would have shown the apostles arriving at the empty tomb, with the glorious Lord Jesus standing in front of them, all of them walking off into the sunset together. But that isn’t what the gospel records show. They show the least credible witness talking with weak-willed, faithless disciples. The only reason to show themselves in that light was if it was true. And it is!

12 After that, He appeared in another form to two of them as they walked and went into the country. 13 And they went and told it to the rest, but they did not believe them either.

  1. This is a condensed account of what Luke describes in the famed walk to Emmaus (Lk 24:13-35). In a disguised form, Jesus walked and talked with two of His followers as they went along the road, only finally revealing Himself to them as He broke bread at supper, at which point He vanished. The two men ran all the way back to Jerusalem that same night and told the rest…and still, they didn’t believe. By this point, the number of witnesses was growing. It started with the women, they had a partial testimony from Peter and John, and now had another full testimony from two other men. But it wasn’t enough. The rest of the disciples still lacked faith.

A lack of faith is a dangerous thing! Someone can be around the things of Jesus for years, and still not believe. That was the case with the original disciples – it is so often the case with many in the church. Men and women show up week after week. They’ve heard the Bible stories – they put on their Easter best and show up for Christmas Eve. They know all of the Christian “routines” and are faithful in following each one. But their faithfulness in their religion isn’t grounded upon faith in Jesus. True faith is believing the testimony about Jesus’ resurrection. True faith is knowing that our Jesus is alive, risen from the dead, reigning from heaven at the right hand of God. True faith is knowing with absolute assurance that our sins are forgiven, only because Jesus died for us and rose again. True faith has nothing to do with our church familiarity; it has everything to do with our familiarity with the Risen Jesus.

  • The Lord’s rebuke and command (14-20)

14 Later He appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table; and He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen.

  1. Finally, Jesus “appeared” to the rest of the disciples, just as He had appeared on the road to Emmaus and to the women (earlier in the morning, unrecorded by Mark). This time, He was instantly recognizable, and there was no doubt that the men were seated in the presence of their Friend, Rabbi, and Lord. John remembers that it was all during that same day, so it was likely right after the report from the men who went to Emmaus (right at the same moment the disciples were disbelieving them), that was when Jesus appeared to the entire group, though the doors were shut (locked). Can you imagine the shock? You’ve disbelieved every report that came to you about Jesus’ resurrection, and even while you’re still debating the last report, there Jesus is standing in your midst. All of a sudden, all doubts dissipate as you stare with wide (yet incredulous) eyes at your God and King!
  2. From other gospel accounts, we know that Jesus’ first words to His disciples were comforting (“Pease be with you,” Jn 20:19), but the first real address to them was one of rebuke. Like their ancestors of old, the disciples were stiff-necked, stubborn, and hard of heart. Throughout Jesus’ ministry, they had been slow to believe, and this time was no different. Jesus rightly rebuked them, telling them that they should have believed the testimony of others who came to them.
    1. I wonder how many men and women will receive a rebuke from the Lord when they stand before Him for judgment? The words “Depart from Me, I never knew you” will be heard by tragic multitudes! How many times must we hear the testimony of Jesus’ cross and resurrection before we believe? How many times must we receive the conviction of the Holy Spirit, yet ignore Him? How many times must God reach out to us in grace, before we humble ourselves in repentance and faith? Thankfully, for many of us, we have believed…but so many others have not. Today, yet again, Christ reaches out to you in mercy and grace, and you have the opportunity to believe and be saved. Do not harden your heart – don’t do as you’ve always done, turning away from His open arms. One day you’ll find that it’s too late.
    2. For the rest of us, we have gratefully believed upon Jesus through the grace of God. Even so, we are slow to believe His promises. Have we too, earned a rebuke from the Lord? He said He’d never leave us nor forsake us, but we accuse Him of abandoning us. He said He’d give us grace that is sufficient, yet we don’t trust Him enough to turn to Him for it. He said His yoke is easy & His burden is light, but we try to do it all on our own. Our rebuke might be different, but it is just as well-earned! Don’t be unbelieving & slow of heart; believe!

15 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.

  1. As is the case with the record in Matthew, the emphasis here isn’t on “going,” but on “preaching.” In Matthew’s account, the primary verb is “make disciples;” here, it’s “preach,” (which accomplishes the same end). Wherever we go, we are to preach – we just preach as we go. Certainly that was the case with the disciples and early church. Wherever they were, they preached the good news of Jesus to others, they themselves became disciples of Jesus, believed, were baptized, and we saved.
  2. Who was to preach? Jesus’ disciples. To whom were they to preach? Every creature. Obviously, referring to every person. Jesus does not command us to preach to every cat, dog, fish, microbe, etc. Humans are who sinned against God, and humans are who need salvation. Obviously, the idea is to preach to allTo every creature” breaks past every national & ethnic prejudice. If you have been created by God, then you need the gospel of Jesus. (And we are the ones to take that gospel to them!)
  3. Note: baptism is associated with belief, but baptism is irrelevant without belief. People put too much emphasis on the need to be baptized, as if baptism itself saves us. It doesn’t. Per Jesus’ words, the person “who does not believe will be condemned,” including anyone who is/isn’t baptized. Baptism by itself does not save; it is an act of faith that accompanies the saving faith that already exists.

17 And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; 18 they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

  1. The key word here is “” These are not guaranteed events to happen each and every time the gospel is preached – no more than the signs that Jesus performed during His earthly ministry happened the same each and every time He gathered a group of people to teach. One day, He might have healed the blind – another day, He healed a leper – another day, He simply taught. Signs are signposts…they happen occasionally, when they are required by the sovereign working of Almighty God.
  2. Although these are some of the verses of Mark’s ending most doubted by some, it’s important to note that all of this was seen in the early church. Peter & Paul each cast out demons in Jesus’ name – many multitudes of new Christians spoke in unknown tongues – the idea of being healed from serpents and/or poison was seen during Paul’s time on Malta – and many people who were sick were healed by Peter, Paul, and others. That the signs listed by Jesus are miraculous is no doubt, but each of them can be seen as fulfilled. (Jesus’ word is true!)
  3. Before we leave this, notice something important about these signs: they would “follow those who believe.” What was the one thing the disciples did not do before seeing Jesus? They did not They were skeptical, and chose to remain skeptical even in the midst of growing testimonies about Christ. Although they had loved the Lord during the past years, they would never be able to do anything for Jesus, if they did not wholeheartedly believe Jesus was resurrected from the dead.
    1. Thankfully for us, their unbelief changed to belief once Jesus stood before them. Yet, just as Jesus told Thomas a week later: they had believed because they had seen; blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe (Jn 20:19). (That’s us!)

19 So then, after the Lord had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. 20 And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen.

  1. What happened afterwards? First, the ascension. The living Jesus was taken up into heaven, where He still lives today. Jesus’ ascension goes hand-in-hand with His resurrection. The reason why the resurrection is so wonderful is because Jesus ascended. Jesus’ ascension means that Jesus will never die again. Jesus’ life continues into eternity!
  2. Similarly, Jesus’ work Thankfully, the work of our salvation and redemption was accomplished at the cross. When Jesus said, “It is finished,” He declared with authority that the price for our sin had been paid in full. Jesus had fulfilled the work He set out to do, having been the perfect sin sacrifice for us. God’s wrath toward us was fully satisfied as it fell on Jesus. “It is finished!” That said, Jesus did not sit down as His Father’s right hand to kick up His feet and do nothing for 2000 years. Mark 16:20 shows that though Jesus went to heaven, Jesus was still active. The disciples believed, and obeyed the commission of Jesus. What happened as the disciples went out to preach? Jesus was “working with them” the entire time, “confirming the word” of the gospel through the “signs” He spoke about. Jesus left them bodily, but not spiritually. He left them physically, but not vocationally. Jesus was still working through the church to spread the news of His gospel to the entire world. He was then, and He still is today! Our Jesus is alive, and He is working!

Conclusion:

The women started with understandable fear. Their beloved Lord and Rabbi had been brutally killed, and they were still dealing with the trauma from that when they began experiencing the supernatural. They weren’t sure what to do, and it showed up as fear.

The disciples dealt with common skepticism and unbelief. Some things simply sounded too good to be true, and it was relatively easy (if not expected) to write off the rumors as coming from questionable sources. They made the decision not to believe.

Jesus dealt with both. His very real resurrection removes the reason for fear, and it is the proof that dissipates doubt. The fact was that although fear was understandable and doubt was common, there was no reason for it. Jesus had truly risen, and true faith in Him is what His followers needed to live their lives for Him.

Question: So what? What does the resurrection of Jesus mean in the season of coronavirus? What impact does Easter have during a global pandemic? Does any of this matter for today, or it is only a religious distraction? (Nice, but ultimately meaningless.)

Yes, it matters.

First, the resurrection of Jesus helps us dispel our fears. We do not share the same circumstances as Mary Magdalene and the others, but we certainly know what it is like to be afraid. The resurrection of Jesus tells us that all fear is unnecessary. Fear may exist, but it is toothless.

What grip does the fear of death hold on people who will be raised from the dead? In Jesus’ resurrection, death has lost its sting. What ground does fear have in the lives of us who follow Christ?

And if the resurrection proves Jesus’ power over death, it proves His power over everything else. Sickness – financial upheaval – future uncertainty – what are those things in comparison with sin and death? If Jesus conquered that, then nothing else is a problem. When we trust the Risen Jesus, we trust the Conquering King – we trust the Victor. Fear has no footing in His presence. Fear has to flee.

Secondly, the resurrection of Jesus dispels our unbelief. Sooner or later, we must deal with the multitude of proofs that Jesus literally, physically rose from the dead, and we no longer have any room for blind skepticism. What Jesus said, He did. His promise proved true.

If Jesus kept His word on the resurrection, what promise is there of His that will fail? Jesus already did the hardest thing…everything else is a piece of cake. Jesus’ words prove true, because He has the power to back up everything He says.

Consider what this means for the so-called “lesser” promises of God. Jesus said not to worry about our lives, about food, drink, and clothing, for our Heavenly Father provides for us (Mt 6:25-34). Jesus has the proven power to keep this promise, because Jesus is risen from the dead. Elsewhere, when Paul faced his unnamed thorn in the flesh, Jesus’ promise was that His grace was sufficient for every occasion, especially in our weaknesses (2 Cor 12:9). It is (and we know that it is), because Jesus is risen from the dead.

Jesus is risen from the dead, and that proves everything else! Jesus’ resurrection gives us confidence in all the promises of God. His resurrected life puts doubt to death. Unbelief has no place to hide in light of Jesus’ victory.

So yes, the resurrection of Jesus matters with coronavirus, or whatever the next major worldwide trauma will be. The resurrection of Jesus matters in the here & now, and not only for the hereafter. No, it is not a distraction. The resurrection of Jesus is exactly what gives us hope in these times! It is the primary reason we will persevere.

No, the resurrection doesn’t promise us immunity from Covid-19, nor guarantee that we won’t lose our jobs, or experience countless other trials. The resurrection guarantees that we won’t lose our Jesus…and that is far better!

Beloved, where is your trust today? Have you lacked hope? Look again at the empty tomb – hear again the commission of our Lord. He lives, and He gives us strength to endure.

Death Came First

Posted: April 1, 2018 in Luke, Uncategorized
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Luke 23:44-56, “Death Came First”

“You’re late! You’re preaching the wrong text! We’re supposed to remember the crucifixion on Friday, and the resurrection on Sunday!” The death of Jesus is entirely appropriate to remember on Easter/Resurrection Sunday. After all, for there to be a resurrection, there must first be a death.

In fact, one might argue that this is one reason Luke (and the other gospel writers) spend so much time dealing with it. After all, where else in the Scriptures does this happen? The Bible often tells us the fact of someone’s death, and sometimes the circumstances leading up to it – but rarely does it give the kind of details that surrounds the death of Jesus. We’re told of His last words, the witnesses around Him, the controversy over His body, His place of burial, and even the rituals that prepared His body for burial. That sort of thing is almost unheard of in the Scripture. Genesis 25 tells us where Abraham was buried, but not any details concerning his body. Genesis 50 gives us a few additional details of Jacob’s burial, though only summarizing his actual death. Moses’ death is only briefly mentioned in Deuteronomy 34, as is David’s in 1 Kings 2 & 1 Chronicles 29. The point? Jesus’ death and burial stands out as unique. It is purposefully emphasized in Scripture. The writers wanted their readers to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus really died. Why? Because if Jesus really died, that means that once He was seen again, He really rose.

So yes, it’s appropriate to remember Jesus’ death on Resurrection Sunday. One event miraculously leads to the other. Death comes first, in order that the Resurrection comes at all!

When looking at the context, we might be lost as to where to begin! This moment had been anticipated by God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit since before the foundations of the world. The whole of Jesus’ earthly incarnate life had led to this point. Were we to narrow it down to the previous 12-18 hours, it would seen that Jesus had gone through the full gamut of human suffering. He had been betrayed, rejected, denied, dismissed, abhorred, abused, crucified, and ridiculed. Yet by the end of it all, there was at least one who believed. Out of the two criminals crucified on either side of Jesus, one had expressed his own faith, asking Jesus to remember him in Jesus’ future kingdom. With glorious assurance and grace, Jesus told him that he wouldn’t have to wait long. That very day Jesus pledged the man would be with Him in Paradise.

Paradise was coming, but it wasn’t there yet. Jesus still drew breath, as painful as it was. Soon He would die, and all the world around Him would bear witness. It would be infinitely tragic, but ultimately glorious. For Jesus, death was not the end – just like it need not be the end for anyone who believes in Him as Lord. Resurrected life was on the way, which guarantees eternal life to us! But before He was raised, He first had to die. One directly leads to the other.

May we pay close attention to the death of Jesus, in order that we might know life in His name!

Luke 23:44–56

  • Jesus’ death (44-49). Final moments (44-46)

44 Now it was about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour.

  1. Luke provides a bit of time reference. Accounting for the Jewish system of time, the morning began at 6am, that being the 1st hour of the day. Thus the 6th-9th hours are from noon – 3pm. Keep in mind that Luke does not say that Jesus was on the cross only for 3 hours; that was just when the darkness lasted. Mark 19:15 notes that Jesus was crucified at the 3rd hour (9am), so He would have hung on the cross for 6 hours total.
    1. There is a bit of debate concerning the times in the gospel accounts, as John wrote that Jesus was still with Pilate during the 6th hour, and this was when Pilate presented Jesus to the nation, still seeking to have Jesus freed as their King (Jn 19:14). Is this a contradiction? No – there are different arguments on either side. It possibly comes down to different methods of time accounting (Jewish vs. Roman).
    2. Don’t miss the main point. The issue isn’t so much chronology, as it is agony. This was no quick execution. It wasn’t as if the worst part of the day was having spikes driven through Jesus’ wrists & feet, and then everything was all over. Jesus’ ordeal lasted for hours. It was interminably long. Consider the times you’ve been in terrible pain – mere seconds feel like several minutes to hours…time seems to slow down. Consider what it was like for Jesus. He not only had the physical pain of the cross & all of its horrors, but He had the emotional and spiritual pain of bearing the wrath of God. No doubt, the hours felt like years.
  2. As Jesus hung on the cross, the sky grew dark – remaining this way for three full hours. Question: when Luke writes “there was darkness over all the earth,” does he mean that there was no part of the earth that had light at the time? Was Rome or London just as dark as Jerusalem? No – that wasn’t Luke’s point, and we do ourselves a disservice to press it this way. Luke simply means that as far as the eye could see, it was dark. Luke is not making an astronomical statement of an event that affected the whole planet; he’s giving a description from eyewitness reports of what it was like in Jerusalem at the time. How can we be certain? His whole context is Jerusalem, as is seen in verse 45…

45 Then the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was torn in two.

  1. The “sun was darkened,” but the “veil” was local. Luke describes local Although it is true that the word translated “darkened” can refer to an eclipse of the sun (indeed, our English word is taken from the Greek: ἐκλείπω), it is guaranteed that there was not an eclipse on the day of Jesus’ crucifixion. Again, how can we know for sure? Because Jesus was crucified in connection with Passover, and Passover never has an eclipse. Eclipses of the sun are only possible with new moons; not full moons. (Astronomy review: a new moon is when the illuminated side of the moon is away from the earth, thus the moon is difficult to see; a full moon is when the illuminated side is facing the earth. Full moons, by definition, are only possible when the earth is in-between the sun & the moon. Thus, although lunar eclipses are possible during Passover, solar eclipses [which would actually darken the earth] are not.) The feast of Passover is specifically directed to take place after a full moon, being that it is the 14th day of the Jewish month Abib, i.e., the 1st month of Spring.
  2. So what was the darkness? Perhaps thick cloud cover – perhaps dense fog – perhaps a supernatural darkness such as existed during the Egyptian plagues. We can’t say with certainly what the darkness was – we can only say with certainty that it was not a solar eclipse, and that it was definitely seen by all within Jerusalem and the surrounding area. (Which makes sense for the day of Pentecost 50 days later, that all people in Jerusalem were well aware of the events surrounding Jesus. Even if they hadn’t personally seen Him hanging from the cross, they would have experienced the uncanny darkness while He hung there.)
  3. The sun may have been obscured, but there was at least one thing that was unexpectedly revealed: the holy of holies in the Jerusalem temple! Normally, a thick curtain (“veil”) separated the holy place from the most holy place. The temple had several divisions, the outermost area being public (itself being sectioned off into areas for Gentiles, for Jewish women, and for Jewish men); then there was the holy place where the priests burn incense, light the menorahs, change out the showbread, etc.; then there was the most holy place, where only the high priest would enter once a year to sprinkle the blood of the sacrifice on the mercy seat of the ark (when it existed). That room was never seen, apart from the high priest, always serving as a reminder of God’s ultimate holiness and the people’s separation from Him due to their sin. Yet, as a result of the cross, when Jesus died this temple veil was torn in two (from top to bottom, according to Matthew & Mark. The reminder of man’s removal from God was no more. The price had been paid, and mankind now had full & free access to God via faith.
    1. How free? Totally free! Hebrews 10:19–22, “(19) Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, (20) by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, (21) and having a High Priest over the house of God, (22) let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” The temple veil was nothing compared to the veil of Jesus’ flesh! Because His body was broken for us, now those of us who believe have full, unrestrained access to God the Father. Praise God for the sacrifice of Jesus, the perfect High Priest!
    2. Christian, there is no sin you commit that is “too much” for the grace of Jesus. When He ripped the veil, He did it all. You cannot rebuild that which He has destroyed. That’s not to say that Christians never sin and never have need of repentance…we certainly do! But we always can repent, because Jesus has made the way!

46 And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, “Father, ‘into Your hands I commit My spirit.’ ” Having said this, He breathed His last.

