Saturday, April 15, 2017

170416 The Resurrection to Life

 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, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 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. 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. 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

Saturday, April 8, 2017

170409 When the Hour Came

 John 12:20-23 Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. 21 So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23 And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.
Each of the gospel accounts approach the story of Jesus from a different angle. The Gospel of John was written “so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:31) I believe that John had the other Gospels in front of him when he wrote. At the very least I’m sure he had read the other Gospels and knew there needed to be an added emphasis. As we move towards Easter let’s think about John’s view on the way to the cross.
Half of John’s Gospel records the last few days of Jesus’ life. I can imagine that in his old age John struggled with his memories of those days. It must’ve been excruciatingly painful to have been one of those who went into hiding after Jesus’ crucifixion. His disciples spent most of their time watching Jesus who was doing things that they did not expect of the Messiah. They believed that he was the Christ the Son of the living God and rightfully the ruler of the universe. At the same time they heard him say things like, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Matthew 8:20). They had seen him still the storm, open the eyes of the blind, and even raise the dead. But now the Pharisees and Sadducees were arranging for Jesus to be arrested, tried and crucified. They even intended to take the life of Lazarus whom Jesus had raised from the dead a few days before. These executions would have been done because many of their people were leaving them and turning to Jesus in faith. If they did not stop Jesus, and send Lazarus back to the grave, then they would lose their control and the Romans would come down on the nation. While they were making these plans…
He had entered the city. Let’s go back a few verses to John 12:12-13. The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 13 So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!”
For hundreds of years the Jewish nation had awaited the Messiah! They were sure he would come mounted on a great white horse to break the Roman rule. But instead of a white horse Jesus humbled himself and called for a young donkey. Remember, he is the creator of everything — the ruler of the universe! Can you imagine what must’ve gone through the minds of the disciples, “What’s he up to now?” But they had learned that they should obey him. He had done many unpredictable things up until that day but they had always turned out alright. Now he was calling on them to enter the city with him while he would be mounted on a donkey. Not only was he mounted on a donkey he did not come into the city through the traditional main road. He came into the city through the valley of the cheesemakers! I am sure you can imagine the smell of the street! Nothing could have been a greater contrast to what was expected than what actually happened.
As John was recording his remembrance of the events he recalled that they did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered. The Old Testament prophecies of the coming Messiah came into focus when they stood before the empty tomb and later met with him in the upper room. He still had much to teach them and he spent the next 40 days opening their minds to the mission he had for them.
While the Pharisees were plotting his death some Greeks approached Philip asking to see Jesus. Something the Jews had forgotten was…
The world has always needed our Lord. Let’s look back at John 12:20-21. Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. 21 So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”
I believe they approached Philip because he had a Greek name. Otherwise we know very little about him. Philip was invited to discipleship by Jesus personally in the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Most of the other disciples had come to Jesus through a human invitation. When Jesus began to gather his disciples John the Baptist pointed out Jesus to Andrew and John who came to him. Then Andrew brought his brother Simon, who was later called Peter. But John tells us that Jesus found Philip.
Later, on the hillside near the lake of Galilee, surrounded by thousands of people Jesus asked Philip “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” Philip was completely dumbfounded by that request. While he was mulling it over Andrew came forward with a lad’s lunch. Five loaves of the cheapest kind of bread with two fish. They not only fed the thousands from that boy’s lunch they also had 12 baskets of leftovers.
When the Greeks came seeking Jesus, Philip remembered Andrew as being the “go to guy” in the group. The two of them went to Jesus and presented the question of the Greeks. Jesus recognized, from this request, that the time was about to come for him to leave this world. He knew that he would not be simply lifted up on the clouds of heaven instead, he would be lifted up on a cross and hung between heaven and earth until he paid the full wage of sin — death!
He had no sin of his own that he should die for. Instead he took our sin into his body and nailed it to the cross, buried it in the grave, and left it there. The Old Testament had promised that God would take away the sins of his people and would put them in the depths of the sea (Micah 7:19).
