The Resurrection

“I am the Resurrection and the life, says the Lord; whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.” John 11:25,26

Psalm 116:1-8
Epistle: Romans 8:6-11
O.T. Lesson: Ezekiel 37:1-14
The Gospel: John 11:17-27,41-45

As we prepare for Easter, one of the issues we have to address is the Resurrection of Jesus.   The problem started the moment it happened and is still an issue today.  The key feature of Christianity is the belief in the resurrection. Because of Jesus’ experience, we ourselves have to face the possibility of life beyond what we see.

The Jewish leaders proposed a way of handling the political fall-out of the resurrection on that first Easter by instructing the soldiers to start a rumour. They gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, ‘You are to say, “His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.”‘  So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed, [Matt 28:12,13,15].

A modern notion proposed is that Jesus fainted and revived in the coolness of the tomb (The ‘Swoon Theory’).  Another hypothesis is that the Roman soldiers moved the body.  One of the other theories proposed is the ‘Hallucinations Theory”- they just thought they saw Jesus.  However, each of these theories begs credulity in one form or the other1.

The reluctant disciples of Jesus struggled with the idea of Jesus’ resurrection, and at first were like those “from Missouri”- (“I won’t believe until you show me!”).  And the Bible records that only after Pentecost did they really have the courage to believe it. [see Acts 4:31].  After that, it didn’t matter what was done to them; they carried on boldly telling what they had experienced [see Acts 5:41,42].

The one we know as Saint Paul was a Jewish leader and a member of the Pharisee sect [a very strict conservative group] who was faced with a revelation of the Risen Lord. It dramatically changed his life and he became the foremost missionary of the Good News to the non-Jewish world of the first century [see Acts 9 and the rest of Acts].  The pattern has continued through time, and the history of the martyrs is a colourful story of pain, suffering, and death rather than accommodation or even compromise their faith and beliefs.  (For modern and historical information on martyrs, visit The Voice of the Martyrs website.)

Even in modern times, many have believed in the truth of the Power of God demonstrated in the resurrection of Jesus Christ; so much so, that they have taken the message to every corner of our world.  Often they will learn the language and construct a method of writing in order to give the message of the Good News in such a form that it could be taken to every corner of the earth in the native language of every person in the world2.

The Jewish people had a belief in resurrection and life after death, [not all, of course – see Mark 12:18] and as Jesus prepared Martha and Mary for the ‘Raising of Lazarus’ their brother, Jesus spoke of resurrection as being a part of His own character. “I am the Resurrection and the Life, [John 11:25].  In John 10:14-18 he also explained “I have authority to lay it [my life] down and authority to take it up again”, and then proceeded to do exactly that on the days  we call Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

But if this is just another story to you, the truth of the resurrection won’t do you any good.  The only way to demonstrate its reality is to put your belief into action.

I want to share with you a story.  Its based on fact, but could be told with variations by every one who has come to experience what the Apostle Paul calls “The power of the resurrection” [Phil 3:10, compare Romans 8:11].  Edith Burns3 had a habit of introducing herself, “Hello, my name is Edith Burns.  Do you believe in Easter?” Then she would explain the meaning of Easter, and many times people would respond to the Gospel.

Her doctor Will Phillips called her in one day, and with a heavy heart said “Edith, your lab report came back and it says you have cancer.  You are not going to live very long.”

“Why, Will Phillips,” was Edith’s reply, “Shame on you.  Why are you so sad?  Do you think God makes mistakes?  You have just told me I’m going to see my precious Lord Jesus, my husband, and my friends.  You have just told me that I am going to celebrate Easter forever, and here you are having difficulty giving me my ticket!”

She landed in the hospital, a few months later, just after New Years.  Everyone was exited about her except the head nurse Phyllis.  Phyllis had been a nurse in an army hospital.  She had seen it all and heard it all.  She was the original G.I. Jane.  She had been married three times; she was hard, cold, and did everything by the book.  To her, Edith was a “Religious Nut”.

When she walked into the room, Edith said with a smile, “Phyllis, God loves you and I love you, and I have been praying for you.  And I have asked God not to let me go home until you come into the family.”

One day Phyllis was drawn to Edith’s room like a magnet.  “You have asked everybody here the question, ‘Do you believe in Easter?’ but you have never asked me.”

