We have come together over this weekend to consider the power of God released in Jesus Christ. Jesus gave his life for us. He lived among us as a man and yet at the same time he was God in the flesh. Having lived a sinless life, Jesus voluntarily became sin for us in order to condemn sin in the flesh. There is abundant evidence that he was genuinely raised to a new level of life. That level of life is offered to all who receive him as Lord and believe that God raised him from the dead.
1 Corinthians 15:3-8 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.
For the apostle Paul, the death of Christ on the cross, his burial and resurrection was of “first importance”! Paul was not on the scene when Jesus was active in ministry, so far as we know. Paul came on the scene, as a Pharisee, condemning to death those who followed the Way of Christ. In order to establish proof of his resurrection Paul gives us a list of appearances of the risen Lord. For all of those who were looking for a conquering Messiah the events of the first Easter weekend were very mystifying. No matter how many people were surprised by Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection…
This plan did not surprise God. Let’s turn to Matthew 26:24. The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.”
We can see from Jesus’ words that his impending arrest, beating, trial and death were already written. God had foreordained Good Friday and the suffering of his son for the sins of the world. He did not let Judas off the hook. Satan had entered the heart of Judas Iscariot so that he would betray Jesus. At the same time, Judas, like all of us, was responsible for his actions. We saw last week that Jesus fully expected what was about to happen. Should he say, “Father, save me from this hour?” (John 12:27) He went on to say that the coming events were the reason he came into the world. Even with that his humanity rose up in him in the Garden of Gethsemane where he prayed “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39)
The unfolding events during the week following his entry into the city on a donkey were not surprising to God. Please remember, the God we serve does not get up in the morning wondering what the day will be like. He doesn’t even go to bed at night! He knows everything that will happen and at the same time he knows everything that has happened and nothing happens that doesn’t pass by him first. Jesus’ experiences were all part of a plan ordained by God before the creation of the world!
For those people who believe that the Old Testament believers could not have understood the coming crucifixion and resurrection read Psalm 22; Isaiah chapters 7, 9, 11, 52 & 53. For sure…
The Old Testament saints understood. Let’s turn to Job 19:25-27. For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. 26 And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, 27 whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another.
I suspect that the events unfolding in the book of Job happened long before the Exodus. Job would not have had any written Bible but without a doubt he knew God! However, Job did not have confidence in his relationship to God. In chapter 9, Job called for an arbiter. That would be someone who could stand between him and God and plead his case.
Somehow, through all the pain, Job learned that he had a Redeemer! He knew that his Redeemer would one day stand on the earth and allow him to see God — even if he had already died!
The Old Testament saints did not have as clear a picture as we do because we have the written Bible. Men like Able, Enoch, Job, Abraham, Melchizedek, and Moses knew God in a very special relationship before there was any written Bible. They were able to understand a part of God’s plan. The Coming One would provide salvation. As we look back at the Old Testament we can recognize that…
His death for our sins had been promised. Let’s turn to Isaiah 53:4-6. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Isaiah does not speak of having a vision or a dream that showed him these things. He knew without a doubt that God would send a Servant who would bear our griefs and carry our sorrows. In amazement Isaiah had spoken of this Servant who would be high and lifted up — exalted! At the same time his appearance was marred and almost unrecognizable. This could easily describe a man who had been flogged by the Romans. Not only physical damage to his body but also emotional damage was obvious because of the burden of sin.
After his resurrection he had several contacts with his followers. Mary Magdalene had come with the other women to properly prepare his body for burial. They would’ve brought spices, water and cloths to wash him with. What they found was an empty tomb and some angels. Turning from the angels Mary had come face-to-face with Jesus and she did not recognize him. Then he went into the city where…
He showed himself to his disciples. Let’s turn to John 20:19. On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 28-29 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Many people use this experience of Jesus coming into the locked room as an example of him, almost by magic, coming through the wall. It was certainly not necessary for Jesus to de-materialize.
We have an example in Acts 12 beginning with verse six. Peter had been arrested for preaching the gospel of the resurrection of Christ and he was in prison chained to two guards with a locked gate between him and freedom. While he was sleeping an angel of the Lord came into the room awakened him, the chains fell off, and the angel told him to put on his sandals and come with him. Peter thought he was dreaming as they walked, apparently unseen, past two guards the gate opened for him and he walked into the street. Only then did he realize that this really happened. Let’s carry the story forward a little bit. Peter hurried to the house of Mary, John Mark’s mother, where many believers were together and praying for Peter. When he came to that locked gate he had to call for admission. A young girl came to the gate and when she recognized his voice she became so excited that she didn’t let him in. Instead, she ran back to her friends to tell them that Peter was at the gate! Exactly what they had been praying for had now happened. Instead of rushing to the gate they told her that she must be mistaken. In fact they said that she was out of her mind. Peter continued to knock until they came to let him in.
