The resurrection of Jesus makes all the difference. In this Easter Sunday message, Nick concludes our tough questions series, looking at the encounter Thomas had with the Jesus. And how Jesus answers our questions and doubts. Easter is all about a New Day. What would it look like if we lived each new day in light of the resurrection?
He is Risen!
15 Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.
9 For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them – yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. 11 Whether, then, it is I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.
12 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? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 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. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either.17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.
20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. 24 Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For he ‘has put everything under his feet’. Now when it says that ‘everything’ has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. 28 When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.
Does it really matter what happened to Jesus? Does it matter if Jesus’ body was resurrected from the dead? The apostle Paul says “yes, absolutely it matters. In quite an astonishing passage, Paul comments that, if Jesus did not rise then:
- There is not nothing special about Jesus. (1 Cor.15:13)
- Our message is hopeless an our faith is futile. (1 Cor. 15:14)
- The Bible writers are liars. (1 Cor. 15:15)
- There is no answer for our sin. (1 Cor. 15:17)
- Christian funerals are a joke. (1 Cor. 15:18)
- We are pathetic and pitiful. (1 cor. 15:19)
The evidence that Jesus rose from the dead has to be worth investigating. For every follower of Jesus it is the reason we follow. Without the resurrection, a life following Jesus is meaningless. When Jesus rose from the dead it was the beginning of the new world that Israel’s God had always intended to make. The evil that had invaded this world, was broken and defeated on that first Easter morning. God’s kingdom has broken though on earth as it is in heaven.
God’s great plan of restoration is to bring people out of exile and back into relationship. That is the Kingdom of God, it’s what God wants to happen. God’s desire is that you and I would be back in relationship with him and back in relationship with the people and the world around us.
For Paul, “The main meaning of the resurrection of Jesus…is that God’s new world has been brought into being through this event, the long promised new world in which the covenant will be renewed, sins will be forgiven and death itself will be done away with.” Tom Wright
Paul shows that without the resurrection our faith and our future are meaningless. Without the resurrection there is no hope. The resurrection is central to what it means to be a follower of Jesus. The resurrection is what brings hope to despair. The resurrection is not just good news for each individual Christian. The resurrection is good news for the entire Universe. This is monumental.
“The resurrection of Jesus was the moment when the one true God appointed the man through whom the whole cosmos would be brought back into it’s proper order. A human being had got it into this mess; a human being would get it out again.” – (Tom Wright PfE, p212)
For Paul, what makes you really live life is the resurrection. The future is what counts. You cannot change the past. What’s done is done. What was said was said. Stop living in the past. And stop living just in the now. Live in such a way to change your future. How will you affect your future? How will you live tomorrow? What choices will you make to live this life? Live in such a way to affect the future of others? Don’t let your past haunt you and don’t be afraid of the future.
As we finish this Lent Adventure, look at how far we have come. From Creation to Fall. Through a people called to be a blessing, rescued form slavery, entering a promised land, getting it wrong again and again. Exile and return. The life of Jesus. His death and resurrection. And now the life we are called to live to continue the story….
If you live tomorrow, how will you live? What plans for living do you have? In light of the story so far, how will you contribute to the story in which you live?
How will you live in light of the resurrection? What impact does this reversal and defeat of death by Jesus have on the way you live life? Will you join with Him in the renewal of all things?
Read Romans 8:18-25
18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.
