He Is Risen
11 Apr 2009, Dr Barry Wright
(Barry is Thornleigh's Church Pastor - this was a special Easter service)
HE IS RISEN
The foundation of Christianity, as we understand it today, rises or falls on the truthfulness of the claim that Jesus rose from the dead. To an unbelieving world this miraculous event would seem to be absolute foolishness in their eyes.
This view would raise the question as to what faith do we have if this claim of a resurrection is untrue?
The apostle Paul in his first letter to the Corinthian church outlines the implications involved in this belief as he endeavours to instruct the members there about their own resurrection. Their understanding in regard to the resurrection of Jesus had originally been brought to them through the apostolic witness of the disciples. All of these men had given the same testimony and through the work of the Holy Spirit from which all Christian testimony derives its power, the Church in Corinth had accepted this doctrine.
However, some among them had become confused about their own resurrection as a result of the pagan influences surrounding them and also through the action of the local Sadducees. These powerful and persuasive men were part of a Jewish faction who, along with the pagans, also denied the idea of a bodily resurrection (Lockyer, 1896: 936).
It is interesting to note that Jesus himself had already challenged these men in Matt 22: 31-34 by pointing out that they were wrong in holding these beliefs. He says: 'Have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, 'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'. God is not the God of the dead, but of the living (Ex 3: 6, 15-16).'
Matt 22: 33 then goes on to tell us that the multitude who heard Jesus' argument were 'astonished at His teaching' and it says further in Math 22: 34 that, as a result, the Sadducees were 'silenced'. They had no answer.
As Paul confronts this same situation in Corinth, how was he to answer these confused Corinthian believers?
He first of all reminds them of the gospel already preached to them. He makes clear that Jesus died for their sins, was buried and on the third day was raised to life according to the Scriptures. Paul then reminds them that after His resurrection Jesus appeared to his apostles who later become powerful eyewitnesses of this event.
Lets read his words as he continues his words of encouragement in 1Cor 15: 12-23.
'But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead also comes through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each to his own turn: Christ, the first fruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.'
Paul is making it very clear that man is hopelessly lost without the resurrection of Jesus. If there is no resurrection then those who have died remain in the grave. Disbelief in the resurrection robs men and women of the certainty of life after death and leaves them with an ineffective faith (Nichol 6, 1957: 803).
Paul continues to make clear that while all men are subject to death because of Adam's sin, only those in Christ will eventually share the eternal benefits derived from the resurrection of Jesus (Ibid: 805). This includes all those who died trusting in Him throughout the long ages of history.
Thank God He is risen.
Twilight came at approximately 4.00 am and the sun was to follow at 5.50 am on that Sunday morning in Jerusalem. Jesus was still a prisoner in that narrow rock cut tomb. The great stone blocking the entrance was still in its place with the Roman seal not broken. The Roman guards were still keeping their watch. Around the tomb were unseen watchers made up of evil angels who had gathered about the place. If Satan were to have his way he would have made sure that the tomb that held the Son of God was sealed forever.
However, surrounding and guarding the sepulchre were hosts of heavenly angels who were there to welcome the Prince of life when he was to come from the tomb (White, 1940: 779).
The Scriptures were to make clear that Jesus, who died for the sins of the world, was to remain in that tomb for the allotted time. He was a prisoner of divine justice. He was bearing the sins of the world and would be released, as the Scriptures point out, on the third day. In breaking the bonds of death, He was to come forth untarnished by any corruption (Nichol 5: 1956: 1114).
However, before anyone could reach the sepulchre, there was a great earthquake. The mightiest angel from heaven, who had taken Satan's position after his fall, and clothed in the splendour of heaven parted the darkness lighting the path from where he came. His face was like lightening and his clothes as white as snow. As soon as he touched the ground, the earth began to quake beneath his steps.
What a scene this must have been. You could imagine the reaction of the soldiers when this magnificent event took place. As they kept their weary watch they were now confronted with a spectacle that was beyond their imaginations and senses. As they took in this scene, they became as 'dead men' and yet they were able to eventually bear witness of what they saw.
The mighty angel approaches the grave and rolls away the stone as if it was a mere pebble and then sits on it. With the light of heaven encircling the tomb and the heavens lighted by the glory of angels a voice is heard that says: 'Thy Father calls thee; come forth' (Ibid: 1110).
An earthquake marked the hour when Jesus laid down His life and it was another earthquake that witnessed the moment when He took it up again in victory (White, 1940: 780). We also know in Hebrews 12: 26 that when He comes to the earth again, He will not only shake the earth, but the heavens as well.
When Jesus came forth from that tomb, He came forth glorified and the Roman guards beheld it all. You could imagine their eyes riveted on the face of the one that they had so recently mocked and derided.
This glorified being was the one they had seen in the Judgment Hall and on whom they placed the plaited crown of thorns.
It was He who stood unresisting before Pilate and Herod as He was lacerated by the cruel Roman scourge.
This was the one who had been nailed to the cross as the priests and rulers, full of self-satisfaction, wagged their heads, saying, He saved others; Himself He cannot save' (Matt 27: 42).
This was the one who had lain in Joseph's new tomb.
But now the decree from heaven had loosed the captive and nothing could have prevented Him from coming forth (Ibid: 781, 782).
When Jesus arose, His resurrection was to become the type and pledge of the resurrection for all the righteous dead. Paul in 1 Thess 4: 14 (KJV) makes this clear when he says: 'For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him'.
Mark 16: 1 continues the story by saying that 'Now when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, that they might come and anoint Him.'
When the women arrived they were confronted with an empty tomb and on entering realized that Jesus was not there. They then recognised they were not alone. Sitting by the tomb was the majestic angel who had rolled away the stone. He had taken the guise of humanity, taking on the form of a young man in order not to alarm these friends of Jesus (Ibid: 738, 739). However, the light of heaven was still shining around him and the women were afraid.
Turning to them, he told them that Jesus had risen and that they must go and notify the disciples. He then invited them to view the empty tomb again and another angel in human form was to remind them of Jesus' words where He said, 'The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men. And be crucified, and the third day rise again.'
The message had now sunk home as they grasped the importance of this news and they run with joy to tell the eleven disciples.
Dear friends, our message to the world is to be one of great joy just as it was to these women and to the disciples of Jesus.
'He is risen' is to be the watchword of hope as we look to the future immortal life that is in store for all those that love Him.
THANK GOD, HE IS RISEN
Lockyer Sr. H. (1986) Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers
Nichol, F. D. (ed) (1956) The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary Vol. 5 Washington DC: Review & Herald Publishing Association
Nichol, F. D. (ed) (1957) The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary Vol. 6 Washington DC: Review & Herald Publishing Association
White, E. G. (1940) The Desire of Ages. Nampa, Idaho: Pacific Press Publishing Association
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