Using that story as an example I believe Jesus probably came to the locked door in the upper room and it unlocked itself for him. At his first appearance Thomas was not present and he would not believe them. So it was necessary for Jesus to come back for Thomas. What a wonderful thing! Jesus would patiently present himself to Thomas the next Sunday rather than just write him off. We see the patience of God with us in this meeting with Thomas.
For those who pretend that they never have any doubts I would like to encourage you to be honest. At the end of the gospel of Matthew we find what is often called the Great Commission. In the verses before the great commission we see Jesus’ words that Matthew made note of: “And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted.” (Matthew 28:17). Each time I see those words I wonder what it takes to erase all doubt! These are those who traveled with him for up to three years. They saw him feed 5000 men, heal the cripples, open the eyes of the blind and the ears of the deaf, they had even seen him, on more than one occasion, bring the dead back to life and restore them to their family. My first response is, “How could they doubt?” Then I realize that we also sometimes wonder and God patiently guides us back into a confident faith. When Jesus ascended into heaven he was in his resurrection body. That body is different from the others that he had raised to life. All of them were subject to weakness and death in the future. He was not subject to such. His body is eternal and perfect! In that resurrection body…
Jesus is active in the church age. Let’s turn to Revelation 1:12-13 and see the words of John. Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest.
…16 In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength
John, “the beloved apostle”, was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day when he heard a voice telling him to write what he saw. The vision before him was seven lampstands representing seven churches in the province of Asia. And in the middle of the lampstands was a magnificently changed son of God. He was not just moving among the churches he was holding seven stars in his right hand. Some have said, and I believe, that the seven stars are the leadership of those seven churches. It is an encouragement to think that Jesus is still moving among the churches all over the world holding their leadership in his hand. Today, Jesus is caring for his churches. He promised he would always be with us to the end of the age! He can do that these 2000 years later because…
His resurrection body was perfect. Let’s look at 1 Corinthians 15:42-44. So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.
Satan and his agenda is constantly pushing people to think of the dead being raised as some kind of zombies or “undead” having corrupted bodies. Nothing could be further from the truth. The resurrection body Jesus had was absolutely perfect. He was so perfect that when he presented himself to Mary at the tomb she did not recognize him. When he walked along the Emmaus Road the two disciples did not recognize him, they were kept from recognizing him. By the time he came to them in the upper room they had gotten used to his changed body. Being raised a spiritual body does not mean that he is a spirit. He proved that he was flesh and blood by eating with them beside the lake of Galilee.
We need to encourage our children not to even look at the horror movies showing corrupt bodies coming out of the grave. When Jesus came out of the grave he was absolutely perfect except for his scars. He has a reason for retaining his scars. Fanny Crosby, the blind poet, in the refrain of her hymn, entitled My Savior First of All illustrates the reason. She wrote, “I shall know Him, I shall know Him, And redeemed by His side I shall stand, I shall know Him, I shall know Him, By the print of the nails in His hand.”
We will have no need of showing off scars therefore I believe that our resurrection bodies will be unmarked and will be perfect for eternity.
Having put our faith in him we too shall have such a body. Let’s look at 1 John 3:2. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.
What we will be will only be revealed to us when he comes again. When he appears we will be like him! Whatever seed he needs from our bodies of flesh he will be able to produce. So many questions are raised about how our bodies can be restored. The things that we do not understand are clear to God. No matter what our bodies have gone through God will have enough to make us into the image of our Lord. I believe we not only will know each other but I believe we will know others that we’ve never met as soon as we meet them in heaven. Remember we are dealing with God not with science. Our resurrection body may already be prepared! Ephesians 2:6 tells us that, having been saved, God has raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus! The verb tenses here indicate that this is a done deal! Praise God from all blessings flow!
It’s too bad that we do not spend more time considering Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. These truths were the central message of the New Testament church. So much so that at one point Paul’s listeners seemed to think that “the resurrection” was somehow a God alongside of Jesus. In the first recorded sermon in the New Testament Peter stood before a large crowd on the day of Pentecost and said, “this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it is not possible for him to be held by it.” (Acts 2:21-24) We hold these teachings to be the basis of our faith. I pray that you have put your faith and trust in him who gave his life to free us from the fear of death. Jesus is Lord! Is he your Lord?
All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society