The Other Resurrections
“and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and[c] went into the holy city and appeared to many people.” Matthew 27:52-53
Intro: Hello Easter people. By this time we realize that Judas is dead. Pontius Pilate the Roman leader of Judea probably wishes he was dead also. The Cross has been taken down. The empty tomb is still empty. Now what? What has all this accomplished?
It is a well known fact that the Sunday’s after Christmas and the Sunday’s after Easter are among the lowest church attendance days of the year. What that says to me is that those of you who are here today are among the most faithful church attendees. (Go ahead and give yourself applause.)
What if Easter was not just a single Sunday but more as a way of life? For forty days after the resurrection Jesus remained alive here on earth. This is proof beyond any shadow of a doubt that the resurrection is real.
Today we are going to talk about “The Other Resurrections.” The resurrection of Jesus Christ should really have not come as a surprise to anyone. Jesus himself had already raised three people from the dead: Jesus resurrects the only son of a woman from Nain Luke 7:11-15. Jesus raises from the dead the daughter of Jarius, who is a ruler in the synagogue Luke 8:49-51. Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead in John 11. Three times Jesus resurrected the dead right before their very eyes. So, when Jesus taught his disciples that he too would die and on the third day rise again it seems as though they should have understood Jesus’ meaning. The resurrection was nothing new. The idea of man being a living soul was part of the creation of Adam “the Lord God formed the man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul” Genesis 2:7 KJV.
There are three resurrection events told in the Old Testament books of First and Second Kings. Elijah raises the son of a widowed woman 1 Kings 17. Elisha raises the son of a Shunammite woman 2 Kings 4:16-20, 32-36. Then a third resurrection occurs when Israelites bury a man in the grave of Elisha and as soon as his dead body touched the bones of Elisha God raised him back to life 2 Kings 13:20-21.
We also have the record of Enoch and Elijah, the only two people who never tasted death. “Enoch walked with God and he was not for God took him” Genesis 5:24. “Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven” 2 Kings 2:11.
Even after Jesus has ascended back up into heaven the bible talks about three more resurrections. You may have forgotten about the resurrection in Joppa. Peter resurrects a generous woman named Tabitha Acts 9:36-41. Paul raises from the dead a young man named Eutychus who fell from a window Acts 20:7-12. The last person in the Bible to be raised from the dead was the Apostle Paul himself. After being stoned by a mob of people who had turned against him, Paul’s lifeless body was dragged through the streets and cast out of the city and left for dead. Some believers find Paul's body and as they stand around it Paul comes back to life! “he rose; and he went into the city with them” Acts 14:20. Paul was not just knocked out. He was not just unconscious. A close look reveals the same Greek word “ἀνίστημι” 'anistemi' (Strong’s 450) used to describe Paul in “he rose” Acts 14:20 is the same Greek word used in Acts 10:41 to describe the resurrection of Jesus “He was not seen by all people but by witnesses whom God had chose already by us who ate and drank with him after “he rose” “ἀνίστημι” 'anistemi' from the dead." The bible uses the exact same words to describe Paul’s event as a resurrection as it does Christ’s resurrection.
So there are several resurrection events besides the Easter morning resurrection of Jesus “and the other tombs being opened. And the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life.” Matthew 27:52-53
I am convinced that people in Jesus' time knew what dead was. They could check a person’s breathing. They could take someone’s pulse. They could see if the pupils of the eyes dilated when exposed to light just like we can today.
When the bible says that Lazarus was dead I believe Lazarus was dead. Just like I believe when the bible says that Jesus was dead that Jesus was dead and by the power of the Almighty God, Jesus was resurrected back to life from the dead. Why would we as believers diminish any of these events to be less than a miracle of life brought back by resurrection?
Of all the things that peek our curiosity and fears the question of “life after death” is probably the greatest. Life itself is a mystery. But life after death is the greatest mystery of all. To think that this flesh becomes the seed, just a vessel, for spirit and immortal soul drives the mind beyond its ability to understand.
So it is by faith. I believe. I Corinthians 15:51-53 “Behold I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.”
Like it was with Enoch and Elijah, Christians who are alive at time of Christ’s return will not have to die but will be changed instantly into our immortal spirit. “For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection” Romans 6:5. I know that here Romans is talking primarily about water baptism. It is our own water baptism or spiritual death, burial and resurrection spiritually. But notice the word planted means to “grow along with.” The old life is dead and we are resurrected to live and grow along with others side by side living together in the community of faith.
Satan seemed victorious in the Garden of Eden. Satan seemed victorious when Jesus was on the cross. Satan may seem to be winning around us today. But God turned the cross and made something that was the symbol of death into something that is now the symbol of a resurrected life. Christ has overcome death, the grave and hell. Death has been defeated. The grave has no power. Hell has no victory. Satan lost. We have strength for everyday life and assurance of the life to come. So we do not need be afraid to live. Let me say that again because it is so important, “We do not need to be afraid to live.” Why else would the Apostle Paul give up everything he had family, friends and freedom in order to preach Christ?
