Theme: The Lord has truly risen, Alleluia
Text: Isaiah 25:6-9; 1 Cor. 15:1-11; Mk. 16:1-8
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! The world has heard many important messages, learned many great truths and experienced many dramatic and life-changing events. But none of them can come close to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Indeed this is the heart of the Christian faith and nothing in the history of the world can match the significance of Jesus being raised from the dead because when Jesus rose from the dead, He proved that He was exactly who He claimed to be and had accomplished what He came to accomplish. His resurrection confirmed that death is not the end for the believer but a through road to eternity. This has been the hope of God’s people throughout history and it is a hope that depends on the resurrection of Jesus Christ because His resurrection guarantees our resurrection. The resurrection may be denied, it may be despised, it may be mocked, men may make an effort to explain it, to give some rational arguments to explain the phenomena, but it is the only hope of life after death, the only hope of eternal salvation, the only hope of being with God in glory forever. Without the resurrection of Christ there would have been no gospel and the cross would have been totally unnecessary. But the Lord has truly risen, alleluia.
This is the reason why the Gospels do not end with Jesus’ death and burial. Instead of ending with despair and heartbreak they rather end with joy and the hope of a new life. Jesus Christ “was declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of Holiness, by the resurrection from the dead”. Before the resurrection, Christ had appeared before two human courts, the religious court of the Jewish Council and the secular court of the Roman Governor. Both these courts rejected His claim to be the Son of God and condemned Him to death. Furthermore, both these courts had united to prevent any breaking open of His grave. The tomb was made secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting a Roman guard at the site. The seal of the Roman emperor had all the power and authority of Rome behind it and a Roman guard consisted of a sixteen-man security unit of well-trained soldiers. In spite of these precautions on the third day the seal was broken, the soldiers were completely paralysed and Christ rose from the tomb. By this act God reversed the decisions of the Jewish council and the Roman Governor and publicly declared that the claim of Christ to be the sinless Son of God was true. The resurrection confirms that every promise of God is true. If all that He said about His death and resurrection were fulfilled, then His other promises had to be true and would also be fulfilled. The resurrection confirms God’s offer of forgiveness and salvation to every repentant sinner who puts his faith in Christ as “He was delivered up because of our offences, and was raised because of our justification” Romans 4:25. The sinner’s justification depends on the resurrection of Christ for had Christ remained on the cross, or in the grave, God’s promise to the sinner of salvation and eternal life would also not be fulfilled. If Christ is not risen from the dead, then He has no power to pardon or save the sinner. But if He is risen, then this is proof of His power to pardon and save. It is only the risen Christ, received and confessed by faith, who brings to the sinner pardon, peace, eternal life and victory over sin. “He is able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He ever lives to make intercession for them” Hebrews 7:25. The resurrection also leads us to the realisation of our hopes as Christians. It makes us aware of the supreme goal of our life of faith here on earth. Speaking of the motivating purpose of his life as a Christian Paul declares, “it is to know Him and the power of His resurrection.” Paul does not intend to let anything in this world prevent him from attaining to the resurrection of the dead, the realisation of all his beliefs and labours.
Christianity is a belief in a series of truths, doctrines and principles that rise and fall depending on the resurrection of Christ. Without the resurrection of Jesus Christ there is no resurrection life but because He lives we shall also live. The message of Scripture has always been a message of resurrection hope, a message that death is not the end as is illustrated in a grain of wheat. Such a grain cannot bear fruit unless it is first planted in the ground, seemingly dies, germinates and grows out of the ground to bear fruit. Jesus used this example to teach that His ministry of reconciliation between God and man could only come as a result of His own atoning death and resurrection. If He were to stop short of death on the cross, no fruit could come forth out of His ministry. It is only through His death, burial and resurrection that there would come forth the fruit of a great harvest of sinners, justified and reconciled to God. Many people do not understand or believe in the resurrection because they do not understand the meaning of His death. They cannot understand or believe that He, though sinless and perfect, had to die in our place and for our sin. And, unless we believe this we also cannot believe that Christ had to rise from the grave in glory in order to bring to completion His work as Redeemer. The empty grave cannot be understood or appreciated until the cross is understood. We can only understand or believe what happened that first Easter morning when we understand our need for a Saviour. Easter Sunday must be viewed in the light of Good Friday. Only then can we understand that He was raised in glory.
How do we know that Christ has risen in glory? For the Gospel writers the empty tomb confirms the reality that "he had risen, just as he said". The first people to enter the tomb on that Sunday had come to complete the burial rites, which the onset of the Sabbath had interrupted. The previous Friday they had hurriedly wrapped the body in linen with spices between the sheets. Now entering the tomb they see no body but noticed the burial wrappings undisturbed and in the same shape they had left it. The head wrapping were still separate from the other wrappings and it was obvious that human hands could not have touched the body of Christ. He had been raised in glory. The witness of an angel confirms the proof of the resurrection. At Christ’s birth an angel explained to Joseph the meaning of Mary’s pregnancy and gave him precise instructions from God. At His resurrection an angel explains the meaning of the empty tomb and gives instructions from God again. The angel announces that Christ had risen, and that they should tell his disciples that He had risen from the dead and was going ahead of them into Galilee where they would see him. Another proof of the resurrection was the appearances of Christ to many eye-witnesses: the women, the Emmaus travellers, Peter, James and John, the rest of the Twelve, then a group of 500 believers, and finally the Apostle Paul.
