As I journeyed to see family this last week I drove through the great woods of Wisconsin. And I looked at the trees along the road, and they looked like bundled up cord wood ready for the fire. Always right around this time of year, the trees look so dead. All their leaves have fallen off, and it seems like no life could possibly come from them. I looked at them realizing that in less than a month they would all be budding with green life. But my mind couldn’t quite comprehend it. See, Looks can be deceiving.
Today as we conclude our journey with Christ to the cross we consider the greatest event in the history of the world. That event is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Like the trees before spring, Jesus appeared by all measurable standards to have died a brutal death on the cross. He had been whipped, he had been mistreated, charges were layed against him that were false. He was questioned by the roman governor, and the governor, to appease the jewish leaders, agreed to the crucifixion of the son of God. Jesus was made to carry his own cross up the hill, the garbage dump, where he would be crucified next to two criminals.
Jesus died on the cross. He suffered greatly, and he died. In fact the roman soldier who was there actually plunged a spear into the side of Jesus. There was no reaction, no jerk of pain, no reaction, Jesus was dead.
John the disciple of Jesus saw all of it happen. So did Jesus’ mother. The day ended, night fell, and the son of God was dead. It must’ve seemed to the disciples as they gathered together in hiding, with the doors locked, that evil had triumphed over good once again. Their dear friend, their teacher, mentor, and God was dead. What could they do? They must’ve assumed it was all over. They must’ve began planning the future, considering what they might do, and how they might proceed forward. For all Jesus had promised, it had all come to nothing. The depression, the sorrow in the room must’ve been palpable.
It's interesting that three full days went by. Three days can go very quickly, or it can seem like an eternity. I imagine for the disciples it must’ve felt like an eternity. Those days must’ve rolled by like molasses in January. One day, next day, and the next.
The women, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James, went to the tomb on the third day, to care for the body of Jesus, and they were astonished to find the tomb was empty. Where could Jesus’ body be? Who took him?
Then something remarkable happened. The women were astonished at what they saw.
The women came back to the rest of the disciples and told them this wild story of two glorious bright beings who appeared to them and told them Jesus had “risen.”
Luke chapter 24 reveals two beings that glowed like lightning, and said to the twomen: ““Why do you look for the living among the dead? 6 He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 7 ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’
Now if I was one of the guys I would probably say, yeah, right, whatever. I’d probably accuse them of making it up. And then I’d dismiss it as delusional thinking. They saw what they wanted to see! But then something incredible happens. The greatest surprise imaginable.
Jesus walks through the door, and shows himself to his disciples. He walks right over to Thomas, who was refusing to believe the women, that Jesus was alive, and he said to Thomas, put your hand into the scars on my hands, and into the hole in my side. Stop doubting, and believe. And for many of us, Jesus is saying to us, stop doubting and believe. I am your God and I am risen from dead. The grave cannot hold the son of God.
We must believe that Jesus Christ was resurrected from the dead by God our Father. That is central to the gospel. And if you think about it, if God can make the universe from nothing, resurrecting Jesus from the dead really isn’t that hard is it? Jesus is risen.
Jesus appeared to the disciples numerous times, one of the most beautiful I think is when Peter is out fishing, and Jesus appears on the shore, and Peter is so excited to see his friend, his brother, his God he jumps right out of the boat and swims to shore. Jesus shares a meal with them. And later he sits with Peter and asks him a question. He asks Peter: Do you love me? And Peter replies. Yes Lord, I love you. Jesus asks Peter this question three times, because earlier, when Jesus was betrayed by Judas, Peter had denied knowing Jesus three times. Did Jesus hold this against Peter? No. He invites him to proclaim his love for Jesus three times as an act of repentance.
If Jesus was dead, it would’ve been easy to prove it. All the Jewish leaders had to do, all the Roman authorities had to do was produce the body of jesus and say here he is, he’s dead, and Christianity would’ve died on that day. But they didn’t, they couldn’t, because Jesus was alive and walking around.
Some suggested that the disciples stole the body of Jesus from the tomb, because they were so obsessed with proving that Jesus was the Son of God. But if they did that, do you think they’d all be willing to die for a lie? History records that all of Jesus original disciples were killed for their testimony, aside from John. If they were lying, if they stole the body, don’t you think facing death they would confess the truth to save their lives? They never did, each of them died saying that Jesus was alive and God.
He is risen. Jesus had to be nailed to the cross, scorned, and left to die to pay the cost of our sins. Jesus paid the debt of our sins on the cross. But Jesus Christ also had to rise from the dead, to show that not only had he paid our debt, but he had also adopted us as his beloved children, and given us eternal life. If God can raise Christ from the dead, which he did, then he will also raise us from the dead after we die, to enjoy relationship with Him in the eternal city, the new Jerusalem.
He is risen. This moment changed all history. It was the surprise that established the kingdom of God, the church on Earth, setting it’s foundations in stone. All of our hope is upon the resurrection of Christ. And if he were here bodily with us right now, as he was with the disciples, we would see the scars on his hands and on his side, where he was pierced for our transgressions, and slaughtered for our mistakes. Yet he is risen. He did everything for us. Jesus has become all things to us and everything is about Jesus. Praise God for this mighty gift. He is risen!
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