  1. The words spoken from Jesus at the cross are spread out among the four gospels – this phrase being unique to Luke. Although we might not recognize it as being a fulfillment of prophecy (as we would Jesus’ earlier cry, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” from Psalm 22), it actually is. In fact, we might argue that it is more than a statement of fulfilled prophecy; it’s a statement of faith from Jesus in the fulfilled redemption of God. Psalm 31:1–5, “(1) In You, O LORD, I put my trust; Let me never be ashamed; Deliver me in Your righteousness. (2) Bow down Your ear to me, Deliver me speedily; Be my rock of refuge, A fortress of defense to save me. (3) For You are my rock and my fortress; Therefore, for Your name’s sake, Lead me and guide me. (4) Pull me out of the net which they have secretly laid for me, For You are my strength. (5) Into Your hand I commit my spirit; You have redeemed me, O LORD God of truth.” This is a psalm of David, but it speaks so well of the Greater-than-David, the Lord Jesus! Just as David had experienced hardships and persecution from his enemies (particularly Saul), so did the Son of David generations later, particularly when Jesus was hanging upon the cross. Yet in those trials, God the Father could be trusted. Although it had seemed as if the Father had utterly forsaken Him, at the end, Jesus knew beyond doubt that His Father had redeemed Him – or rather, had received Jesus’ work as the redemption price. Just moments earlier (according to the gospel of John), Jesus had declared “It is finished!” – that the price had been paid, and the work was done. Now that work was ratified, and the Son could place Himself totally in the hands of His Father.
    1. So can we! Because of the finished work of Christ, we can entrust ourselves totally unto God. We need never fear that Jesus’ sacrifice is insufficient, that the cross is not enough; it is! Everything that could be done, everything that was required to be done, was done by Jesus at the cross. Our ransom has been paid, and Jesus’ blood was enough. All that is left for us is to receive His finished work by faith – to fully trust in Christ, and fully entrust ourselves to the mercies of God because of the work of His Son. Those who do, find themselves gloriously saved!
    2. This can be you, today! Maybe you’ve been in church dozens of times – maybe you’ve heard all your life about the work of Jesus & His death on the cross. But in all of those times, you’ve never responded to His work in faith – you’ve never consciously entrusted yourself to God. You can do that today! 
  2. Once Jesus made this profession, “He breathed His last.” With no more to be done, He could finally be released from the pain and torment of the cross. It’s interesting to see that at the very moment most would think that death conquered another victim, it was Jesus who was the Victorious Conqueror. After all, death did not overtake Him; He gave Himself unto it. Jesus chose the moment of His death…He was fully in control the entire time.
  • Reactions (47-49)

47 So when the centurion saw what had happened, he glorified God, saying, “Certainly this was a righteous Man!”

  1. Quite the reaction from a pagan solider! Most likely, the centurion was there as a supervisor. Being an expert in the things of death, someone had to oversee the events at Calvary/Golgotha. Someone had to ensure that the men sentenced to die there did indeed perish. An officer within the Roman army who had the responsibility of leading at least 100 men was perfect for the job. But what he saw amazed him. The centurion was no stranger to death, but never had he seen a death like this. Never had he witnessed the earth paying tribute to the One being tortured, as was seen in the unnatural darkness or the accompanying earthquake (unmentioned by Luke; Mt 27:54). These events had a profound impact, and he couldn’t help but saying something.
  2. What did he say? Of all the things that could be said of Jesus, one that could not be said was that Jesus deserved this death. The criminals on either side of Him did – countless others in the crowds at the foot of His cross did – even the centurion and the soldiers under his command did. All of them deserved some punishment for some sin. But not this Man. This Man was “righteous,” i.e., innocent of all charges. Both Pilate and Herod had come to the same conclusion earlier that day, though they didn’t care. They were just as happy to send Jesus to the cross as to release Him to the crowd. They knew Jesus had done nothing deserving of death, but they were content to release Him unto death. Not the centurion. The centurion’s reaction went further than Pilate and Herod. Not only was Jesus undeserving of the death sentence, but Jesus was truly righteous in the first place. IOW, Jesus not only had an absence of sin; He had an abundance of the one thing absent in everyone else: righteousness.
    1. This is exactly what makes Jesus the perfect substitute for us. Our sin requires death. The wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23), and blood must be shed. But if we don’t want our blood shed, then we need an acceptable sacrifice. That’s Jesus. Yet it’s one thing to have our punishment removed; it’s another to receive an undeserved gift of life. How can we receive that? We need not only an innocent unblemished sacrifice; we need a source of righteousness. Again, that’s Jesus. When we believe upon Him, we don’t only have our guilt removed (glorious enough!), but we have grace imparted. We receive the righteousness of Christ, in order that we might become the children of God. This is grace beyond our imaginations! …
  3. Question: Was this saving faith, or just a simple observation? Many scholars believe it to be an observation, nothing more. They note that even the further statement of the centurion recorded by Matthew & Mark, “Truly this Man was the Son of God,” is nothing more than a statement of Jesus’ righteousness, considering the centurion was likely a believer in many gods. To be called “a son of the gods,” would have been a compliment, nothing more. Even so, those scholars seem to sell the centurion short. Matthew & Mark both use singular terms for “God;” not plural. It wouldn’t exactly be a stretch of the imagination to think that the centurion, who was aware of all the controversy surrounding Jesus earlier that day (if not, earlier that week!), who witnessed all of Jesus’ sufferings & His responses towards those who tormented Him, who witnessed the supernatural events that took place at the moment of Jesus’ death – to think that this man (though a Gentile pagan) would have come to true faith in the true Son of God. After all, we are expected to see these things and believe. Why not an actual eyewitness to them? Neither Matthew, Mark, nor Luke give any indication that this centurion saw Jesus through the eyes of anything less than saving faith; we have little reason to believe otherwise.
    1. The point? Faith is internal. You either have it, or you don’t. Either the centurion believed, or he didn’t. If he rightly observed Jesus’ innocent righteousness, but did not believe that Jesus was the true Son of the true God, then the centurion still went to hell in unbelief. A half-faith is still wholly condemned. Yet if the centurion did come to true faith in Christ, then he had all the assurance as did the one criminal next to Jesus. He too, had the promise of Paradise.
    2. The question for you is whether or not you have that same assurance. Do you have that same faith – a full faith?
  4. The centurion wasn’t the only one watching the sight. Others were there as well…

48 And the whole crowd who came together to that sight, seeing what had been done, beat their breasts and returned.

  1. The “crowd” watched, and they grieved. Perhaps this was the same crowd that followed Jesus along the road. Luke shows two sets of crowds in Jerusalem: those who believe in Jesus, and those who rejected Him & wanted Him crucified. This seems to have been the former. Although there were many who mocked Jesus from the ground, the reaction described by Luke isn’t that of mocking, but of mourning. To “beat their breasts,” was a show of grief in the culture, indicating that these people also believed Jesus was wrongly crucified. Whether or not they also had saving faith is unknown to anyone but God. Yet there was one group of people whose faith was undeniable: the women.

49 But all His acquaintances, and the women who followed Him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.

  1. Luke mentions Jesus’ “acquaintances,” noting that there were men and women at the foot of the cross that truly knew Jesus. Of all His apostles, at least John had been present, being the one to whom Jesus entrusted the care of His mother (Jn 19:25-27). Undoubtedly there were others, whose names we won’t know this side of heaven. (It’ll be interesting to learn who they were!)
  2. The women, however, were known, and their faith was undeniable. Never had they left Jesus’ side. Although no women were mentioned at the trial of Jesus in front of the Sanhedrin, Pilate, and Herod, that isn’t unexpected as women wouldn’t have been allowed in those situations. Yet everywhere the women could have been, they were. That’s not to say their faith wasn’t shaken, or that they understood every theological event that was unfolding at the time; it’s simply to say that their devotion to Jesus never failed. They loved Jesus, and despite any difficulties they may have experienced, they were determined to remain devoted to Him.
    1. Sometimes we have to draw a line in the sand with our faith. There are some situations we don’t understand, nor even have the ability to understand – but we still have to choose whether or not we will believe. Choose faith! Choose to remain devoted to Jesus, no matter what! 
  3. In this case, what did the women do? They observed. Luke writes that they were “watching these things.” IOW, they watched Jesus die. They knew the exact moment Jesus’ last breath left His body, and there was no doubt in their minds their Lord was dead.
  • Jesus’ burial (50-56). Joseph (50-54)

50 Now behold, there was a man named Joseph, a council member, a good and just man. 51 He had not consented to their decision and deed. He was from Arimathea, a city of the Jews, who himself was also waiting for the kingdom of God.

  1. Once Jesus was dead, something had to be done with His body. Typically, those who were crucified had their bodies left upon their crosses, subject to the carrion birds and insects – a gruesome reminder to all not to commit crimes against Rome. Obviously, this couldn’t be allowed to happen to Jesus’ body. Enter Joseph of Arimathea. Scholars are unsure as to location of Arimathea – some believe it was 20 miles northwest of Jerusalem on the border of Judea and Samaria. What we do know is that it was “a city of the Jews,” and that Joseph was a leader among the Jews. According to the standards of the day, he was “a good and just man.” IOW, he lived an upstanding life, and was considered by his peers to be a good Jew & faithful citizen of the Hebrew nation. The bottom line is that Luke goes out of his way to demonstrate this was a good guy – one who was not consenting to the conspiratorial decision against Jesus. Although the Sanhedrin railroaded Jesus, and the Jewish nation was a whole rejected Jesus, some Jews believed. Some Jews had faith, as demonstrated by the disciples, by the women who remained with Jesus, and even by some members of the ruling class such as Joseph and Nicodemus the Pharisee.
  2. How do we know Joseph had faith? All Luke writes is that Joseph was “waiting for the kingdom of God.” That itself is a statement of faith, considering that all of Jesus’ disciples were waiting for the kingdom of God, believing Jesus to be the King. Even so, the Bible gets very specific on this point, telling us that Joseph was a secret disciple of Jesus (Jn 19:38). To this point in his life, Joseph had every reason to remain underground. If his faith had been known, he would have been ridiculed and perhaps kicked off the council. Besides, there were other prophets in Israel and other men who had claimed to be the Messiah. Joseph could bide his time, believing in Jesus, but waiting things out to see what happened. At some point along the way, the proof became overwhelming. Though Joseph had been a secret believer, his belief would not remain secret for long.

52 This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 53 Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a tomb that was hewn out of the rock, where no one had ever lain before.

  1. Please do not miss the magnitude of Joseph’s request. Although it might read as some matter of routine city administration (what to do with a dead body), this was much more. This was nothing less than Joseph’s public declaration of faith! As a council member, Joseph had the standing to make the request from Pilate – but this was a double-edged sword. He could make the request, but as he did, he would also out himself as a disciple. The Sanhedrin wanted Jesus humiliated – they wanted Him disgraced as a teacher, and disgraced in death. That’s one of the reasons they fought so strongly for crucifixion. To be hung on a tree unto death was considered to be a cursed death (Dt 21:22-23), and that’s exactly why they wanted it for Him. (What they didn’t realize is that this was part of Jesus being made a curse for us, in order that we might have our curse of death removed – Gal 3:13.) For a fellow council member to want to treat Jesus’ body with respect would have been a surefire sign that he was a friend of Jesus – that he was a believer in Jesus. Thus, Joseph’s request for burial was his proclamation to all, “Yes, I believe that Jesus was the righteous Messiah.”
    1. There comes a moment in the life of every believer in Jesus that someone’s faith becomes public. Faith sometimes begins in secret, but it rarely remains that way for long (except perhaps in the most rare of circumstances, as when a person’s life is in danger…and many times, not even then!). At some point, the grace of Jesus Christ bursts through our actions and our words – His transformation within us is undeniable. At that point, for us to deny our Lord is to be disobedient. If we are ashamed of Him, then He will be ashamed of us (Lk 9:26). For Joseph, the time had come for him to be unashamed, to be bold, and to let his faith in Jesus shine bright!
    2. For some of you, today might be that day. Don’t let fear stop you from expressing your faith in Jesus as Lord.
  2. Not only did Joseph make the request; he acted upon it. He got personally involved in the burial of Jesus. This wasn’t something to be delegated out to servants, which were surely available to someone with Joseph’s wealth. Even as a deeply religious man (though we don’t know if Joseph had a formal ministry position among the Pharisees or scribes), Joseph didn’t fear to get his hands dirty. To touch dead bodies would normally render a person ritually unclean – something perhaps reasonable on “normal” days, but this was the Passover. Surely Joseph ought to have someone else deal with Jesus’ body on such a high holy day, right? This was Joseph’s faith, and this was Joseph’s act of devotion and worship.
    1. Worship is something impossible to delegate. No one else can have your faith, and no one else can give God your worship. Unless you get involved, your worship won’t be done.
    2. We might not often think of it in these terms, but that’s exactly what many people try to do. They show up in a worship service as spectators; not participants. They think: “I just wait for the musicians to engage in worship – that’s their position, after all. Or just look to the pastor…let him pray & worship & do all that other sort of ‘spiritual’ stuff.” So the pastor worships, and the musicians worship…but what about you? God isn’t interested in your delegated worship; He wants you. The greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength; that’s something you have to do personally. (What better day to start than Resurrection Sunday?)
  3. As for the burial itself, the Bible provides several details. First, Joseph donated his own tomb for Jesus’ use (Mt 27:60). The tomb was new, having been recently cut out of the rock. This itself was a fulfillment of prophecy, being that Jesus was with the rich at His death (Isa 53:9). Interestingly, there is a parallel with Jesus birth in this: just as Jesus was born from a virgin mother, His body was laid in a virgin tomb. Otherwise, the process of burying Jesus reflected the customs of the day. His body was wrapped in linen (thereby making the Shroud of Turin highly unlikely, if not impossible), it was packed with spices (Jn 19:40), laid to rest with a large stone rolled in front of the doorway to block the stench of decay.

54 That day was the Preparation, and the Sabbath drew near.

  1. Considering that the Sabbath began at sundown on Friday (lasting until sundown Saturday), all of this took place late Friday afternoon. This fits with the earlier timeframe provided by Luke. Darkness covered the land from noon to 3pm, at which point Jesus cried out to God and committed His spirit to God as He died. Joseph requested the body from Pilate, and he (along with Nicodemus) had to work quickly in order to ensure their work was completed prior to the beginning of Sabbath. They had only a few hours, but it was enough to do the bare minimum.
  2. FYI, for all the debate that takes place among some Christians as to the actual day of the week Jesus died on the cross, it’s interesting to note that the modern Greek word for “Friday” is exactly the same as the word used in the text for “Preparation.” The Bible repeatedly testifies that Jesus died on Good Friday – and it fits with prophecy and necessity.
  • The women (55-56)

55 And the women who had come with Him from Galilee followed after, and they observed the tomb and how His body was laid.

  1. Earlier, the women had observed Jesus’ death; now they observed His burial. So what? So they knew whether or not this was all a hoax. They knew whether or not the disciples were carrying out some grand conspiracy. They would have known if Jesus had just slumped in a faint or a coma – and if He had, there’s no way they would have let Him be buried! The women were witnesses to all these things, and they acted the same way they would have acted in any death…because Jesus actually died.
  2. That Jesus physically died is no minor detail. Rather, it’s an intricate part of the gospel. 1 Corinthians 15:3–4, “(3) For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, (4) and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures,” Notice the prominent mention of Jesus’ death and burial. These elements are not optional to the gospel message; they are essential to it. Why? Because a resurrection is only a resurrection when there is a death. We need a resurrected Jesus in order to promise us our own resurrection – we need a resurrected Jesus in order to guarantee us eternal life. That can’t happen without a real death. A fake death accomplishes nothing for our salvation. A fainted Jesus is impotent in regards to eternal life. Only a dead Jesus who returned to life is able to give life to us. And that is exactly what Jesus does!

56 Then they returned and prepared spices and fragrant oils. And they rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment.

  1. Question: if they witnessed what Joseph & Nicodemus did (Jn 19), why did they prepare more? We can only speculate. Even though the men packed Jesus’ body with a kingly amount of spices, perhaps the women believed more needed to be done. Perhaps they observed that only spice was used, and no oil. Perhaps they just wanted to personally get involved. In the end, we don’t know. But it’s good they believed they needed to return later…that’s exactly what made them the first witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection! 
  2. For the time being, the Sabbath had come, and obedience to the commandment required that the women rest. By the time the Sabbath ended on Saturday, it would be too late to begin the remainder of the work, so they had to wait until 1st light on Sunday morning. No doubt they were crushed and disappointed Friday night, but they were in for the surprise of their lives on Sunday!

Conclusion:

Sunday for them (and for us) IS glorious! On Sunday, Jesus rose from the grave, demonstrating His sufficient sacrifice and victory over death. On Sunday, Jesus proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that He is God in the flesh. On Sunday, Jesus proved that His offer of salvation is trustworthy, being available to all the world. Truly Sunday is a great day!

But Sunday was never available without Friday. Friday came first, because death had to come first. For Jesus to offer resurrected life, He had to first physically die. His blood needed to be shed for our sin, and His body needed to be broken for our sin. He had to personally bear the wrath of God upon Himself…and that was exactly what He did.

When He did, creation bore witness through the darkness, even as light shone through the temple veil for the first time. Jesus entrusted His life to God, as a Roman centurion trusted Jesus as God. Several Jewish people publicly mourned, as a Jewish leader publicly showed his faith. Through His death, Jesus changed the lives of many that very day…and He has changed the lives of multitudes more through the centuries that followed.

Jesus’ death still changes lives, because Jesus’ death is not the end. His death leads to a new beginning – not just resurrected life for Him, but abundant and eternal life for us. WE can partake in the new life of Jesus, when we believe upon Him, His death, and His life.

1 Corinthians 15:1-11, “The Resurrection and the Gospel”

He is risen – He is alive!  Whether you call it Easter, Pascha, or Resurrection Sunday, today all Christians everywhere celebrate the cornerstone event of our faith: the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.  This is the event that proves that Jesus is the Son of God, the long-awaited King of Israel – the One who reverses the curse placed upon Adam in the Garden of Eden.  This is the event that changed a minor Jewish sect in Galilee and Judea into the true faith of Christianity, and it is the event upon which all of our hopes rest.

Is that just a bunch of hype?  Is it a bunch of preacher-talk?  Not in the slightest.  The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the foundational truth of Christianity.  Without it, we have no Christianity at all.  Without it, there is no gospel, no hope, no promise of life.  But with it, we have everything!

Christians must believe the gospel in order to saved, and in order for the gospel to be the gospel, we need the resurrection.  This is the point that Paul drives home to the Corinthians, in a letter he wrote to them just barely more than 20 years after Jesus rose from the dead.  The church at Corinth had a marvelous founding, being established by Paul and Silas on Paul’s 2nd missionary journey, and was later strengthened by the teaching ministry of Apollos.  Yet this church quickly fell into all kinds of error.  They were divisive, proud, permissive of sin, abusive of the spiritual gifts, and more.  Paul found himself needing to bring correction to the church, and he did so through his letters (though he wouldn’t hesitate to do it in person, if needed!).

