Forty Days of Resurrection
2012-05-03 – “01.He came out saying names”
On Easter Sunday Craig pointed out that we spent forty days in Lent preparing for Easter and challenged us to spend 40 days reflecting on the resurrection.
This thought has been ticking over inside me and so, although its a few weeks after Easter and Ascension is on the way, I’m going to share forty thoughts about Resurrection with you.
Hope you enjoy the journey!
“Woman,” he said, “why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”
Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”
16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”
She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). (John20:15-16)
Years ago I did an eleven day cycle ride to raise funds for churches. When the final events of the final day were concluded, I wanted only one thing: to go home! I think I was pretty curt to anyone who wanted to chat…
When Jesus rose from the dead He had conquered sin, death and Satan.
He had obeyed His Heavenly Father and drank the cup given to Him.
He was the Perfect Passover Lamb slain and come to life.
He had a reserved seat at the right-hand of God to look forward to.
One would expect that He was pretty focussed on being done with His earth mission and being with God.
But this is not the case.
The risen, victorious, triumphant, one and only Son of God emerges from the tomb _and_ He is calling people by name!
Mary didn’t even recognise Him…
Whether this was the blindness of grief or that her logical mind had told her that He was dead and that this couldn’t possibly be Him, the point is that it is His use of her name that sparks recognition.
They say that the most beautiful sound in the world is the sound of your own name.
As our Lord bursts triumphantly from the grave, He is not distracted by thoughts of going home now that the mission is done. For Jesus it has always been about people and not just the mission.
And so now, as Mary struggles, He speaks her name:
Because she is important to Him and He wants to get through to her and so He speaks her name.
And He speaks your name and mine too.
2012-05-04 – “02.A strange way to spend that Sunday”
Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him.
27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” (Luke24:13-32)
If I were Jesus’ press agent, I would be very very concerned about the way He spent Resurrection Sunday! Think about it… His victory was significant. He should have capitalised on the sensation His resurrection would have caused. He should have maximised the number of people He saw and tried to see as many high profile people as possible.
He should have used the day to make an appearance in the temple to show the “Religious Mafia” that they could not defeat Him. He should have gone to the palace to show old Pontius Pilate that he was wrong. He should have appeared in the market place to the biggest crowd possible.
Instead, He spends the bulk of the day (how long does it take to walk eleven kilometres when your heart is broken?) to walk with two unknown disciples on the road to Emmaus.
They were probably a married couple walking home to Emmaus. (This is why they can invite Him to stay with them.) One is named Clopas and we know that there was a Mary, the wife of Clopas, who stood with the women at the cross.
They are walking back from Jerusalem to Emmaus. Their hearts are broken, their dreams are shattered, their hope lost. They loved Jesus and believed in Him and they just cannot understand what has happened.
Jesus spends the day with them. During this time He does five beautiful things for them:
1. Journeys with them – at their pace.
2. Helps them unpack with their pain.
3. Establishes the Scriptures as their foundation.
4. Reveals Himself in the breaking of bread.
5. Sets their hearts on fire.
This sets the pace for the forty days between Resurrection and Ascension. This is what He was doing in the hearts of people over the forty days. For Thomas, for Simon Peter, and so many others.
The press-agents wouldn’t have let Jesus spend so much time with one couple, but in their experience we learn that the resurrection means that Christ is with us on the journey of life in the good and bad times, that His Word will guide us, that communion will help us recognise Him and that our hearts can still burn for Him.
2012-05-08 – “03.Getting our perspective right”
When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. 18 I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades. (Revelation1:17-18)
If I were doing these 40 days in some semblance of a chronological sequence, then I should be doing this passage right at the end… This is John the Apostle in exile on the Island of Patmos in about 90AD; some 60 years after the resurrection took place. John receives a vision of the risen Christ.
I am dealing with it here because we need a forceful reminder of the tremendous significance of the resurrection.
John is an old man, persecuted for his faith and near the end of his life. If he wasn’t asking the questions, then those around him were…
“Is it worth it?”
“Does it make sense to follow God all your life if all it does is land you up in exile in a dusty penal colony?”
“What is our hope in the midst of all this persecution and opposition?”
“Why should I persevere in my faith?”
John has an incredible vision – He sees the risen and ascended Christ dressed in a magnificent robe with a golden sash. His head and eyes glow with the fire of divine glory, His voice is powerful and a sword comes from His mouth and He holds stars symbolising the church in His hand.
And John collapses!
And the magnificent Christ comforts him.
“I am the Alpha and Omega – I encompass EVERYTHING.”
“I overcame death and it remains ever-defeated.”
“I have the keys of death and Hades – nothing can withstand me.”
The resurrection isn’t like Lazarus who was raised and then died again. Likewise some have argued that Jesus didn’t actually rise, but “lived on in the hearts and memories of the disciples.” That is simply not true. An aged John would not, after sixty years of struggle, have been comforted by a “memory.”
The actual resurrection and ascension of Christ is our assurance that life has purpose, that we do not have to fear death and that our sins are completely forgiven because He is alive.
2012-05-09 – “04.Comforting Peter”
They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon. (Luke24:33-34)
When the two on the road to Emmaus rushed back to Jerusalem with the account of their journey with the Risen Lord, they would also get some news: “The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.”
This one sentence is a very tantalising piece of information because we have no idea of what may have happened in that encounter, as there is no additional data anywhere else in Scripture. We have to try an imagine what may have happened.
I think Don Fransisco puts it best in his song “He’s Alive.”
Back inside the house again
The guilt and anguish came
Everything I’d promised Him
Just added to my shame
When at last it came to choices
I denied I knew His name
And even if He was alive
It wouldn’t be the same
But suddenly the air was filled
With a strange and sweet perfume
Light that came from everywhere
Drove the shadows from the room
And Jesus stood before me
With his arms held open wide
And I fell down on my knees
And I just clung to Him and cried
Then He raised me to my feet
And as I looked into His eyes
The love was shining out from Him
Like sunlight from the skies
Guilt in my confusion
Disappeared in sweet release
And every fear I’d ever had
Just melted into peace
He’s alive yes He’s alive
Yes He’s alive and I’m forgiven
Heaven’s gates are open wide
He’s alive yes He’s alive
Oh He’s alive and I’m forgiven
Heaven’s gates are open wide
He’s alive yes He’s alive
(You can watch it on You Tube if you have the bandwidth – it is a beautiful recording with an introduction by Don Fransisco and a full orchestra and huge choir doing backing
2012-05-10 – “05.To a badly mistaken brother”
Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles… (1Corinthians15:7)
James was one of Jesus’ four half-brothers.
Although they grew up with Jesus, they had a hard-time believing in Him.They were antagonistic and even thought that Jesus was out of His mind! In Mark’s gospel we read that they came to “take charge” of Him because He seemed to out of control to them.
But there was a Realisation:
Can you imagine watching your half-brother being crucified?
We don’t know when the penny dropped for James, but we do know that Jesus appeared to him.
Why should Jesus do that? James had no excuse. He had heard of his brother’s miraculous birth, the wise men, the angels, the flight to Egypt, not to mention the presence and example of Jesus in their midst. But sometimes familiarity can breed contempt…
We don’t have the details except that Jesus took the time to appear to James. BUT we can see the results:
1. Mary, James and his brothers join the church in Acts 1
2. James becomes the leader of the Jerusalem church.
3. James becomes one of the early martyrs
He had made a terrible mistake, he had been so wrong, but he was so forgiven!
