Monday, 08 April 2013 13:27

Jesus Arose From The Dead

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Jesus arose from the dead! This is a gospel truth the Christian church celebrates every Sunday, but this Easter Sunday it is fitting to highlight this historical fact in a special way. Today, with the Christian church around the world, we celebrate this good news, this best news there ever could be! If Jesus had not risen from the dead, then the Christian faith too would be empty and vain, and no different than all the false religions of the world. The apostle Paul says this very plainly in 1 Corinthians 15:14. “And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain [utterly useless].” But, dear friends, for sure Jesus is risen, and so let us truly glory in that wonderful fact.

Our text for this message is from Mark 16, especially the verses 6-8. We read there that the angel said to the women who came to the tomb where Jesus had been buried to show their last respects and love yet, “Ye [women] seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him. But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goes before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you. And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed….” From these verses we learn not just that Jesus arose, but about the women being shown this fact, and so surprised by this fact, and then sharing this fact.

Thinking of these women mentioned in our text being shown the fact that Jesus arose, let me ask: Can you think of a time when someone showed you something? Or maybe when you showed someone else something you wanted them to see? We are always showing each other something, isn’t it true?

The good news of Easter is about God showing something to us. And what He has to show and tell us is just incredible, beyond words, and far more wonderful than anything you and I could ever show to anyone. Let me tell you about it as revealed to us from God’s holy Word. Some women followers of Jesus proved so faithful in their devotion and love for Him. They saw where Jesus’ body had been laid to rest only days before and still on that Friday of Jesus’ death, they prepared spices and fragrant oils which they planned after the Sabbath day to anoint Jesus’ body with as a last act of devotion. See these women, who had been dear followers of Jesus, heading to the tomb early Sunday morning. Oh, how sad they were now. Their beloved Master had been crucified and was dead in the tomb.

While on the way, it seems for the first time, the women thought about the problem: Who would roll the stone away for them? It was impossible for them to budge that huge mass of rock rolled down into a groove to serve as a secure door in front of the stone tomb. But unknown to them God had already taken care of that problem as they soon discovered. The gospel truth is, the Lord graciously and wondrously removes obstacles that we of ourselves could never remove. Can’t every Christian tell something about this, with coming to Jesus the Saviour initially and repeatedly? How right on is that quote from Matthew Henry about these women finding the stone rolled away: “They who seek Christ diligently will find the difficulties that lie in their way strangely to vanish, and themselves helped over them beyond their expectation.” Have you not found it to be so as well, dear friends, how that the Lord is indeed the Helper of the helpless, when trusting Him even in the darkest of times? Surely the message of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead proclaims this gospel message to us loud and clear.

Picture these women come then to the tomb, both relieved and alarmed with the rolled away stone. What a further shock they meet with when they come into the tomb. Why? There, as Mark tells us, sitting inside the tomb they see an angel in a long white robe, clearly an angel from heaven! From Luke’s gospel we find out there were actually two angels, but we may assume both Matthew and Mark only mention the one because only the one speaks to them. Notice the text says the women were alarmed to see the angel. “But he said to them, “Be not affrightened” [alarmed].” The angel is sent there to minister to these women and to minister to them in the way of showing them the fact that Jesus arose from the dead! What a joyful task this angel had. What a delightful mission this angel was given from God! The angel could show them the absolute most exciting fact there ever could be. The angel will show them something that will turn their great sadness into awesome gladness, their unbounded misery into unlimited joy.

Come in the tomb with me, as it were, and just watch and listen. The angel says to the women: Do not be alarmed. “Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified: he is risen.” What? Notice here the angel makes clear, ‘I am talking to you about the very one you are in such grief and pain about. Yes, the one who died on the cross of Calvary, He who walked this earth and lived a lowly life of service; this Jesus of Nazareth, who died a most cruel and shameful death. Listen now, I’m telling you, He is risen!’ And then it is so striking how the angel in phrase after phrase just reaffirms and confirms this gospel fact: “He is risen! He is not here. Behold, the place where they laid him. But go your way, tell his disciples—and Peter—that he goes before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you.” Can you not imagine as the angel says this all, the angel also directs their attention to where Jesus’ body had been placed in the tomb?