“Phyllis, I wanted to many times, but God told me to wait until you asked, and now that you have asked…”

Easter Sunday, Phyllis came into work, did some of her duties, and went to the flower shop and got some Easter lilies to wish Edith a happy Easter.

There lay Edith, a sweet smile on her face, and her hands in her big black Bible…

Phyllis left Edith’s body walked out of the room and over to two student nurses.  “My name is Phyllis Cross.  Do you believe in Easter?”

1 Little, Paul E., Know What You Believe, Chicago, Inter-Varsity Press, 1968, chapter 4.  [return to sermon] also see McDowell, Josh. Evidence that Demands a Verdict, Here’s Life Publishing, 1979.  (Amazon.com has both Volume 1 and Volume 2 available.)

2 See Richardson, Don. Peace Child, Ventura Cal, Regal Books, 1974. [return to sermon]         See also Olsson, Bruce. Bruckho.

3E-mail story courtesy of Walt Seward. [return to sermon]

The Hope of Easter

Jesus’ resurrection is the basis for a life in relationship, both now and beyond this existence.

PREPARATION FOR EASTER — PART 2

Scripture focus- “The Son of Man must be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal  life.” [John 3:14,15.]

PSALM –– 33:18-22
EPISTLE — Romans 4:1-5,13-17
OT Lesson –Genesis 12:1-4a
Gospel Lesson –Matthew 17:1-9

The world today is in many ways an ugly place.  Hate, war, violence of all kinds justified in the name of religion or sport…. There seems to be a fundamental ‘rot’ in society…. Nature seems to be reacting with catastrophe after catastrophe….  Rust, and decay, disintegration, and obsolescence have made our planet a difficult place to live.   The ‘Psych’ wards are full, and there are not enough counselors and psychiatrists to meet all of the desperate needs of our disintegrating world.

Many people live in small communities like ours to avoid the “big cities” and all the crime, etc.  And then we have a murder!  We concern ourselves about health, and eat right and exercise, and someone gets leukæmia and dies.   Worry and fear tie us up in knots; we don’t know what to do.  We hope against hope that we will survive, but suicide ‘dogs’ our circle of friends, relatives, and acquaintances.

Our Scriptures today have been directing our attention to a feature figure from ‘yesteryear’.  A man who lived in an ungodly setting, but came to stand out as different.

The man Abram was seemingly a little shy and bashful, and very respectful of his family, and by the look of it did not push himself forward in society.  But he was a man who had put his faith and trust in God — Jehovah.  It would seem from his actions that he followed the ancient custom of recognizing the “Living God” in worship.  And so God came to him and invited Abram to join Him in His work, and His plan, a plan to provide a rescue for mankind in fulfillment of His promise to Adam and Eve after their sin. [“Abraham entered into what God was doing for him and that was the turning point.  He trusted God to set him right.” Romans 4:3 MSG]

God’s original plan was to create mankind to communicate with them and have a relationship with them as they enjoyed His creation.  But God is also Holy, and can only remain in a relationship where there is the capacity for a reciprocal, sinless, relationship.  Sin fundamentally changed all that: we now need someone to provide a way for us to get reconciled with God, in order to re-establish a relationship with him.

God provided that way in Jesus Christ.  His death cancelled the debt of sin we owe.  His resurrection is the basis for a life in relationship, both now and beyond this existence.

What then can we learn from Abraham’s experience?  Abraham survived the hardships, the famine, and the separation from his birthplace because he had hope.  He believed that God’s promises for an effective future were legitimate, whether he saw or understood it or not. And of course God gave the ultimate test when He asked Abraham to give up his son, Isaac: the son of the Promise. [Gen. 22, and condensed in Hebrews 11:17-19 “By faith Abraham… offered Isaac… Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death.”]   It was that model of faith that provided the Psalmist in Psalm 33 with the courage to express his confidence that God could be trusted in spite of circumstances.

Jesus’ disciples followed “The Messiah”, but were not always convinced that they were doing the right thing.  So once in a while God would encourage them.   One of those times was the incident mentioned on our Gospel reading: Matt 17:1-9.  Jesus was revealed to them in His radiance and Moses and Elijah as well.  Peter was “blown away” with it all.  But I believe it was one of the things that helped them to “hang in there” when it really got tough.

