“But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.” (1 Corinthians 15:20-21)
One of the errors that Paul addressed in the church at Corinth was that some there thought they had achieved spiritual perfection. One of the ways this manifested itself was in the widespread teaching that there was no bodily resurrection from the dead because they were already in their glorified state. Their bodies they deemed expendable and useless for the resurrection was spiritual not physical. This disdain for the body expressed as either ignoring it or by indulging its sinful cravings.
Paul reminded the believers of their common belief in the resurrection of Christ. He did not try to prove to them that Christ rose from the dead but demonstrated to them the foolishness of their belief. The literal bodily resurrection of Christ from the dead is a central truth of our faith. If we deny the resurrection of the body we deny Christ’s resurrection as well. And since His resurrection is the proof that Christ died for our sins, to deny that means that we are still spiritually dead. Christ’s bodily resurrection is the ultimate proof that He defeated sin and death on the cross. We who have faith in Christ need not fear death because we are certain what lies beyond the grave. We are sure we will be raised again to eternal glory for we are united with Christ.
“Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’—and that he had said these things to her.” (John 20:18)The resurrection of Jesus is the greatest, most convincing evidence that Jesus is the Messiah, the Savior of the world. And that is cause for great rejoicing. We see that joy in John’s account of the events following the resurrection, but not immediately for, as we know, the disciples had experienced great fear and confusion because of the crucifixion. And so when when they first heard of the disappearance of the body from Mary Magdalene, they were extremely skeptical. And, in addition, why believe the testimony of hysterical women? Peter and John had to go to the tomb to investigate for themselves and confirm that the body was missing.
John tells us that he believed when he saw the burial clothes lying there in the tomb. They were not cast about and in a mess. Apparently the body of Jesus had just disappeared, dematerialized leaving the cloths that had been wrapped around his body discarded like an empty cocoon after a butterfly has emerged, still retaining the form of the body, but without the body. No wonder he believed and rejoiced. Even Mary Magdalene rejoiced when she saw and talked with Jesus. The rest remained unconvinced, confused and afraid until they saw for themselves. We cannot really fault them for how they reacted. Although they had seen Jesus raise people from the dead, the idea of someone raising himself was so foreign to their way of thinking that it made no sense.
As we celebrate the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, we rejoice as we recall that His resurrection is the assurance of our own, the assurance of eternal life. No matter how much the wicked may prosper in this life, no matter what they may do to us or say to us, that does not matter. We know that we serve a risen savior. Only we Christians can state that. No other faith can make that such a claim.
“Pilate addressed them once more, desiring to release Jesus, but they kept shouting, ‘Crucify, crucify him!’A third time he said to them, ‘Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no guilt deserving death. I will therefore punish and release him.'” (Luke 23:20-22)The Sanhedrin had no authority to condemn Jesus to death so they decided to place the case before the Roman governor, Pilate. They accused Jesus of provoking a rebellion against the Roman Empire as He had claimed to be the King of the Jews. Although Jesus did admit to this, Pilate could see that He was a humble and peaceful man and deemed this matter to be just a petty squabble among the Jews. He packed Jesus off to Herod to delay making a decision, but Herod was consumed only by self-interest and perhaps by guilt over the execution of John the Baptist. He did not want to make any decision. Eventually Pilate made a choice to placate the Sanhedrin. He did not really care about justice, compassion, or civil rights only politics and self-interest. Yet he wrote this charge over His head as if He were an insurrectionist: King of the Jews.
We should learn from Jesus’ humble and humiliating suffering. When we suffer we often complain, cry and become filled with self-pity especially when we are falsely accused. As Jesus was suffering, His concern was not His own pain but the feelings and needs of others. He comforted the grieving women. He forgave His executioners, both the Romans and the Jews. He granted mercy and salvation to the repentant thief. And, no doubt, His thoughts were for us as well, for He bore the weight of our sins. He experienced the wrath of God because of us, so we too are to be counted among those who nailed Him to the cross. When we suffer we should seek the help of Jesus so we may offer our pain for His glory. We do this because of what Jesus endured on our behalf.
“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:5-8)
Paul here presents us one of the greatest and most dynamic passages in all of scripture, one which testifies to the dual nature of Jesus Christ. Jesus was and is fully God yet he sacrificed His glory to become a human being like us and die for our sins. He did not lose His glory or divinity but temporarily set them aside by veiling them in mortal flesh. He took on human weakness to become our redeemer.