In this particular letter, Paul just wrapped up an extended teaching on the proper use of spiritual gifts, with the emphasis of all spiritual things being that of sacrificial love for one another.  If love was practiced among the Corinthians, everything else would fall into place.  Worship would be done decently & in order, and they would glorify God.

At this point, Paul makes a solid break as he distinctly changes topics.  Although in previous chapters he wrote about issues that the Corinthians had asked him about, this is one that he introduced.  He had heard of doubts among some of the church about the validity of the resurrection, and he knew this needed to be addressed ASAP.  Issues like spiritual gifts are important, but they are non-essentials in regards to salvation…but the resurrection is vital.  Without the resurrection, we have no gospel.  Without the gospel, we have no salvation.  It is that important.

1 Corinthians 15:1–11

  • The resurrection is foundational (1-2)

1 Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

  • As Paul is going to make plain, the resurrection is a core tenet of the gospel message that he received, and this gospel was the most important teaching in Paul’s ministry.  This is what he preached everywhere he went.  He had preached it once in Corinth, and declared it again to them in his letter.  This is what the people had received at the time, and it was what they stood in (or were supposed to stand in) until the present day.  The gospel was the message through which they were saved, meaning that without the gospel, they would not be saved.  As Paul wrote to the Romans, the gospel is the power of God unto salvation, first to the Jew and then to the Greek. (Rom 1:16)  It is the power unto all aspects of our salvation: past, present, and future (justification, sanctification, glorification).  The gospel is the reason that our past sins have been forgiven – it is the method by which we are currently being transformed into the image of Christ – it is the means by which we will be able to forever stand in the presence of God in heaven.  It is that important.
  • So what is it?  If the gospel is that crucial to our life in Christ, then we ought to know what it is.  The word itself simply means “good news,” and is taken from the same Greek word from which we get “evangelism.”  When we “evangelize,” we are simply telling other people the “good news” about Jesus.  “OK – we know it’s good news, but what’s the news?”  What is it that we’re supposed to tell others – what is it that we are supposed to believe?  That’s what Paul writes next…
  • The resurrection is historical (3-8)

3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,

  • Before he gets to the details of the gospel, Paul once more emphasizes its importance.  This was primary.  There was no more important task that Paul could do in a city than to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ.  When he travelled in his various missionary journeys, he didn’t arrive in town preaching about spiritual gifts.  He didn’t meet new people and start talking about all the good works they ought to be doing, or tell them how they could enjoy their best life right now.  When Paul came to a new place, he preached the gospel.  Everything else was secondary.
    • And it is!  Whether or not your church home is Calvary Chapel Tyler, the most important thing about anywhere you worship is that the gospel of Jesus Christ is proclaimed.  If you don’t have that, you don’t have a church.  Why?  Without the gospel, no one is saved.  Without Jesus being proclaimed as Lord & the message of His death & resurrection as front & center to our faith, then we have absolutely nothing.  It doesn’t matter how professional the worship band may be – it doesn’t matter how fancy the church building looks – it doesn’t even matter how loving and compassionate the people seem to be…not if the gospel isn’t there.  Everything else is secondary.  The gospel must come first because that is the only way the Lord Jesus comes first.
  • Keep in mind that this was something Paul learned.  He only delivered what he received.  The gospel message didn’t originate with him, nor did it end with him.  He was simply a good steward & passed it along to others.  That’s what all churches ought to do.
    • FYI – the fact that Paul states in vs. 3 that he “received” this message is an incredible apologetic proof to the validity of the message itself.  How so?  Because Paul will write of the resurrection of Christ as something he not only witnessed, but was taught.  Remember that Paul is writing this barely 20 years after the events took place in Jerusalem.  This is no mere rumor – this certainly isn’t a legend.  There wasn’t any time for a legend to develop!  Everything Paul declared in his gospel is historical fact.
  • What is involved with this gospel?  Five basic elements had been passed along to Paul, which he now repeats to the Corinthians. Gospel element #1: Christ.  Without Jesus, we have no gospel.  But this can’t be any Jesus – it has to be the right one.  Without the right understanding of Jesus, we still have no gospel.  Thus the first thing we need to believe is that Jesus is the “Christ.”  Granted, Jesus’ proper name does not appear in this immediate section – in fact, Paul hasn’t used it since 12:3.  But throughout the letter, Paul makes it clear that Jesus is the Christ, affirming it from his opening words in 1:1, all the way through.  To someone who had read his letter from beginning to end, there would be no doubt that when Paul used the title “Christ,” he was referring to Jesus. — But that all begs the question: what does it mean to believe Jesus is Christ?  Keep in mind that Christ is a title; not a name.  Many people assume that Jesus’ last name is “Christ,” but that’s a misunderstanding.  “Christ” is a title, the Greek translation of the Hebrew word referring to “Messiah,” or “Anointed One.”  This was the title the Jews used to refer to the future Son of David, the King of Israel – and also the title used to refer to the person who would be the fulfillment of all the promises that God made to Abraham, Moses, and the Hebrew people as a whole.  Thus the Christ is a Man, but He’s more than a Man; He’s the Son of God.  When we proclaim Jesus to be the Christ, we are proclaiming Him to be God in the flesh.
    • Talk about crucial!  If we get this wrong, we get the whole thing wrong!  Again, without a proper understanding of Christ, we have no gospel.  People have all kinds of ideas about Jesus that have nothing to do with Him being the Son of God, but that is the first thing we need to believe about Him.
  • Gospel element #2: Christ Jesus “died for our sins.”  This is what we remember on Good Friday.  The Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God had to die for the sin of all of humanity.  The only perfect Man who ever lived had to be made a sin sacrifice for our sake in order that the price for our sin could be paid.  The wages of sin is death (Rom 3:23), and the only one who could truly pay it is Jesus.  After all, if we die in our sins, we remain dead forever.  People who die in their sins without the forgiveness of Jesus will actually face a second death when God judges them for all eternity.  That eternal debt must be paid, and that’s what Jesus did at the cross.  That was the meaning when Jesus said the word τετελεσται which we translate as “It is finished!”  The work was done, and the price was paid.  As Paul wrote here, “Christ died for our sins.
    • This was foretold in the Scripture.  As we saw on Good Friday, passages like Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 go into extreme detail about the death of the Messiah.  Nearly every aspect of Jesus’ betrayal, suffering, and crucifixion was prophesied centuries before it ever took place.  There is no excuse for someone to look at the Hebrew Scriptures and not recognize Jesus as the fulfillment.  Other than by spiritual blindness, Jesus simply cannot be missed.

4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures,

  • Gospel element #3: Christ “was buried.”  His body was placed in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea.  Question: Is this really a big deal?  After all, if He died, surely He was buried.  True – but that is exactly why this is a big deal.  Some might theorize (and still do) that Jesus didn’t really die upon the cross, but merely appeared to be dead.  They say that Jesus “swooned” upon the cross, fainting or perhaps falling into a coma.  Or else, Jesus’ body had an appearance of death, but that because of His claim to be God, He didn’t really die.  Not so.  Jesus truly died upon the cross.  His physical body expired, and all the signs of His death were seen by those who witnessed it.  His death was even certified by one of the best experts in all of Jerusalem at the time: a Roman centurion, who would have faced harsh penalties (even death) for lying to the governor Pontius Pilate that a man under his supervision had died, but instead lived.  There’s no doubt that Jesus died, and the proof was that His body was laid in a tomb.  Remember that Jesus’ friends were those who buried Him: the formerly-secret disciples of Joseph and Nicodemus.  It’s inconceivable that they would have buried Jesus if they had even the slightest hope that He was alive.  The only way they would have had comfort in sealing His tomb with a stone would be if He was dead.  So yes, Jesus’ burial is a crucial part of the gospel message.  It certifies His death.
  • Gospel element #4: Christ “rose again the third day.”  Jesus was really buried, and He really rose.  He who was dead came back to life.  This is the specific event we celebrate today!  Again, this is what makes the gospel, the gospel.  How so?  Because even if Jesus claimed to be God, even if He performed incredible miracles, if He still died upon the cross & was buried in the tomb – if there was no resurrection, we’d have zero proof that Jesus actually is the Christ.  If Jesus died & stayed dead, then He’d be no different than other prophets who came & performed miracles.  Actually, He’d be worse than other prophets because even if He performed miracles, He would have proven Himself a liar.  Jesus repeatedly said that He would rise from the grave, even saying that the resurrection would be the sign proving His authority as the Son of Man. (I.e. the sign of Jonah)  Thus if Jesus didn’t rise, He’d be a liar.  If He was a liar, then He couldn’t do anything else He promised, nor would we be able to trust anything He said or did.  It was vital that Jesus rise from the grave as proof that He is God the Son…and that is exactly what He did!  After His betrayal, His torture, and His crucifixion, Jesus died upon the cross.  His body was taken down & buried.  And in three days, He rose!  He conquered death, declared His victory over sin & Satan, and rose to glorious new life!  And because He did, we can know everything else He said & did was true!  As Paul went on to write: 1 Corinthians 15:55–57, "(55) “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” (56) The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. (57) But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."  Our salvation is wrapped up in Jesus’ resurrection – our eternal life hinges upon His resurrected one.  We have hope of a resurrection of our own because Jesus is the first one risen from the dead.  Thanks be to God that Jesus rose!  In Him, there is total victory!
  • What Scriptures speak of Jesus’ resurrection on the third day?  Although the specific combination of a third-day resurrection is not nearly as clear-cut in the Old Testament as are the many prophecies of the suffering and death of the Messiah, there are still several passages which point to it.
    • Psalm 16:10, "For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption."
    • Hosea 6:2, "After two days He will revive us; On the third day He will raise us up, That we may live in His sight."
    • Jonah 1:17, "Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights."
    • And that’s not all.  Scripture has other references to a third-day deliverance, such as Abraham’s offering of Isaac (which is specifically tied to the hope of resurrection –Gen 22), the appearance of God on Mt. Sinai to the Hebrews on the third day (Exo 19:11), and more. 
  • The bottom line is that the Scriptures said Jesus would rise – Jesus said that He would rise – and He rose!  Our God died upon the cross, but He did not remain dead.  Our God was laid in a tomb, but He did not stay there.  He is risen – He is alive – and because He is, we have the certified promise of eternal life!
  • At this point, the question might be: but how can we know?  We can take it as an article of faith that Jesus rose from the grave, but how can we know for sure?  That’s the next part of the gospel that was passed along to Paul…

5 and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve.

  • Gospel element #4: Jesus’ resurrection was witnessed.  He was “seen” by multiple people from a wide variety of backgrounds and locations.  Jewish culture taught that 2-3 witnesses were required to establish fact, particularly legal judgments.  In vss. 5-8, there are far more than that…more than enough to establish the resurrection!  All totaled, Paul gives six witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection.  We shouldn’t think of this as a comprehensive listing of all of Jesus’ resurrection appearances, but it certainly includes some instances that aren’t recorded elsewhere.  Keep in mind that even the gospel accounts are clear that not everything Jesus said or did was written down – there aren’t enough libraries in the world to hold the books if it was! (Jn 21:25)
  • Witness #1: Peter – or as he was known by his Aramaic name, “Cephas.”  Why is Peter listed first?  Because even if he was never the pope of Rome (which he wasn’t!), he still had a place of preeminence among the apostles.  He was the first with the grand confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, and Jesus blessed him on account of it. (Mt 16:16-17)  But Peter was also the one with one of the worst betrayals of Jesus, having denied three times even knowing the Lord.  He had been graciously forgiven and restored by Jesus, and the fact that Peter received a special appearance from the Lord underscores that restoration.  Peter/Cephas (the Rock) would not be known as the one who denied the Lord Jesus, but as the one who received the grace of the Lord Jesus.  That was his permanent identity – and a grand one it is!
    • When you came to faith in Christ, believing upon Him as your Lord & Savior, you became a new creation.  He gave you a new identity and a new future.  No longer are you the person you once were; the resurrected Jesus changed all of that.  Now you are known by His grace – God sees you as His child because of the love of Jesus.  That is your new identity…remember it & praise God for it!
    • If you haven’t yet surrendered your life to Christ, you are still known for your sin…but you don’t have to be.  You can know the forgiveness of God too.  Believe upon the risen Christ, and receive your new eternal identity!
  • Witness #2: “the twelve.”  If Paul were being a bit more precise, he probably would have written “the eleven,” as Judas had departed the apostles when he betrayed Jesus to the Jews.  But the group of Jesus’ appointed apostles was well-known as “the twelve,” and Judas’ spot was soon replaced, so Paul is still correct when he refers to them as “the twelve.”  When did this take place?  This is probably a reference to Jesus’ first two appearances to the apostles on Resurrection Sunday & the following week.  His first appearance was technically to 10 apostles, as Thomas wasn’t with them, and he famously & firmly doubted the news of Jesus’ rise from the grave.  Thomas waited a whole additional week in grief until Jesus appeared to the full group again the following Sunday, and that’s when he finally joined the rest of his brothers in faith.
    • Objection: “But those were all apostles.  We’d expect the 12 disciples of Jesus to affirm His resurrection.  What if they were all conspiring together in a lie?”  First of all, that is highly illogical, given the circumstances.  (1) Their Messiah had died, thus taking away any supposed legitimate reason to proclaim Him as the Messiah…the Jews would have laughed them off as foolish if Jesus was still dead.  (2) Every time the apostles proclaimed Jesus, they endangered themselves with the Jewish authorities.  They had absolutely no reason to continue a conspiracy, because they had nothing to benefit.  (3) Eventually it wasn’t only the Jews that opposed them, but the Romans.  If the disciples had been conspiring together in a lie, that would have quickly unraveled when the hand of Rome came down upon them!  People don’t die for their own lies…eventually the truth comes out.
    • Secondly, this objection is anticipated with the third witness, or group of witnesses…

6 After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep.

  • Witness #3: 500 other “brethren.”  If 12 men were expected to keep a conspiracy, how about 500?  Eventually, someone is going to crack…and no one did.  Besides, out of these 500, there were likely very few who followed Jesus as steadfastly as did the 12 apostles did during Jesus’ earthly ministry.  In other words, this was a disinterested party.  They had nothing to gain from a lie about a resurrected Jesus, yet they believed in Him anyway.  They could testify to His resurrection.
  • In fact, Paul counts on the fact that they could do exactly that.  Although a few had died in the past 20 years, the majority of them were still alive.  If the Corinthians doubted Paul & his testimony, then they could go ask any number of the original 500 still living at the time.  They could check out the proof for themselves.
    • Obviously we do not have that same privilege.  The only time we will speak to the apostles or anyone else who saw the physical resurrected Jesus is when we get to heaven, and then we’ll be seeing the resurrected Lord Jesus for ourselves!  Even so, we can still speak to men & women whose lives have been transformed by the Living God.  Every single person in this building who has been born again has had a real experience with the real Jesus, and you can tell anyone else that Jesus is alive.  How do you know?  Because you met Him!  It was in faith, but you met Him, you knew He was real, and you knew you needed to surrender your life to Him.
    • If you don’t have that kind of assurance about a living Jesus with whom you’ve interacted, you need to ask yourself why not.  You need to ask yourself some tough questions.  A born-again Christian is someone who has received new life from a living Savior.  If you haven’t, you haven’t been born-again.  Today, make sure your faith is in the living Jesus!
  • BTW – when did this particular meeting take place?  We don’t know for certain, as the Bible never says anything more about it than this one verse.  Possibly, it was the prearranged meeting in Galilee of which Jesus told the disciples.  It seems like that would be a logical place for a gathering of this size (which would not have gone unnoticed in Jerusalem), and a perfect place for Jesus to give the Great Commission to the church. (Mt 28:19-20)

7 After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles.

  • Witness #4: “James.”  There are several men named “James” in the New Testament.  Which is this?  More than likely, this is the half-brother of Jesus who eventually became the leader of the church in Jerusalem.  Originally, none of the brothers of Jesus believed Him, but something happened that transformed them from skeptics to believers.  And not just believers, but into leaders of the church – even penning letters of the New Testament.  (James & Jude)  What could have happened to convince these men that their brother was the Son of God?  It would take nothing less than His resurrection from the dead!  Jesus was raised, and that was all the proof that they needed.  All of a sudden, the miracles made sense – the stories of their mother & father made sense – they could see their older brother through new eyes.  No longer did they look at Him as just another sibling around the table – they saw Him as the Living God.  (That’s the power of the resurrection!)
  • Witness #5: “all the apostles.”  Objection: the apostles were already mentioned!  Yes & no.  Technically, “the twelve” were mentioned – but the word “apostles” can refer to more than the twelve. Plainly Paul was an apostle, but not of the Twelve.  Andronicus & Junius are mentioned among the apostles, though they are nowhere in the gospels. (Rom 16:7)  Barnabas is named as an apostle (Acts 14:14) and a case could possibly be made for Apollos based on Paul’s comparison with him to the Corinthians (1 Cor 3-4).  But even if only the specific Twelve were in mind, this can still count again because Jesus appeared to them more than once.  Not only were there the two occasions on the Sundays following His crucifixion – not only was there the prearranged meeting in Galilee – at the very least there was also the final day that Jesus had His physical feet upon the earth: His ascension.  It was then that Jesus told the disciples to go back to Jerusalem and wait for the baptism of the Holy Spirit, in order that they would have power to be witnesses of Him to all the world. (Acts 1:8)  They were obedient, and this list of testimonies is proof that they were faithful to their divine calling.

8 Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.

