(A guest blog by Jim Gamble.)
It was good to celebrate and proclaim the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus on Easter Sunday. Some argue that it doesn`t really matter whether Jesus was physically resurrected or not and others deny the resurrection altogether, they see it as mere myth or legend. This sort of scepticism is not new of course, even in the early church some Christians had fallen for this error. They had been deceived by the philosophies of the age which said there was no physical resurrection of the dead.
We can read the Apostle Paul`s response to this heresy in 1Cor 15 .
1Cor 15:3-11 (ESV)
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.
From v 3 – 4 we see that the reality of the physical death and resurrection of Jesus is so important that God foretold these events hundreds of years before they took place. Twice Paul repeats that phrase – according to the scriptures. The OT prophesied that God would send his Son to die for our sins. But Jesus didn’t just die. He was also raised from the dead, according to the Scriptures.
V 5 – 8 provides some of the historical evidence that God raised Jesus from the dead. God doesn’t expect us to have blind faith or to believe in fairytales and myths. We have already referred to the witness of the OT to the death and resurrection of Jesus and here we also have reference to the eye witnesses who saw Jesus after the resurrection. V5 says that Jesus appeared to Peter, and then the twelve , then to 500 of the brothers and so on … and last of all to Paul himself or Saul of Tarsus as he then was.
Not only did all these people see the risen Jesus, they were changed as a result. This is additional dramatic evidence because on seeing Jesus after his resurrection they were transformed from cowering wrecks into courageous witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus. The reality of the resurrection of Jesus gave them the confidence they required to face persecution. The resurrection has this kind of transforming power.
The main thought then in this short late-Easter blog is this :
The Resurrection has Transforming Power.
The resurrection of Jesus transforms our lives. Just by dwelling on the resurrected Jesus we will be transformed and will find that Jesus himself is at work in us, changing our appetites and desires. All of us are not changed to the same degree. Often we lose the wonder of Jesus and forget to concentrate upon him. But as we dwell on him and in him, Jesus is at work changing every believer to be more like himself.
The courage, the moral strength and resilience, the peace and joy that belong to Christ, he gives to us. His life dwells in those who trust in him. His resurrection gives us the certainty of coming resurrection. This certainty completely changes our present outlook in life.
If there is no resurrection then what have we to live for?. All we have to live for is the pleasure of the moment. Notice what Paul says in v30 – 32. ‘And as for us why do we endanger ourselves every hour? I die every day` he says in v31, then he adds, ‘what have I gained by this if Jesus has not actually been raised? If there is no resurrection he says in effect in v32 we may as well just eat drink and be merry for sooner or later we will die.’
You see the point Paul is making? He is not interested in being a masochist. It is because he is convinced of the reality of the resurrection that he is ready to subject himself to a life of danger. He is willing to face all kinds of hazards including shipwreck, beatings, imprisonment and execution. In fact, it seems almost all of the initial disciples were executed because of their refusal to deny that Jesus rose again.
Paul even describes his sufferings in 2 Cor. 4:17 as ‘light and momentary troubles’ and as ‘achieving an eternal weight of glory that far outweighs them all’. He is so convinced about the glory of heaven that he can let the things of earth go.
Like Paul then, let’s fix our eyes not on what is seen but on what is unseen. We can be so focused on our job, our families or on sport or entertainment. Some of us may have been more excited about the Masters at Augusta on Easter Sunday than about the Master! Some of us get more excited by the latest iPad which will be quickly superseded and become obsolete than by eternal realities. Paul reminds us that what is seen is temporary but what is unseen is eternal and imperishable.
Jesus is enthroned in heaven for ever. All power and all authority is given to him. He reigns and he is reigning inside every believer. To meditate on the risen, reigning Lord Jesus brings motivation to be like him, it brings hope, optimism, enthusiasm and certainty.
Only by setting our minds on the one who has been raised victorious over sin and death will we be able to live with victory over sin. His triumph over sin and death opens up for us a life of freedom from fear of death and slavery to sin. The Resurrection of Jesus has that kind of transforming power in our lives.
The Resurrection also has Justifying Power.
Justification is simply “the act of God declaring men free from guilt and acceptable to him”.
God raised Jesus on the third day as the guarantee that all who put their faith in him are forgiven. They are free from the guilt and penalty of sin. The price has been paid by the death of Jesus. If the cross was Jesus` payment for our sins, then the resurrection marked God`s acceptance of that payment.
Paul is very clear in v 17 of our chapter regarding the implications of denying the resurrection.
17 If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. And of all men we are most to be pitied.
That’s how vital the resurrection is. The resurrection of Jesus is verification that his death has paid the full price for sin. Because he has been raised justification is certain.
Rom 4: 25 `He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification`.
So then, in the resurrection of Jesus, God is declaring us to be just, to be righteous. This is only possible because in the resurrection the Father declares his Son to be righteous, he vindicates his Son, he vindicates his claims to be the Son of God in power and he shows his absolute delight in his Son .
So too in the resurrection of Jesus we can be justified and the delight of the Father and the vindication of the Father rests upon us. With that justification comes peace. Being justified by faith we have peace with God and assurance of heaven.
Heaven is guaranteed because of the resurrection.
V30 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead , the first fruits (the guarantee) of those who have fallen asleep.
We are freed from the fear of death. Some of us will have witnessed fellow believers and loved ones (some elderly and some not so old) calmly facing death without fear. With the confidence which comes through believing that Jesus has been raised from the dead. In the sure and certain knowledge that the day of resurrection is coming soon for all those who have been transformed and justified by the death and resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
`This is of first importance that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures`.
Let`s continue to focus our minds on our risen, reigning Lord Jesus not simply in the period of Easter but throughout the year. Easter is the reality that shapes the whole of our lives.