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Life of Christ (1996-1998)

Resurrection

Various Scripture References

The Resurrection of Jesus, the Christ, is the central fact of the Christian faith. In this lesson we will try to examine three things:

·         The certainty of the Resurrection

·         The importance of the Resurrection to the Faith

·         Living the Resurrection life

The Certainty of the Resurrection

Despite the “Jesus Seminar,” most scholars who actually take the time to examine the evidence know the reliability of the New Testament as a historical record.

The certainty of his death

Before there can be a resurrection, there must be a death. Most of the “it couldn’t have happened that way” theories assume that there must not have been a death. But consider:

·         Pontius Pilate – no friend of the faith – questioned the truth of this death to his centurion. The centurion (roughly a sergeant today) told him that it was true. This man had crucified many, no doubt, and knew his business.[1]

·         Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea buried him – after wrapping the body in spices and linen. Is it likely they would have done that for a man who had merely “swooned?”[2]

·         Most telling of all is the precaution of the priests. They quite understood Jesus predictions of resurrection – so they had a guard placed on the grave.[3]

Evidence of the Resurrection
Immediate Appearances

Immediately after the Resurrection Jesus made several appearances to announce that fact. The number of these appearances is such that we are not hearing the same story told under a different name:

·         First, there is the evidence of the women coming to finish the embalming of the body. This was not done on Good Friday for lack of time before the Sabbath. If you’re bringing the spices, you expect a dead body. The women find quite the contrary.[4]

·         Mary Magdalene also meets the risen Lord, but separately. She is so certain he is dead that she presumes the voice to be that of the gardener. It is not until she turns to that familiar voice that she recognizes him.[5]

·         The women do what anyone would do: they run to tell someone. The “someone” in this instance means Peter and John. They run to the tomb. John is convinced; Peter still wonders. They see the empty tomb but not the risen Lord.[6] Note that if they had stuck around a minute or two longer, as Mary Magdalene did, they would have.

The Reaction of the disciples

One of the most compelling proofs of the Resurrection is the change in attitude of the disciples. They go from meeting behind closed doors, in fear of the authorities, to boldness in preaching the word to the point that all but one met a violent death.

·         The first appearance is on the road to Emmaus.[7] These disciples (not among the Twelve) were prevented (the text seems to indicate that this is a divine intention) from recognizing him. He explains to them how the Old Testament scriptures clearly portrayed the Christ as being crucified and rising again. When that point of instruction is made, just at the end of the meeting, they recognize him. Again, like the women, they rush to tell someone, in this instance the remaining eleven disciples.

·         Christ then appears to the disciples – minus Thomas known as Doubting Thomas.[8] It should be noted that for all that had happened, they still met in fear. They (like Thomas) required the sight of his wounds. In short, they acted exactly like reasonable men would act – and became witnesses of the greatest event in history.

·         Then Christ appears again to the disciples, this time including Thomas.[9] This is a sublime appearance. Thomas goes from doubt to the highest expression of faith recorded in Scripture: “My Lord and My God.”

The witness of the church

The primary reason for believing in the Resurrection is this: Every other movement in history which was based upon a person shriveled up after that person died. The followers were leaderless, or melded themselves into the power structure of the time. That was happening to the disciples – until they saw the risen Lord. God’s power was to flow through them at Pentecost, and when it did the church exploded in growth.

This power, Resurrection power, continues in the church today. Three centuries later Athanasius (further in time from Jesus than we are from George Washington) could write this:

A very strong proof of this destruction of death and its conquest by the cross is supplied by a present fact, namely this. All the disciples of Christ despise death, they take the offensive against it and, instead of fearing it, by the sign of the cross and by faith in Christ trample on it as something dead. Before the divine advent of the Savior, even the holiest of men were afraid of death, and mourned the dead as those who perish. But now that the Savior has raised His body, death is no longer terrible, but all those who believe in Christ tread it underfoot as nothing and prefer to die rather than to deny their faith in Christ, knowing full well that when they die they do not perish, but live indeed, and become incorruptible through the resurrection. But that devil who of old wickedly exulted in death, now that the pains of death are loosed, he alone it is who remains truly dead. There is proof of this too; for men who, before they believe in Christ, think death horrible and are afraid of it, once they are converted despise it so completely that they go eagerly to meet it, and themselves become witnesses of the Savior's resurrection from it. Even children hasten thus to die, and not men only, but women train themselves by bodily discipline to meet it. So weak has death become that even women, who used to be taken in by it, mock at it now as a dead thing, robbed of all its strength. Death has become like a tyrant who has been completely conquered by the legitimate monarch; bound hand and foot as he now is, the passers-by jeer at him, hitting him and abusing him, no longer afraid of his cruelty and rage, because of the king who has conquered him. So has death been conquered and branded for what it is by the Savior on the cross. It is bound hand and foot, all who are in Christ trample it as they pass and as witnesses to Him deride it, scoffing and saying, "O Death, where is thy victory? O Grave, where is thy sting?"

(Athanasius, De Incarnatione Verbi Dei, V-27)

If we do not have this attitude, it can hardly be the fault of old Athanasius. Men do not die for a lie – or something they believe weakly.

The Importance of the Resurrection to our Faith

The logical importance

If there is no resurrection, then we are “of all men to be most pitied.”[10] If there is no resurrection, then our hope is in vain and we are the most complete fools of all time. C. S. Lewis once remarked that Christianity could almost be reduced to one fact and one doctrine: the resurrection and redemption by grace. Virtually all the attacks on the faith are at one of these two points, for Satan knows that upon the fact of the resurrection and the love of God shown in his grace we are saved.