  • Witness #6: Paul.  Paul doesn’t leave himself out of the list of witnesses, for he too saw the resurrected Christ.  Yes, Jesus had already ascended to heaven, but Paul received a special vision of the resurrected Jesus.  This wasn’t a vision only in Paul’s mind, but one that was witnessed by the men travelling with him (even though they didn’t see the distinct things he saw).  Thus this was a real appearance, even if it was different than those experienced by the other apostles.  Yet this is what qualified Paul as an apostle (1 Cor 9:1), even if it was a little out of sync, like a prematurely born baby.  Paul could personally testify to the risen Jesus, for he had seen Him.  (And that’s exactly what Paul did in his ministry, as he shared his testimony time & time again.)
  • The bottom line in all of this: Jesus’ resurrection is established, historic fact.  This wasn’t a myth that developed over time – this wasn’t a grand lie invented by a handful of people – this wasn’t a massive hallucination or delusion experienced by grieving friends.  This is a fact, fully vetted by all available historical and legal methods available at the time. 
    • It is a fact that stands the test of time even to this very day.  There is no event in antiquity that has more evidence in its favor than that of the resurrection of Jesus.  The eyewitness accounts were numerous.  Neither the Jews nor the Romans could disprove it.  The easiest thing in the world would have been for the Jews to produce a body.  After all, they knew the exact grave in which He had been laid.  It was a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin who had requested the body.  A 15 minute walk to the tomb could have destroyed Christianity before it was ever born…and it never happened.  Instead, thousands of Jerusalem Jews gave their lives to Christ within weeks of His resurrection – the Jewish leadership railed against the apostles, but never contested them – the gospel message spread by the early church turned the world upside-down.  The only way any of this happens is through a factual resurrection.  And that is exactly what it is.
  • So what does all of this mean?  If Jesus is truly risen from the dead, it means He truly is God.  If Jesus is truly risen from the dead, it means that everything He said is true.  If Jesus is truly risen from the dead, it means He has the power to change lives.  Paul offers himself as living proof…
  • The resurrection is transformational (9-11)

9 For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.

  • This isn’t false humility on the part of Paul.  When he needed to assert his apostolic authority, he didn’t hesitate to do so.  Yet he never forgot his past.  He knew he was forgiven of his past, but he never forgot it.  Paul wasn’t merely a skeptic towards Christianity, he was steadfastly dedicated to its destruction.  As a young Pharisee, Paul (then known as Saul) “persecuted the church of God.”  He hunted Christians in & around Jerusalem, and was so successful in his task that he received permission from the Sanhedrin to travel all the way to the city of Damascus in Syria to do the same thing.  He had a fervent desire to purify the people of God, and to the pre-Christian Saul, that meant purging out the Christians whom he viewed as heretics.
  • That’s when the resurrected Jesus stopped him in his tracks, and changed his life.  In Paul’s own words: Acts 22:6–8, "(6) “Now it happened, as I journeyed and came near Damascus at about noon, suddenly a great light from heaven shone around me. (7) And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’ (8) So I answered, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.’"  Can you imagine the shock?  Can you imagine the horror that fell upon Paul’s heart as he came to grips with the fact that the Lord he thought he was serving, he was actually persecuting?  He wasn’t purifying the people of God; he was murdering those beloved by God.  How awful!  How gut-wrenching!  Surely he deserved death, and worse (if it were possible).  How could God ever use a person like this, much less even love him?  And yet he did…

10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.

  • Paul received grace!  The love of the resurrected Jesus changed Paul from a murderer to an apostle – from the chief of sinners to a humble servant of the Living God.  Grace transformed Paul from the inside-out, and this least of the apostles was able to make a bigger impact for the kingdom than the original 12 put together.  That’s not a boast; that’s a simple fact.  Most of the original 12 apostles are not named anywhere outside the gospel accounts, and some are barely even mentioned in the gospel accounts.  Out of those, Peter & John did much, but not even they travelled as far & wide as Paul.  Paul had a minimum of three missionary journeys, and possibly went on a fourth after the close of the book of Acts.  He personally planted dozens of churches, and underwent incredible suffering along the way, receiving stonings, robberies, shipwrecks, and other hardships.  That doesn’t even begin to mention the number of letters he wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, providing an incredible percentage of our New Testaments.  The labor he accomplished for Jesus by the grace of God was abundant indeed!
  • How was it possible?  Grace.  Three times in this single sentence Paul repeats the word “grace,” because that was at the root of everything he was.  He encountered the resurrected living Jesus, and received grace.  Just seeing Jesus was an act of grace – being forgiven of his sins was grace – being called into ministry was grace – being empowered to go where he did was grace – having the strength to endure what he did was grace – writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit was grace.  Paul was bathed in grace!  Everything he did was because of the grace of God.
    • So it is with you & me.  What we do as believers, we do because we have experienced grace from the Living Lord Jesus.  Were you forgiven of your sins?  Grace.  Were you filled with the Holy Spirit?  Grace.  Have you received blessings from God?  Grace.  Are you blessed in reading His word, and spending time in prayer?  Grace.  Are you a different person you once were, having an eternal future ahead of you?  Grace.  All you are & all you have as a Christian is due to the grace of Christ!  It is because the resurrected Lord Jesus has loved you, interacted with you, and showered you with His blessing.  It is grace!
    • Does this mean that every day is a bed of roses for the Christian?  Of course not.  It certainly wasn’t for Paul!  When he suffered, he truly suffered.  But he never suffered alone.  The Lord Jesus was always with him, just as the Lord Jesus is always with us.  When we receive Him as Lord, we receive Him forever.  He will never leave us nor forsake us.  His Spirit indwells us, and His promise is to keep us, complete His work within us, and receive us to Himself.  Again…all due to grace!

11 Therefore, whether it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

  • It didn’t matter who preached the gospel to the Corinthians as long as it was preached.  It didn’t matter what other issues the Corinthians had as long as they believed.  Without this gospel of the resurrected Lord Jesus, nothing else mattered.  This was how they would live in the grace of God, and it was vital that they stand within it.

Conclusion:
Do you stand in the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ?  You have heard it proclaimed – you have heard the testimony of Christians through the ages – do you believe?  The resurrection of Jesus isn’t a nice truth to file away in the back of our minds as a bit of Bible trivia.  It’s not something to mark off our mental check-list of “things we’re supposed to affirm in church.”  The resurrection of Jesus is absolutely key to His gospel, which means it is absolutely key to our salvation.  Without it, we have nothing.  Later in his letter, Paul goes on to write: 1 Corinthians 15:15–17, "(15) Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. (16) For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. (17) And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!"  It doesn’t get more critical than that!  Without the resurrection of Jesus, there’s no forgiveness of sin, and thus there is no Christianity at all.

Beloved, we must stand in the gospel!  We must stand firm in the truth that Jesus is indeed the Christ, crucified for our sin, buried in the tomb, risen on the third day, and witnessed by others.  This is the very core of our faith, the means through which we receive the grace of God, our very promise of forgiveness and eternal life.  Don’t be swayed from it – don’t allow the skepticism of the age to shake you – don’t let this world pressure you to push it aside.  This is our gospel…this is the power of God to change the world.

Let me ask you again: have you believed this good news?  Have you believed upon the resurrected Jesus Christ, receiving Him as your Lord & Savior?  There is no better time to do so than this Resurrection Sunday.  On this day that we celebrate Jesus’ resurrected life, receive that same life of your own.  Turn to God, ask forgiveness for your sin, and entrust yourself to Jesus – believing the gospel truth of Him.  Those who do receive life…that is His blessed guarantee.

Sunrise on the Square
Mark 16:1-8, “He is Risen!”

(1) Now when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, that they might come and anoint Him. (2) Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen.

Why had the women come so early?  This was their first opportunity to address Jesus’ body according to Jewish customs.  Jesus was taken down from the cross just prior to sunset on Friday, given over to Joseph of Arimathea in just enough time for he & Nicodemus the Pharisee to put Jesus in the tomb.  They had already packed Jesus’ body with spices, but it’s possible that (1) the women did not know all the work that had already been done, or (2) they had additional work that they desired to do.

In any case, they brought their own aromatic spices, and arrived at the tomb at their very first opportunity.  Sabbath regulations kept them from doing anything until sundown Saturday, and by that time it was too late.  Thus they planned for early Sunday morning, arriving at the tomb between first light and the full dawn.  It was imperative that they get there…their need was pressing.

  • How pressing is your need for Jesus?  Obviously the women were surprised upon arriving at the tomb, but they had come to serve – to show their devotion.  It was urgent & necessary – they couldn’t bear to wait.  Do you have an urgency with Jesus?  Have you realized your pressing need to love & to serve Him?

(3) And they said among themselves, “Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?” (4) But when they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away—for it was very large. (5) And entering the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a long white robe sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed.

Their devotion was admirable, but their advance planning was a bit lacking.  A massive stone lay in front of the tomb, and it would take more than 3 women to move it.  (It would take more than 3 men, too!  Some scholars estimate it weighed between 450-650 pounds.)  This was a true problem for the women.  After all, it’s not as if the Roman guards would be willing to help them.  How would Mary & the others do it?  They didn’t know, but they didn’t let the obstacle stop them.  They would figure it out when they arrived.  (And when they did, they found that the problem was solved.)

  • Have you let anything keep you from Jesus?  Perhaps there have been perceived difficulties in the way?  Maybe you thought you needed to clean up your life before coming to Jesus?  Go to Him anyway!  You might be surprised at what He does when you do! …
  • Don’t let perceived obstacles keep you from Christ.  He is God Almighty…there are no obstacles for Him!

Of course, God had already dealt with the problem before the women arrived.  Not only was the stone removed, but so were the guards (a fact not mentioned by Mark).  The women had taken a step of faith in going to the tomb, and it was rewarded.  Instead of a stone, they saw a man – and not just any man, but an angel.  It’s no wonder they were “alarmed”…we would be, too!

We could stop right here and acknowledge a miracle.  After all, we have the mysterious removal of a several-hundred pound stone & the appearance of an angel.  That alone is enough to glorify God for His miraculous power.  Yet that’s only the opening act!  That’s just the attention-grabber.  The main miracle had already taken place, and the only reason for the angel’s appearance was to announce it.

(6) But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him.

Right here – this is the greatest news in all history!  The women had no need to fear or to be alarmed, though they certainly had reason to be excited!  Jesus wasn’t there.  His body had been in the tomb, but not any longer.  Why?  There was no need.  Only dead bodies belong in graves, and Jesus wasn’t dead!  Yes, He was dead – this was affirmed by the angel saying that Jesus was the one “who was crucified.”  But Jesus is no longer dead.  He is risen – He is alive!

  • There is no better news in all the world than what the angel told the women that morning.  Jesus is risen, Jesus is alive!  Why is it such good news?  Because it means the price for sin has been paid in full.  It means that the forgiveness of God & His gift of eternal life is available for the asking.  The very reason Jesus was crucified was because of our sin.  As the perfect Son of God, Jesus hadn’t done anything wrong.  He didn’t do anything deserving of death.  We did.  We deserved the cross, yet Jesus took it.  Praise God that He did, but how can we know it was enough?  How can we know that what Jesus did upon the cross was sufficient for you & me?  The resurrection.  He rose!  He did not only die; He came back from death.  He defeated death.  He lives, and now anyone can have life in His name!
  • Do you?  Are you certain?  You can be. …

This kind of news demands a response, and that’s what the angel calls upon the women to do…
(7) But go, tell His disciples—and Peter—that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.” (8) So they went out quickly and fled from the tomb, for they trembled and were amazed. And they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid."

The command: go & tell.  This was too good of news to keep to themselves.  All of the disciples needed to know…including Peter, the one who had failed Jesus so miserably a few days earlier.  They needed to know of Jesus’ victory, of the truth of His gospel, and of the mission in front of them.

The women obeyed…probably “going” a bit faster than they intended as they “fled” the scene.  They were silent to strangers on the road, but they soon told the apostles.  “Amazed” and “afraid” as they were, they did not let it stop them from the commission they had received.

  • Nothing should.  The news is too good.  The impact is too important.  It needs to be shared, and we are the ones to share it!

It was plain to the women that everything was changing.  Jesus had literally risen from the dead.  How could anything possibly remain the same?  It can’t.

Beloved, let us be changed by the news of Jesus’ resurrection!  Let us also be amazed and astounded at Jesus’ victory over death & sin!  May nothing hold us back from sharing this news with all the world!

Open your eyes!

Posted: March 27, 2016 in John, Uncategorized
Tags: ,

Resurrection Sunday 2016
John 20:1-18, “Open your eyes!”

We can find ourselves blinded to all kinds of things if we’re not careful.  When we fall into certain routines, we just continue on our merry little way doing the same things we always do (which isn’t always a bad thing).  But because we’re never expecting to see anything different, we never see anything different.  And in the process, we can miss out on some incredible stuff going on around us.

That’s what happened with Mary Magdalene on the best morning ever.  Resurrection Sunday (the Sunday following the final Passover with Jesus) was truly the most glorious day ever to see a sunrise – yet you wouldn’t know it from looking at Mary or the disciples.  They were all grieving, Mary especially so.  Their grief, of course, was totally understandable.  We look back on what is often called Holy Saturday & we enjoy the preparations for the next morning.  They went through it first-hand, and they mourned the loss of not only their rabbi & friend, but their Lord & King.

Jesus had told them of all of this in advance.  He made it clear how He would had to die, and be lifted up in His death, so that all who looked to Him would live. (Jn 3:14,12:32).  He had prophesied His betrayal by Judas (Jn 13:18-19), His abandonment by the disciples (16:32), and also the fact that His death would only be temporary (16:19-23).  In short, He had prepared all of them for everything He would endure in going to the cross – they just hadn’t understood or believed.  They thought they believed what they could, but certainly couldn’t predict what they would think when they were in the midst of it. (Who could?)

Once it all came to pass, their world went into a tailspin.  They were lost in disillusion – their faith was shaken – their world was shattered.  They weren’t sure what to think, and they weren’t sure what to make of the things they witnessed as they unfolded.  But what they witnessed was marvelous!  Their day may have begun in weeping, but it blossomed into wonder!  Their only obstacle to joy was themselves.  They were blinded from faith because of their focus upon themselves – all they needed to do was open their eyes.

John 20:1–18

  • Mary’s discovery: the open door (1-2)

1 Now the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.

  • From the outset, we need to acknowledge that there are going to be some differences between John’s account of the resurrection & that of the Synoptic gospels.  “Differences,” however, are not the same thing as contradictions.  John does not contradict the Synoptics; he simply draws out different aspects and emphases in his account.  We need to remember that John was aware of at least one of the other gospel accounts (if not two or all three), which is something that is evident throughout his writings.  His narrative often fills in the gaps left by Mark, Matthew, and Luke.  Thus since he was aware of the other books, it doesn’t even make logical sense that he would allow for contradictions.  There’s absolutely no way John was purposefully contradict what others had already written about Jesus, if what they wrote was true. (And all of the Synoptics are true, as opposed to the heretical Gnostic accounts, such as the so-called “Gospel according to Thomas,” and others.)  What we see John doing here is what he’s done elsewhere, and fill in the gaps.  Particularly, he concentrates on some of the personal eyewitness testimonies from that Resurrection morning.  In regards to the tomb, the Synoptics deal with broad sketches of two groups: the women and the apostles.  John deals with individual portraits of himself, Peter, and (particularly) Mary Magdalene.
  • It’s his account of Mary that’s so striking.  Mary Magdalene is mentioned all three of the other gospels, but she is the only woman at the tomb that John personally describes.  Although she did not have a sordid past of prostitution (in contradiction to modern mythologies about her), she did have massive struggles with demon possession.  At one point, Mary had been possessed by seven demons, and her only freedom came from the personal intervention of the Lord Jesus (Mk 16:9).  What does all of this have to do with the resurrection account?  Everything.  It deals with honesty & credibility.  In the ancient culture of the Romans & Jews, the testimony of women was not valued nearly as much as men.  Add to that Mary’s former demonic possession, and it’s quite possible that many people would not have given Mary any credibility at all.  In their minds, she was a formerly crazy lady – and maybe Jesus didn’t quite free her, after all.  As with any account of the resurrection from women, the gospel writers had every reason to hide their testimony…especially that of Mary.  Yet they don’t hide it; they freely proclaim it.  John goes so far as to give Mary extra space in his writing, highlighting her interaction with the Lord.  There was no reason to do this, unless it was true.  And it was/is.  The resurrection of Jesus is historical fact.  It wasn’t the imagination of a bunch of deluded men trying to invent a new religion; it actually happened.  And the best proof they had was in the actual history.  Just like Jesus chose the most unlikely of ways to enter the world (through a virgin birth in Bethlehem), so He chose the most unlikely of ways to reveal His resurrection to the world.
    • Jesus doesn’t always match our expectations, and praise God for it!  If He did, we’d have no reason to expect forgiveness, for we certainly do not deserve it, nor can we earn it.  We’d have no basis for which to ask anything of God, because we are so utterly defiled by the filth of our sin.  But Jesus goes beyond our expectations!  His ways are not our own, and that’s the only reason we can receive anything from God, because He gives it to us out of grace.
  • As to the text itself, John begins by giving us a time marker: “the first (day) of the week.”  I.e., Sunday.  [FYI, this is why the Christian church typically meets for worship on Sunday rather than Saturday.  It’s not that the Sabbath has changed (it hasn’t); it’s just that we have a marvelous motivation to worship on the 1st day of the week rather than the 7th.  Our Lord is risen from the grave!]  Mary went to the grave as soon as reasonably possible, even heading out on the road “while it was still dark” outside.  Again, there’s no contradiction with the Synoptic accounts which tell us how the women got to the tomb at dawn, when the sun had risen (Mk 16:2).  If sunrise is set for 7:15am, the first crack of light starts to show up around 6:50.  Mary likely got going at the first hints of daylight, and arrived at the tomb when daylight proper had begun.
    • Also, that Mary was up early prior to sunup did not break any Sabbath day regulations.  How so?  Because Sabbath was already past.  The Sabbath lasted from 6PM Friday to 6PM Saturday.  By Sunday morning, the Sabbath was nearly 12 hours past already.  Mary was free to wake up at midnight if she so desired…she just wouldn’t have been able to do anything at the tomb if she had.  She (and the other ladies) waited as long as would be practical, and headed out at their very first opportunity.
  • It’s not the time that Mary got started walking that was surprising; it’s what she found when she arrived.  The stone was gone!  Keep in mind, this was no simple task.  Mary and the other women had originally intended to continue to the burial rites begun by Joseph and Nicodemus (seemingly not knowing what all the men had accomplished), but even according to their original plan, they had no idea how they were going to deal with the stone.  Depending on the type of tomb, the stone was likely 4.5 feet in diameter, being a foot thick, and the weight would have been massive.  In the end, the weight of the stone was a non-issue, but the stone itself certainly was!  The fact that it was tossed aside was more than unusual, it was a problem.  According to Matthew, the stone had been sealed with the official sign of Rome, and the tomb itself was supposed to be guarded by a group of Roman soldiers.  If the stone guarding the entrance of the tomb was gone, something dramatic must have happened!  The disciples would likely be blamed, and trouble was sure to come.  When Mary first encountered the missing stone, it wasn’t a sign of hope; it was a renewed reason to panic.
    • Have you ever mistook something good for something awful?  You thought that what you experienced would be the worst thing in the world, and yet God worked a miracle through it, which you never would have seen otherwise.  That is exactly what happened at the cross itself!  The event could not have been worse: the death of the Son of God. But the result was amazing!  The price of sin was paid – our redemption was made possible.  Likewise with the missing stone.  At first glance, it would have looked terrible to Mary, but the reality was wonderful.  Mary just didn’t know it yet.
    • Have you ever considered that God might be doing in your life of which you might not yet be aware?  Wait & see!  Trust Him & have faith!