What about us?
Has familiarity led you to minimise the importance of Christ in your heart?
Have you suddenly realised how mistaken you have been?
It’s not too late…
Just ask James!
2012-05-11 – “06. Thomas”
26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” (John20:19-29)
We call him “Doubting Thomas” but that’s not how he comes across in the rest of the passages that mention him. In those passages we see Thomas portrayed as courageous and insightful.
In John 11 he declares his willingness to go with Jesus to Jerusalem with Jesus even if it is risky: “Then Thomas (called Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.'” (John 11:16)
In John 14 Jesus is talking about His departure and He says “You know the way to the place where I am going.”
Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” So here Thomas is asking the penetrating question that leads Jesus to answer “I am the way, the truth and the life.”
But Thomas wasn’t with the disciples in the Upper Room on Resurrection Sunday when Jesus appeared to them behind the doors they had so fearfully locked. Was it because Thomas was ashamed that he had run away instead of dying with Jesus as he had committed himself to?
Or was it something else? His nickname (Didymus) means “twin.” It might be that he suffered a terrible loss involving his twin and this loss makes it harder for him to believe the good news of resurrection
For those who have suffered great loss, hope is hard to kindle…
But a week later, when Thomas finally sees Jesus, he does not need to touch Him, because it has all become clear: Jesus has suffered incredibly so that we are never ever alone.
Thomas utters the New Testament’s greatest statement of faith – “My Lord and My God.”
2012-05-15 – “07.First Importance”
Now, brothers, 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… (1Corinthians15:1-4)
There has been much discussion around the significance of the Resurrection. Some scholars have expressed their doubts about the physical Resurrection of Christ and have argued that this is not a key issue.
Paul writes a great deal about the importance of the Resurrection. Much of what he has written is found in 1Corinthians 15. To a certain extent we need to take today’s passage as part of Paul’s “creeds” and we will spend the next few days looking at this significant chapter.
Paul is summarising the gospel he preached.
He goes on to qualify this gospel as the one they received, that they took a _stand_ on and the gospel that _saves_ them if they hold firmly to it.
Paul points out that this is not a new version of the gospel, it is the gospel passed on to him – it has stood the test of time. There are always new and revisionist ideas that tantalise the minds of those who like to “tweak”, but Paul’s gospel has stood the test of time.
And he lists the four things that are of “first importance”:
- Christ died for our sins (Only the Son of God could carry our sins)
- Christ was buried (He was really dead – He was also fully human)
- And Christ was raised from the dead (His victory is complete)
- And this was all “ACCORDING TO THE SCRIPTURES”
Paul is clear:
The resurrection of Christ _is_ important! It is as important as His death and Scripture predicts, explains and underscores the importance of this victory.
Even if we firmly believe in the resurrection, I think it is vital for us to make sure that it is not simply that we believe this as a historical fact that took place 2000 years ago, but that we will get our hearts with Paul as we understand that this is a matter of “first importance.” It is part of our salvation and how we stand firm and it assures us that our faith is not in vain.
2012-05-16 – “08.A list of witnesses”
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 Peter, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers 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. (1Corinthians15:3-8)
The Resurrection is of “first importance.” It is our reassurance that Christ was victorious, that His sacrifice was sufficient and that we have the hope of eternal life.
Paul makes a list of the witnesses of the resurrection. I don’t think this is an exhaustive list, but rather a representative one. Paul, by this list, is showing that the resurrection has significance for all of us, no matter what we have done or where we have been.
Let’s go through the list briefly:
1:Peter – Disciple, close to Jesus, denied Jesus after promising to stay faithful. Fled the scene weeping bitterly. Found it hard to forgive himself. Jesus specially appeared to him twice.
2:The twelve – His followers, those who had journeyed with Him for three years. They had run away and were very frightened.
3:Five hundred brothers at the same time – we don’t have any additional detail about this, but the point is that it is hard to get 500 people to fabricate a false resurrection story. This appearance provides concrete proof the that the resurrection actually happened and although we can’t interview the 500, Paul’s implication is that the Corinthians could have verified it if they wanted to.
4:James the half-brother of Jesus (See eDev#05) had misunderstood and resisted Jesus, but after the cross and the resurrection, he became the leader of the church.
5:”All the apostles” was probably the group that gathered on the Mount of Olives for Jesus’ ascension and they represent the church.
6:The appearance to Paul is interesting because it is a visionary appearance rather than a physical one and it takes place after the ascension and really implies that Christ appears to all of us.
So there are six in the list: those who have failed, those who are frightened, a big crowd that proves it true, those who misunderstood, the church and finally Paul who didn’t meet Jesus physically but spiritually.
And by implication you and I are seventh in the list – He appears to us by faith.
2012-05-17 – “09.Linked”
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 to be pitied more than all men. (1Corinthians15:12-14)
There were some confused and misguided people in Corinth who were saying that there was no resurrection of the body. This false teaching came from Greek philosophy which saw the body as prison on the soul. This separation of physical and spiritual implied that death was the moment that the soul or spirit could float free from the body.
The Christian Gospel’s assertion of a bodily resurrection was unpopular with Greek Philosophers (See Acts 17:22-32) and so there were many who argued that there was no resurrection from the dead.
The NIV Study Bible shows how Paul unpacks the implications of this argument – If there is no resurrection of the dead then:
(1) “not even Christ has been raised.” (v. 13);
(2) “our preaching is useless” (v. 14);
(3) “so is your faith” (v. 14);
(4) we are “false witnesses” that God raised Christ (v. 15);
(5) “your faith is futile” (v. 17);
(6) “you are still in your sins” (v. 17)
(7) “those also who have have died in Christ are lost” (v. 18); and
(8) “we are to be pitied” (because we endure such hardship for nothing)
The ideas of eternal life, bodily resurrection and the Resurrection of Christ are linked. If bodily resurrection is not going to happen then why did God raise Jesus bodily? And why did He take His body with Him in the ascension?
The resurrection of Jesus kicks-off the wonderful reality of eternal life where we are not just disembodied spirits merging with the “cosmic consciousness” but that we will continue to be body, soul and spirit joined together with all the other saints worshipping God.
This is our great hope and it starts with an empty tomb!
2012-05-22 – “10.Christus Rex”
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 his own 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… 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. (1Corinthians15:20-28)
Christus Rex is the Latin Phrase which means “Christ the King” or “Christ Reigns.” Today’s passage makes this abundantly clear:
1.Jesus is the first to rise from the dead – never to die again! All other humans who experienced resurrection died again. His is the first human body to enter the throne room of God. He is the pioneer, the first-fruit of God’s Kingdom Harvest.
2.Death came into the world through Adam and became our mortal enemy (if you will pardon the pun!) Jesus is the “Second Adam” who would defeat death and break its power over us. “The last enemy to be destroyed is death.”
3.Jesus will return and when He does, those who belong to Him will experience resurrection and then the end will come. The end is when he “has destroyed all dominion, authority and power.”
4.And then… at the end of it all, when He has defeated all His enemies and nothing stands in His way, He will do an amazing thing: having conquered and overcome, He will do what many earthly kings and rulers have not been able to do: He will subject Himself to God the Father so that God may be all in all.
Dear eDev friends, this is our glorious King:
1.Humbles Himself by becoming a child in Mary’s womb and submitting to the “squalor of a borrowed stable.”
2.Then, having obeyed His Father’s will for 33 years in our broken world, He submits to the beating, suffering, torture of the trial and the cross. (Imagine God’s Son, spat on, humiliated and crushed.)