Jesus gave Nicodemus the strategy for having that kind of hope and trust and faith for himself — and it is for us as well.  Jesus said:

In the same way Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert1 so people could have something to see and then believe, it is necessary for the Son of Man to be lifted up– and everyone who looks up to him, trusting and expectant, will gain a real life, eternal life…  God didn’t do to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was.  He came to help, to put the world right again, anyone who trusts in him is acquitted.”[John 3:14-18 MSG]

Let’s look at Romans 4:13-16:

That famous promise God gave Abraham– that he and his children would possess the earth– was not given because of something Abraham did or would do.  It was based on God’s decision to put everything together for him, which Abraham then entered when he believed.  If those who get what God gives them only get it by doing everything they are told to do and filling out all the right forms properly signed, that eliminates personal trust completely and turns the promise into an ironclad contract!  That’s not a holy promise; that’s a business deal.  A contract drawn up by a hard-nosed lawyer and with plenty of fine print only makes sure that you will never collect.  But if there is no contract in the first place, simply a promise– and God’s promise at that– you can’t break it.  This is why the fulfillment of God’s promise depends entirely on trusting God and his way, and then simply embracing him and what he does.”[MSG]

Eternal life comes by faith- not based on our achievements but on His GRACE: the free gift of unmerited forgiveness.

Eternal life is real and it is for us to take by faith — despite the fact that we don’t have any ‘rights’ to it. So we need to:

  1. Admit that we need it.  [See Hebrews 11:6; I John 1:9]
  2. Believe God and trust him that what Christ did on the cross was adequate for everyone and for every sin and wrong.  [See Heb 7:25; John 3:17; I John 2:2]
  3. Commit ourselves to him completely leaving the results and consequences to him. [Proverbs 3:5,6; Hebrews 4:14-16; I John 2:15-17]
  4. And enjoy an abundant, full, complete life here and eternal life in the ‘here-after’. [See John 10:10]

© 2000 D. H. Friesen

Faithful in the Meantime

We are to go out into the world, being salt and light, until he returns.

[Concluding the Apostles’ Creed]
OT Lesson   Isaiah 52:7-10
NT lesson   Revelation 21:1-7

“The resurrection of the body and the Life Everlasting AMEN.”

“God is at work” and as He has “pursued a loving relationship that’s real and personal” [1. Blackaby, Henry T., Experiencing God, Nashville, LifeWay Press 1989] — we have responded.   We’ve invited Jesus Christ into our lives and have discovered that it has changed us.  The Holy Spirit is working to develop the character of Jesus Christ in our lives.

The Apostle John wrote in John 1:12,13 “To those who believed in His name He gave the right to become children of God… born of God.”  And the Apostle Paul writes in Eph. 1:5 that we are “adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ.  And “having believed, you are marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit who is the deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession.” [Eph. 1:13b, 14].

Humanity started out as perfect — without defect– complete– and capable of choice and responsibility. As a result of the sin of Adam and Eve all nature was ‘cursed’ [see Gen. 3] Weeds would make agriculture difficult– antagonism between humans and animals would make living hazardous and the pain of childbirth would remind us that sin hurts.

God had said that when “you eat of it (that is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil) you will surely die.” [Gen 2: 17]. And so from that point on the dying-disintegration.  Cells are dying as well as being reproduced and from adulthood on the dying goes faster than the reproduction.   But God wants to restore our bodies as well as us to Himself.  The “resurrection is God’s counter-fulfillment of a plan whereby He might redeem what had been lost in Eden” [2. Lockerbie, D. Bruce, The Apostles’ Creed, Wheaton, Victor Books 1977, p.130]

The Old Testament had introduced the concept of resurrection in Isaiah 26:19: “But your dead will live; their bodies will rise. You who dwell in the dust, wake up and shout for joy.  Your dew is like the dew of the morning; the earth will give birth to her dead.” And so in I Corinthians 15, Paul presents the logical arguments, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, for the fulfillment of that passage in the model of the Lord Jesus Christ.