2 Then 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.”

  • With the stone removed, Mary knew only one thing to do: go tell the others.  Again, this is different than the other gospel accounts, but remember that the other gospels speak in broad strokes about the groups in general.  It’s not at all unlikely that while the other women remained at the tomb, Mary Magdalene individually ran back to tell the disciples what had happened.  And for good reason.  If Jesus’ body was stolen, the disciples would be blamed, and there would soon be a manhunt for them.
  • Who the “they” are is unsaid.  It’s unlikely that Mary had any coherent theory at the time.  It wouldn’t make sense for either the Jewish priests or the Romans to steal the body – they were the ones who set the guard to ensure the disciples wouldn’t do anything to it.  All Mary knew is that the body was gone, and she didn’t have any explanation for it.
  • Mary is panicking here, but notice what is unsaid, yet still true this whole time: Jesus is alive.  Jesus had risen from the dead, but Mary (nor the disciples) didn’t know it yet.  Without that knowledge, Mary’s whole world was crumbling around her – but it didn’t change the fact that it was still true.  Mary may not have known that Jesus was alive, yet He was.
    • Jesus is alive, whether or not we believe it.  Our faith may affect our future in Christ, but it doesn’t affect the fact of Christ.  He IS risen – He IS alive.  If we don’t believe the fact, we’re the ones living outside of reality; not Jesus.
  • So Mary tells Peter & John what she saw, and what do they do?  The only logical thing: check it out for themselves…
  • Peter & John’s examination: the empty tomb (3-10)

3 Peter therefore went out, and the other disciple, and were going to the tomb. 4 So they both ran together, and the other disciple outran Peter and came to the tomb first.

  • As a runner, I’ve got to appreciate this.  Some take this to imply that John was younger than Peter, which was the reason he beat Peter to the tomb.  It’s doubtful there were too many years separating them.  John just had a better kick to the end. 🙂  Obviously, this wasn’t Chariots of Fire – these were two young men desperately racing to see this thing for themselves.

5 And he, stooping down and looking in, saw the linen cloths lying there; yet he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; and he saw the linen cloths lying there, 7 and the handkerchief that had been around His head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded together in a place by itself.

  • Interestingly, although John arrives at the tomb first, he stops short of entering it.  Whether he is in shock of the things he saw, or hesitant to defile himself with a dead body is unknown.  At this point, there doesn’t seem to be much sense in trying to force a logical flow of thought on any of the people involved.  Their emotions had pretty much taken over at this point (which is totally understandable).
  • Peter, however, does go in.  John may have beat him to the tomb, but Peter still beat him inside.  What Peter saw astounded him.  The “linen cloths” in which Jesus was wrapped by Joseph and Nicodemus were there, but there wasn’t a body.  And beyond the cloths was the “handkerchief” that had covered Jesus’ face, and that was rolled up to the side.  BTW – “folded up” is not the best translation.  The word used by John describes something that is wrapped or rolled; not folded.  Scholars debate whether this describes that the handkerchief maintained the basic circular shape of Jesus’ head, or looked to be rolled up & placed to the side. 
  • Whatever the case, what happened is clear: this had been no grave robbery.  In a robbery, the movements would have been quick.  First the robbers would have had to deal with the Romans – but supposing that the soldiers were no problem, the robbers still had to move hastily for fear of being discovered.  They certainly would not have taken the time to unwrap Jesus’ body (with the 75 pounds of spice that was on it) – they would have taken it wrapped & all.  They certainly wouldn’t have taken the time to roll up the head covering & place it to the side.  This wasn’t the scene of a rushed robbery; this was a calm, purposed departure.
  • In addition, think about the grave clothes themselves.  When Lazarus was raised from the dead by Jesus, he had to have people unwrap him.  He had to have help once he walked out of the grave.  But what happened here?  How did the grave clothes of Jesus get left behind in the tomb, at the place where He laid?  If there had been a robbery, and if people unwrapped Jesus, shouldn’t the cloths been tossed every which way?  Nothing about this made sense.  It was as if the Person who unwrapped Jesus had all the time in the world, because He had no fear of discovery.  The only way that would happen was if it all took place inside the tomb when the stone was still sealed.  IOW, it had to be done from the inside, and there was only one Person on the inside: Jesus.

8 Then the other disciple, who came to the tomb first, went in also; and he saw and believed.

  • It was as John personally saw all of this with his own eyes that the light began to dawn on his faith.  Again, it’s unlikely that either Peter or John were able to think through all of this logically at the time, but it was certainly enough to spark the match of John’s faith that would turn into a raging unquenchable fire.  “He saw and believed.
  • Have you believed?  You may not have seen the evidence with your own eyes, but you’ve heard eyewitness testimony of it.  What we have in the New Testament are not the writings of men who lived generations after these events took place; these are first-hand accounts.  These are what scholars would call primary sources.  You can’t get more first-hand than that of the apostles of Jesus.  They saw the evidence of Jesus first hand, and they believed.  They believed despite the costs that would come to them.  They were willing to give up their careers for Jesus – they were willing to endure torture for Jesus – they were willing to die in horrendous ways for Jesus.  Why?  Because they were absolutely convinced that Jesus had risen from the dead.  Remember that these men were the same men who abandoned Jesus at the first sign of trouble.  When the Jews & Romans came to arrest Him, Jesus’ disciples scattered & were nowhere to be seen for days.  Yet after that Sunday morning (and especially after receiving the power of the Holy Spirit), the disciples became extraordinarily public in their faith.  They so spread the gospel that they were accused of turning the world upside-down.  What would make that change?  What would cause that to happen?  It all had to be true.  Jesus had to be risen from the dead.  They saw, and they believed.
    • Now it’s your turn.  Believe!  Have faith in the Risen Jesus!  Today is the day that you can be transformed by the Living Son of God.  You can know the forgiveness of sins, the reality of being made a child of God today, and the promise of living as a child of God for all eternity in heaven.  You can be saved!  (You’ll have an opportunity to do that at the end of the message, but you don’t have to wait until the end to be saved.  Place your faith in Christ right now.)

9 For as yet they did not know the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead.

  • This emphasizes the fact that the disciples hadn’t yet understood everything.  They saw the evidence, and John believed what he could, but there was more to understand.  Jesus had indeed taught them everything they needed to know about Himself over the course of the past three years, but they were slow to believe.  And at the moment, they were still in shock.  They needed time to put it all together – and most importantly, they needed the Holy Spirit who would continue to teach them these things & help confirm everything that Jesus had already said.
  • BTW, the Scripture does teach that the Messiah would rise from the grave.  Not only had Jesus personally taught of His resurrection multiple times during His ministry, the OT proclaims it as well.  Over and over again, the Bible speaks of the everlasting reign of the Messiah, while also speaking of His sacrificial death.  That only takes place via a resurrection.  The Messiah’s resurrection is foreshadowed in the event of Abraham’s almost-sacrifice of Isaac, with Abraham knowing that he and his son would return from the mount (Gen 22:5), and that God had the power to raise the dead (Heb 11:9).  Psalm 30:5 sees David thinking God for bringing his soul up from the grave & keeping him from the pit. And perhaps the most direct prophecy of resurrection (which Peter and Paul each quote): Psalm 16:10, "For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption."  The resurrection may have been mysterious, but it certainly should not have been a surprise – the Scripture is replete with references to it.
  • That all speaks to the prophecies regarding resurrection, but what about its necessity?  John wrote that “He must rise again from the dead.”  No doubt it was necessary in order that prophecy might be fulfilled, but it’s more than that.  The resurrection of the Messiah was necessary in order that the Messiah might be the Messiah.  IOW, the resurrection is necessary because of what it proves.  When we think of the cross, we think of the price that was paid for our sins (and rightly so).  But how do we know that price has been paid?  After all, many men died via crucifixion, and obviously all men die at some point.  The wages of sin is death, and death is something that is expected of every human being.  What is it that makes the death of Jesus different?  It’s that He is the only person who didn’t deserve to die.  He was/is completely innocent of sin, being that not only is He the perfect Man, but He is also the perfect God.  But how do we know that?  Sure Jesus performed miracles, but many men performed miracles.  Elijah performed all kinds of supernatural acts, as did Moses, yet neither of them were the Messiah.  What sets Jesus apart?  How can we know He is different?  The resurrection.  One of the reasons Jesus had to rise from the dead was for proof that His death was truly sufficient for all death.  Only the death of the sinless Messiah would be enough for the world, and the only way to know that is for Jesus to rise from the grave.  It would be if death had no permanent hold upon Him, because what Jesus did was more than enough.  And it was!  Romans 1:4, "and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead."  We know that Jesus is who the Bible says He is because He is risen from the grave.
    • We can know…do you?  The declaration of God has been made; we need believe!

10 Then the disciples went away again to their own homes.

  • It’s a bit of a footnote, but it’s an interesting addition.  John doesn’t try to add to the narrative – he doesn’t try to make himself or Peter sound any more heroic or faithful than what they were.  John may have believed (at least a bit), but he still went home.  He didn’t go out preaching the gospel at that very hour.  He was in shock, confused, and unsure of himself…just like many of us would have been.  The disciples were normal people, just like you & me.  What made them different?  The empowerment of the Holy Spirit (which would later come in Acts 2) – that same power is available to us, too!
  • At this point, John turns back to Mary Magdalene.  She reported the news of the removed stone to Peter & John, but what happened afterwards?  That’s where her story picks up…
  • Mary’s grief: the angels (11-13)

11 But Mary stood outside by the tomb weeping, and as she wept she stooped down and looked into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.

  • Unlike John & Peter, Mary never entered the tomb.  Unlike John, Mary still had not yet started to believe.  Obviously she had seen less evidence than either one of them (not for lack of availability), but apparently she didn’t even talk to John or Peter as they left.  Perhaps they were shocked & speechless – perhaps she was too distraught to attempt any conversation.  All we know is that Mary wept – and wept – and wept.  Eventually she did look into the tomb, and she saw two angels sitting where Jesus once had been.
  • There are a couple of points of interest: (1) The angels didn’t attract any attention.  According to the Synoptics, there had been angels when the women first arrived at the tomb, but it seems entirely possible that Mary fled the scene before she received too much of an explanation.  Obviously the angels had left at some point prior to Peter & John’s visit to the tomb, but now they had returned.  Yet they don’t make a massive visual entrance.  There’s no lightning bolt from heaven signaling their arrival.  Nor is there anything unusually special about their appearance other than their white clothing.  Nowhere in the Bible are angels ever pictured with wings, harps, or halos – those are imaginations dreamt up by medieval painters.  (2) Regardless of the angels’ lack of fanfare, Mary barely pays them any attention at all.  At the very least, we would think Mary would be curious as to when/how these two men arrived.  If they weren’t in the tomb when Peter & John were there & Mary was outside as they left, then where did these angels come from?  And especially if they were at all recognizable as angels…Mary still didn’t pay any attention to them.
  • Mary is so overcome by grief that she misses the miracle taking place right in front of her eyes.  Almost everywhere else in Scripture, when angels appear, men fear.  Invariably, those who witness angels have to be told not to fear.  Mary Magdalene is so distraught that she doesn’t even have the sense to be afraid of these angelic beings.  This is what lack of faith does.  Unbelief (and especially self-centered unbelief) causes us to totally miss the work of God.  And of course, this is only going to be demonstrated in an even greater way in a few moments.

13 Then 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.”

  • Even as Mary engages with these angels, she still clings to her grave-robber theory.  By this point, she’s seen the evidence, but she hasn’t absorbed it.  Her grief has blinded her to the good news of what has happened, and she is joyless in the very place where joy begins.
  • The empty tomb of Jesus is the greatest event in all history!  Although it was upon the cross where the work was completed (“It is finished!”) – it is at the tomb where that completed work is made known to all the world.  Creation mourned when its Creator died.  The earth quaked & the sky went dark as Jesus took His last breath on Friday.  Yet that particular Sunday morning was surely the most beautiful ever known.  Doubtless the birds sang more joyfully and the garden outside the tomb never looked more lovely than on the day its Creator walked among them again.  If the tomb is empty, it is because Jesus no longer lay in it.  Jesus had no more need of a grave, because He breathed the breath of life once more.  That is truly good news!
  • But it is news that will never be enjoyed by those who have no faith.  Beware that your grief and sorrow doesn’t blind you to the good news of Christ.  Be careful that your regret over past sin doesn’t bind you from running to the Savior for forgiveness.  Like Mary, you might have your own ideas and false theories – but the truth is still the truth, regardless of your faith.  Jesus IS alive, and He can be known.
  • Mary’s hope: Jesus (14-18)

14 Now 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?” She, supposing Him to be the gardener, said to Him, “Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away.”

  • Incredibly, Mary has almost the exact same conversation with Jesus.  For the first time since John’s account of Sunday morning began, the Risen Jesus actually appears, and what ought to be the most glorious reunion in Mary’s life almost turns out to be a non-event as she completely misses what is going on around her.  Theories abound as to why Mary didn’t recognize Jesus.  It’s possible that Jesus hid His identity from her, as He apparently did in other post-resurrection appearances.  It’s possible that Mary’s tears so cloud her eyes that she can’t physically see straight.  And of course it’s possible that Mary is still so overcome with sorrow that nothing makes sense to her.  Regardless of the reason she didn’t recognize Jesus, it’s apparent that she’s not looking for a living Lord, but a dead one.  When directly asked who it was she sought, Mary flatly (but politely) accuses this supposed Stranger of being the one to have stolen Jesus’ body.
  • On one hand, Mary’s devotion is admirable.  After all, how exactly did she imagine that she would carry Jesus’ body back to the disciples?  Jesus’ body would have been far too heavy for her to manage.  None of those details mattered to her; all she wanted was to see her Jesus again, even in death.
  • Yet Mary could see her Jesus right then & there if she only looked up!  If she picked her heart up out of grief for enough time to listen for the voice of God, she would have known to whom it was she spoke.  Thankfully, Jesus reached out with His grace.  Knowing her weakness and inability to see Him, Jesus took the initiative and spoke to her in a way she would understand…

16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him, “Rabboni!” (which is to say, Teacher).

  • After everything Mary already experienced & saw, all it took was a single word: her name.  When Jesus spoke her name, the grieving sheep heard the voice of her Good Shepherd and recognized Him immediately.  This was her teacher – her dearest Rabbi calling to her.  He spoke, and she heard.
  • For some of you today, Jesus is calling your name.  To this point, you’ve carried around sorrow or sin or shame – but whatever your burden, you have been unable to respond to evidence of Jesus all around you.  But you cannot ignore Him calling your name.  Hear Him & respond!  Be careful not to harden your heart against Him.  Mary received what might have been a one-time opportunity.  She wasn’t guaranteed another chance and neither are you.  When Jesus calls your name, respond!
  • And respond, Mary did!  Apparently she grabbed hold of Jesus and didn’t want to let go…

17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.’ ”

  • Be careful not to assume the worst of Jesus and think that He’s forbidding Mary even from touching Him.  From the KJV, it would be easy to come to that conclusion, yet we know from other post-resurrection appearances that Jesus could indeed be touched & handled.  In fact, that plays a major role in Thomas’ later encounter with Jesus (20:27).  The idea here is that Mary was presently continually holding on to Jesus, and Jesus has to reassure her that He isn’t going anywhere…at least, not yet.
  • Soon Jesus would leave, just as He had told His disciples while He was still with them in the Upper Room.  Very soon Jesus would physically ascend to God, and that would start a brand-new phase in both His ministry, and that of the disciples.  That’s the point that the Holy Spirit would come upon the disciples & empower them to do the work that God called them to do as the church.
    • BTW – that phase of Jesus’ ministry continues to this very day.  He still lives, yet He is ascended to God’s right hand, and it is the Holy Spirit who resides among the church today.  The Spirit indwells us at our salvation (something that will be pictured later in Ch 20), and in addition, He comes upon us for power.  It is only by the Holy Spirit that we have the power to do the work that God calls us to do as the church.
  • Even if Mary (and the other disciples) may have been left a bit confused by the message of Jesus concerning His ascension, notice the one thing they surely wouldn’t have misunderstood in the slightest: their inclusion in the family of God.  They were not only His disciples & friends; they were His brothers.  God the Father wasn’t only the Father of Jesus; He was their Father as well.  The same God worshipped by Jesus is the God worshipped by the apostles.  Every relationship that Jesus had with God the Father was shared by those who believed in Him.
    • That is the blessedness of being a believer! We are brought into the very family of God, and we share in the richness of the relationship between God the Father and God the Son.  What Father and Son share in eternal communion, is what we share through faith.  Christ holds nothing back once we come to faith in Him.  What He has been given, He shares with us in full.

18 Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that He had spoken these things to her.

  • Peter & John may not have shared much with Mary as they left the tomb, but Mary couldn’t help but share what she experienced.  They had experienced the empty tomb, but Mary experienced the Risen Jesus Himself!  She heard, touched, and saw the Lord Jesus alive, and her whole world changed that very instant.  One moment she was so overcome with grief that she didn’t even acknowledge the presence of angels in her midst, nor even recognized the Savior she longed to see.  The next, she was overcome with joy – her grief having turned to gladness.  Her Savior called her name, and she came to faith.  She knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that her Lord lived, and there was a glorious future in store for them all.  Even if Jesus hadn’t specifically instructed her to tell the disciples these things, there was no possible way of keeping it secret!
  • There still isn’t.  Jesus is risen from the dead!  How can we possibly keep that news to ourselves?  There are so many who need to hear.  Even as believers, we need to be reminded that our Savior lives.  He may reside in heaven, but He didn’t go there through death; He went there in power & glory.  And He will return the same way!  Are we ready to see Him?  Are we even looking to see Him?  We need to constantly tell one another the good news of our Jesus’ risen life!
  • And we especially need to tell the world.  According to some statistics, over 150,000 people die every single day.  How many of those know the Lord?  How many perhaps have never even heard His name?  WE are the ones to tell them!  Like Mary, we have been charged by our Lord Jesus to tell the world that He lives, and that He has a plan to come back.  We have been given the most glorious news in all of history: the news that Jesus died for our sins, yet lives today.  How many of those 150,000 who die today still have the opportunity to hear the gospel?  Tell them!
    • And if you’re someone who does not yet believe, how do you know you’re not one of those 150,000 people for today?  Or tomorrow?  None of us know how long we have left on this earth.  Even those who are told by their doctors of life-threatening disease don’t even have the next heartbeat guaranteed.  None of us do.  Take the opportunity you have today to believe the gospel!  Put your faith in Jesus, the One who is risen from the dead!

Conclusion:
Mary’s hope is our hope!  What Peter & John witnessed is evidence for us to believe!  Jesus is risen from the dead.  The battle against death has been won, and Jesus is the victor!  He lives even today, having risen to the right hand of God, though He will not be there for much longer.  He has promised to return, and one day all the world will know that Jesus lives!

How do we respond to the news of Jesus’ resurrection?  For some of us, it is simply to worship & to share.  We’ve believed upon Jesus in the past, and every Resurrection Sunday is another reminder of the glorious things that Jesus has done for us & the victory He has won.  So we give Him our praise & we recommit ourselves to telling our friends, neighbors, and family about Him.