3.Then He emerges from the tomb,conquering death and defeating death and every other enemy. There is nothing that stands in His way.
4.BUT He doesn’t pathetically cling to power and glory, (which is what Satan tried to do) but lays His crown down before the Father.
What a Saviour, what a Messiah, what a KING!
Bow your head and your heart and WORSHIP Him!
2012-05-24 – “11.Meaning in Life”
And as for us, why do we endanger ourselves every hour? 31 I die every day–I mean that, brothers–just as surely as I glory over you in Christ Jesus our Lord. 32 If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus for merely human reasons, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised,
“Let us eat and drink,
for tomorrow we die.” (1Corinthians15:30-32)
Commentators are not entirely sure what Paul meant when he spoke about “wild beasts in Ephesus.” Did he mean that they were thrown in the arena, were they threatened with the arena, or was it that the enemies they faced were as vicious as wild animals?
Whichever it was, Paul is adamant that it is the hope of Resurrection that enables us to be courageous and self-sacrificing. The sure hope of the resurrection enables us to hold this life less tightly. It helps us endure hardship and to face frightening circumstances.
The hope of Resurrection puts this life in perspective: This life is preparation, the place where we develop character and where we learn to love God and Others more than ourselves and this life.
Without the resurrection it all seems futile. Why bother? Why not then “eat and drink for tomorrow we die”?
It is sad to observe that this generation of Christians is the most self-absorbed, world-conforming and non-wave-making generation of Christians yet. It is also interesting that this generation of Christians has a very high percentage of people, even highly qualified theologians, who question the resurrection.
Do you think there is a correlation?
2012-05-25 – “12.New Bodies”
So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43 it is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body…
54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
55 “Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?” (1Corinthians15:42-57)
Will we float around in the clouds and play harps in heaven? Or is it more like merging into the “cosmic consciousness?” Will we be disembodied spirits floating around?
These are all opinions that people have about heaven and eternal life, but they are opinions that are not based on God’s Word.
The Bible teaches us a few things about Eternal Life:
1.We will have bodies, but they will be whole and free of frailty. (Note Paul’s interplay: perishable-imperishable, dishonour-glory, weakness-power, natural-spiritual.
2.”Ah” you might say “see – it says a ‘spiritual’ body – we are going to float around!” But we also need to remember that Jesus was the “first-fruit” of the resurrection – our resurrection will be like His. He had a physical body that people could touch – he could eat with his disciples and walk on the beach with them (and I’m sure He left footprints in the sand!) But there was power about that body, He could disappear from sight and appear behind locked doors and ascend into heaven – it is a body free of the many limitations we now have.
3. The renewing of our bodies implies continuity. Saints throughout the ages realised that all of life is sacred – it is not only the “spiritual” activities (praying, going to church, reading the Bible) that are important but all of life: looking after our bodies; making food; looking after the sick and the frail and even playing sport should be done with God’s honour in mind. Paul is at pains the say there is natural BODY and a spiritual BODY. His point is that this kind of all-round-honouring-God-with-your-whole life is part of heaven. In Revelation we see the saints dressed in white robes, BOWING and CASTING DOWN their crowns before Him. All of life is sacred.
4. The renewing of our physical bodies means victory. God doesn’t toss aside our earthly life – He RAISES it. He overcomes the power of sin. It’s a subtle difference, but an important one: God doesn’t start all over again – He transforms.
“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
2012-05-30 – “13.Resurrection Process”
My apologies for the irregular eDevs the last while – it has been a bit hectic and I have had a lot of internet connectivity problems…
11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you. (Romans8:11)
Resurrection is not just pie-in-the-sky one-day-when-you-die.
In Ephesians, Paul explains that we are spiritually dead when we live by our sinful nature. For as long as sin runs the show in our lives, we are in a process of dying that will continue to and through our physical death and result in separation from God – the final and ultimate stage of the dying process.
This process of death is terminal – we cannot stop it or reverse it on our own. The root cause is our sinful nature that is the cancer that leads to this death. We cannot change our sinful nature on our own.
God does two incredible things: Christ’s death on the cross is like the surgery the removes the “tumours” of our sin. The Holy Spirit who comes to live in us is the “chemo” that deals with the “rogue cells” in our natures that cause the tumours of actual sin.
Death is a _process_ that is at work in us from they day we are conceived in our sinful world, and, if left unchecked, will continue into eternity. The Holy Spirit brings us to Christ so that we may receive forgiveness and enter into a life-giving relationship with Him
through the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives.
Resurrection is not just pie-in-the-sky one-day-when-you-die, it is the daily transformation from within that is initiated, empowered and effected by the Holy Spirit. His power at work in us will ensure that death has no hold over us physically or spiritually.
2012-05-31 – “14.Peter loved the Resurrection!”
Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. (Acts2:22-24)
These three verses give a powerful word-picture of Jesus Christ:
They describes His Incarnation (Word made Flesh), His ministry, His Deity, His death and His Resurrection.
Peter was transformed by Christ’s Resurrection and the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost. In the first sermon he preached, great emphasis is placed on the resurrection. We see this in the rest of Acts too…
Peter spends a significant portion of his Pentecost sermon (which converted 3000 people!) talking about Jesus’ Resurrection.
Peter’s points here are striking and succinct:
1. He was put to agonising death by wicked people (includes you & me)
2. GOD raised Him from that agonising death
3. It was impossible that death should hold Him.
People talk of suicide-by-cop: when people, who feel guilty but do not have the courage to end their lives, will act in a threatening way and the police will be forced to shoot them. Jesus didn’t do that. He was innocent, we were guilty.
God raised Jesus – this is an indication that God was satisfied that the price had been fully paid. Jesus experienced the FULL extent of the wrath that our sin had accumulated and there was nothing more to be paid, so God raised Him. (I shudder at the enormity of the agony that was compacted into His death.)
It was Jesus’ beautiful deity and sinlessness that made it impossible and inconceivable that ugly death could hold Him. Death is a grim pretender that was not part of God’s original creation. Death is the product of sin and disobedience and Jesus’ resurrection speaks to us of the supremacy of love, purity and sacrifice. The resurrection tells us that “death and taxes” are not the final reality, but God, goodness, sacrifice and love are what it is all about.
2012-06-01 – “15.Decay’s Destruction”
because you will not abandon me to the grave,
nor will you let your Holy One see decay. (Acts2:27)
We are still looking at Peter’s first sermon on the day of Pentecost… Here Peter is quoting from Psalm 16 which is a Messianic Psalm – a psalm which anticipated the coming of the Messiah and predicted what He would be like.
David was bumping his head against the Grave and against Decay and so do we. Decay is all around us. Decay in the environment, in morals, in hope, in health. Death is also about Decay. Death is where Decay becomes irreversible and final. And even after we have died our bodies decay.
Paul talks about Decay in Romans 8. He describes it like this:
“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 glorious freedom of the children of God.”
Are you frustrated by the chaos you see on the news and in the world around you? The “bondage to decay” is a despair-creating reality all around us that sucks us dry and threatens to extinguish hope.
In this Resurrection Sermon Peter is quoting a 1000 year old prophecy that makes it clear – It has ALWAYS been the plan that Jesus would rise from the dead. It has ALWAYS been the plan that He would break the power of the cycle of decay. He died but He did not decay. He died and now decay will never have a hold on Him.
And if we put our trust in Him, we too can break the shackles of decay!