Jesus had known for a long time how he would leave this world. Jesus certainly knew the prophecy in Psalm 22. Written, very probably, 1000 years before Jesus birth. The psalmist said, “they have pierced my hands and feet” this, and other statements found in Psalm 22, clearly point to death on a Roman cross. Hundreds of years before the cross became a common means of execution. No wonder Isaiah could say, “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not” (Isaiah 53:3). We see that knowledge unfolding in the Garden of Gethsemane. There Jesus suffered in anguish to the point of sweating blood! His prayer was, “if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39b) Since there was no other way, he would be led from the garden to be beaten, tried and condemned to death. Our death! It was necessary because he was…
Dying to bring life. Let’s go back to John 12:24. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
Once again Jesus left them confused. He told them the time had come for him to be glorified. With those words the disciples must have shook their head and said “what’s he up to now?” Then he talks about a grain of wheat that falls into the ground and dies in order to bear much fruit. I wonder how confusing that was for the disciples? Hindsight tells us that he was clearly talking about his own death. But we know from John’s own testimony that they did not understand most of what he said until after his crucifixion and resurrection.
Jesus continued to speak knowing that…
The hour was unfolding. Let’s read on in John 12:27-28. “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”
The humanity of Jesus came to the forefront in these words, “now is my soul troubled”. He knew that he could not turn away from what was about to happen to him. At the same time he felt anguish. Now we are quick to look at the physical suffering he is about to endure. I am not so sure that the physical pain, as horrible as it was, was the most troubling thing in Jesus’ thoughts. He who knew no sin was about to become sin for us. While we were yet sinners he died for us. And we need to remember that he didn’t die for the good he died for the ungodly (Romans 5:6). This death was necessary because…
The enemy was being defeated. Let’s read on and John 12:31. Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out.
Satan had led the charge against Jesus! He had entered into Judas to get Jesus betrayed. He had stirred up the Pharisees provoking them to seek Jesus’ death. He had, no doubt, inspired the Romans to beat Jesus almost to death, press the crown of thorns on his head and nail him to a cross. Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 2:8 that Satan and all his minions did not understand what was about to happen on the cross. If they had understood, the Bible tells us, “they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” The crucifixion was necessary but it was not the pain of death that Jesus agonized over it was the pain of becoming sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus understood that he had to die to fulfill the prophecies…
So that the world could come to Jesus. Let’s read on in John 12:32. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”
Again we see that the disciples, along with the crowd, did not understand what this was all about. When God the Father spoke those encouraging words, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again” some thought that it had thundered and others said an angel has spoken to him. They still tried to sort out things they had been taught about the Messiah and the things that Jesus was saying. “Lifted up” did not register with them immediately as “be crucified” would have. About three years before the exchange in John 12, Jesus had told Nicodemus that the Son of Man had to be “lifted up” in the same manner that Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness (John 1:14).
All those Jews standing around Jesus would have known the story of the serpent in the wilderness. Let me recount it for you. The people of Israel, in the wilderness, as always, were complaining and rebelling. They did not trust God to take care of them in fact they despised the mana that he provided for their nourishment. In order to get their attention the Lord sent snakes into their midst. As the people were dying from snakebites they came to Moses and confessed their sin. God told Moses to make a model of a serpent mount it on a pole and raise it for all to see. Then when a person was bitten by a snake all they had to do was look at the bronze serpent and live.
I can imagine a rebellious sinner who had been snake bitten being told to just look at the bronze snake and he would be healed. I can imagine him saying, “Looking at a snake will not heal me.” Just as many today will say that trusting in Jesus will not save them. They have to do something to accomplish salvation. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Bible tells us that we must confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord! We must believe in our heart that God raised him from the dead! Those two conditions being met, the Bible tells us that we will be saved. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved (Romans 10:9-13).
The need of the world to know Jesus has not lessened over the centuries. If anything, the need is greater today than ever before. Statistically we are told the world today contains a little more than half of all the humans ever born. More than 7 billion people are on the earth today and many of them – many millions of them – have never heard the gospel and are in great need of salvation. Have you accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior? Do you know for sure that you have eternal life? Believe on him without delay! Share the good news with your friends and family.
All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society