For others of us, it’s an opportunity to recommit.  This week you’ve been reminded about the great cost of your sin, and you cannot bear to walk in it any longer.  Although you have asked Jesus for forgiveness in the past, you cannot honestly say that you’ve been walking with Him lately.  Today, you can.  Recommit yourself to Christ, knowing that His resurrection from the dead frees you from those things.  You don’t have to be blinded by guilt and shame any longer.  Hear the voice of your Good Shepherd & give yourself again to Him.

Finally, it’s also an opportunity to believe.  For some of you, maybe you’ve seen bits & pieces of the evidence, but you’ve never given yourself over to faith.  Maybe you haven’t wanted to believe – or maybe you have, but counted yourself unworthy of the love of God.  News flash: all of us are unworthy…that’s why God calls it “grace.”  God loves you so much that He sent His Son Jesus to die for you, and because Jesus rose from the dead, now you can be made a son or daughter of God.  So believe upon Him today!  Turn away from your sins, confessing them to God & asking His forgiveness – and then believe upon Jesus, asking Him by faith to be your Lord & King.  He will save.  All you need do is ask.

Get out of the Graveyard

Posted: March 27, 2016 in Luke, Uncategorized
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Sunrise on the Square
Luke 24:1-7, “Get out of the Graveyard”

Luke 24:1–7, "(1) Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. (2) But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. (3) Then they went in and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. (4) And it happened, as they were greatly perplexed about this, that behold, two men stood by them in shining garments. (5) Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? (6) He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, (7) saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’ ”"

They had gone to a graveyard, expecting what all mourners expect: dead people.  Typically, the only people we expect to see walking around are staff: groundskeepers & the like.  Unless we show up for a funeral, graveyards are usually pretty empty.  The grounds are (literally) full, but very few are actually walking around.  Of course, this had been no normal funeral, and definitely no normal grave!  But from the perspective of the grieving women, they did not yet know anything was different.  All they thought they knew is that the Lord that they had loved and followed lay behind a massive stone, sealing the new tomb in which He lay.

Everything they knew was dead.  Their hope – their future – their joy – all of that had been wrapped up with Jesus.  These women (just like the male disciples of Jesus) believed Jesus to be the Christ – the long awaited Messiah of Israel.  This was the King who was to be more than any other king in the lineage of David – this was the one called by God to be His own Son, and who would rule over them forever.  It was true that Jesus spoke of His kingdom differently than what they had always been taught in the past, but there was no doubt in their minds that He was that King.  His power had made it clear.  Whether it was the supernatural power in His miracles or the incredible authority in His teaching, Jesus (unlike other rabbis) had true power.  He had claimed to be sent by God – to even be God in the flesh (“I AM”) – and these women & others had the faith to believe.

Yet now?  Everything was gone.  Jesus was dead, and everyone who followed Him had been shaken to the core.  The 11 remaining apostles had gone into hiding, and most of them were not even present for the moment of His death.  He was buried by two Jewish leaders whose faith had previously been secret, but now all that remained were these women.  Their world had been shattered, but their devotion was not.  They had every intent of ministering to Him even in death.  They may not have known what to believe, but they certainly knew what they needed to do.  They needed to be with Jesus, and so they came.

When they arrived, their world was rocked!  The massive stone that had sealed off the tomb from the rest of the world had been rolled away (probably tossed aside!), and that naturally would have caused a commotion.  At least some of the women took the opportunity to peer inside the tomb, and what they saw amazed them: nothing.  Today, it would be as if we looked into a newly emptied coffin, or a crypt that had suddenly been vacated.  The very thing we would have expected to see there wouldn’t be there – and we wouldn’t know what to think.  Neither did they. 

The women who had looked in were trying to formulate a theory of their own when the facts were given them in the most miraculous of ways: via two angels.  The Roman guard (whom they expected to see) had already been dispatched by at least one angel, and now two of them reappeared to give the glorious good news to the women.  Jesus had risen from the dead!

It was the way the angels told them that is so striking.  “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen!” They seem truly curious about the doubt and wonder of the women.  What were they doing in a graveyard?  You’re not supposed to look for a living person in a graveyard; that’s where you look for dead ones.  We almost have to wonder if there wasn’t a bit of a smile on the faces of the angels as they asked the question.  The answer was obvious: Jesus HAD been dead, so the women were looking for Him in the most logical of places.  They had personally seen Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus the Pharisee lay Jesus in this very tomb, and they had come to the only place they knew to come.

But that was really the point the angels were making: they should have known better.  Jesus said that He would rise again.  The fact of Jesus’ resurrection was a regular point of His teaching.  These women & the other disciples had likely heard Jesus talk about it on numerous occasions.  Why hadn’t they believed?  Because it probably sounded too good to be true.  It sounds like one of those teachings that has some sort of “spiritual” application that doesn’t make a lot of sense in real life.  When hearing Jesus teach about it, the disciples probably thought the same thing that many of us still think when hearing about the promises of God for us: “Wow, that sure sound nice.  I wonder what it looks like in real life?  Surely He can’t mean exactly what He said – I’ve got to be missing something.”

Beloved, when Jesus speaks of resurrection, He means exactly what He says!  Every promise of God’s is one that He truly means.  When He speaks of forgiveness, He grants it.  When He speaks of eternal life, He gives it.  When He speaks of grace, He showers us with it.  Yes, He means what He says!

The disciples (men and women) hadn’t truly believed Jesus, and their lack of faith was shown in their actions.  How so?  Because they thought Jesus was dead.  The women had come to a gravesite to perform additional burial rituals on a dead body.  They hadn’t come expecting news of resurrection.  If they had believed Jesus, then they might not have gone to the tomb at all – they might have been searching the hillsides for a living, walking, breathing Savior.  All they needed to do was to take Jesus at His word.  As the angels repeated to them, Jesus had taught them this clearly: “Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, (7) saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.

What Jesus spoke is exactly what happened.  He (as the Son of Man, the glorious Messiah sent by God) was delivered into the hands of sinners.  Those who presided over Jesus’ trials might have been the priests and Pharisees, but they were still sinners.  Their religious backgrounds did nothing to keep them from sin & rebellion against God.  In fact, they used their religion as a disguise, trying to fool others around them into thinking they were more holy than what they were.  They might have been able to fool men, but they couldn’t fool God.  He knew them as the sinners that they were.  No amount of religious ritual, financial giving, or fancy dress could change their nature – nor can it with us.  It doesn’t matter how often we go to church, how much money we put in the offering plate, or what kind of fancy role we might have in a church congregation.  If we are without Jesus in our hearts, then we are in rebellion against God.  We have built up a lifetime of sin though our thoughts, words, and actions, and we can do nothing to make ourselves right.  We are just as sinful as the priests and the Pharisees were of Jesus’ day, and it was into their hands that He was delivered.

From the Jews, Jesus went to the Romans…and He received no better treatment from the Gentiles.  If the Jewish priests had the pretense of religion, the Romans had the advantage of money and political power.  And yet, they were just as sinful as the rest.  When Jesus taught that He would be “delivered into the hands of sinful men,” He included both Jews and Romans in that description.  Today, some people believe their religious acts will save them (it won’t), while others believe that they don’t even need to be saved.  They believe that they are gods unto themselves, and they have no need of God.  Perhaps like the Romans, they have political or business power, and they can get whatever they want.  Perhaps they have wealth & they think they can buy whatever they want.  That might work on earth, but it doesn’t work in eternity.  What happens when this life is over?  Your wallet may be thick today, but you don’t carry it with you beyond the grave.  The Romans were in just as bad a need to be saved, even if they didn’t realize it.

Again, this is to whom Jesus was delivered.  He was delivered into the hands of sinners – He was delivered over to people just like us who abused Him, beat Him, spit on Him, and nailed Him to a cross.  These same people (just like us) taunted Jesus & insulted Him while He was in agony, and gambled for His clothes as if He were already dead.  These same people (just like us) waited for Him to die, not knowing how badly we needed Him to do so.

The reason Jesus spoke so often of His death was because it was the plan of God.  Those people (just like us) needed to be saved from everything their (and our) sin earned: eternal death and the wrath of God.  The wages of sin is death, and all sin is ultimately an offense against an infinite God.  How much offense have you and I built up over the course of our lives?  The thought is terrifying!  Yet this is why Jesus died!  He died in order to step in your place, in my place, in the place of all the sinful men into whose hands He was delivered.  He substituted Himself for us, in order that He would bear the wrath of God in our place, and that He might experience the death that we deserved.

But that’s not all Jesus came to do.  He also came to rise again!  That’s the main part of what the angels reminded the women: “Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, (7) saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.”  Jesus’ death wouldn’t end in death.  He would rise from the grave, and this was something that His followers were to literally expect.  After all, if the first part of Jesus’ statement came literally true, so would the rest.  Jesus was given over to sinners, and He was crucified.  So what would happen next?  Literal, physical resurrection…and He was. (And is!)

So that brings us back to the question of the angels.  Why were the women looking for Jesus among the dead?  Jesus said that He would live again, and He did.  His body wouldn’t be found in a graveyard, because He was presently using it.  If they had believed Jesus in the past, then they needed to believe Him in the present.  Yes, Jesus had died, but everything had changed.  Come Sunday morning, Jesus now lived!

Jesus still lives today!  This is something that is just as true in 2016 as it was in 33AD.  When Jesus rose from the grave, He rose forever.  After all, He said that He would, and so He did.  If you believe Jesus, then you believe in His resurrection!

Jesus IS alive!  Yes, He was dead, and His death had to happen.  This was the plan of God.  But the plan of God did not end there – it lives on today with Jesus’ resurrected life.  Our King is alive – victorious over sin, death, and the devil!

And because He is, our hope is alive as well.  When the women arrived that morning, their hopes had died.  Everything to which they looked forward had been buried in that tomb with Jesus.  But when Jesus rose from the grave, so did their own hopes and faith.  Now they could look forward again to the forgiveness of sin, to abundant life with God, to an eternal future with God in heaven.  All of those promises were alive with Jesus.

So they are with us.  Our hope is wrapped up in the living Lord Jesus!  Without Him, we have nothing.  As Paul writes to the Corinthians: 1 Corinthians 15:14, "And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty." Without a resurrected Jesus, we are to be pitied.  But He IS!  Thus we have reason for faith & we have assurance in our hope.  We do not wish for salvation; we have certainty that we have received it.  We do not merely dream of eternity, we have the sure knowledge of walking into it.  All because Jesus is risen from the dead!

So with that in mind, why do we dedicate ourselves so much to the things that are dead?  Like the women at first, we walk around in unbelief, treating not only Jesus as dead, but living as those who are dead ourselves.  Too often, we spend our time & energy looking into dead things.  We give ourselves over to sin – and then afterwards, over to guilt and shame.  Like a ship caught in a whirlpool, we find ourselves in a downward spiral: desiring to please God but failing, and then feeling shame over our failure, only to stop going to God for help.  Or maybe we find ourselves listening more to the world than to the words of God.  Instead of living content in the knowledge that God loves us & has made us His children through the work of Jesus Christ, we hear how we’re never good enough – how we’re second-rate parents, failed workers or failed friends, never worthy of the love of other people, much less the love of God.  Or maybe we’re still stuck in willful rebellion against God.  We know we sin against Him constantly, but don’t really know how to stop.  So we continue to harden our hearts, and deafen our ears to the voice of the Holy Spirit calling us to repentance.

Beloved, hear this clearly: these things are the things of death!  This is what Jesus has called us out of!  We cannot look for life in that which is dead.

Look for life among the living.  And Jesus is alive!  Today is Resurrection Sunday…rejoice in the life of your Savior & Lord!  He IS risen, so expect Him to be alive.  Expect the power that He makes available through the Holy Spirit.  Expect Him to return to earth exactly as He said.  We serve a risen Savior, and He is glorious!

Jesus is Risen; Jesus is Lord

Posted: April 5, 2015 in Acts
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Resurrection Sunday 2015
Acts 2:22-39, “Jesus is Risen; Jesus is Lord”

The first Easter sermon ever preached wasn’t preached on Easter – it was given by Peter on the day of Pentecost.  Easter is less about the particulars of a religious holiday than it is about the content of what that holiday is supposed to celebrate: the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.  Our culture gets lost with Easter celebrations just in general terms.  For some, it’s all about bunnies, eggs, and other things that more accurately reflect pagan celebrations of the Spring Equinox than anything to do with Christianity.  For some, it’s about chocolate, candy, and other feasting.  Praise God for chocolate, but this particular day isn’t about food; it’s about the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.  This is Resurrection Sunday, and it was the resurrection that was the focus of Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost.

Take a moment to understand what was going on that day.  After waiting in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit to come upon them, just as Jesus had instructed the disciples to do, the Holy Spirit actually came.  Those who believed in Jesus (much more than just the 12 disciples, which were newly 12 again after Judas was replaced) were seeking the Lord in prayer, and they were all in one accord.  The men and women had gathered once again on this day of Pentecost, which was traditionally a celebration among the Jews remembering how God gave Moses the 10 Commandments upon Mt. Sinai.  This was Shauvot (the Feast of Weeks), and Jews from all over the Roman Empire had once more come to Jerusalem, just as they had 50 days earlier for the Feast of Passover and Unleavened Bread.  So although the believers in Jesus were already meeting for prayer, it was simply a natural time for them to meet once more. 

And as they met together, God did something miraculous in their midst!  Centuries earlier, God had given Moses the law of the covenant; this day God gave something even better: the baptism and filling of Himself.  The Holy Spirit came upon them in an incredible way, with the room filled with the sound of a mighty rushing wind, and visible tongues of fire resting upon each one of the disciples in the room.  As the Holy Spirit came upon them, they began to praise God verbally, but began speaking in languages they did not know…and that started to attract the attention of the other Jews present in Jerusalem that day.

The people out on the street heard the praises of God spoken in their own native tongues, and they were amazed.  They couldn’t understand how it was all possible.  Trying to make sense of it all, they mocked the group of disciples, claiming that they must be drunk.

That’s when Peter spoke up, explaining what was happening.  The disciples were not drunk; it was far too early in the day for drinking.  (And drunkenness didn’t even make sense!  People might act weird when drunk, but liquor doesn’t give anyone supernatural knowledge of languages they’ve never spoken before.)  What had happed was the fulfillment of prophecy, as the Holy Spirit had been poured out upon the worshippers of God in the last day – as a sign to all those who watched that they needed to call upon the name of the Lord to be saved.

But now that Peter had their attention (thanks to the move of the Holy Spirit), he had the perfect opportunity to tell them about Jesus.  Just 7 weeks prior, the people of Jerusalem had put Jesus to death.  He had been betrayed by a friend, turned over to the Jewish priests and elders, and had been convicted of blasphemy.  At that point, Jesus was delivered over to Pilate, who ordered Him crucified after the Jewish mob demanded it.  He died upon the cross and was buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea.  All this was public knowledge, and the Jews were well acquainted with it.  What they were not so familiar with was what happened afterwards.  The event that followed Jesus’ crucifixion was a game-changer.  Three days after His death, Jesus rose from the grave – fulfilling prophecy written of Him centuries earlier.  And not only did Jesus rise from the dead, He also bodily rose to God the Father in heaven, another event prophesied in Scripture.  Jesus’ resurrection and ascension proved beyond a doubt that He is God and King – He is to be worshipped by all the world, Jew and Gentile alike.

Ladies & Gentlemen, THAT is the Easter message!  That is the proclamation of Jesus’ resurrection.  His resurrection is proof that God has made Him Lord and Christ, and by believing upon Him we can have the forgiveness of sin, and eternal salvation.  That is what Peter proclaimed to the Jews on Pentecost, and that is still the proclamation of the Bible today.  Jesus is risen; Jesus is Lord!

Acts 2:22–39

  • Peter’s introduction: it’s all about Jesus (vss. 22-24)

22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know—

  • Peter is laying out the case for Jesus being the Christ (the Anointed One, the Messiah, the God-given King), and as he does so, he first reminds them of how Jesus lived and walked among them.  They knew this Man.  This was “Jesus of Nazareth,” thought by some to be a prophet along the lines of Elijah, Jeremiah, or John the Baptist – thought by others to be a disturber of the peace – but known by all to be a worker of great miracles wrought by the power of God.  Even the Pharisees had to admit that no one could do the things Jesus did unless God was with Him (Jn 3:2).  Jesus had performed signs and wonders all throughout the land of Israel: feeding thousands in Galilee with loaves and fish, healing the blind and the paralyzed in Jerusalem and elsewhere, casting out demons wherever He went, and even raising the dead in Bethany (just beyond the city walls of Jerusalem).  His power and authority could not be denied, which was the biggest challenge for the Pharisees and chief priests.  After all, it’s one thing to try to label Jesus a false teacher; it’s another thing to prove it.  His miracles and teachings were far too well-known to be mischaracterized.  Jesus’ character was attested to by God Himself, and that was something that could not be denied.
  • That fact alone was a problem for the men of Israel.  They knew the miracles of Jesus, having seen them for themselves.  They had witnessed these things with their own eyes, and it was plain where the evidence pointed.  Jesus was no ordinary man; He was the Christ of God (the Son of Man, the Son of David).  They knew all this, and still they rejected Him.  Vs. 23…

23 Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death;

  • They took Him in lawlessness.  Some have thought that Peter’s reference to “lawless hands” is a reference to the Gentile Romans, who were without the Law of Moses.  The Jews (having the Law) delivered the Messiah/Christ to those without the Law in order to be crucified.  Certainly that is a possibility, but everything about Jesus’ so-called ‘trial’ was lawless!  The supposedly holy chief priests and Jewish council ignored the Law as they brought forth false witnesses about Jesus, entertained lies about Him, sought to convict Him without evidence, and more.  The things that surrounded Jesus on the day He was rejected and condemned to die had nothing to do with the holy righteous Law of God, at least from the perspective of men.  They were thirsty for innocent blood, and they took it.
  • The men of Jerusalem may have rejected Jesus lawlessly, but they didn’t do so by chance.  Everything that happened to Jesus was according to “the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God.”  The innocent Son of God was meant to be turned over to sinners that day for death, because that was God’s predetermined plan in regards to sin.  The Bible tells us that Jesus was slain before the foundation of the world (Rev 13:8) – back in the Garden of Eden, God already speaks of how His promised Son would be bruised by the Serpent, prior to the Serpent’s head being crushed by Him (Gen 3:15).  Before God ever created the world, He knew that sin would enter it. He knew that the universe He created and declared to be “good” would fall, and that He would have to right every wrong.  That was why He sent Jesus.  Because sin is evil, the righteous God has to pour out His wrath upon it, and the only One who can truly bear the wrath of God is God Himself.  Thus, God came.  Jesus became our propitiation: the One who took the full anger of God towards sin in our place.  The cross of Christ was lawless from the perspective of men – the full product of our sin…but it was also the fullness of the predetermined righteous plan of God.
  • Notice Peter doesn’t shy away from the “death” of Jesus.  For many, they would think of Jesus’ death as proof that He was fake or a failure.  They would have looked at Peter & thought, “Why do you proclaim a dead Teacher?  If your Jesus was taken and killed, He must not have been that great.  Surely He couldn’t have been of God.  If He was, He wouldn’t have died.”  Not so!  Death for Jesus wasn’t failure; it was His mission.  This is what Jesus was born to do.   That said, it wasn’t ALL Jesus was born to do.  There was more to come.  See vs. 24…

24 whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.

