Because He Lives, We Live Also
P. G. Mathew | Sunday, April 24, 2011
Copyright © 2011, P. G. Mathew
Today is the Lord's Day, when the people of the triune God worship him and celebrate the glorious resurrection of our crucified Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Christ is risen; he is risen indeed!
Fools do not believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, which took place on Easter morning in Jerusalem. "The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God.'" (Ps. 14:1). Marxist materialism has become the dominant culture of Western man. He denies orthodox Christianity, which gave rise to the unique Western civilization. About the resurrection of Christ, the Communist encyclopedia says the resurrection of the body is a contradiction of natural scientific knowledge, "which confesses the inescapability of death as the destruction of individuality with its physical and psychical peculiarities." It says resurrection is the "primitive belief" of "all uncultured people."1
But Marxist dialectical materialism is the irrationality of fools. Christianity alone is reasonable faith. The Bible begins with God, who "is a spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth."2 This infinite personal God created all things out of nothing. As the moral ruler of the universe, he sustains and governs all things.
The Easter Story
The Bible speaks of one God existing in three persons-the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Son became incarnate in the fullness of time to live and die for our sins, in accordance with God's eternal plan of salvation. On the third day, God raised him from the dead. Thus, Jesus accomplished our salvation. He died for our sins and was raised for our justification. He is our atonement, our reconciliation, our peace, our life, and our living, blessed, and sure hope.
This Jesus was betrayed by Judas, arrested, and tried by the Sanhedrin and Pilate the governor. He was crucified on Good Friday and given a royal burial by a rich man, Joseph of Arimathea, and Nicodemus. Taking seventy-five pounds of expensive perfume, they anointed his body and buried him in Joseph's new tomb.
Though the disciples forgot, the authorities remembered Jesus' prediction of his own resurrection, which Judas the betrayer had told them about. So they sealed the tomb and posted guards to watch it continuously for three days.
Throughout this time, the devil and his demons were enjoying a great celebration. They had been celebrating for a long time. They celebrated and mocked God first when they rebelled and fell and became devils. They celebrated and mocked again when the devil succeeded in deceiving Eve, resulting in the fall of the whole human race. The Bible tells us that in the fall of Adam, we all fell and became sinners. Finally, the devil and the demons and the wicked authorities celebrated when Jesus the Son of God, the Holy One, was crucified and buried. Oh, what a mocking celebration it was!
But then came the celebration of God, who planned it all. The crucifixion of Christ was in accord with God's determinate counsel. The Father gave his Son up to be crucified and poured out on him his holy wrath that was against us sinners. He who never sinned became sin for us that we may become the righteousness of God in him, so that now the Father can justify sinners justly.
God the Father raised Jesus Christ from the dead by his incomparably great power of the Holy Spirit. So Christ arose early Sunday morning with a glorious physical body that can never die. This body has such properties that no one needed to roll away the stone from the tomb. But there was a great earthquake, which was designed to mock all the wicked forces of the world, an earthquake in celebration of this divine action of raising Christ from the dead.
Angels came down to the tomb. Matthew tells us that one angel took the stone from the mouth of the tomb, breaking its seal. The angel took the huge stone, threw it out, and then sat on it. That was God mocking all evil authorities of the universe. Paul writes, "And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross" (Col. 2:15). The Hebrews author states, "Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death-that is, the devil-and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death" (Heb. 2:14-15). John writes, "He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work" (1 John 3:8).
The people of God exist because of the resurrection of Christ! God mocks the devil through the church. As we said, the devil celebrated when Adam fell. He said, "There is no church. God, you cannot have a people who will worship and serve you." But now the devil is mocked. The devil is not very smart. God's wisdom is infinite, but the devil is a finite creature with a twisted mind. Paul writes that the intent of God "was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms" (Eph. 3:10). God mocks the devil when each elected sinner is saved by the mighty operation of the power of God. Heaven rejoices when a sinner repents and joins God's true church. God celebrates and mocks the devil whenever a saint believes God, or resists temptation, or wrestles against spiritual forces arrayed against him in the strength of the Lord and wins. And God will still be celebrating when Jesus comes again to glorify his saints with glorious bodies like his own body. God will celebrate when Christ judges the wicked and sends them to hell, to which he will also send the trinity of evil and all demons.