22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
Easter Saturday is a time of waiting. In the Orthodox Church, this is a day of transformation, from Sorrow to Joy, from Friday to Sunday. This Saturday is a day celebrating the death of death itself. The day when victory grows from inside the defeat. Death is a defeated enemy. In raising Jesus from the dead God set in motion the final defeat of death itself. “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. -1 Cor 15:54-57
Easter Saturday is also full of eschatological tension! This is the tension between the now and the not yet. There is a mystery to the Kingdom. We live in both the ‘Kingdom Now’ and the ‘Kingdom Not-Yet’. We live in both despair at what we see in the world around us, and triumph at the victory, Jesus won and the hope of all that is to come. Two quotes…
“Understanding the tension of the kingdom is essential to measure truth. Any teaching that tries to evade either the ‘already’ or the ‘not yet’ runs counter to the balance of Scripture. And doctrine always has an outworking in life. A defeatist emphasis will produce defeated Christians. A triumphalist approach will produce unreal people who live in a spiritual bubble, or worse, an arrogance and fanaticism that brings the name of Jesus into disrepute.” -Derek Morphew, Breakthrough, p203
“It is a matter of glimpsing that in God’s new creation, of which Jesus’s resurrection is the start, all that was good in the original creation is reaffirmed. All that has corrupted and defaced it–including many things which are woven so tightly in to the fabric of the world as we know it that we can’t imagine being without them–will be done away. Learning to live as a Christian is learning to live as a renewed human being, anticipating the eventual new creation in and with a world which is still longing and groaning for that final redemption.” -Tom Wright, Simply Christian
In your life, where are you experiencing defeat and despair? Pray for God’s Kingdom to come. For Hope to be restored. Know that death and despair do not have the final word.
Which way do you naturally lean towards? The ‘Now’ or ‘Not-Yet’? Do you tend to live in defeat and despair or triumphal fanaticism? How will you hold ‘now’ and ‘not-yet’ in tension?
Read John 19:16-30
16 Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.
So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. 17 Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). 18 There they crucified him, and with him two others – one on each side and Jesus in the middle.
19 Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: jesus of nazareth,the king of the jews. 20 Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. 21 The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, ‘Do not write “The King of the Jews”, but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.’
22 Pilate answered, ‘What I have written, I have written.’
23 When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom.
24 ‘Let’s not tear it,’ they said to one another. ‘Let’s decide by lot who will get it.’
This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled that said,
‘They divided my clothes among them
and cast lots for my garment.’
So this is what the soldiers did.
25 Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing near by, he said to her, ‘Woman,[b] here is your son,’ 27 and to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.
28 Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, ‘I am thirsty.’ 29 A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. 30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said,
‘It is finished.’
With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
Today is Good Friday, the day we remember the cross and the sacrifice Jesus made. As the Son of Man (Daniel 7:13) and the Suffering Servant (Isaiah 53) , Jesus identified with humanity and died on our behalf.
The point of Jesus’ death was to bring redemption for the rebellion in the Garden. It was the ultimate victory of God coming back into full ownership of His creation, now, but not yet. –Dr Winn Griffin
John reports that the last words of Jesus on the cross were “It is finished.” What was finished? The mission was accomplished, completed. What Jesus had come to do was done. He had gone through the final part of what he had come to do, in order, not to simply rescue people from this world so they could be in heaven with him one day, but to establish God’s Kingdom on earth. To bring rescue and redemption to the whole of creation. In Jesus words there are echoes of the final day of Creation, when the work was completed.
Jesus’ death was seen by Jesus himself, and then by those who told and ultimately wrote his story, as the ultimate means by which God’s Kingdom was established. The crucifixion was the shocking answer to the prayer that God’s kingdom would come on earth as in heaven. It was the ultimate Exodus event through which the tyrant was defeated, God’s people were set free and given their fresh vocation, and God’s presence was established in their midst in a completely new way for which the temple itself was just an advance pointer. – Tom Wright, Simply Jesus p181-2
As you pray and reflect on the cross, today, ask that you would see God’s Kingdom come in your life and the lives of others?
At the cross, Jesus took the judgement and death that was meant for you, onto himself. You have been set free, redeemed. How will this fact affect the way you live your life? Not just today, but the next and so on…?
What has been your greatest recent accomplishment? What challenge or challenges do you presently face? Nick takes a look at how Jesus resolutely set out toward Jerusalem in full knowledge of what was to happen, and encourages us to face our own challenges with that very determination.