So when Christ returns, our bodies will be changed and we will become like Christ [I John 2:3] — only in a changed body could we enjoy God forever “so in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye … we will be changed.” [see I Cor. 15:50-54].  And Paul concludes that because of these facts we can continue to do the work of the ministry God has given us in spite of the circumstances, “Because you know your labour in the Lord is not in vain.”  [I Cor 15:58] This ‘resurrection’ has the purpose of preparing us for the “Life Everlasting.” This ‘Eternal Life’ is not merely an extension of our existence related to time.  It has the connotation of “Outside of time” [3. McGrath, Alister, I Believe, Illinois, InterVarsity Press,1997] The flow of time as we know it here will no longer exist.  It is sometimes expressed as “a forever NOW”.   What it specifically will look like is beyond our ‘ken’ but it is figuratively described as this in a passage in the Revelation.  “Now the dwelling of God is with men and he will live with them, they will be his people.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain for the old order of things has passed away.”  [Rev 21: 3,4]

I can hear some people rolling their eyes and saying “So what!  That’s a ‘someday’ thing.  What about the here and now?  What difference does it make now?” I believe Barry Callen summarizes it well in the title to his book on the “End Time”.  He calls it “Faithful in the Meantime.” [4. Callen, Barry, Faithful in the Meantime, Napanee, Evangel Publishing House, 1997.]   He writes:

“The final judgment will establish as enduring reality the nature of the relationship with Christ that was chosen in this life… At death the burden of freedom is lifted; the wealth of freedom spent… Our individual life stories in this present world are significant and have permanent implications in the final unfolding of the divine story” [Callen,  255]

In II Peter 3 [see MSG], the apostle challenges us and reassures us that God is faithful and that His coming is seemingly delayed only in that He wants everyone to respond to Him so that no one will be “lost”.   Not all will respond, but God doesn’t want to lose any more people than absolutely necessary.

So we are to “Go into all the world and preach the ‘Good News’ (of Salvation) to all creation” [Mark 16:15], and  “make disciples, baptizing them, … and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”  [Mat 28:19,20]   We are to be Salt in order to make society taste better and last longer and to ‘Shine’ out our “Light” so that every one can get a clear picture of God and what He’s done for us and can do for everyone [see Matt 5:13-16].  Let us be “Faithful In the Meantime”.

THE APOSTLES’ CREED

I BELIEVE IN GOD, THE FATHER ALMIGHTY, CREATOR OF HEAVEN AND EARTH. I BELIEVE IN JESUS CHRIST, HIS ONLY SON, OUR LORD. HE WAS CONCEIVED BY THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT AND BORN OF THE VIRGIN MARY. HE SUFFERED UNDER PONTIUS PILATE, WAS CRUCIFIED, DIED AND WAS BURIED. HE DECENDED TO THE DEAD. ON THE THIRD DAY HE ROSE AGAIN. HE ASCENDED INTO HEAVEN  AND IS SEATED AT THE RIGHT HAND OF THE FATHER. HE WILL COME AGAIN TO JUDGE THE LIVING AND THE DEAD.

I BELIEVE IN THE HOLY SPIRIT, THE HOLY CHRISTIAN CHURCH,  THE COMMUNION OF SAINTS,  THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS,  THE RESURRECTION OF THE BODY,  AND THE LIFE EVER LASTING. AMEN

Other resources used:

  1. Alister McGrath, I Believe — Exploring the Apostles’ Creed, Illinois, InterVarsity Press, 1997.
  2. D. Bruce Lockerbie, The Apostles’ Creed: Do You Really Believe It?  Wheaton, SP Publications Inc., 1977.
  3. Holy Bible, New International Version. International Bible Society, 1984.
  4. Eugene Peterson. The Message, Colorado, Navpress, 1993.
  5. Gilbert Staford. Theology for Disciples, Anderson, Warner Press, 1996.

©2000 D H Friesen

Resurrection

The resurrection of Jesus.

I BELIEVE: REVIEWING OUR FAITH

APOSTLES’ CREED- RESURRECTION

O.T. Lesson Psalm 16
N.T. Lesson: Acts 1:1-11

Josh McDowell said,”After more than 700 hours of studying this subject, and thoroughly investigating it’s foundation, I have come to the conclusion that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is one of the most wicked, vicious hoaxes ever foisted upon the minds of men, or it is the most fantastic fact of history.” (McDowell 179)

Christianity stands or falls on this event.  Let’s take a look at the N.T. story in Matt 28:1-15…”An earthquake…the stone rolled back and an angel saying, “He is not here.  He is risen as he said…The chief priests told them (the guards) “You are to say ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep’. So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed…”   Jesus had predicted the event– look at John 2:18-22: “Destroy this temple and I will raise it in three days…After he was raised his disciples recalled…and believed.”