Christ is risen! Raised by God's infinite power, Christ ascended to paradise, to the third heaven, to the very presence of the Father. God seated him on his right hand, the seat of great honor. God's infinite power did it all. So now God is celebrating and mocking the devil. He is having the last, eternal laugh. He who is enthroned in heaven laughs, the Lord scoffs at all evil forces of the universe (see Ps. 2).
The One whom they arrested, tried, mocked, and crucified-that One is the King of kings and Lord of lords, and God has subjected all things to him. He put all things under his feet, especially all evil beings. Jesus is the head of all things, especially of the church, which is filled to the full by himself. So Paul writes that God "raised [Christ] from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come" (Eph. 1:20-21). Elsewhere he declares, "Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Phil. 2: 9-11). Peter speaks of "Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God's right hand-with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him" (1 Pet. 3:22). Paul says, "For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority" (Col. 2: 9-10). The Lord is our shepherd; we lack nothing. We have been given fullness in Christ.
The infinite power of God accomplished all this. Our salvation, which was planned by the Father from all eternity, was accomplished in history by his Son, Jesus Christ. This salvation is now being applied to God's people by the Holy Spirit. The devil and demons fought God all the way. But now they are defeated. Every knee must bow and every tongue must confess Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James came early that Sunday morning, not to see Jesus the risen one, but to anoint his body, because they loved him. Jesus himself had predicted five times his own resurrection on the third day (Matt. 16:21; 17:9, 23; 20:19; 26:32). In Matthew 26:32 he said, "After I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee." But they did not believe it. They would say, how can the dead rise? The pious Jews like Martha believed in the resurrection at the last day (John 11:24). But they did not believe the resurrection of Christ on the third day.
Jesus was the first to rise from the dead with a body that can never die. Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life" (John 11:25). But his disciples, both men and women, did not believe. The apostles themselves did not believe. So the women came to show their love to their dead Lord.
God's Mighty Power Displayed
But things changed. There was a violent earthquake. The angel broke the seal, took out the stone at the door, and sat on it, perhaps laughing as he sat. He declared to the women the great indicative of the divine action, the most powerful demonstration of God's might on earth. Greater than creation, greater than the exodus, greater than all other demonstrations of God's power, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the greatest miracle in the universe. The incomparably great power of God is displayed in the resurrection.
Paul uses four Greek words to describe this incomparably great power of God. First, he speaks of the dunamis of God, from which the word dynamite comes. Dunamis means divine ability to perform a particular task. God is able; nothing is impossible with him.
The second word is energeia, which means energy. It speaks of God's power in action, accomplishing God's purposes. There is no energy shortage with God; there is no shutting down of God's work. Energeia is the infinite energy of God.
The third word is kratos, which speaks of God's super-conquering, irresistible power that overcomes all resistance. It is power to rule and to control.
Finally, there is ischus, which means personal capability, the power that is inherent in the very being of God. God is strong; he is our strength and our salvation. Ischus means the totality of God's potential power. God always wins and always leads us in triumph.
It is sheer folly to resist this powerful God. That was the foolishness of the devil. This power of the infinite, eternal, unchangeable, personal God is exceedingly great; it is immeasurable.
The Great Indicative
When they approached the tomb, the women saw something of the display of this power. The angel declared the great indicative of what God had done: "Jesus, who was crucified . . . is not here; he has risen, just as he said" (Matt. 28:5-6).
What God promises, he fulfills. Every promise in the Bible will be fulfilled. God is truth; he cannot lie. "God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind" (Num. 23:19). What he promises, he performs.
So the angel told the women, "Christ has risen, just as he said he would. Do you want to verify this indicative? Come and see. The tomb is open for that very purpose." The tomb was empty of the body of Jesus. He had risen and gone out before the angel opened it.
Marxist dialectical materialism is irrationality. But Christianity is reasonable faith. God gives us reasons to believe. Come in and see! God gives sufficient evidence. Christianity is not the blind faith of intellectual fools.