2012-06-05 – “16.This is my story and my song!”
Then Paul, knowing that some of them were Sadducees and the others Pharisees, called out in the Sanhedrin, “My brothers, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee. I stand on trial because of my hope in the resurrection of the dead.” (Acts23:6)
It is significant that in the book of Acts, the the early church’s preaching was characterised by an emphasis on the Resurrection:
The preaching of Peter and John and the Jerusalem church (ch.4) emphasised resurrection, Paul stressed the resurrection on the Aeropagus in Greece (ch.17) even though people disdained him for it, and here in Acts 23 Paul proclaims the resurrection even though it makes the Saducees angry.
The Resurrection is a key part of our faith: Some consider it controversial and others consider it optional. The early church believed it, lived it and preached it.
Here are some of the important reasons why:
* It completed their picture of Christ who was both fully God and fully man. He died as a man for our sins and rose from the dead because death could never hold one as Holy as He.
* The resurrection was their hope that the sacrifice of Christ was complete and sufficient. There is nothing more to be done. Christ opens the way for all who trust in Him.
* Their faith was not a historical faith that could only look back to what Christ _had_ done. They were in living and vibrant relationship with the living Christ, who guided them, heard their prayers, and, as in the case of Stephen, welcomed them into glory.
* The early church faced intimidating circumstances. They were persecuted and even martyred for their faith. Their absolute conviction in the resurrection helped them to hold this life loosely.
They dared to believe that Christ was risen and they changed the world. Will we?
2012-06-06 – “17.Power in the present, Hope in the future”
I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
In the previous few verses Paul has dumped all of his past achievements in the garbage bin: His status as Jew from a well-placed family, his qualifications from Rabbi school, his impeccable track record of zealous piety, and his spotless reputation. Why???
For the privilege of knowing Christ.
For Paul, knowing Christ outshines everything else. More specifically, Paul has his eyes firmly on the awesome power of the resurrection.
For Paul the resurrection has two dimensions: Present and Future.
In the PRESENT the resurrection of Christ unleashes awesome persevering power. For Paul experiencing the power of Christ’s resurrection enabled him to share in Christ’s suffering and he was even willing to face a martyr’s death.
For Paul, knowing Christ and the power the resurrection means that we can overcome pain and suffering. It means that we can be brave and courageous. The power of the resurrection enables us to be purposeful and empowers us to walk in Christ’s footsteps even when they go through dark and lonely valleys.
In the FUTURE the resurrection of Christ becomes our resurrection. When Paul uses the word “somehow”, he is not casting doubt on the fact of the resurrection, but expressing his inability to grasp the method. In other words, he is saying: “I’m not quite sure how God will put together our old bodies after they have been buried, burnt or lion-eaten, but I know that because Christ was raised, we will be raised.”
Have you thought about the idea of the Resurrection working in you and giving you power to get through today??
Paul thought about it a lot!
(Tomorrow we’ll see Paul explaining the nature of the resurrection power even more.)
2012-06-07 – “18.Resurrection Power”
17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, 20 which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms… (Ephesians1:17-20)
In his typical complex and compound sentences, Paul is praying for the Ephesian Church. The bottom line of his prayer is:
“That you will know God better.”
But Paul expands on that: There are some core truths that we need to know deep inside – he wants the “eyes of our hearts enlightened” so that we will know:
1. The HOPE God has called us to. No matter how tough things may seem, we have hope – God is still in control and that hope can be our calm in the storm.
2. The glorious INHERITANCE we have in the saints. This is not only the hope of heaven, but the fact that we are part of the family of God right now.
3. The incomparable POWER at work in us who believe. We are not left to struggle on our own. The power that raised Jesus from the dead – the power of God’s Holy Spirit – is at work in you and me. This power is able to help us overcome temptation, to carry us through tough trials and to help us make an impact in our world.
So why don’t we see this power at work?
* Because many of us are too proud or stubborn to ask
* Because we have let sin and laziness sideline us
* Because we misunderstand the nature of God’s power.
God’s power is not like Asterix and Obelix’s magic potion, it’s not impersonal – it flows from our relationship with God. Look at Paul’s prayer: Knowing God better and experiencing His power are interconnected: two sides of one coin.
Are the eyes of your heart open?
2012-06-08 – “19.Part of who He is!”
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; 26 and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John11:25)
Lazarus has died.
Jesus predicted that he would die and that he would be raised.
On His “late” arrival Martha meets Him and she’s angry, confused and disappointed.
Jesus tells her that her brother will rise again.
Martha, thinking that He is speaking of resurrection someday, one day, mumbles back “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
But she doesn’t get it.
So Jesus makes it more clear.
Resurrection has never been about merely living forever.
Resurrection has never been about merely cheating death.
Resurrection has never been about merely mitigating grief.
Resurrection is wrapped up in WHO JESUS IS!
Resurrection is part of Jesus’ ontology (i.e. at the heart of His identity and being)
Jesus is LIFE.
He is the WORD and the agent of Creation.
Colossians 1:16-17 puts it like this: “For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”
LIFE in huge capital flashing letters _pulsates_ from Christ.
Resurrection to glorious eternal life is simply an extension of who He is.
If we think of who He is, it is unthinkable that life should have to end and that there is not rich, abundant, eternal and glorious life available to those who cling to Him.
He IS the Resurrection and the Life.
2012-06-12 – “20.Banishing Fear”
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. (John20:19-20)
Throughout his gospel John talks about “the Jews.” He does not mean the Jewish people as a whole, but a group I like to call the “Religious Mafia” – a group of ruthless and influential characters who benefited from being in control of the religious experience of the masses.
The disciples were hidden behind locked doors.
They’d experienced betrayal by one of their own, they’d seen the desperate jealousy of “the Jews” and they’d witnessed the callous disinterest of Rome in the actions of Pontius Pilate. They’d seen the cruelty of the Roman Soldiers and the finality of the cross. They’d come very close to being arrested themselves…
And then cruel, harsh Death had blindsided them and stolen their Teacher and vanquished their hope.
Now, gathered together, because all they had was each other, each of them was wondering: “When will they come for us?”
So the door was locked and they were afraid.
But Jesus appears behind these locked doors.
His body is resurrected, and, although He bears the scars of His suffering, His new body is able to appear and disappear over great distances. He is no longer limited by space and time.
And He offers them peace: A calm within the storm. Not merely the absence of trouble, but peace that transcends circumstances. It fills the disciples with great joy. (John uses the same word that the describes the Magi’s joy when the star settles over Bethlehem.)
These once-frightened disciples go from their locked-doors to proclaim the gospel all over the world, fearlessly facing the same Religious Mafia and even death.
They are no longer afraid – Christ is Risen!
2012-06-13 – “21.Counter-Intuitive”
Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen. (Mark16:14)
This is one of those verses that I wish wasn’t in the Bible. I wish Jesus didn’t have to rebuke the disciples. I wish they’d believed completely from the word go.
But the truth is that they didn’t.
The women didn’t get it. Mary mistook Jesus for the gardener. Peter went off by himself wondering what had happened. The two on the road to Emmaus spent a whole day without recognising Him and Thomas demanded tactile proof.
It seems discouraging that the early church battled to get it right. If they battled, what chance do we have? Why were they so “lacking in faith” and filled with “stubborn refusal” to believe?
Firstly, we must recognise that resurrection is counter-intuitive.