Paul made this wonderful proclamation in order to continue to exhort his brethren to righteousness so that the fellowship of all believers might truly be harmonious and glorifying to the Lord. We do not grow in righteousness and harmony just by becoming ecstatic over Paul’s words of high praise but by emulating the example of Jesus in every aspect of our lives. We are called to work out our salvation by putting put off self-indulgence. We do not live to please or glorify ourselves. Our ultimate concern is for others, not self. We serve God by serving others.
Now in the process of serving others we will, like Paul, suffer and endure deprivation and loss so that God’s Kingdom may flourish. And this we should do without complaint! This is all part of the process of dying to self and living for the Lord. In our self-centered world we might not like this idea of service to others at all. We fear that other people will use and manipulate us, that they will take advantage of us. We are afraid to lose what we think we need or what we think is our right and privilege: we want what everybody else has. Yet as servants of God we are not in control of our lives: the Lord is. He uses us as He sees fit while our purpose in life is to obey totally and completely. Only by accepting this call, on our jobs, in our families and all our relationships and activities, will we find true peace and joy.
“And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, ‘Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.'” (Luke 18:41-42)
As we look at the events recorded by Luke on the day Jesus entered Jerusalem in triumph, we rejoice as did the disciples, for we have peace with God. But should we not also mourn and weep with Jesus? Should we not mourn because of the price He paid for us? Should we not mourn over our own sinfulness that sent Him to the cross and weighed heavily on Him as He hung there? Should we not mourn because the world does not know the way of peace that comes only through Jesus? Should we not mourn that daily hundreds of people are daily going off into eternity, many through violence and war to face only judgement and hell? Should we rejoice over the destruction of our enemies? Should we not weep and mourn that so many are blind to the truth?
Let us allow that sorrow to work on us so that we seek peace by proclaiming the gospel to all, by showing love, mercy, and compassion, by forgiving those who wrong us. Let us also allow that sorrow to lead us to repent of our worldly ways of doing things, of seeking peace through war and violence, of favoring nationalism over our loyalty to the Kingdom of God. Let us never condone the violence and injustice that our nation, and all nations and governments inflict upon the poor, and upon our brothers and sisters in the Lord. Let us be committed to the ways of our King, the King of peace. Let us live in His kingdom and proclaim the Good news that He reigns. He alone can bring peace by His blood.
“See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.” (Deuteronomy 32:39)
As Moses pronounced God’s judgment on His chosen people for their sure and certain disobedience, he realized that Israel would abandon Yahweh who is a rock, sure, steadfast, unmovable and unchangeable, one who can always be trusted. Israel would instead seek other gods which are not rocks or even sand. They are an illusion for they either do not exist or worse: they are demons. Yahweh is the only God. There are no other gods beside Him.
Despite this we humans often worship other things or even people as gods. We give them loyalty, time, energy and adoration but, in effect they possess no love or real power. I guess that is why God is so offended by them. He is a loving person. He is all powerful. What do we frail humans choose in His place? We choose things that cannot deliver us, cannot forgive us our sins, cannot love, cannot give us the real comfort we need in times of adversity and sorrow.
Therefore God feels betrayed. He is hurt but He does not cast us off. Instead He disciplines us to bring us to Him. Such discipline, though painful, is a necessary blessing. Often we think that blessings come when we are on the mountaintop of victory and joy when we feel God’s presence. Yet the real blessing comes when we are in the valley of darkness and despair. It is there that we reach out for God’s presence because we do not feel Him. That is where faith thrives and flourishes for the absence of feeling His presence does not mean He has left us. Faith imparted to us by God tells us that He is there even though our feelings say otherwise.
“As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!’” (Luke 19:37-38)
As we look at the Triumphal Entry, we see that the Jews of Jesus day were no different the world today. They did not see a way to peace other than through violence and war. Oh sure, they felt that the Messiah would bring peace, but it was a peace through war. The Messiah would lead them in battle to overthrow the Romans. This is the Messiah they wanted and the Messiah many thought they had in Jesus. That is why they were so impassioned that Palm Sunday when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey.
War does not bring peace. Only Jesus brings lasting and true peace. When Jesus entered Jerusalem, he came as the King of Peace, to bring peace between God and man. He gives us this peace through His sacrificial death on the cross. Through Jesus we who belong to many different nations, tribes and ethnic groups, groups that on some level or other may be enemies, are united as one family. We are first and foremost citizens of the Kingdom of God, not of any earthly one. Our loyalty, our allegiance is to Jesus above all else. Man rejects the peace of Jesus and seeks to do things his own selfish way. Self-centered behavior always brings enmity, bloodshed, and violence. Peace can come to mankind not by human efforts, the UN, NATO or American military might, but only through the mediating blood of Jesus Christ. He works through His church, His kingdom to bring peace through forgiveness and selfless sacrifice.