Summary: A sermon I had intended to give on Easter Sunday 2020 but was prevented by stay-at-home order from the Governor because of the COVID19 pandemic. It addresses Jesus' resurrection in connection with the "first resurrection" of Revelation 20 and the universal resurrection.
I. Christ’s Resurrection Day
If you had been entering Jerusalem early on a particular Sunday morning you might have seen some peculiar sights:
• Evidence of two great earthquakes (one 3 days ago, one earlier today) Matt 27:54; 28:2
• Open, empty graves (Matt 27:52)
• Guards marching to report to the chief priests that they had failed in their duties (Matt 28:11)
• Strangest of all, you might have seen a group of women running. They are coming from the tomb where Jesus had lain - now empty with the stone rolled back. An angel had told them the Lord had risen.
• Moments later, you might have seen another woman running in the street. The woman’s name is Mary Magdalene. She had actually seen Jesus alive and was hurrying to perform a mission for Jesus: “Say to my brothers, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”
When Mary found the disciples, she told them, “I have seen the Lord!” and passed on the message as Jesus had asked.
Mary Magdalene was the first witness to see the risen Christ, and the first to bear the message of the resurrection to others. At some point Jesus appeared to the other women and they too came to the disciples saying that they too had seen Jesus. Their report was not believed. I have little patience for Thomas-shaming, for all the disciples had the same doubts until they saw the risen Christ.
Mary’s report that she had seen Jesus was astonishing, and even more so because of the condition of his body as it was placed in the tomb. The body of Jesus was in terrible condition. A human could not survive a Roman scourging and crucifixion, and the body of Jesus did not survive it. The last time Mary Magdalene saw Jesus as his body was placed in a tomb where it would remain undisturbed for three days, he was undeniably dead.
Mary and the mother of Jesus, along with other women, had stayed at the cross until he had breathed his last breath. They must have remained there for some time while he hung dead on the cross, because Luke tells us that when Joseph of Arimethea had obtained permission to remove the body, “the women who had come with him from Galilee” followed the procession to the tomb, and saw how the body of Jesus was laid in it. Then the women left to prepare spices and ointments.
Now as you walk in the streets of Jerusalem, you might have seen Mary running to deliver the message from Jesus.
Even more peculiar than any of the strange things you would have seen if you were in Jerusalem that day was the report that Mary carried – the news that Mary had seen Jesus alive,
…for it is not the way of things that the dead return to life.
The death and resurrection of Christ lie at the center of God’s eternal plan.
Christ’s resurrection is closely coupled with our own.
If Christ did not rise from the dead, neither shall we.
II. Two Resurrections
Various scriptures affirm that there is to be a universal resurrection.
But it’s actually not that simple.
There are two resurrections.
And that means there are two deaths. Let’s read about them:
Revelation 20:1-6 Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain.
2 And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years,
3 and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while.
4 Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.
5 The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection.
6 Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.
First, notice that John saw souls – the souls of martyrs and other faithful.
We have just read of a first resurrection and a second death.