It counters all our earthly experience. We see everything winding down. Plants die, pets die, people die. This is the way of the world. This is what we know. It is very hard for us to believe otherwise.
Secondly, we must realise that we are marred by our sin. We carry guilt for the past and brokenness into the present and the future. There is a sense in us that this brokenness _must_ die. It must not and cannot live forever. And so we resign ourselves to death. (We forget that Jesus makes us a “new creation” (2Cor5:17))
Thirdly, this same sinfulness dulls the edge of faith and makes it difficult to believe. Our guilt and personal darkness inhibits our “faith muscles.”
Jesus has patiently appeared to them on more than one occasion. He has reassured them, eaten with them, and even invited them to touch His wounds. Now He also rebukes them. Not cruelly or harshly, but to waken them.
Because the resurrection MATTERS!
2012-06-15 – “22.Business as usual?”
Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Tiberias.
It happened this way: …
[Seven of the disciples were together.]
“I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. (John21:1-3)
In the previous chapter Jesus commissioned the disciples go out into the world in the same way as the Father had sent Him.
But they’ve travelled back to their home area and back to their homes and familiar surroundings.
Why did they go fishing??? Here’s a multiple choice:
A) We mustn’t read in too much: they needed to feed themselves.
B) They went back to “business as usual” – “fishing for men” was too scary
C) They were wanting to re-enact, re-create or re-live the experiences (sights, smells, etc) back when Jesus first called them.
D) Some of the above.
E) None of the above.
I don’t think there is a definitive answer to the question. I think there is an ambiguity in the text that mirrors the life challenges you and I face as we contemplate the resurrection.
You and I encounter the Risen Christ in church or in our daily Quiet Time, but we have to get into our work day of reports, emails, chores and duties. There are various reasons why:
1. it pays the bills and meets the needs
2. it is a retreat and escape from God’s call on our lives
3. we are hoping that we will see God at work in our lives.
The first is practical, the second is not so healthy, the third is a better approach – the truth is that it is often a mixture of all three.
The comforting thing is that Jesus appears on the beach.
If we will open our eyes, we will see the Risen Christ standing in our “Business as Usual” places, ready to do amazing things.
2012-06-19 – “23.Re-visioning”
Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.
5 He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”
“No,” they answered.
6 He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. (John21:4-6)
This is the second time that the fishermen have had their nets filled by a Carpenter. Fishing in Galilee was most successful at night – if the sun rose and your nets were empty, your fishing had failed.
When Jesus initially called Peter and some of his friends, He had also filled their nets against all expectations. At that time Jesus called Peter to follow Him and become a “Fisher of Men.”
Now, after the resurrection, Peter goes back to fishing and we don’t know whether he meant it as a permanent thing or just a “timeout.” It doesn’t really matter either way… what _is_ significant is that Jesus is there.
Their own efforts have been unsuccessful and so Jesus fills their nets again. By doing this He is reminding them:
1. They hadn’t succeeded in their own efforts.
2. The age of miracles wasn’t over
3. If they followed His lead they could experience great blessing.
But there is one more interesting perspective… If you read on to verse 11, you will see that they caught 153 fish. The church father, Jerome, observed that the scholars of the ancient world had counted the various species of fish and come up with the number of 153!
This could mean that this catch was saying “Disciples, you’ve (symbolically) caught all the fish you’re ever going to catch – now follow me and fish for men! It could also mean that the gospel would go to all nations.
This intimate encounter on the beach was a sermon in action, a parable in events, and it was meant to re-kindle the disciples’ faith and re-vision them for the great commission.
Sometimes Jesus finds us in familiar places: a favourite hymn, a passage of Scripture we know well, a place where we have prayed significant prayers, or even in a place of familiar failure and He reminds us that we need Him, that He can miraculously bless us and that there is work to do.
2012-06-20 – “24.Waking us up.”
Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. 8 The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. 9 When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread…
15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you…” (John21:7-15)
This is not the first time Peter has seen the Resurrected Christ, in fact, this is probably the fourth: Jesus appeared to Peter alone (Luke 24:34), then He appeared to the disciples in the upper room and then again a week later when Thomas was with them.
So why is Peter jumping into the water?? After a long night of fishing, I don’t think he was hot! I think it is more likely that he was tired and cold.
But John recognises Jesus and Peter jumps into the water – he just _has_ to be with Jesus.
But there is a surprise at the shore. Jesus has a fire burning and there are already some fish on it. The Greek word for the coal fire is an unusual word, so unusual that it only appears in one other place in the whole NT: To describe the fire in the courtyard of the High Priest where Peter denied Jesus three times.
What follows is the walk where Jesus asks Peter three times “Do you love me?” and Peter is able to respond – basically undoing his three denials with three affirmations of love.
It seems to me that Peter was still asleep.
He’d seen the resurrected Jesus, but he hadn’t yet allowed himself to love Jesus again – the resurrection was a fact, but not a relational reality to Peter. But now, here at Galilee where it all started, Jesus wakes Peter up. As Peter recognises Jesus on the shore it _dawns_ on him that he longs for Jesus more than anything.
With a splash Peter begins to wake up!
His guilt is forgiven and he can affirm his love for Jesus.
Are you awake???
Footnote: Jesus uses the word “agape” for love – it implies Godlike unlimited love – Peter isn’t ready for that yet, he uses “fileo” which is brotherly love, but Jesus knew that Peter’s love would grow to the point that he would die a martyr’s death. And Peter was ultimately crucified upside-down at his own request because he felt unworthy of dying like His Lord. His love had grown…
2012-06-21 – “25.Final Instructions #1″
Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew28:16-18)
Most of us assume that Jesus’ words at the end of Matthew are things that He said just before ascending, but the geography of the Ascension and this passage are not the same. Jesus ascended from the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, but in this passage He is on a mountain in Galilee… (think Joburg and Free State) and so it seems that Jesus issued this “Great Commission” a while before He ascended into heaven.
When one thinks about it, this makes perfect sense. The Great Commission was to be the disciples’ mission and vision from here on. It is impractical and improbable that Jesus waited until the very last day before He gave them their instructions. I am sure He repeatedly reinforced the task that lay ahead of them during the forty days of Resurrection Appearances.
To that end we need to look at the passages at the end of all four gospels as part of Jesus’ Training Programme for the disciples and learn to appreciate that these “vision talks” came to them at various times and in various settings so that they had time to chew and digest what they were being called to do.
Today we will look at just one thought from this passage: “but some doubted.”
I am disturbed and comforted by this passage: Disturbed because if people had actually witnessed the resurrected Christ and still doubted, then what hope do I have? But maybe the existence of doubt is common and expected, and that I should not fear doubt, but overcome it.
I am comforted in the way that Jesus deals with their doubt:
1. He reminds them who He is – “All authority has been given to me.”
2. He still entrusts them with a mission – in spite of their doubt.
3. He promises to be with them.
More on this tomorrow…
2012-06-22 – “26.Final Instructions #2″
Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew28:16-18)
As we saw yesterday, this is one of the occasions Jesus used to commission the disciples, we’ll look at Mark, Luke, John and Acts too…
Our specific interest is the Great Commission in the light of the Resurrection: Matthew tells us that “they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted.”
One has to wonder about the nature of the doubts they had. Did they doubt the resurrection? Did they doubt the future? Did they doubt themselves?
