By Pastor Leslie
With the death of the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip yesterday, it reminds us that even a person who lives to the age of 99 who lived in royal palaces still has to die and think about life beyond this world. No matter the setting for our lives, death comes to all.
Prince Philip was a remarkable man, a man of good character, served as an officer in war, a faithful servant of our nation, a loving husband and family man. Like all of us, he had his flaws and difficult experiences to contend with. Nevertheless, he demonstrated great resilience, vision and commitment and faithfulness to the cause he felt called to throughout his life. May God comfort the Queen, his family and all who mourn his death.
As we think about our own mortality, and life beyond this world, I want to take us back to last weekend and Easter. Good Friday and Easter Sunday show us how committed God is to opening a door to eternal life in His presence through the Passion, death and resurrection of Christ. Below are some of my notes from my sermon on Easter Sunday which speak into the idea of living out our hope in Resurrection Life.
It Happened as Jesus Predicted
Jesus said, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me, even if he dies, will live. Everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die (eternally). Do you believe this?’ He said these words to Martha in John 11:25-26; yet, they also speak to us in 2021.
A saving belief in Jesus opens the door to a new quality of life, but also to eternal life. Although we will die, in Christ, we will live beyond our mortal death in that new resurrection life which Christ is the author and firstfruits off.
Jesus had predicted His resurrection a number of times: John 2:18-22 is an early reference to it. In the final year of His life, He began to refer to it much more often; Matthew 16:21, ‘From then on Jesus began to point out to His disciples that it was necessary for Him to go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders, chief priests, and scribes, be killed, and be raised the third day.’
John 10:14-18, ‘“I am the good shepherd. I know My own, and My own know Me, 15just as the Father knows Me, and I know the Father. I lay down My life for the sheep. 16But I have other sheep that are not from this sheep pen; I must bring them also, and they will listen to My voice. Then there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17This is why the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it up again. 18No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down on My own. I have the right to lay it down, and I have the right to take it up again. I have received this command from My Father.’
Jesus loved His sheep to such an extent that He laid down His life as a sacrifice which would deal with their sin, and guarantee their eternal spiritual life. He knows His own and is known by His own. We can only wonder and give thanks for the love and commitment of the Good Shepherd. He is amazing – He loves us so much and He laid down His life for us!
In verse 17, the crucifixion is integrally linked with the resurrection. The resurrection was the next logical and irrevocable step after the crucifixion. ‘I lay down My life so that I may take it up again.’ Death had no hold on Him.
Elsewhere we are told that Christ was raised by God. Acts 2:23-24, ‘Though Christ was delivered up according to God’s determined plan and foreknowledge, you used lawless people to nail Him to a cross and kill Him. 24God raised Him up, ending the pains of death.’
The Spirit also had an integral role in the resurrection -Romans 8:11, ‘And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you, then He who raised Christ from the dead will also bring your mortal bodies to life through His Spirit who lives in you.’
Here, Jesus Himself says that He has the power to rise from the dead. The Resurrection, just like the Creation and Incarnation of Christ, were off such importance that the Trinity was completely involved in the miraculous process.
Matthew 28 on the Resurrection of Jesus
Resurrection morning is so amazing. In spite of guards at the tomb, the best attempts of human leaders to prevent something physically happening, the Disciples stealing the body of Jesus – they could not prevent the supernatural reality of the power of God to raise Christ from the dead.
They gave money to the guards in an attempt to subvert the truth about the resurrection – just as they had given Judas the money to betray Him before His arrest (Matthew 26:1-5, 14-16). Although human agencies created a false myth about the events of that morning – they were powerless to prevent the divine agency creating a physical resurrection of Christ.
Matthew relates the account of these insignificant guards who witnessed the coming of the angel, and the power of his appearance, Jesus’ resurrection caused a local ‘earthquake.’
Matthew has already told us about similar events at the moment of Jesus’ death in 27:51, ‘Suddenly, the curtain of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom, the earth quaked, and the rocks were split.’
Not only does He say about the impact on the physical Creation at Jesus’ death, but also amazing things that happened at the moment of His resurrection: 27:52-53, ‘tombs were also opened and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. 53And they came out of the tombs after His resurrection, entered the holy city, and appeared to many.’
