from our ministry
The Resurrection of Christ & Hope
TWO THOUSAND YEARS AGO JESUS CHRIST MADE AN INCREDIBLE CLAIM, IN FACT, HE STAKED HIS reputation upon one major fact - His resurrection from the dead! He said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” (John 2:19) Of course, He was referring to the resurrection of His body after His crucifixion (John 2:21).
The theologian B.B. Warfield said, “Christ Himself deliberately staked His whole claim to the credit of men upon His resurrection. When asked for a sign He pointed to this sign as His single and sufficient credential.” John Locke, the famous British philosopher said, “Our Savior’s resurrection ... is truly of great importance in Christianity; so great that His being or not being the Messiah stands or falls with it ...”.
Beloved, if the resurrection had not happened, He would have been a liar and fraud, therefore, disqualifying Him as the sinless Lamb of God and our Savior! The apostle Paul understood this when he wrote, “ and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain . Moreover, we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied. BUT NOW CHRIST HAS BEEN RAISED FROM THE DEAD . . .” (1 Corinthians 15:14-20).
Yes, the resurrection of Jesus Christ changes everything! Because Christ was resurrected our faith is not in vain (worthless), our preaching is not in vain, we are not still in our sins, those who have died have not perished, we have a hope beyond this life and we do not need to be pitied! Wow! The resurrection does turn sorrow into joy, despair into hope, fear intoconfidence, doubt into worship and sinners into Saints!
This truth was realized in the lives of three women on that resurrection morning two thousand years ago: Mary Magdaline, Mary the mother James, and Salome. They came to the tomb of Jesus when the Sabbath was over with spices to anoint Jesus’ body. Matthew records the account, “ Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary (Mark’s account includes Mary the mother of James, and Salome) came to look at the grave. And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it. And his appearance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. The guards shook for fear of him and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. ‘ He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying. ‘Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going ahead of you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you.” And they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy and ran to report it to His disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; go and take word to My brethren to leave for Galilee, and there they will see Me.’” Matthew 28:1-10
How these ladies came to the tomb and how they left is amazing!
a) They came in despair — they were going to anoint a dead body. They left in hope — He was going before them to Galilee, they will see Him!
b) They came perplexed and sad — who will “remove” the stone? They left the tomb with great joy!
c) They came in fear — The statement of the angel, “Do not be afraid” indicates they were fearful. They left in amazement — they had just witnessed a miracle!
d) They came in doubt — They left in worship — they fell at His feet and worshiped Him!
e) They came without a message -- what could they share? When they came all they had was BAD NEWS! They left with a message to share! They left with the Good News! They left with the transforming message of the Gospel, i.e., the truth that Jesus died and rose again, according to the Scriptures for our sins! (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
What made the difference? It was the Resurrection! HE IS NOT HERE, HE IS RISEN! It was the RESURRECTION that turned their sorrow into joy, their despair into hope, their fear into confidence, their doubt into worship, and gave them the powerful message that brings salvation to share!
Matthew was not the only apostle who recorded what happened at the tomb on that resurrection morning; both Luke and John reported that the women come to the tomb, but two other disciples (Peter and John) also ran to the tomb to see if what the ladies saw was really true (see Luke 24:12 & John 20:2-9). It was true — He had risen as He said He would! Both of them looked into the tomb and saw the evidence of the resurrection, i.e., “the linen wrappings lying there and the face-cloth, which had been on His head, not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself ...” (John 20:7-7). How this truth impacted these men was profound! Peter, writing several years later in his first letter, wrote, “ Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a LIVING HOPE through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. . .” (1 Peter 1:3). The impact on Peter was HOPE — a LIVING HOPE! On that resurrection day as Peter looked into the tomb, the definition of HOPE was radically changed! Hope was not something we hope for, it was not a place we await, BUT HOPE IS A PERSON, A RESURRECTED PERSON — Jesus Christ!
The apostle Paul understood this truth, too! When he wrote to Titus, he reminded him that God’s grace includes, “... looking for the blessed HOPE, the APPEARING of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus . . .!” (Titus 2:13). In the Greek the words “blessed hope” and “ the appearing” are in a grammatical construction that makes them refer to the same thing! Paul and Peter both understood that a believer’s HOPE is a PERSON, namely Jesus Christ!
Beloved, this is a good time for us to be reminded of this glorious truth. As much as we appreciate our doctors, nurses and medical community, as well as our governmental leaders overseeing COVID-19, as believer’s we must not fix our hope upon them or any other earthly thing. Our HOPE is a PERSON who has promised to “appear” again as the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords! Made possible only through His resurrection from the dead!
So, let us remember that the “Worthy Walk” of a Believer must be grounded and rooted in the resurrection of Jesus Christ! Apart from it, not only do we not have salvation (Romans 10:9-10), but we have no HOPE and we are to be pitted! The apostle Paul was right when he said, “ If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.”
Peter challenges all of us to “... always be ready to make a defense (a declaration) to everyone who asks you to give an account for the HOPE that is in you ...” (1 Peter 4:15). Beloved, because the believer’s HOPE is THE only PERSON who conquered death and the grave through His resurrection, our only “defense,” i.e., declaration, we can make is to shout out loudly and clearly that Jesus’ tomb is empty. He is not there, He is RISEN! And because He is alive, He will “appear” again to establish His earthly rule and reign! (Revelation 20:6-7).
Let me close with Paul’s words to the Colossians and a song.
Paul wrote, “Therefore if (since) you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory .” (Colossians 3:1-4).
The old, well-worn song, Because He Lives, helps us “set our mind” where it must be in these trying times.
God sent His Son,They called Him Jesus, He came to love, heal and forgive, He lived and died to buy my pardon An empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives! 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!
For the love of God’s people,
Pastor Ron Finch (retired)