  • Yes Jesus died, but God “raised” Him up again!  Jesus truly died upon that cross, and He was certified dead by those around Him.  His lifeless body was placed in a tomb, and packed with spices according to Jewish tradition.  There was nothing about Him on Friday evening prior to the tomb being shut that would have given anyone any indication of what was still to come.  But on Sunday morning, something DID come!  Matthew 28:1–8, "(1) Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. (2) And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. (3) His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. (4) And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men. (5) But the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. (6) He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. (7) And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.” (8) So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word."  Amazing!  Nothing in all history compares with this one historical event!  And be sure not to miss the main event!  It wasn’t the earthquake, or the rolling back of the stone, or the fear of the guards, or even the appearance of the glorious angel that was the most amazing thing.  The very best part of it wall was the One who was not there!  The lifeless body of Jesus could not be found in the tomb, because Jesus was no longer lifeless.  He was risen from the dead, because God raised Him up, “having loosed the pains of death.
  • Death holds us, but it cannot hold Jesus!  How exactly can the Author and Giver of Life be held by death?  What chains can the grave place upon Jesus?  Jesus conquers death; there simply is no other option!
    • And guess what?  Though death holds us now, it will not hold us always.  Those who have faith in Christ Jesus as Lord also will not be held by death.  The sting of death has been taken away.  Though we die, yet will we live.  To be separated by our loved ones by death is to step into the presence of the Living Lord Jesus, one day to have our bodies gloriously resurrected from the dead.  THAT is the victory that God gave Jesus over death.  Not only was Jesus loosed from the pains of death, but His resurrection looses everyone else who has faith in Him!
  • Peter’s illustration: the resurrection was prophesied (vss. 25-28)

25 For David says concerning Him: ‘I foresaw the LORD always before my face, For He is at my right hand, that I may not be shaken. 26 Therefore my heart rejoiced, and my tongue was glad; Moreover my flesh also will rest in hope.

  • Quoting Psalm 16:8-11.  From the perspective of the psalmist, this Singer saw God, trusted in God, rejoiced in God, and hoped in God.
  • When does the Singer hope in this way?  When He is in the middle of great trouble, even death itself.  See vs. 27…

27 For You will not leave my soul in Hades, Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.

  • This is why the Singer rejoiced: God would not leave His soul in the grave.  The Singer, who is the “Holy One” would not “see corruption.”  His body would not stay in the tomb long enough to physically decompose.  He might go there for a day (or three), but no longer.  This is resurrection!

28 You have made known to me the ways of life; You will make me full of joy in Your presence.’

  • The Singer knows life beyond the grave.  His ultimate joy is being in the presence of God.
  • Peter’s argument: David wrote of Jesus’ resurrection (vss. 29-32)

29 “Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne,

  • As the author of Psalm 16, David obviously wasn’t writing of himself.  If he had, what he wrote would have been false considering his body most definitely did decay.  Any one of the Jews could have gone to the tomb of David and viewed his remains.  No, David had Someone else in mind.  Writing as a prophet, David was looking forward to another promise of God that God had given him: the future Christ, who would come from David’s line and reign forever.  God had promised to give David a son, whose throne God would establish forever (2 Sam 7:13).  Every son/descendent of David ultimately looked forward to this promised Son.  They all died and stayed buried, but there was one coming who would live on in glorious majesty.
  • Here’s the problem: if David’s heir would have a kingdom that never ends – if David’s heir would live forever, then how would David’s heir deal with death?  Some might argue that the Messiah (Christ) would never die, but that’s not what David wrote.  David didn’t write that the Messiah would not enter the grave; only that the Messiah wouldn’t be left in the grave (vs. 27).  David’s heir would most certainly die – too many other Scriptures proclaim this (Ps 22, Isa 53 among others).  So what would God do with the death of the Son of David?  The Messiah has to die, but He must also sit on David’s throne forever.  That means there must be a resurrection.  Vs. 31…

31 he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses.

  • So the prophecy was that the Christ would rise from the grave in order to sit on the throne of David.  He would die, but He would not remain dead – His body would never see corruption or decay.  Peter says, “Guess what?  Jesus fits the bill.”  Jesus perfectly fits the description of this prophecy. 
  • How did Peter know?  He witnessed it for himself.  After the women ran with fear and great joy to bring the disciples word, Peter and John had to see this thing for themselves.  John 20:3–8, "(3) Peter therefore went out, and the other disciple, and were going to the tomb. (4) So they both ran together, and the other disciple outran Peter and came to the tomb first. (5) And he, stooping down and looking in, saw the linen cloths lying there; yet he did not go in. (6) Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; and he saw the linen cloths lying there, (7) and the handkerchief that had been around His head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded together in a place by itself. (8) Then the other disciple, who came to the tomb first, went in also; and he saw and believed."  Peter is a first-hand witness to the empty tomb of Jesus – but it wasn’t only the empty tomb that Peter saw; he saw the living Lord Jesus Himself!  Luke 24:36–39, "(36) Now as they said these things, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them, and said to them, “Peace to you.” (37) But they were terrified and frightened, and supposed they had seen a spirit. (38) And He said to them, “Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts? (39) Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.”"  This was just the first of several times Peter saw the Lord Jesus.  Jesus appeared to Peter & the disciples again 8 days after His resurrection and brought Thomas to faith – He appeared to the disciples while they were fishing, and restored Peter to ministry – Jesus appeared to them all in Galilee and gave them the Great Commission prior to His ascension…and those are just the instances recorded in the Bible.  Peter was a repeated witness of Jesus’ resurrection.  If anyone knew Jesus was raised, it was Peter.
  • And Peter wasn’t the only witness!  There were the other disciples, including the women at the tomb.  There were the Roman soldiers, who witnessed the empty tomb for themselves and were bribed to lie to the Jews. (BTW – the fact they survived to tell a lie is proof that they were lying.  If the disciples had indeed stolen the body while they slept, the soldiers would have been executed by the Romans themselves.)  There were over 500 who saw the Risen Lord Jesus at some point (1 Cor 15:6).  A person might argue that one or two people at a time might have seen a hallucination, but upwards to 500?  It boggles the mind!  From a historical perspective, the evidence that Jesus literally rose from the grave is overwhelming.  Very few historical events have more than just a couple of witnesses; the resurrection of Jesus literally has hundreds.  There is more historical evidence for to the resurrection of Jesus Christ than there is for all Roman history combined.
  • Pardon the pun, but this is life-changing!  Jesus rose up from the dead by the power of God.  He was raised by God the Father – He was raised by the Holy Spirit (Rom 8:11) – He was raised by His own power (Jn 10:18).  The whole Trinity involved itself in the resurrection of Jesus Christ in glorious display of His majesty!  There has been no other event like this in all history.  Other people have been raised to life, but always by the intervention of another.  God used Elijah to raise the widow’s son.  God used Elisha to raise the Shunammite’s son.  Peter raised Tabitha, and Paul raised Eutychus. Even Jesus raised the daughter of Jairus, well as Lazarus.  But even when directly raised by God the Son, there was still the intervention of Someone.  But with Jesus, there was no intervention.  God willed that Jesus be raised, and He rose!  After three days in the grave, Jesus left that grave under His own power; not the power of another.  The resurrection of Jesus is monumental in its scope…and it actually happened.  This is no fiction – this is no religious myth – this is no wishful thinking; this is actually true.  Hundreds of witnesses testify to the fact that Jesus rose from the dead.  The proof is irrefutable.
    • The question is: what are you going to do about it?  Peter is going to get to that in a minute, but surely we realize that this is something to which we must respond.  We cannot hear the fact of Jesus’ resurrection and not be compelled to respond in some way.  If Jesus truly is risen from the dead, then that changes everything.  No longer are we simply wandering through life aimlessly doing whatever we want without a care for God.  God has dramatically revealed Himself!  No longer can we think that our good deeds will outweigh our bad deeds at the Judgement, or that we can talk ourselves into heaven.  If Jesus had to die upon the cross, then it doesn’t matter what we possibly think we can do…it’s never enough!  But with Jesus risen from the grave, now there is hope.  You can grab on to that hope today…you have that opportunity.
  • Peter’s 2nd argument: David wrote of Jesus’ ascension (vss. 33-35)

33 Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear.

  • The resurrection and the ascension of Jesus Christ go hand-in-hand.  If one comes to believe that Jesus truly did rise back to life from the grave, the next obvious question is this: where is He today?  If Jesus rose, why don’t we see Him?  The answer: Jesus ascended to the throne of God in heaven.  When Jesus rose to life, He rose to ultimate life.  He rose bodily from the grave, and ascended bodily into heaven.  Not only could death not hold Him, but once risen in glorified life, this earth could no longer contain Him.  Jesus rose from the grave never to die again – which is exactly what the ascension declares.  Death could not contain Jesus, and death will never again touch Jesus.  Jesus has conquered death once and forever!
  • But when Jesus ascended, He did not leave His church alone; He sent the Holy Spirit, as Peter declared.  The very event that the Jews witnessed with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit through the disciples was itself proof that Jesus was now “exalted to the right hand of God.”  Jesus has promised that the Holy Spirit would not come until He ascended to heaven, and once He ascended, the Holy Spirit came.  His words were proven true once more, and the Jews of Jerusalem could testify of that fact for themselves that Pentecost day.
  • What connection does the outpouring of the Holy Spirit have with Jesus’ ascension and exaltation?  It demonstrates His current victory, and the promise of His consummate victory.  Vs. 34…

34 “For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself: ‘The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, 35 Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.” ’

  • Peter quotes Psalm 110:1, just as Jesus had weeks prior when confronting the Pharisees and Sadducees (Mt 22:44).  This is David speaking in the psalm, but he speaks (writes) from the point of view as an observer.  Yahweh God was speaking to Someone even David referred to as “Lord.”  Who could possibly be greater than David, the preeminent king of Israel?  None other than the Son of David, the Messiah.  To this Messiah, God gives the invitation to come sit at His right hand (the position of power and authority).  The Messiah sits in the seat of God, and is given the promise of ultimate victory by God.  There is victory just in the exaltation of the Messiah, but there is more victory yet to come.  One day every enemy of the Messiah King will be thrown down, and the Son of David will stand on their necks as they are vanquished. 
  • That is the victory of Jesus over death and the devil!  One day death itself will be thrown into the lake of fire, along with Satan, Antichrist, the False Prophet, and every other enemy of God.  Satan has already been delivered a death blow when Jesus rose from the grave.  In Jesus’ resurrection, the sting of death has already been taken away.  But yet each of their shadows remain…for now.  At the final victory, even that will be taken from them, and nothing will remain!  Jesus’ ascension is the guarantee of His utter and final victory!
    • This is why those who trust in the Risen Jesus have nothing to fear in life!  If God be for us, who can be against us?  Yes, we endure trials and hardships and sorrows.  We will grieve, just like Peter, Paul, and every other devoted follower of Christ.  We will endure sickness and suffering and hardship, and likely persecution in this life.  But ONLY in this life.  Because Jesus is risen, WE will rise.  Because Jesus lives, WE will live.  Because Jesus is exalted and glorified, WE will be glorified.  Our life and eternal hope is wrapped up in His own, and we will experience what our Lord experiences because we have been graced to share in His inheritance (Rom 8:17).  And with that in mind, what exactly should we fear?  Nothing!  What can this life throw at us that eternity does not wash away?  What can we experience now that will not be utterly overwhelmed in the glories of heaven with Jesus?  Beloved, this is what it means to hope in the resurrection of Jesus!  Do you have that hope?
  • Peter’s conclusion: Jesus is the Christ

36 “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”

  • Here is the point that Peter has been building up to this entire time.  He’s built his case: he reminded them of Who Jesus already showed Himself to be prior to His crucifixion – how the Scriptures prophesied of everything regarding the expected Messiah (death, burial, resurrection, ascension) – and now Peter puts it all together in one fell swoop.  Jesus matches it all.  The proof is abundant that Jesus is the Lord and Christ.  Jesus is the “Lord” of whom David observed speaking with Yahweh God (the LORD), and Jesus is the Christ of whom David wrote that His flesh would not see corruption.  All of Israel could now look to Jesus of Nazareth and “know assuredly” the declaration and work of God regarding Him.  Jesus is the Lord God in the flesh, and He is the Messiah Christ King of Israel.  Jesus is the Savior of the world, and the One deserving of all worship.
  • Peter spoke this to the people of Jerusalem, but the truth rings out across the ages to us today.  Let all the world know assuredly that God has made Jesus both Lord & Christ!  This is what we see in the resurrection – this is what we celebrate at Easter.  The Crucified One is the Victorious One – the Divine One – the Royal One.  Let that truth sink in – let your heart absorb that fact.  The One whose name we so often use as a cuss word – the One whose cross of death we throw casually around as meaningless – this is the Living God of the Universe, and the King of all the world.
  • Put yourself in the shoes of the men of Jerusalem that day as they take this all in.  They had seen Jesus with their own eyes – they were there when it all happened – they had even heard the stories of Jesus rising from the dead (after all, no one bothered objecting to Peter at the time).  And then all of a sudden it starts to sink in…they were the ones who despised, abused, and delivered Jesus to be crucified.  They had cried out for the torture and death of God the Son, their King.  Vs. 37…
  • Response and invitation (vss. 37-39)

37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”

  • No doubt they were cut to the heart!  They were pierced to the quick!  They knew they had to do something to respond, but they didn’t know what.
  • Some of you might be cut to the heart as well.  After all, although you didn’t physically cry out to Pilate for Jesus’ crucifixion, you were the reason He was crucified.  When Jesus died upon the cross, He didn’t die for His sins; He died for yours and for mine.  Every sin for every man, woman, and child throughout all history was placed upon His shoulders, and He died for you.  You may not have physically spat in His face, but all your life you were a spiritual enemy of God.  You wanted your way – you wanted to walk according to your lusts and your desires & who cares what God thinks.  So what if God gave you life & and breath?  You wanted your way, period.  Know this: that IS spitting in the face of God!  That is treasonous rebellion against the God to Whom all the world owes our allegiance and worship.  We were the reasons Jesus died that horrendous death upon the cross, and we are faced with the very real reality of seeing Him on the Day of Judgment.  And what will happen on that Day?  All of His enemies will be made His footstool!  We sent God to the cross, but that God lives today in power, might, and victory.  Just like the Jews of Jerusalem, we ought to be asking, “What shall we do?”!

38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

  • We must respond to the resurrection of Jesus, and the declaration of God that Jesus is the Lord and Christ.  How?  Response #1: Turn to Christ – “repent.”  The word “repentance” refers to a change of mind and change of direction.  We change the way we think about sin, turning away from it – forsaking it – leaving it in the past.  We change the way we think about Jesus, and we turn to Him in faith.  There is a turning from and a turning to: from sin, to Jesus.
  • Response #2: Trust in Christ – “be baptized.”  Not that baptism saves us, but baptism is the expression of our identification with Jesus.  Notice Peter tells them to “be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.”  Water doesn’t wash away sin; only the blood of Jesus can do that.  When we trust in the name (the person) of Jesus for forgiveness – when we believe upon Him to be saved, we are identifying ourselves with Him.  All of our hope is in Him, all of our life is in Him.  Physical water baptism is simply the expression of that.  We’ve been immersed into the work of Jesus as He went into the grave and rose to life (so we are laid into the water and rise up again in newness). 
  • These two responses (repentance & baptism / turning to Christ and trusting in Christ) is what we are to do in light of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.  The promise that comes to those who respond? “You shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”  You will be born to new life!  You will be indwelled with the very Person of God the Holy Spirit, just like the believers in Jesus were on that first day of Pentecost.  God promised to pour out His Spirit on those who called upon His name, and those who did would be saved. 
    • Do you want the assurance that your sins are forgiven?  Do you want the assurance that you have received the promise of eternal life?  Do you want to know that you know you will live with Jesus in forever victory?  Then turn to Jesus in repentance, trust Him in faith, and receive the promise of the Holy Spirit!

39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”

  • Did you catch that?  The promise was made to the Jews of Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, but it wasn’t made only to them.  It was to their children as well, but not just to the Jews.  It was made to “all who are afar off,” including the world of Gentiles.  It was made to all peoples throughout all ages, “as many as the Lord our God will call.”  IOW, it was made to us, too.  Some people wonder, “Is there room at the cross for me?  Can I really be forgiven?  Can I really be saved?”  The glorious answer is YES!  Every single person whom God calls to be saved WILL be saved.  There is no sin that will keep you from Christ, except the sin of stubborn unbelief.  Those who refuse to answer the call of God will not be saved, but that’s not God’s fault…it’s ours.  Don’t refuse the call of God!  Don’t turn away from the resurrected Jesus!

Conclusion:
So what was Peter’s message on the day of Pentecost?  It was all about Easter – it was all about the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Jesus is risen, so Jesus is Lord.  God has declared Jesus to be the Lord and the Christ – He is God and King.

That news reverberates throughout history, having brought salvation to untold multitudes – as many as the Lord God has called.  He still calls people today.  Even in 2015, almost two thousand years after Jesus rose up from the grave, people still have the opportunity to respond to His resurrection by turning to Him and trusting Him by faith.

Many of us have done that.  Whether it was last week, or decades ago – we’ve trusted in our Lord Jesus, and we’ve received the forgiveness of sins.  We have the assurance that we will live with our Living Lord Jesus in eternity, and we will witness with our own eyes the moment that death and Satan are forever cast away into the lake of fire.  Today is a day of rejoicing!  Today is a day of remembrance!  Today is the day that we celebrate the very foundation of our faith.  It Jesus be not raised, we have absolutely nothing and no hope.  But because Jesus IS raised, Jesus is declared to be the Lord God of all creation, and all of our hope is certain and sure in Him.  Celebrate Him today, and follow the example of Peter, and the other men and women who first saw the Resurrected Jesus by telling everyone you know that Jesus is risen & Jesus is Lord!

For others, you have not yet responded to the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, but you have the opportunity right now.  You know God is calling to you to place your faith in Him.  You know that to this point you’ve been warring against God, walking in ways that are in rebellion to Him.  Those were the reasons Jesus died.  His cross ought to have been your cross.  His death ought to have been your death.  But it wasn’t.  He stepped into your place, taking the wrath of God so that you wouldn’t have to.  Now He lives!  He rose in victory.  Your sins can be forgiven, and you can have the sure promise of eternal life.  But it doesn’t come without a response.  You have to turn and trust Christ.  Do it.  Don’t harden your heart – don’t try to make excuses – just respond to the loving call of God who wants you to be saved.