Whatever their doubt was, Jesus reassures them:
He has ALL authority:
- Because He obeyed the Father (Heb10:5)
- Because He finished the work He was sent to do (Joh17:4)
- Because He was the Lamb that was slain for us (Rev5:9)
- Because it was impossible for death to hold Him (Act 2:24)
- Because nothing can separate us from His love (Rom 8:38)
We don’t go into world having to stand in our own authority. We go into the world bearing and wearing Christ. We make disciples and baptise in HIS name, we teach what HE taught and experience HIS presence.
It is the resurrected, living and present Christ who sends us into the world, asking us to “remember Him” to the world.
- We remember that He came for us – and we tell others…
- We remember that He saved us – and we tell others…
- We remember that He is alive and with us – and we tell others…
The Great Commission is given by the Risen, Victorious and Present Christ – He trusts us enough to put His name and message into our hands – we should be inspired and raring to go!
eDevs will take a break for the school hols…
Please pray for the holiday club we run at the church next week.
Here are the texts I quoted above:
- Because He obeyed the Father
HEBREWS 10:5 Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said:
“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
but a body you prepared for me;
- Because He finished the work He was sent to do
JOHN 17:4 I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.
- Because He was the Lamb that was slain for us
REVELATION 5:9 And they sang a new song:
“You are worthy to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
because you were slain,
and with your blood you purchased men for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation.
- Because it was impossible for death to hold Him
ACTS 2:24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.
- Because nothing can separate us from His love
ROMANS 8:38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
2012-07-17 – “27.Final Instructions #3″
After a break for the holidays, the eDevs are back. Just to recap… we are busy with 40 reflections on the Resurrection and in particular we are looking at the “commissions” we find at the end of the gospels and the beginning of Acts.
These were given by the Risen Christ in the Forty Days between His Resurrection and Ascension…
Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.
15 He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.” (Mark16:14-18)
Like Matthew, Mark also draws attention to the doubting of the disciples. But Mark doesn’t call it doubt, he calls it “a stubborn refusal to believe” (The Greek is “sklerokardia” – hardness of heart). It seems that doubt in the resurrection is a big and concerning issue.
Belief in the resurrection is the _foundation_ of a powerful missionary church. The clearer our picture of a resurrected victorious Christ is, the more likely it is that we will “Go into all the world”, that we will see lives changed and miracles will accompany us.
We so easily confine Jesus to the pages of history. Our faith becomes a paging through a scrap book of yellowing photos – Baby Jesus in the manger in Bethlehem, Jesus in the dusty streets, Jesus talking to the crowds at Galilee, Jesus dying on the cross…
But the great hymn says:
“I serve a Risen Saviour – He’s in the world today
I know that He is living – whatever men may say
I see His hand of mercy; I hear His voice of cheer;
And just the time I need Him, He’s always near.
He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today!
He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way.
He lives, He lives, salvation to impart!
You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart.
As a teenager I was part of a vibrant youth group where we saw young people give their lives to Christ, come out of satanism and go into the ministry. We saw healings, miracles and amazing answers to prayer. Guess what our favourite favourite chorus was…
It was: “God’s not dead, NO! He’s alive, I feel Him in my heart, I feel Him in my feet, I feel Him on the street – I feel Him all over me!”
Mark links soft-resurrection-believing hearts to missionary fervour and signs and wonders. Hard-hearts that lose sight of the resurrection don’t “Go” and don’t experience God’s power.
Do you KNOW He lives?
2012-07-18 – “28. Final Instructions #4″
Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” (Luke24:45-49)
In Luke’s perspective of Jesus’ commissioning of the disciples, we see an important emphasis which is also evident in the Emmaus Road experience which is in the first part of the same chapter.
The emphasis is that the crucifixion, resurrection and the promise of the Holy Spirit are not random or spontaneous events, but events that are clearly described in Scripture.
Luke’s emphasis is that the Scriptures provide a solid base for our faith in Christ’s suffering, resurrection and promise to send the Holy Spirit.
The resurrection is not only _reported_ in Scripture, but is _predicted_ by the Old Testament. Scripture resonates with the expectation that the Messiah will overcome.
Luke reminds us that Jesus opened the disciples minds so that they could understand the Scriptures. This understanding would help the disciples not only to be “random witnesses” of the resurrection, but that they would see the “bigger picture” of God’s overall plan.
This clarity on God’s purposes and plan combined with their experience of the Risen Christ would enable them to preach “repentance and forgiveness in His name to all nations.”
So, to summarise: The resurrection commission in Luke reminds us that Scripture is the solid foundation for us to understand God’s plan and be motivated to go out and tell others.
Jesus wants us to understand the Scriptures, but not only in our heads but in our hearts as well. Our understanding should motivate us to tell others: “It was always God’s plan that His Son would overcome our sin! Turn to Him and receive His forgiveness.”
2012-07-19 – “29. Final Instructions #5″
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” (John20:19-21)
(We’re still looking at the various “commissions” that Jesus issues at the end of Gospels and also from the start of Acts – particularly in the light of the Resurrection.)
There are two significant aspects to the commissioning in John:
Firstly there is the reaction that the appearance of the Resurrected Christ provokes: Joy and Peace. Church becomes a dull and unattractive when its members (you and me) lose the joy and peace that comes from knowing that Jesus is alive.
Joy because He overcame death and we don’t have to be without Him. Peace because He was victorious over our sin and guilt. We don’t have to fret or strain – Christ is with us and we can overcome because He faced the darkest pain that humanity could produce and overcame.
Joy and Peace is ours through Him.
If we lose our joy and peace it is because we have forgotten WHO He is and WHAT He has done.
Secondly there is a “vibe” or “style” in which we are sent – “As the Father sent me – I am sending you…” We are to go into the world as Jesus did:
- Ready to serve
- Gracious in love
- Not afraid to die – certain that Jesus will raise us into everlasting life.
We don’t go into the world representing a tattered martyr – we go into the world in fellowship with a Risen Saviour who gives us Joy and Peace and empowers us to live like He did.
What are we waiting for?
2012-07-20 – “30. Convincing Proofs”
My apologies for the lateness of today’s devotion: It is my son Caleb’s 12 birthday and so my usual early morning routine made way for a happy celebration!
After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. (Acts1:3)
In recent times even here in South Africa, serious theologians have expressed serious doubt about the resurrection…
Luke has no doubts.
In the closing chapter his gospel and now in the opening chapter of Acts, Luke is absolutely adamant: CHRIST IS RISEN.
The original Greek is even more striking – if I translate a little more literally: “He presented Himself alive after His suffering by many signposts, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the Kingdom of God.”
The book of Acts is about the spread of the gospel. It is about the message of the Church. It is about the Kingdom of God. But for Luke there is only one foundation that the life, witness and mission of the church can be built on, and that is the fact that Jesus PRESENTED Himself _alive_ and that He gave them “signposts” (think of the old Roman milestones) that He was alive.
One of the commentators explained the Greek word for “Signposts” (convincing proofs) as follows: supplying indisputable information, “marking something off” as unmistakable (irrefutable).
Why the forty day long delay between resurrection and ascension?
To lay a solid foundation – Christ is Risen.
On Sunday when you go to church, you are participating in a 2000 year old phenomenon: Against all odds, in spite of many show-stopping roadblocks and even though it has been hamstrung by many failures, the Kingdom of God has spread and the church continues – why? Because Jesus is Risen and His ongoing life is the foundation of the Church!