Do you see it here how the women were shown this fact in suchlike abundant measure? They were invited to look exactly where Jesus’ body had been placed, and to be eyewitnesses that the tomb was empty. These women, we can be sure, looked wide-eyed all around inside that tomb, even as the angel speaks to them. The women could see, as we know from both Luke’s and John’s gospel account that now only Jesus’ grave clothes were left there, and that Jesus had risen from the dead, indeed!

When you think of the gospel message of Jesus’ resurrection and how these women were shown this fact, it is clear Jesus rising from the grave is an absolute historical fact which really cannot be rationally disputed, and which can truly be intellectually defended. J.C. Ryle is so correct when he writes in his simple clear way about the resurrection of Jesus: “To deny it, a man must put credit in monstrous and ridiculous improbabilities. To believe it, a man has only to appeal to simple undeniable facts.” The apostle Paul teaches us also in Romans 10:9 believing the fact of Jesus’ resurrection is basic to being a true Christian, and Jesus rising from the grave is fundamental to the Christian faith. So Paul writes, “that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” That’s why also now on this Easter Sunday again it is so wonderful to be shown once more this fact, that Jesus arose from the dead, even as He said He would!

But let us go back to these women and their being shown this tremendous historical and gospel fact about Jesus having risen from the dead and no longer at all as a lifeless corpse in the tomb. We learn this came as such surprising news to them! The text relates the women were simply completely stunned in shock, and they kept on being overwhelmingly astounded and amazed with what they were seeing and hearing. The text in our English Bible translation mentions them being alarmed in, vs. 5 and 6, and amazed and afraid and trembling in vs. 8. Literally vvs. 8 can be translated this way: “And coming out, they fled away from the tomb, for trembling and bewilderment kept on taking hold of them, [or you might say, quaking and ecstatic astonishment], and they spake nothing to anyone, for they kept on being overwhelmed in amazement, [seized with astonishment].” They were simply completely bewildered or stupefied with this exciting news, and just shocked with so great joyful surprise.

Can you remember a time in your own life when you met with a great surprise that simply floored you so that you almost couldn’t speak a word even? It is often with sad events in life, like an unexpected death by accident, or being told of a sudden serious illness with yourself or a loved one. But it can also be with some special happy events in life, some good thing you least expected, that you can be so stunned and overwhelmingly surprised about that it leaves you, at least for a short time, totally dumbfounded and speechless. No doubt we all can think of such times. But just now imagine these women both in the tomb and leaving the tomb so shocked and stunned by the news that Jesus had truly risen from the dead.

What must we say about their total shock and surprise with this news? Their total surprise shows. for one thing, Jesus rising from the grave was not something they were at all expecting. We are surprised when something happens that is unexpected and not anticipated. It seems Jesus rising from the dead never once entered their minds as a possibility! But here it is clear also in our text passage how wrong they were and blameworthy really, and the disciples with them later. For the fact is, Jesus had repeatedly mentioned not only that He would be crucified, but also that He would rise again. They shouldn’t have been so bewildered in surprise, but actually could have been and should have been expecting it! But we are told even when these women later, go on to tell others, the ones they tell that Jesus is risen refuse in initial stunned surprise to believe so great good news. Luke probably puts it the strongest saying in Luke 24:11 with the report about Jesus’ resurrection from the women: “And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not.” [Literally, they kept on not believing them with so great news!]

From their being so surprised with Jesus’ resurrection we learn how little these women, and the disciples too, actually had understood Jesus’ mission. And how hardly had they heard His repeated references not only to His coming death but also to His rising from the dead! Their devotion to Jesus had been mixed with so much confusion and misunderstanding, and spiritual blindness really. The women’s and disciples’ surprise here and their being so stunned with the resurrection fact showed so little grasp of Jesus’ Person and work and concentration as Saviour of sinners.

Jesus’ resurrection from the dead proves that His salvation work on behalf of sinners was not only perfectly completed, but also completely accepted and approved by God the Father. If in any respect at all, even in one small detail, Jesus had failed in His salvation work as Saviour, both in His living the perfect life and in His making perfect payment for sin, if there was even one flaw in it at all, then there would have been no triumphant wonderful resurrection for Jesus. And there would be no tremendous almighty gospel salvation news for sinful people like us! But Jesus Christ could not and did not and would not fail in any respect, being the Almighty, God-anointed, and perfectly equipped Saviour He is! The limitless extent of Jesus’ care and love and provision for His people was not realized in truth by these women, or by the disciples. The verses following vs. 8 shows there was blameworthy unbelief and distrust involved in their being so stunned with Jesus’ resurrection.