The women also saw Jesus himself and grasped his feet. Mary Magdalene recognized him by his voice. It was not a hallucination; Jesus had risen physically. They saw him, touched him, and heard him. Later, he appeared to others, even to doubting Thomas, who had said that he needed to touch him and verify his nail prints before he would believe. Thomas did see the risen Christ and believed. Jesus ate and drank with his disciples, and showed by many other infallible proofs that he was not a ghost, but that he had risen with a glorious, physical body.
God gives us sufficient reasons to believe in the risen Christ. Christ is risen, just as he said, and we are saved. Our sins are forgiven and we are justified. Jesus is true as to his person and all his teachings. It is all written in the Bible. Come and see in the Bible. Read it daily. Then you can believe in him, serve him, and worship him.
Don't Be Afraid!
Based on the indicative of Christ's resurrection, let us consider the two imperatives God gives in this passage. First, he says, "Don't be afraid." What are we afraid of? Communism? Pope John Paul II said, "Don't be afraid." What about militant Islam, or politicians who oppose us, or those who mock Christianity, or death itself? God himself is telling us: "Don't be afraid."
Fear began with sin and guilt. Fear is the fear of death. Adam was once fearless. But when he sinned, he became afraid. The cure of our fear is found in Jesus Christ alone. He is the seed of the woman, the son of the virgin Mary, the Son of God, who was incarnate, crucified, buried, and risen from the dead. He forgives our sins, for he died for our sins. By his death, he defeated the devil and our death. Fear not! We are set free from the fear of death. Because he lives forever, we who believe in him also will live forever.
The Bible says we died with Christ, were buried with Christ, are raised with Christ to live a new, indestructible, eternal life, and are seated with Christ. Neither death nor life nor anything else in all creation can separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (PGM) This is the gospel, the good news of great joy that will be for all people, Jew and Gentile. Jesus Christ is risen today! Therefore, do not be afraid!
If Jesus truly died for all our sins, if God has forgiven all our sins and justified us, we have no reason to fear the world, the flesh, the devil, death, or hell. Christians alone can be truly fearless, based on this great indicative.
John Harper, a believer in Jesus Christ, was on the Titanic as it was sinking. He shouted, "'Let the women, children, and the unsaved into the lifeboats.' He then removed his life preserver and gave it to another man." He did so because John Harper's life preserver was Jesus Christ, the risen one.3
Christ is risen indeed! Do not fear. But only believers in Christ have no reason to fear. The guards must fear. The Sanhedrin must fear. Caiaphas and Pilate must fear. Emperors, presidents, and professors must fear. Every unbeliever must fear, both now and throughout eternity. Every non-Christian must fear Christ, the coming Judge.
But for us who believe, the angel says, "Fear not." And not only the angel, but the risen Christ himself says, "Fear not." Here are two witnesses, so it is certain. If God is for us, who can be against us? He is infinite, and all our enemies are finite.
Go and Tell!
The second imperative of the risen Christ is, "Go and tell." We are told to come and see; then go and tell the greatest news to the world. What is that news? Christ is risen! Therefore sin, the devil, evil, and death are all defeated, and our guilt is removed. Go and proclaim this gospel to all the world.
We must come to the Bible and to a church that proclaims the gospel to see the truth. Then we must go and fearlessly tell what we saw, because the world is a miserable, gloomy place. It is a graveyard, a funeral-filled place of weeping, wailing, and death. It is a dark place where people stumble and fall. But God loves the world. Go and tell that Christ died for our sins and was raised for our justification. Go and tell that there is eternal life in the Son, and joy unspeakable and full of glory. Go and tell that Jesus lives, and he will never die again. Go and tell that Christ is eternal life, and he gives eternal life to all who trust in him. Go and tell that Jesus lives forever and is victorious; therefore, we will live forever and also be victorious.
Christ is powerful; even so, we are made powerful by the same power that raised Christ from the dead. It is the incomparably great power of the Holy Spirit in us who believe (Eph. 1:19). The same Spirit who raised Jesus Christ from the dead now dwells in us to empower, enlighten, and guide us as we resist the devil and to fight every fight.