Those people who question the resurrection really are questioning the power of God. They cannot believe that God can raise someone from the dead. But if God can create all things and sustain them, why is it so hard to believe that God can raise someone from the dead. The evidence of the resurrection is so crucial to Christianity that an angel made sure that the evidence was not tampered with. When the angel rolled the stone away it was not so that Jesus could get out of the tomb because a body that could pass through burial wrappings, a body that could enter the locked room where the disciples were meeting, did not need a stone moved in order to get out of the tomb. The angel rolled the rock away not to let the Lord out but to let the women in. God wanted eyewitnesses to the empty tomb because the resurrection of Christ guarantees the resurrection of every saint. In the middle of the seventeenth century the Japanese government ordered all Christians to be killed. They were to bury their heads in one place and their bodies in another place to frustrate the Christian’s hope of the resurrection. They felt that if there should ever be a resurrection God would not be able to figure out which head belong to which body. The resurrection of every saint is assured no matter what happens to the body. The angel by rolling back the stone and breaking the seal, the seal of the Roman Emperor, and paralysing the soldiers, was making a clear statement, a statement that there is no power higher and greater than God’s power. There is only one response to this revelation from the angel and that is to accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour and to worship Him.
Christ died for us and in our place so that when He died we died with Him. Our old rebellious nature died with Him and His resurrection guarantees our new life, the risen life. Our lives accomplish nothing when we declare and defend the truth but fail to demonstrate it in daily living. The Word of God is not taught for the sake of teaching only, it is taught so that its truths can be lived out. Bible knowledge needs to be translated into Christian living. When we believe what the Scriptures say, that we are risen with Christ, then we should also seek those things which are above because that is where Christ is, on the right hand of God. We have been united not only in His death but also in His resurrection “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. The one who trusts in the finished work of Christ for his salvation is raised from the state of spiritual death into that of spiritual life. This is the actual experience of everyone who places his faith in Christ as Saviour and Lord. Our spiritual life is allowing Christ to live out His life through us. We are to set our affections on things above, striving to put heavens priorities into daily practice by thinking on those things, which originate from heaven rather than those things, which originate from the world. From the time we wake up and throughout the day, we should discipline our minds to keep it fixed on the things that count, not only for time but also for eternity. Christ desires that we enjoy our new position to the full. If Christ is in our heart, then His power is in us too; that same power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Unfortunately many believers are still more concerned with the world than with heavenly things. Dying to self and the world with the Lord has given us a position in Christ where sin has no more claim on our life. We believe and know “that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. Our spiritual life is really Christ’s life and His manifestation in glory is our manifestation with Him. This is enough reason for us to live a purified life focused on heaven.
Abraham and Lot were two men rich in this worlds goods but with completely different attitudes towards their possessions. Abraham was heavenly minded whereas Lot was worldly-minded. When the time came for them to separate, Abraham who was the elder and the one who brought Lot with him, gave the first choice to Lot. He lifted up his eyes and seeing all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere, even as the garden of the Lord, chose what according to the world’s values appeared the best. Abraham, however, chose to trust the Lord because he was heavenly minded. In the end Lot lost everything, to serve as an example to those who seek only the things of this world. The real tragedy about Lot’s choice was that he led his whole family to Sodom and although he was able to escape, members of his family were destroyed. How must he have felt knowing that he was the one who led them to their destruction? Our union with Christ should make heavenly minded because there is where Christ is. As we share His life, His character should also be seen in us. Christ has made us citizens of heaven and our walk should be a heavenly walk here on earth.
Jesus Christ came to earth in a supernatural way and left it the same way. His birth was natural but His conception was supernatural. His death was natural but His resurrection was supernatural. There was no way that He could remain in the grave because He did not come from the dust. We return to the dust because we came from the dust. Jesus Christ had to return to heaven because He came from heaven. The resurrection of Christ confirms that the Word of God is true. It confirms that Jesus Christ is the Son of God as He claimed to be and that He as God has power over death. It also confirms that the work of salvation is complete and that on the cross Jesus conquered sin, death and hell and rose victorious. In Christ’s death we also died spiritually to sin, self, and the world. As Christ rose physically from the dead, we also rose with Him spiritually and so are “not to present our members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present ourselves to God as being alive from the dead and our members as instruments of righteousness to God.” Since we have put off the old man, we should also put off the qualities which characterise the old man, just as Jesus, when He rose from the dead, left His grave clothes behind, because they were no longer needed for life in His glorified body. The Risen Christ, however, presents us all with a choice. We can reject him outright like the Jewish religious leaders did, or we can ignore Him like the Romans did, or like many people today we can pretend we are Christians. The wise choice is to joyfully accept Him as our risen Saviour, become His disciples and allow Him to live His resurrected life in us. The resurrection assures us of a new life in Christ and of being glorified together with Him. We are assured that our home is in heaven and our life should reflect a heavenly walk – a life focused on heaven and seeking those things that have eternal value. Those who saw the proofs of Christ’s resurrection worshipped Him. Worship is the proper response to the risen Christ. Worship proclaims Jesus to be Saviour and Lord. Let us celebrate resurrection Sunday and enjoy the risen life by constantly worshipping our risen Lord. The Lord has truly risen, Alleluia. Amen!