They shouldn’t have been as surprised as they were, for Jesus had told them it would happen. Yet isn’t it true, also for you and me, that too often we can fail to hear and understand God in His gracious glorious gospel for us as revealed in Jesus Christ the Saviour? Do we not so easily and too often still limit God, as it were, viewing Him according to our thinking, rather than as He has revealed Himself in His holy Word? You are not thinking correctly when you have small or little thoughts of God as revealed in Jesus Christ. God in Christ Jesus, the crucified and risen Saviour, is incredible! The crucified and risen Saviour of sinners is full of gracious glorious gospel surprises beyond measure for sinful undeserving people like you and me trusting and following Him. This is what makes the Easter message so wonderful, really.

Here we have to say what made this fact of Jesus rising from the dead so surprising is not just that it came unexpected to the women and disciples, but also the fact that it clearly is something most extraordinary and incredible actually. When Jesus arose from the grave, for sure that was a supernatural salvation act of God Triune, beyond all estimation and exclamation, to the praise of God and the salvation of sinners. Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is a gospel truth that was and always remains infinitely, astoundingly, miraculously, and marvelously wonderful, and it is like a splendid surprise that just seems too good to be true.

In the Old Testament already when the Lord brought some great deliverance for His people from out of some real need, we are told for instance in Psalm 126:1: “When the LORD turned again [turned back] the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream.” By this is meant, they were like those who just couldn’t believe so great surprise and undeserved mercy and wonder from God for them! So it was with these women so surprised with the joyful fact of Jesus’ resurrection. This news turned all their boundless grief in an instant into unbounded gladness, all their depressing sorrows in a moment’s time into endless delights! Interestingly it says in Matthew 28:8 about these women shown the fact of His resurrection, and surprised by it: “And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy, and did run to bring his disciples word.” See them run to tell the disciples the happy glorious message that Jesus had risen from the dead, He truly and surely was alive and they would see Him shortly, as the angel promised!

With Jesus’ resurrection, what Jesus would make plain to them as risen Saviour before He returned to heaven is the truly good news with His resurrection from the dead. Now what we can and may know for sure is that there is escape from sin’s guilt, and bondage and punishment for now and forever! Death as the wages of sin can be and is overcome in and through Jesus Christ for all who trust and follow Him. Trusting Him we hope not in one Who is lying dead in the grave somewhere in the Middle East. No, but Jesus arose and is living and reigning as blessed Saviour and supreme Lord over all. Jesus rose to minister and make known His salvation work in people’s hearts and lives. He arose to call and gather a people from all over the world in all ages that hear His Word and trust and follow Him. He arose to be, through His finished work and by His Spirit and Word, the almighty triumphant Saviour of sinners in all generations, even for as many as repent of sin and believe on Him, and follow after Him. This Easter Sunday are you looking to Jesus in spirit and truth? How true and fitting here are the words from the third stanza of the Christian hymn, Jesus Saves:

Sing above the battle strife—Jesus saves! Jesus saves!

By His death and endless life—Jesus saves! Jesus saves!

Sing it softly through the gloom, when the heart for mercy craves;

Sing in triumph o’er the tomb—Jesus saves! Jesus saves!

This is the glad tidings which these women and the disciples, all so surprised in shock and unbelief at first, soon enough came to see through the blessed ministry of the resurrected Saviour Himself. On the first Easter Sunday when Jesus arose, it is always good for us to remember He made no less than at least five resurrection appearances. He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, then to the group of women going to Galilee to tell the disciples as instructed by the angel. After that Jesus appeared to Peter alone, then to the two from Emmaus, and last in the evening yet to the whole group of disciples in a locked room with Thomas absent from them that time yet. A week later Jesus would meet again with the disciples including Thomas who had so doubted and disputed that Jesus was really risen. In all His resurrection appearances Jesus was out to make clear the fullness of His salvation for all who trust and obey Him. Jesus is the triumphant Saviour of sinners, and His resurrection from the dead divinely and supremely underscores all that the Bible says of Him as Saviour, and gives reason for so much assurance with every gospel promise for all who call on Him.