This gives rise, then, to our hope of the resurrection:

(Rom 8:23-25 NIV) Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. {24} For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? {25} But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

Hope has always been one of the seven cardinal virtues; it is hope in the bodily resurrection of the saints.

But hope is not mere wishful thinking: it has results! As John the Apostle tells us, we must get ready for that day; we must strive for purity.[11]

Not strictly necessary: the bodily resurrection

(For some, this section is redundant)

Paul assures us that the resurrection of the dead will be like Christ’s resurrection: a bodily resurrection to a new type of body.[12] Such a resurrection was promised by Christ to all who believe.[13] One of the chief functions of the Holy Spirit is to be a “deposit” – a down payment, if you will – on that resurrection![14] So every time you see the fruit of the Spirit in your life, remember that this is a sign to you that you will someday be raised from the grave as Jesus was.

Baptism

There are two rituals that all Christians recognize: baptism and communion. Both involve the Resurrection. Communion, because it commemorates the death of Jesus, and baptism because it is the picture of resurrection.[15] In the language of symbolism – a language universally understood – we participate in his death (going under the water) and resurrection. By doing so in public we proclaim our unity with Him – and he will recognize and reward that unity on the last day.

Living the Resurrection Life

Our life “in the Resurrection”

Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians,[16] reminds them of what they used to be: those who followed the ways of this world in our desires and thoughts (though we may have been restrained by social convention!) They were followers of Satan, for he is the prince of this world, and therefore the proper objects of God’s wrath. Interestingly, Paul then tells them what they now are: witnesses to grace. The Resurrection life in us has this purpose: that we are to be the witnesses of God’s grace in our lives. By that witness we testify to his Resurrection.

Encouraging one another[17]

Our attitude towards death today is very different than in ages past – as Athanasius has shown. We are not very encouraging to those who mourn. We grieve with them and barely make mention of the resurrection of the saints to come. It was not always so; hear what C. H. Spurgeon had to say about it:

Let us not imagine that the soul sleeps in insensibility. “Today shalt thou be with me in paradise,” is the whisper of Christ to every dying saint. They “sleep in Jesus,” but their souls are before the throne of God, praising him day and night in his temple, singing hallelujahs to him who washed them from their sins in his blood. The body sleeps in its lonely bed of earth, beneath the coverlet of grass. But what is this sleep? The idea connected with sleep is “rest,” and that is the thought which the Spirit of God would convey to us. Sleep makes each night a Sabbath for the day. Sleep shuts fast the door of the soul, and bids all intruders tarry for a while, that the life within may enter its summer garden of ease. The toil-worn believer quietly sleeps, as does the weary child when it slumbers on its mother’s breast. Oh! happy they who die in the Lord; they rest from their labors, and their works do follow them. Their quiet repose shall never be broken until God shall rouse them to give them their full reward. Guarded by angel watchers, curtained by eternal mysteries, they sleep on, the inheritors of glory, till the fullness of time shall bring the fullness of redemption. What an awaking shall be theirs! They were laid in their last resting place, weary and worn, but such they shall not rise. They went to their rest with the furrowed brow, and the wasted features, but they wake up in beauty and glory. The shriveled seed, so destitute of form and comeliness, rises from the dust a beauteous flower. The winter of the grave gives way to the spring of redemption and the summer of glory. Blessed is death, since it, through the divine power, disrobes us of this work-day garment, to clothe us with the wedding garment of incorruption. Blessed are those who “sleep in Jesus.”

(Morning and Evening Devotional, Morning, June 29)

The Power of the Resurrection

How, then, can I take hold of this power of the Resurrection? How do I experience it? Paul tells us how:

(Phil 3:10-11 NIV) I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, {11} and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

In all things the Christian is to be the imitator of Christ – even in the resurrection. Here Paul lays out three things for us:

·         Know Christ. Do you study his word?

·         Know the power of the resurrection. Do you look at the world with “forever eyes” or with the thought that death ends all?

·         Share in his sufferings. Have you been counted worthy to suffer for Christ?

What shall we do?

(Col 3:1-17 NIV) Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. {2} Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. {3} For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. {4} When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. {5} Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. {6} Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. {7} You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. {8} But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. {9} Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices {10} and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. {11} Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. {12} Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. {13} Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. {14} And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. {15} Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. {16} Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. {17} And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

How should we get ready for the resurrection?

·         There are some things to get rid of: anger, rage, malice, slander, filthy language. This is given to us as a command, and as such it must be within our power to do – if we will set our minds on things above, it is within our power. It is within our resurrection power.

·         We are to put on the new things:

·         All preference for race or sex is to vanish.

·         We are to replace those evils with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

·         Not only are we to forgive one another, we are to bear with one another. There is a certain pleasure in forgiving – after the passage of time has healed the wounds. It is harder, but more graceful, to forgive as you go.

·         And then let love, peace and thankfulness bind us together. Note the verbs: “bear” in forgiveness; “bind” in love; and “let” the peace rule.

·         Then, for all this, do not forget to give thanks. The resurrection is sure; God has promised it. Do not fail to thank Him for it.


[1] Mark 15:42-45

[2] John 19:38-42

[3] Matthew 27:62-66

[4] Luke 24:1-8

[5] John 20:11-18

[6] John 20:2-10

[7] Luke 24:13-35

[8] John 20:19-25

[9] John 20:26-31

[10] 1 Corinthians 15:13

[11] 1 John 3:2-3

[12] Romans 8:11; see also all of 1 Corinthians 15.

[13] Matthew 24:31

[14] 2 Corinthians 5:5

[15] Romans 6:4

[16] Ephesians 2:1-9

[17] See 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

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