Jesus’ resurrection is the firstfruits of our future resurrection; however, to demonstrate that the resurrection of His people was sure, at Jesus’ resurrection, a number of dead saints were also raised from the dead.
We often speak about Jesus raising the widow of Nain’s son, of Jairus’ daughter, of Lazarus’ being raised from the dead; the three recorded instances of Jesus raising a dead person back to life – yet, here, Matthew tells us that many others were raised from the dead and were able to resume their mortal lives at His resurrection.
At Lazarus’ raising, Jesus had said, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me, even if he dies, will live. 26Everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26).
Do you believe that Jesus is the resurrection and the life?
Do you believe that His death procured the chance for your forgiveness and acceptance by God?
As a believer, are you fully convinced about the resurrection? That after your death you will be forever with the Lord? You should be!
What took place on that first Easter Sunday morning was so amazing and miraculous – that it is still regarded as one of the three great miracles recorded in Scripture:
There are three Great Miracles in Christianity:
- Jesus’ Incarnation
- Jesus’ Resurrection
There are three more important events that are central to the establishment and vibrancy of the Church:
- Jesus’ Ascension
- The Coming of the Spirit
- Christ’s Ongoing Heavenly Ministry
Matthew and Witness
Matthew wants to emphasise three groups who are said to be witnesses to the empty tomb (the other Gospels also point to Peter and John, two of the three who were Jesus’ inner circle):
- The angels – a heavenly corroboration
- The women – those who loved Him gave testimony
- The guards at the tomb – His enemies even testified to the truth of what took place to the leading priests and rulers.
I love the way Matthew presents the story. In Matthew’s birth narrative, foreign wise men fall and worship – at the resurrection, it is these loyal women who fall and worship and His feet. Matthew starts by presenting the baby Jesus being worshipped, and so at the resurrection, the first contact with the risen Christ is that He is also worshipped.
At the beginning, Herod and the leaders are perplexed about three wise men looking for the new born Messiah – after the Resurrection, the guards and the Jewish leaders are perplexed about His resurrection.
Matthew is saying that Jesus’ resurrection impacts every strata of society. People may not believe in Him, but He will touch their lives in one way or another: they will either worship, or they will seek to stop and trouble His mission. There is no middle ground for Matthew. You are either a follower and a worshipper, or you are an enemy and an unbeliever.
As Paul tells us, death is the wages for human sin. We are sinners not only because of our deeds, we are sinners by nature. We naturally sin, and the penalty for sin is death.
Therefore, to overcome the power of death – Christ had to die. He had never sinned and therefore was not subject to the penalty for sin. On the Cross He became sin, that is the sin-bearer.
He voluntarily took responsibility for the human sinfulness, but He Himself had never committed a sin. That is why on the Cross He Himself had control over death. Sin and death could not take His life from Him – He had to yield up His spirit to God. Jesus embraced death in order that we might have access to His life.
When we think of Good Friday and our response to it – I think that we need to contemplate these words more, ‘Christ was without sin’ (1 Peter 2:22; Hebrews 4:15, Christ was ‘tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin.’ We can come to one who can sympathise with our predicament, with our temptations, but He defeated sin and so we can rest in His victory and willingness to help us also overcome and defeat sin, the power of self, Satan and the world.
Resurrection Sunday is the most joyous and holy day in the Christian year. There is no day like Easter Sunday. It is the day when Christians celebrate Jesus’ complete victory over Death, Satan, Sin, the world, and the Power of Self.
All that Christ accomplished on Good Friday on the Cross, was brought to completion in the Resurrection. Without the Resurrection, the Incarnation could not be completed.
If there was no resurrection, then we would stuck in a kind of religious limbo living for Christ for however long we live on this earth, but without the hope of spending eternity in His presence enjoying His inheritance. The Resurrection is that important.
What God started in the Creation is only made complete with the Incarnation of Christ.
Through the Incarnation of Christ, and the Cross of Christ, God dealt with the problem of the Fall and human sin, disobedience, rebellion, and lostness.
Through the Resurrection of Christ, God dealt with the power of death itself. Jesus overcame death.
Let us be wise and worship Him, and let us be wise and witness to His Incarnation, ministry, death and resurrection. Let us give witness to Jesus the Saviour and to Jesus, the resurrection and the life. What He has done for us, He can do for you, and for others… Amen