Resurrection Sunday 2014
“Hope in the Resurrection”

1 Peter 1:3–5, "(3) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, (4) to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, (5) who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time."

What comes to mind when you think of “hope”?  Some people hope to lose weight – some hope to win the lottery – but all of those sorts of things are more of wishes or desire, rather than actual hope.  Hope is perhaps better thought of as an expectation for the future.  Someone might hope for a good report from their doctor as they await test results.  Parents have high hopes for their children, expecting the very best out of them in the future.

But what about spiritual matters?  What about eternity?  Can we have any real hope for those sorts of things?

Some would claim that we cannot truly know anything about eternity.  They think it is pointless to believe in God because no one can really know anything about God.  They think that no one can prove God’s existence, and that all religions basically teach the same thing anyway.  So just live your life, try to be nice to people, and don’t worry too much about all the rest…you can’t do anything about it anyway.

That may be a very popular line of through, but it’s wrong.  We CAN know things about eternity.  We CAN know God and spiritual matters.  When it comes to spiritual truth, we can have hope.  Real hope – living hope – confident hope – expectant/assured hope.

How so?  The resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Of course, that is what Easter is all about.  We’ve come to celebrate the reality that Jesus is risen from the dead.  We’ve come to celebrate the abundant mercy of God who would send His Son to die on the cross for our sins, and then resurrect Him from the grave in order that we might be reconciled unto Him.  The resurrection uniquely sets Biblical Christianity apart from other religions.  It’s because of the resurrection that we can know that we know that Biblical Christianity is true.  The resurrection is how know that we can have hope in Jesus.  We have hope because Jesus is risen.

The hopelessness of sin:
Before we get to the good news of the hope we have in Jesus’ resurrection, we’ve got first understand the bad news.  There is a reason that Peter said that we have been begotten to a living hope through the “abundant mercy” of God.  Left to our own devices, apart from God’s mercy, we would have nothing.  There is indeed hope in the living Lord Jesus, but there is utter hopelessness without Him.

Many people don’t understand this.  They live without a care in the world and without a care for God.  They’re perfectly happy and content living their lives, doing the things they do, and they give no real thought to their eternal future.  They just think that if God truly does exist, He’ll let them into eternity because they’ve been mostly nice people.  That may be their belief, but that’s not the truth.  They may desire for it to be otherwise, but that isn’t the spiritual reality.  Here is the reality:

  • We’ve sinned, and sinned greatly.  The Bible tells us that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23), and even those without faith in the Bible understand the truth of this.  After all, it’s a cliché to say “no one’s perfect.”  It’s a cliché, because it’s true!  We inherently understand that everyone messes up.  Everyone falls short.  What people might not understand is that what we call “messing up,” the Bible calls “sin.”  And that sin is nothing short of rebellion against God.  God created us to be in fellowship with Him, worshiping Him & giving Him glory.  Yet when we lift ourselves up in our ego & self-worship, then we’re taking what rightfully belongs to God.  When we dwell in our hatred of other people (all of whom are made in the image of God), then we’re committing murder in our hearts.  When we gaze upon others in lust, then we’re committing adultery in our hearts.  When we desire to call the shots in our own lives, rather than submitting ourselves into God, then we’re making ourselves our own king, when only God rightfully has that place.  One definition of sin is “to miss the mark,” and any time we come short of perfection, we miss the mark (be it intentionally or unintentionally).  That’s sin, and that’s a big problem.  Why?
  • We bear guilt because of our sin.  We might object & say “But everyone sins!”  And we’d be right.  But the problem with sin is that it carries a punishment: death.  The Bible says that the wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23), and this was illustrated throughout the entire OT every time an animal was sacrificed upon the altar.  When someone sins, something has to die.  It was that way in the beginning, and it is that way today.  Even in our sins between one another, we see that there are always consequences to our actions.  If someone lies to us, trust dies.  If someone steals from us, security dies.  If someone speaks rumors about us, reputations die.  Now take it to an infinite level when our sin is against God.  When someone sins, that person bears guilt and something has to die.
  • There’s nothing we can do about it on our own.  We bear our guilt, but we can’t pay the price.  If the price is death, and the sin is infinite, then it means the price is really infinite (eternal) death.  We’d want to get past that, but how?  We can’t scrub ourselves clean – we cannot erase the past – we cannot try to “out-do” our bad with some good.  Even in a court of law, all the judge looks at is the crime.  It doesn’t matter how else we lived our lives if we broke the law of man.  It’s no different with God, and He is a Judge of a far higher standard: perfection. 
  • So put it together: we’ve all sinned against God, we’ve incurred guilt because of our sin, and we’re going to be judged for it because there is no way that we can pay the price.  That’s hopeless!

But that’s not where it has to end.  For many people, it does, as they choose to go to the grave and judgment under the delusion that God is something other than who He has revealed Himself to be in the Scripture.  They will face the truth, even though they denied it their whole lives.

But it doesn’t HAVE to end that way.  It can go to HOPE, as we look at Jesus.  Because Jesus is risen, we have hope of something far better than judgment.  We do not despair in hopelessness.

The hope of the resurrection:
What hope to those who place their faith and trust in Jesus have?  What does His resurrection from the dead tell us in regards to our spiritual hope?  Many things!  We’ll look at three: (1) forgiveness, (2) freedom, (3) future.

  • Forgiveness

Because Jesus is risen from the dead, we have a confident hope for the forgiveness of our sins.  As Peter wrote, God has “begotten us again to a living hope.”  What does it mean that we have been begotten?  It means that we’ve been born!  It was this new spiritual birth that Jesus was speaking of when He told the Pharisee Nicodemus that unless someone is born again, he cannot enter the kingdom of God (Jn 3:3).  We NEED that birth!  And Jesus PROVIDES that birth because He went to the cross and rose from the grave.  It was in that same conversation with Nicodemus that Jesus said what has become some of the most famous verses in all of the Bible: John 3:16–17, "(16) For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (17) For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved."

All of the sin that we had committed – all of the guilt that we had incurred – it meant that we were doomed to perish.  But those who believe on Christ have a far different hope.  We have a confident assurance that we are saved!  We have a confident hope that our sins have been forgiven and that we have been born again, given everlasting life with God Almighty.  Think about that for a moment: forgiveness – new life.  Everything we’ve done in the past, wiped away and gone.  Every single sin we had committed against God – every single time we had elevated ourselves as our own god and king – all of it is done.  There are sins we’ve committed which we have a hard enough time forgiving ourselves.  We’ve carried that guilt for years on end.  Hear this & know it: Jesus forgives.  Those who believe upon Jesus Christ as Lord have forgiveness from sin!  The Bible tells us that as far as the east is from the west, so far has God removed our transgressions from us (Ps 103:12).  It tells us that though we once our sins made us stained as scarlet, God will make us white as snow (Isa 1:18).  This is what is available to every person in Christ Jesus!  The Bible promises that if we confess our sins, Jesus is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 Jn 1:9).  This is what is available to everyone in Christ Jesus, because He is risen from the dead.  His resurrection gives us the hope of forgiveness.

  • Freedom

Because Jesus is risen from the dead, we have a confident hope for freedom from the power that sin held upon us.  This is part of the “living hope” of which Peter wrote.  The hope we have in Jesus isn’t merely for our sins of the past (though the past is included) – it’s not only for the hope of the future (which is included, as we’ll see), but it’s also for the present time.  Because Jesus is risen from the dead, we have a wonderful freedom from the slavery of sin.  This is one of the things that is demonstrated through baptism: Romans 6:5–7, "(5) For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, (6) knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. (7) For he who has died has been freed from sin."

Because Jesus lives, and because those who have faith in Jesus are IN Jesus, we are free!  Before Jesus saved us, we gave ourselves over to sin.  We were enslaved to it.  The only choice we exercised was whether we would sin a little, or a lot – but no doubt about it, we would be sinning.  But all that has changed in the resurrection.  Now we are new creations (2 Cor 5:18) – now we have been set free!  We are free to walk in Christ, to live in fellowship with God empowered by the Holy Spirit.  This is a freedom known only by believers in Christ, because it can only come through faith in Him and His resurrection.

Some people may object, saying, “But I don’t feel like a slave!  I can do whatever I want.”  You can do what YOU want, but apart from Jesus, you cannot do what GOD wants.  Because of that, apart from Jesus, we all abide in death.  We’re enslaved to it.  We can even do all the religious acts we can, and we will still be enslaved to sin and death, because that is what we are all originally born into.  The Jews of Jesus’ day had the same objection when Jesus told them that the truth could set them free.  They claimed that they were sons of Abraham’s & had never been anyone’s slaves. (Conveniently forgetting about 400 years in Egypt, among other things!)  John 8:34–36, "(34) Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. (35) And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. (36) Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

THAT is true freedom!  And that is what is available through Jesus’ resurrection.

  • Future

Because Jesus is risen from the dead, we have a confident hope for an eternal future with Jesus away from the very presence of sin.  This is primarily what Peter was referring to in vs. 4: 1 Peter 1:3–5, "(3) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, (4) to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, (5) who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time."

There is an inheritance that awaits every believer in Christ.  There is a glorious future that can hardly be imagined in its scope.  This world is corrupt, without question.  All we need to do is pick up any random newspaper and read about the various tragedies that happen every day.  Be it the shooting in Ft. Hood, the sunken South Korean ferryboat, the missing Malaysian airplane, or any number of things that happen around the world.  We see ourselves or our loved ones battle disease like cancer, or struggle with chronic pain.  We see families ripped apart by divorce, and the list could go on.  This world is most definitely defiled!  But for the Christian, our inheritance is not!  We have an eternal future with the Lord Jesus Christ.  The Bible says that we are joint heirs with Him because we have been made the children of God (Rom 8:17).  The book of Revelation famously describes eternity with God as a time when there will be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, nor pain, because all of the former things have passed away (Rev 21:4).  THAT is what awaits every believer in Jesus, and we have a confident assurance of receiving exactly that because our Jesus is risen from the dead!

Today you need to ask yourself if you have a confident hope in this future.  When we speak of heaven, we’re speaking of something far more than some distant dream…we’re speaking of literal eternity with God.  We go to great lengths to ensure our future on earth is taken care of.  We want to ensure that we have a place to sleep tonight (and tomorrow, and the next) – we want to ensure that our families are provided for – we want to take whatever preparations are necessary for our physical needs.  If that’s important to do here, how much more important is it for eternity?  That is a future that won’t just last 1 year, or 5 years, or even 50 years.  That’s a future that will last for billions of years – to the point that time itself is beyond measure.  Do you have a confident hope in THAT future?  You can.  Every person can know.

How can we know?
All of the promises we have in Jesus hinge upon His resurrection.  Without Jesus being raised from the dead, we have no assurance of any of these things.  1 Corinthians 15:17–19, "(17) And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! (18) Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. (19) If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable."

Without a living Jesus, all we have is a false faith.  Without a living Jesus, there is no reason for anyone to become a Christian.  BUT if Jesus truly did rise from the grave, then we have every reason to put our faith in Christ.  If Jesus is alive, then turning away from Him would be the ultimate act of foolishness – equivalent to spiritual suicide.

Jesus IS risen from the dead, and we can KNOW that Jesus is alive.  Jesus’ resurrection is attested to by many people – some of whom we might not expect.

First: the apostles.  Obviously we would expect the apostles to testify of Jesus.  Of anyone, they had believed in Him from the start, even if they weren’t entirely certain what to believe when Jesus spoke of His suffering and death.  That being said, what reason would the disciples have to preach a risen Jesus, if in fact Jesus was still dead?  It was considered a crime to be associated with Jesus (as a potential Messiah King that would challenge Rome), and at the very least, it had been publicly stated that believers in Jesus would be cast out of the synagogues (Jn 9:22).  The disciples had nothing to gain by lying about Jesus’ resurrection.  In fact, it was the opposite: they had everything to lose by saying Jesus had risen from the dead.

And they knew it!  In the hours following Jesus’ crucifixion, Peter and the other disciples could not be found on the streets of Jerusalem.  They were hiding behind locked doors! (Jn 20:19)  Peter could not even admit his faith prior to Jesus’ crucifixion, and the only interrogator he faced at that time was a little girl.  They knew the danger that awaited them.

Yet this is not the same attitude that we find 50 days later on the day of Pentecost.  At that time, the apostles were amazingly bold in their faith, preaching the gospel to thousands.  It’s not that the threat of persecution was removed…after all, they were later repeatedly beaten and jailed.  Some even died torturous deaths as martyrs.  But their faith and proclamation never wavered.  What could have possibly have happened to make this kind of change?  Only one thing: the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Second: the Romans. If the disciples testified that Jesus was risen from the dead, surely the Romans would say the opposite, right?  After all, it was a Roman who ordered Jesus’ execution, a Roman who verified Jesus’ death, and Romans who guarded Jesus’ tomb to ward off any potential grave-robbery from the disciples.  They had a vested interest in saying Jesus was still dead – they had overseen every aspect of it from beginning to burial!  Yet it is that same vested interest that testifies of Jesus’ resurrection.

If a Roman soldier failed in his duty because of negligence, it was a serious offense – something for which he could be killed.  Soldiers who fell asleep on the job would sometimes be pushed off a cliff.  This wasn’t something to take lightly!  With that in mind, think of the story that the Jewish elders told the Romans to spread about Jesus’ resurrection: Matthew 28:11–15, "(11) Now while they were going, behold, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all the things that had happened. (12) When they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, (13) saying, “Tell them, ‘His disciples came at night and stole Him away while we slept.’ (14) And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will appease him and make you secure.” (15) So they took the money and did as they were instructed; and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day."

The soldiers were to publicly state that they had fell asleep at their posts.  Not just one or two of them – all of them!  (And there would have been between 4-16 men.)  They were to claim that the whole lot of them were so tired that they took no notice of a group of Jesus’ disciples coming to the tomb, presumably stepping over their sleeping bodies rolling back a massively heavy stone in utmost silence, taking Jesus’ body out of the tomb, and walking out again…all without so much as causing a single soldier to stir from sleep.

Not only is the story ludicrous, it’s suicidal.  For the soldiers to claim this publicly, they would be admitting to massive failure and negligence, virtually guaranteeing their deaths.  Yet they didn’t die.  The Jewish elders promised to keep them protected & presumably they did just that.  Each soldier that told the tale of falling asleep thus becomes a walking testimony of Jesus’ resurrection – just by virtue of the fact that the soldier was still alive to spread the lie!

Along these lines, it’s interesting that there is no indication that Pilate and the other Romans did anything to dispute the story.  They didn’t argue the point in spite of Jewish objections, though during Jesus’ crucifixion, Pilate had no problem doing things that the Jewish elders didn’t like (such as the sign he placed over Jesus’ head).  Perhaps this is an indication that they believed something about the true account of the resurrection themselves.  They did not promote the resurrection, but they didn’t argue against it, either.

Third, the Jews.  The Romans had made Jesus’ execution possible, but it was the Jews who asked for it to happen.  Despite the many proofs Jesus had given, the Jewish leadership rejected Jesus as the Messiah, seeing Him as a threat to their own position, and outraged that Jesus claimed to be the Son of God.  Out of anyone, the Jewish leadership seemed to have paid the closest attention to Jesus when He said that He would rise from the dead.  The 12 disciples may not have believed it, but the Jewish Sanhedrin apparently did!  At least, they thought that the disciples would come and steal the body, to promote the rumor.  It was for this reason that they requested the Roman soldiers in the first place.  Yet all of a sudden, they found themselves paying off the soldiers, bribing them to publicly humiliate and potentially endanger themselves with a lie.

Beyond the bribery was something far more simple: any lack of evidence that would be contrary to Jesus’ resurrection.  Think of it: the Pharisees and Sadducees had all the power among the Jews.  When tales of Jesus’ resurrection started to spread, they could have quashed it all easily and simply.  All they needed to do was produce a body.  They could have easily marched to Jesus’ tomb, dragged out His corpse, and proven the disciples to be liars.  The disciples certainly did not have the wherewithal to hide Jesus’ body from the Jews.  They would not have been able to overpower the trained Roman soldiers in a fight, nor somehow sneak past them, despite the ridiculous rumor that had been spread.  The Jewish leadership held all the cards, and yet they still had zero evidence to contradict the disciples.  They had no body, no tomb, and a growing list of people who had physically seen the risen Lord Jesus.  (Not only the initial women – not only the 11 remaining disciples – Jesus had appeared to over 500 people at one time, prior to His ascension. 1 Cor 15:6)  It’s no wonder that 3000 Jews came to faith and were saved on the day of Pentecost.  They were utterly convinced that Jesus HAD risen from the dead!

Conclusion:
There can be no doubt that Jesus is alive!  The witnesses have multiplied in abundance since that first Resurrection Sunday, and there can be but one conclusion: the resurrection is real – Jesus truly rose from the grave.

Because we can know that, we can have hope.  There is glorious hope in the resurrection of Jesus – a glorious confident expectation of what Jesus has done for us. We have:

  • Hope for forgiveness
  • Hope for freedom
  • Hope for a future.

This is a hope in which we can rejoice on Easter Sunday/Resurrection Sunday – and this is a hope in which we can rejoice every day.

Beloved, do you have joy in the resurrection?  For those of us who believe upon Jesus as Lord, there is no greater day of the year than Resurrection Sunday.  This is the foundation upon which all our faith rests, and it is a historical fact.  We have the confidence of building our lives upon Jesus because He has proven Himself to be God, by virtue of the fact that He is risen from the dead.  His resurrection gives us hope beyond hope – a hope that far exceeds whatever trials this current life throws at us.  This day is a day of worship for us.  It is a day of remembrance and joy.  It is a day that compels us to go share this same hope with everyone around us. 

Do you have that hope?  You can.  First, you need to come to grips with the bad news.  God may be perfect, but you’re not.  You’ve sinned against Him horribly and repeatedly, and you bear guilt because of that sin.  That guilt absolutely must be dealt with, and God WILL deal with it because He is perfectly righteous.  But that’s where the good news comes in.  You may be guilty, but Jesus took on your guilt for you.  He died in your place when He died upon the cross.  The punishment He received is the punishment that you & I deserved, and He did it willingly out of obedience to God, and out of amazing love for us.  He died on that cross, but He didn’t stay dead – He rose!  He came out of the grave, and we can know historically that He did it.  And because He did, now we can have hope.

So here’s the point: you’ve got to respond to that somehow.  You cannot go on living your life without a care in the world, now that you know the truth.  There is an eternal future that you must face, and you can either go into that eternity with God as your judge, or as your Savior.  Jesus offers to save you, so respond to Him!  Turn away from your sin in repentance, and turn to Jesus in faith today.  Ask Him to forgive you your sins, and ask Him to be your Lord & King forever.