Yes, evil forces are arrayed against us. But don't worry. We are overcomers in Christ. Paul declares, "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms" (Eph. 6:12). In Christ's power we stand. Put on the whole armor of God. Wrestle against the defeated foes and so finally stand in victory.
This resurrection power is the power of the Spirit, and it is given to every Christian. Paul says, "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us" (Eph. 3:20). The ability of God is the ability of the Spirit, which is in us and works in us. My preaching of the gospel here means his power is working in me. Paul also writes, "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power" (Eph. 6:10). Elsewhere he says, "To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me" (Col. 1:29). To the Philippians church he wrote, "Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed-not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence-continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose" (Phil. 2:12-13); "I can do all things through him who gives me strength" (see Phil. 4:13). Jesus said, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you" (Acts 1:8). In Acts 4:8 we read that Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit when he spoke to the rulers, elders, priests, and teachers.
Come and see! See in the Holy Scriptures God's deeds and his interpretations of his deeds. See Jesus Christ-his life, death, and resurrection. Then go and tell in the Spirit's power. Don't be afraid. Christ is risen!
Most preachers in the Western world, even those who claim to be evangelicals, do not proclaim the gospel because they do not believe in the Scriptures. They have become Marxist materialists. They refuse to come and see, so they cannot go and tell.
But this is the command of the angel; yea, more than that, this is the command of the risen Christ: Go and tell what you know to be true, that Christ is risen. Go and tell that you were blind, but now you see; you were dead, but now you are alive. Don't be afraid. Jesus said, "Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age" (Matt. 28:20). Go and tell means to leave your comfortable life and declare this good news. You, friends, are the light of the world. Let your light shine. Don't cover it up. You are the hope of the world.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was studying in the United States as the Second World War was beginning. In due time, he became a confessing Christian. He went back to Germany to tell the gospel and suffered martyrdom. But he is seated with Christ and lives forever. Our Pakistani Christian brother, Shahbaz Bhatti, was in Canada late last year, where he was told by friends, "Don't go back to Pakistan. We'll take care of you." But he returned to Pakistan to continue to declare the good news that Christ is risen. Muslim terrorists killed him on March 2, 2011. He also is living with Christ forever.4
Friends, come and see; then go and tell. Don't be afraid. Go and tell the greatest indicative in the universe: Jesus Christ is risen! Stephen did it and was stoned to death. James did it and was beheaded. Paul did it and was also beheaded. Peter, the fearful one, did it and was crucified. But no one can destroy our resurrection life. Jesus said, "I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish" (John 10:28). Paul says, "We are more than conquerors through him who loved us" (Rom. 8:37). Because he lives, we will live forever!
The risen Christ appeared to John while he was on the island of Patmos. John recounts, "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. 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'" (Rev. 1:17-18). Christ destroyed our death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.
The problem is sin, guilt, death, the devil, the demons, and the wicked world. The only solution is the risen, triumphant Christ. He solves forever all our problems. So Paul states: "'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). Christ kept the law in our behalf by his life and death. Come and see! Go and tell! Then Paul says, "Stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain" (1 Cor. 15:58).
Friends, I give you a Christ who is able:
2 Corinthians 9:8: "And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work."
Hebrews 2:18: "Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted."
Hebrews 7: 25: "Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them." God is able to save the worst sinner in the world.
Philippians 3:20-21: "But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body."
2 Timothy 1:12: "That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day."
Jude 24: "To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy."
Therefore, don't be afraid. Come and see; then go and tell that Jesus Christ is risen indeed! Heaven is celebrating, and Christians can now rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory because he lives.
Because he lives I can face tomorrow,
Because he lives, all fear is gone.
Because I know who holds the future,
And life is worth the living, just because he lives.
1 Wilbur M. Smith, "Resurrection," Baker's Dictionary of Theology, edited by Everett F. Harrison et al (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1982), 455-456.
2 Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 4.
3 E. Michael Rusten and Sharon O. Rusten, The One Year Book of Christian History (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 2003), 212.
4 http://www.gracevalley.org/Ministries.html (scroll down for video and pdf)
Copyright © 2011, P. G. Mathew
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