2012-07-24 – “31.The key to the promise”
“We tell you the good news: What God promised our fathers he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus. (Acts13:32-33)
Paul is in a synagogue in Pisidian Antioch. He has been invited to speak and he starts his sermon by going from Joburg to CapeTown via Cairo! (I’ve pasted the whole sermon below for you to read…)
He goes all the way back to Egypt and Moses and alludes to how God delivered them from slavery. He continues by talking about the entry into the promised land, the time of the Judges (Samson, Gideon, etc) and the appointment of David as the Israel’s greatest King.
Then he moves on to talk about the coming of Christ, but even there he takes a quick diversion to John the Baptist, alluding to him as the “second Elijah.”
All these digressions are a strategic move by Paul. He is reminding his listeners of the deep-seated and historically-anticipated hope of a Messiah who would rescue them from slavery, be their Judge (the Hebrew word also implies “Liberator”) and their great King.
This longing was deeply embedded in the soul and psyche of the nation. As Paul travelled to cities all over the known world, he would always start at the synagogues and his message (when you boiled it down to basics) was: “The promise has been fulfilled!”
But there had been many false Messiahs. Many had hoped that the Maccabbee brothers who rebelled against the Greek dynasty in 164BC would be the Messiah to liberate the people of Israel, but it was not to last.
Why should people believe Paul’s claim that a Country Carpenter was the Messiah?? Because God raised Him from the dead.
The Resurrection reassures us:
- The promises _are_ true!
- We _can_ dream again!
- This _will_ endure!
No matter what setbacks we experience, Jesus faced the worst setback of all and He is ALIVE!
H A L L E L U J A H !
AC 13:16 Standing up, Paul motioned with his hand and said: “Men of Israel and you Gentiles who worship God, listen to me! 17 The God of the people of Israel chose our fathers; he made the people prosper during their stay in Egypt, with mighty power he led them out of that country, 18 he endured their conduct for about forty years in the desert, 19 he overthrew seven nations in Canaan and gave their land to his people as their inheritance. 20 All this took about 450 years.
“After this, God gave them judges until the time of Samuel the prophet. 21 Then the people asked for a king, and he gave them Saul son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin, who ruled forty years. 22 After removing Saul, he made David their king. He testified concerning him: `I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’
23 “From this man’s descendants God has brought to Israel the Savior Jesus, as he promised. 24 Before the coming of Jesus, John preached repentance and baptism to all the people of Israel. 25 As John was completing his work, he said: `Who do you think I am? I am not that one. No, but he is coming after me, whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.’
26 “Brothers, children of Abraham, and you God-fearing Gentiles, it is to us that this message of salvation has been sent. 27 The people of Jerusalem and their rulers did not recognize Jesus, yet in condemning him they fulfilled the words of the prophets that are read every Sabbath. 28 Though they found no proper ground for a death sentence, they asked Pilate to have him executed. 29 When they had carried out all that was written about him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb. 30 But God raised him from the dead, 31 and for many days he was seen by those who had traveled with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. They are now his witnesses to our people.
32 “We tell you the good news: What God promised our fathers 33 he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus.
2012-07-25 – “32. Telling Timid Timothy”
Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained. (2Timothy2:8-9)
Timothy was a protégé of Paul. Paul was training him up and equipping him to continue the work of proclaiming the gospel. Many commentators have pointed out that Timothy was hesitant and that he lacked decisiveness and courage. Some have even called him “Timid Timothy.”
In this second letter to the young Timothy, Paul reminds him “you have not been given a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.”
Paul continues telling Timothy to be bold and brave and in chapter two he uses all kinds of images:
- He must _endure_ like a soldier
- He should _strain_ forward like an athlete
- Take all-or-nothing _risks_ like a farmer who spends his savings to plant a crop.
But this is not easy to do. And so Paul reveals his most inspiring argument: “Remember Christ, raised from the dead… This is my gospel!”
For Paul it boils down to the resurrection. It is this amazing, incredible and stunning victory that is Paul’s “good news” (that’s what “gospel” means.)
This isn’t a theory for Paul – it is real! Paul writes from the discomfort and uncertainty of prison. He has endured, strained and risked. He has been a soldier, athlete and farmer because the resurrection assures him that the victory is sure.
God’s (final) Word (Christ) is not chained – He is Risen.
The resurrection is a stunning victory that we should never never never never take for granted! His resurrection can make us endure, strain and risk! Paul did and we can too!
2012-07-26 – “33.The cherry on the top”
18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 20 He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. 21 Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God. (1Peter1:18-21)
Here’s the whole story of the Gospel…
We are not our own – we have been bought at a price.
* The value of price paid for us is incalculable.
* The price paid is the very life (precious blood)
of the perfect (lamb without blemish) Son of God (Christ).
* Before the creation of the world, God knew that only Christ could save us from the consequences of sin – He created us anyway!
* He still touches people’s lives today and this is because He rose from the dead and is glorified at God’s right hand.
* Our God is not a martyr or merely a historical figure.
He is alive!
The gospel story is amazing:
- God created us and gave us free will, knowing that it might cost His Son
- God paid a massive price to save us: the price was not silver or gold, the price was very personal. The price was His own Son.
- He personally came into the world to save us.
- He rose from the dead to give us faith and hope.
The resurrection is the cherry on the top of the most amazing Good News, without it, faith and hope would not find its entry into our hearts.
Thank YOU Lord for Your great love, Your great sacrifice and Your resurrection that puts it all into our hearts!
2012-07-27 – “34.Transforming Power”
All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. (Acts4:32-33)
The Early Jerusalem Church was a powerhouse! In one day it grew from a small group that could fit in the Upper Room to over 3000. Luke tells us that the church grew daily, enjoyed the favour of the people and that God did mighty miracles through the disciples.
What was the secret to their power, unity and generosity? What was it about the gospel message that transformed people’s lives in such a miraculous way and how deep was the level of change?
As Luke describes the early church, one cannot help but be impressed at the depth of the change. As he describes it here, the members of the church are transformed at two significant levels: Unity and Freedom from Materialism.
We are divided over all sorts of things: race, culture, class, habits, style and personality. When people can overcome their differences it is an amazing thing! The early believers were “one in heart and mind.”
To shake off the fetters of materialism is not easy. When the early Christians were able to hold their possessions loosely, it made a huge impression. They were willing to share and see the bigger picture.
What was it about the early church that helped it be so significant in unity and generosity?
Luke ascribes it to the fact that the apostles testified to the resurrection. (He does it here and in 4:2 and 17:18 and 24:21) It is the power and grace of the Risen Christ and the triumph of His life over death that transformed the early church.
The more we celebrate that He is RISEN the more we will experience His power. The more we forget, ignore or deny the wonder of the Risen Christ the more we will be depleted by materialism and petty divisions.
2012-08-01 – “35.A new life available to us”
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Colossians3:1-4)
Jesus’ death and resurrection makes a new life available to us.
In Ephesians 2:1-2 Paul describes the world like this: “you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.”
We were stuck! We lived as broken people in a broken world where Satan (the “ruler of the kingdom of the air”) runs amok and we fell under his dominion. But Paul explains that Jesus’ resurrection makes a new life available to us:
1. We have been raised _with_ Christ. As certainly as He is alive, we have the assurance that for sin is forgiven and that we do not have to face eternity without God. We will “appear with Him in glory.”
2. We now have a new regime/management/allegiance available to us. We don’t have to follow the “ruler of the kingdom of the air” – we can follow the One who “is seated at the right hand of God.”