What God has planned and provided for the salvation of sinners in and through Christ Jesus is so gracious and so good and so grand, and it is all a free gift for as many as repent of sin and believe on Him. You are not thinking Biblically when you measure your sin problems as making your case hopeless and the Saviour as helpless for you. We are helpless as sinners in and of ourselves, indeed. But there is most certainly endless hopefulness and helpfulness with Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen Saviour, Who is mighty to save and out to save sinners. With Him is complete salvation all for free for Jesus’ sake alone, even for the most hardened and wicked and hell-bound ungodly person that turns to Him. Think here of how the text also highlights Peter as one whom the Saviour by all means wanted to reassure in His love. Peter was the disciple who so miserably fell in terribly denying Jesus. Think too of Mary Magdalene out of whom we are told Jesus had cast out seven demons. It is this Mary Magdalene that in God’s amazing grace and goodness becomes the very first person to meet the risen Saviour and to hear and understand something of the gospel blessings with Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.

Dear friends, our sin problem is always way worse than your and my worst idea about it, but at the same time Jesus and His salvation package and offer, if I may put it that way, is always way better and grander than your and my very best idea about it. The gospel in and with Jesus’ resurrection from the dead and the way He patiently and lovingly would make it known to these women and to the disciples and for us as Christian church today all proves Jesus Christ as Saviour is far greater, far kinder, far better, far stronger, far more thoughtful, and far more helpful than you or I could ever imagine! Indeed, exceedingly abundantly above all that you or I could ever ask or think or dream would be possible!

In the last judgment when Christ returns on the clouds of heaven how many will be shocked then in endless terrible dismay at their sinful stubborn refusal and failure to realize and embrace Jesus’ infinitely grand graciousness and His infinitely gracious grandness as Saviour of sinners. The worst part of hell will be to realize there forever that you despised and rejected the blessed, perfect, gracious, almighty living Saviour of sinners. On the other hand, the greatest wonder and blessing of eternal heaven for the saved will be to live forever in face to face perfect fellowship and service of so great a God as revealed in Christ Jesus, the crucified and risen Saviour. What pleasures forevermore will there be with Him in the new heaven and earth. Oh, that all the peoples would hear this and believe this gospel reality!

Here let us look yet at our last point springing from the text. Jesus lives. We see the women spreading or sharing this fact. They were called to tell the news to the disciples, and we know the disciples in turn were commissioned, when the Holy Spirit would be poured on them, to tell the good news to all the world, starting in Jerusalem and from there to the ends of the earth. Mark 16:15 also states: “And he [Jesus, the risen Saviour] said unto them [His disciples], Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” [meaning here every human being on the earth].

The good news of the only gospel about Jesus, the crucified and risen Saviour, must be spread. It is the Christian church and confessing Christians who are called to share the good news and proclaim it in word and deed, as God gives us opportunity. Think of what positive, and priceless, and powerful, and promising good news we may tell. Jesus lives! In and through Christ we have a living hope guiding us through death even and guaranteeing to us eternal life in heaven, even for as many as believe. Romans 6:23 states the gospel in a nutshell, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in [and through] Jesus Christ our Lord.” As Paul exclaims in 1 Corinthians 15:55ff, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God which gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”

The great news to share of Jesus’ resurrection is, as stated in Matthew 28: “Come, see…and go and tell.” Is it your aim in life as well so to live that others may learn the only gospel for sinners like us? Surely the Easter message gives us so much reason to be so enthusiastic, for Jesus’ resurrection proves how great and unique is the gospel of Jesus Christ, and what boundless saving power is found in and with Him! When the women and disciples realized Jesus truly did arise from the grave, their enthusiasm with that gospel fact, by God’s grace, could not be contained nor restrained. That Jesus lives remains the greatest gospel news there ever could be in this world of sin and misery. You can’t keep quiet about it either, can you? We serve a risen Saviour, the one and only triumphant Saviour of sinners. To live apart from Him is death, but what life abundant and life everlasting is found trusting and following after Him and His gospel Word! Even so, blessed Easter Sunday to you each and all. Amen.

Hans Overduin, Radio Pastor

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