The Old Testament had predicted it– Psalms 16:10: “you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. And the early disciples used this passage to demonstrate the truths of the Good News [of the Gospel].  Acts 2:29-36 “David died and was buried… but he was a prophet…seeing what was ahead. he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ…

This fact became the centre feature of the Followers of The Way– notice what the apostle Paul says: “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings becoming like him [in spirit] to his death [in the hope] that if possible I may attain to the [spiritual and moral] resurrection [that lifts me] out from among the dead [even while in the body].” (Phil 3:10,1; NIV/ AMP)

Many people who do not want to have to acknowledge God’s plan for their lives have tried to get around that by pretending the resurrection never happened.   I Cor. 15:12-19 indicates that it was something that was there in the N.T. times already– “If there is no resurrection…then not even Christ was raised… then those who have fallen asleep [died] in Christ are lost.  If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.”  Some have claimed the disciples were hallucination and only thought they saw him alive; however, the lists of people who saw him and the locations and descriptions of those events clearly ‘debunk’ that theory.

Professor Kirsopp Lake (McDowell 255) tried to suggest that the women went to the wrong tomb, the disciples had already gone to Galilee and the women didn’t say anything for several weeks.  If that was true the Pharisees could have stopped the belief of the disciples by producing the real body.  The change in the lives of the disciples was so dramatic that even the Jewish leaders took notice “When they saw the courage of Peter and John…. they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13)

The good news is that this is available to us– Paul writes to the Romans — “Paul a servant of Christ Jesus… set apart for the gospel… he promised regarding his Son … who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead…through him …we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith…. I am not ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes….” (Romans 1:1-6,16,17)

But Jesus didn’t stick around here- He went back to His Father in heaven where he reigns.  He’s in charge of the universe [see Psalm 2] and at the same time pleads our case before his Father- intimately interested in our affairs and what affects us [see I John 2:1,2 and I Peter 5:7}  And eventually in his own good time the Bible says that he is coming back to take us who have put our faith and trust in him, with him to live and reign with him forever.

The phrase in the creed indicates that there will come a day of accountability when everyone will have to answer the great question- “What have you done about Jesus?”God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world but to save the world through him.“[John 3:17,18] However in Romans 1:18-20 we read … “So they have no excuse whatever for not knowing God“[NLT]

Do you know Him?  Are you intimately acquainted with Him?  Is the power of His resurrection at work in your life?  He pursues a continuing love relationship with you that is real and personal  And His is inviting you to become involved in the work He is doing.

Reference: Josh McDowell, Evidence that Demands a Verdict, San Bernardino, Here’s Life, 1979.

THE APOSTLES’ CREED

I BELIEVE IN GOD, THE FATHER ALMIGHTY, CREATOR OF HEAVEN AND EARTH. I BELIEVE IN JESUS CHRIST, HIS ONLY SON, OUR LORD. HE WAS CONCEIVED BY THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT AND BORN OF THE VIRGIN MARY. HE SUFFERED UNDER PONTIUS PILATE, WAS CRUCIFIED, DIED AND WAS BURIED. HE DECENDED TO THE DEAD.  ON THE THIRD DAY HE ROSE AGAIN. HE ASCENDED INTO HEAVEN  AND IS SEATED AT THE RIGHT HAND OF THE FATHER. HE WILL COME AGAIN TO JUDGE THE LIVING AND THE DEAD.

I BELIEVE IN THE HOLY SPIRIT, THE HOLY CHRISTIAN CHURCH,  THE COMMUNION OF SAINTS,  THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS,  THE RESURRECTION OF THE BODY,  AND THE LIFE EVER LASTING. AMEN

Other resources used:

  1. Alister McGrath, I Believe — Exploring the Apostles’ Creed, Illinois, InterVarsity Press, 1997.
  2. D. Bruce Lockerbie, The Apostles’ Creed: Do You Really Believe It?  Wheaton, SP Publications Inc., 1977. (Buy this book from Amazon.com)
  3. Holy Bible, New International Version. International Bible Society, 1984.
  4. Eugene Peterson. The Message, Colorado, Navpress, 1993.
  5. Gilbert Staford. Theology for Disciples, Anderson, Warner Press, 1996.

©2000 D H Friesen