Did you hear the old story about the guy who checked into a hotel room and immediately called the front desk in a panic? With an urgent voice he said to the clerk, “I’m stuck in my room. I don’t know how to out of here.” The clerk asked the man to explain the situation. “With a quivering voice the man said there are three doors in this room. One opens to the closet, another opens to the bathroom and the third has a "Do Not Disturb" sign on it. Can you get me out of here?
Have you ever felt that way about your life? Have you ever felt confused? If you feel trapped, overwhelmed, tired, beat down, then you have come to the right place. Amen! The Apostle Paul says in Philippians 3:10 "I want to know Christ yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death." What commitments do you make? How do you suffer for the sake of Christ? What cross do you bear? Where have you surrendered in your life, so that you can live daily for Jesus?
When we become one with Christ by trusting in him, we experience the power of the resurrection. The power of the resurrection gives us the power to live in the newness of Christ himself. In our death there is a resurrection and a new beginning. His crucifixion marks the end of our old sinful nature. We can know the victory of the resurrection as we live for Christ in our everyday life.
One of my favorite songs is by Louis Armstrong, “What a Wonderful World. I see trees of green, red roses too
I see them bloom for me and you And I think to myself what a wonderful world.” Have you ever noticed that people can be so fearful of death that we never really find an appreciation for the life that God has given us? God wants us not to just die for him but also to live for him.
Living for Him is what Jesus was trying to teach us most of all. Luke 6:31 says, “Do to others as you would like them to do to you.” This is what living our faith is all about. Can you imagine how great everything would be if everyone followed this one simple rule? What if we as Christians treated others the way we want to be treated?
I would be handing out ice cream and candy all the time. I would give you compliments, “You sure do look nice today.” I would be encouraging others all the time. I would be pointing out the good in you and forgiving your mistakes. Now that is the kind of community I want to be part of. That is the kind of family I want to be part of. That is the kind of church I want to be part of. Living in a community of faith where every member matters and all are treated the exact same way.
Jesus got up; He got up from the grave. Have you ever wondered how it happened? Was it like a sudden bolt of lightning that brought him back to life or was it more like as slow awakening from a long nap? Sleep is a good way to describe death. Have you ever taken a nap and think you have slept all day but wake up and realize it has just been a few minutes? Or fallen asleep and think it has been only a few minutes but wake and realize you have slept all day? That is the way it will be in death. We fall asleep and have no awareness of time. But wake up and are resurrected unto eternal life with God.
Do you remember how Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane? How he agonized, “Father let this cup pass from me.” Have you ever questioned how Jesus might have felt about coming back after death? Did he pause like he did going to the cross and say Lord let me stay in this spiritual realm but if it is your will I will return to swords and spears of men, to disciples arguing over who is the greatest, to governments fighting for political gain, to people suffering from diseases. On Good Friday, He had announced from the Cross, “It is finished.” If it was finished, then why go back?
Learn this lesson: Nearly everyone Jesus met, he asked them to get up and go back. He said that to the crippled who lay on his mat for thirty-eight years, “Get up, pick up your mat and walk!” Go back to your family and town and tell them how you were healed and how your life has been changed since you met Jesus.
He said that to Zacchaeus who had climbed into the sycamore tree, “Come down Zacchaeus we are going to your house today.” We are going back to tell your entire household how salvation has come today.
He said that to the demon possessed that lived in the tombs, “Get up, go home to your family and tell them how the Lord has delivered you this day.”
Could the resurrected Lord be saying the same thing to you and me? Get up from your recliner and witness. Get up from your premature deaths and live. Get up from your self-service pew and go out and serve others. Can you imagine how it would be if everyone in the church asked, “Lord what would you have me do?” Can you imagine how it would be if everyone came to the pastor and asked, “Pastor, how can I serve? What can I do to work for the Kingdom?” Imagine the growth, the increase, the enlargement of the Kingdom.
I want to live for Christ because of the power of His resurrection.
Because He lives, I can face tomorrow,
Because He lives, all fear is gone;
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living,
Just because He lives!
Do you really mean these words?
Max Lucado tells about discovering that his Texas hometown owed his parents some money. As Max traced down the stray cash, his mind began to wonder what he might do with this new found wealth. Maybe he could end a portion of hunger in some small country. Maybe he could help wipe out malaria. Maybe he could solve some crisis of hatred. Then the voice on the phone said, “Yes, Mr. Lucado, looks like we owe you 350. His mind began to swirl, after a long pause Max asks, “Three hundred fifty million, three hundred fifty thousand?” “No,” said the clerk, “Three dollars and fifty cents." While some of our dreams have not come true, most of us will agree that life has given us far more than we deserve. If not here, then over there, things will be better than we imagine. If not here, then over there, in heaven.
Closing: The resurrection of Christ is real. All the other resurrections in the bible are also real. When I die and they roll a headstone over my grave, I want the last words said at my grave side to be read from Romans 8:38 "And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God's love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow--not even the powers of hell can separate us from God's love."
Prayer: We thank you God for the resurrection of the dead. But also for the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives each and every day. You have promised never to leave us, nor forsaken us neither in life of death. We take comfort in your constant care and love. And that makes all the difference. Amen.
Pastor’s pledge. “This sermon relies on the works of a host of others. May their contribution be recognized and honor God.”