3. His resurrection means we have a larger vision. We do not have to focus on the hurly burly of this broken world as our destination. We have _hope_ and _purpose_ because He has made the “things above” available to us. I don’t work for a pay-cheque and an earthly boss any more, I work to hear Him say “Well done, good and faithful servant.” I don’t labour to “keep up with the Joneses” – I labour because it glorifies Christ.
4. I have died to an old life of trying to save myself and I live in the blessed assurance that my life is now securely hidden in the life of the Risen Christ.
This is the resurrection life that is ours! Hallelujah!
2012-08-02 – “36. Temple re-defined”
Then the Jews demanded of him, “What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?”
Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”
The Jews replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” 21 But the temple he had spoken of was his body. 22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken. (John2:18-22)
The Jews believed that the physical temple in Jerusalem was God’s earthly address. They were sadly mistaken. The Old Testament describes the temple (and sometimes the whole earth) as merely God’s foot-stool. Even Solomon, while dedicating the temple, realised that God is much too great to be contained in an earthly building.
In 1Kings 8:27 he says “But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built!”
But God has another temple in mind: He wants fellowship with us. He wants to live IN us. Paul explains this to the Corinthians: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” (1Cor6:19-20)
Jesus’ describes His resurrection as “rebuilding the temple.” His resurrection is our certainty that NOTHING can separate us from the love of God.
“For I am convinced that neither DEATH nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom8:38-39)
2012-08-03 – “37.Part of His Mission”
From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. (Matthew16:21)
I’ve heard many a preacher say that “Jesus was born to die” or that the “shadow of the cross, fell over the manger.” This is an awesome truth that should be celebrated because it is a Great Truth: God’s Son paid a tremendous price for us.
But, at the risk of sounding flippant, Jesus didn’t wake up Easter Sunday surprised that He was alive. He was also born to rise.
This passage is one of at least four times that Matthew records Jesus predicting that He would rise. (See also 17:9; 17:23; 20:19)
What is interesting about this passage is that it precipitated by a specific event because Matthew tells us the “From that time on” Jesus explained His mission.
What was the event??
Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Christ – the Messiah!!
Yes, the cross was part of the Messiah’s mission, but so also the resurrection. Jesus’ explicit intention was not to be a martyr, but a Conqueror. He would face our most implacable enemies: sin, death and Satan and He planned to be victorious.
Sometimes, if you watch a movie on DVD, you can go to the extra features where they will often have an alternative ending. They often do this if the final cut has a sad ending – they provide an alternative happy ending.
These predictions of suffering and resurrection make it crystal clear:
The resurrection is not optional, it is not a “happy ending” tacked onto a sad story. It is part of the mission of the Son of God.
HE PLANNED TO WIN!
The early church moved worship from the Jewish Sabbath (Saturdays) to Sundays to celebrate this awesome truth. Go to church on Sunday with a song in your heart – He rose – He won!
2012-08-07 – “38.Not optional”
Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. 9 (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) (John20:8-9)
Peter and John ran to the tomb after the women told them that the tomb was empty. We know that Peter “walked away wondering to himself what had happened” (Luke24:12) but here we are told that John saw and believed. But, as John himself explains in v9, his belief was instinctive, a gut feel that this was not the end of the story.
So what is John saying in v.9? He is saying that later on they figured it out: –> It _had_ to happen!
Jesus _had_ to rise from the dead.
He is saying that the resurrection was an imperative.
Let’s think it through…
* It was an ontological imperative (ontology is about the “being” of a thing or person.) If Jesus is part of the Trinity, was the WORD by which the world was created, if He was the perfect sacrifice and the fulfilment of prophecy, then resurrection is simply part of who He IS. He is the Way, the Truth and the LIFE.
* It was a theological imperative – how can the Author of Life lose His life?? How could the perfect sacrifice not be sufficient??
* It was a prophetic imperative – the Scriptures made it clear: “You will not let your Holy One see decay!” (Ps16:10)
* It was a truth imperative – Jesus said: “Destroy this temple and I will rebuild it in three days.” Could He have been a liar??
It took a while for the disciples to get it, but eventually they did. It took them time because Jesus really died – and He died horribly – it wasn’t a “pretend” death – He really died at the hand of our guilt and sin. Resurrection wasn’t a short-cut, but it was a victory He was going to achieve. Because of who He is and because of His great love for us, He _had_ to rise. He _had_ to overcome!
2012-08-08 – “39.A Beautiful OT Picture”
6 He is then to take the live bird and dip it, together with the cedar wood, the scarlet yarn and the hyssop, into the blood of the bird that was killed over the fresh water. 7 Seven times he shall sprinkle the one to be cleansed of the infectious disease and pronounce him clean. Then he is to release the live bird in the open fields. (Leviticus14:6-7)
This passage is part of a set of rubrics (liturgies and guidelines) for priests to use for the cleansing and healing of infectious skin diseases (which probably included leprosy and similar diseases.) These diseases were regarded as incurable.
Normally I am careful about taking symbolism too far. One has to be careful about extrapolating imagery beyond what is reasonable. But in this passage there are incredible parallels:
The priest needed two birds, a clay jar with water in it, a piece of cedar wood (to act as a handle), a bunch of hyssop twigs, and some scarlet yarn. (Hyssop is a thin river reed.) He would kill one of the birds, draining the blood into the clay pot. The hyssop was bunched together and tied to the cedar handle with the yarn to form a brush of sorts. The live bird and the “brush” were dipped into the blood-stained water and the sick person was “sprinkled” (brush-spattered) and the live bird was released.
Now let’s look at the cross:
-He came to heal us of the incurable disease of sin.
-Cleansing required sacrifice – blood was shed
-In Ezekiel 17:22-23 God talks about a cedar-sprig (a symbol of the Messiah)
-They lifted the wine-vinegar sponge to Jesus on a stalk of hyssop.
-They pierced His side, and blood and water flowed.
But the most significant is the TWO birds.
The priest needed two birds, one to die and one to speak of release, forgiveness, healing and freedom.
The cross only needed ONE Saviour: Jesus died – BUT HE ROSE AGAIN!
2012-08-10 – “40.NOT here!”
“Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter, `He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’ ” (Mark16:6-7)
“He is not here.”
Not in the darkened cave-tomb in the garden.
He is also not in the dried out regulations of legalistic religion.
… not in the calcified institutes of ritual and tradition.
… not in the age old power struggles of institutionalised faith.
… not in cold and dark of past hurts
… not in the sad memorials of pain and brutality
He is RISEN!
Victorious and glorious over the pain, sorrow, injustice and formalised religiosity.
He is ALIVE.
And He goes ahead of us.
So it is our task to “go, tell…”!
It is our privilege to discover that wherever we go – He is ahead of us and the joy, power and peace of His resurrected life is ours.
We are alive in Him and we have life in His name.
So now, it is your turn – “GO, tell the world that your Saviour is ALIVE!”
This brings us to the end of “40 days of Resurrection.” It has taken much longer than 40 days to get these devotions written, but now they will be available to download and print as a booklet and used after Easter in future years.
As such, this little booklet is dedicated to all who have joyfully affirmed the wonderful truth of Resurrection in the midst of criticism and resistance.
My soul has been renewed and restored by this period of reflection on this one single truth with its many facets. It’s my prayer that you too have been inspired and enthralled by this central truth which is so powerfully summarised by Matt Maher:
Christ is risen from the dead
Trampling over death by death
Come awake, come awake!
Come and rise up from the grave!
Christ is risen from the dead
We are one with him again
Come awake, come awake!
Come and rise up from the grave!