The Message of the Resurrection – John H. Johnson, delivered Easter 2015
Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2 And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4 And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. 5 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he[a] lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” 8 So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.” Matthew 28:1-10
The first message that I want you to think about for the moment is the message that in the Resurrection is a powerful declaration that Jesus Christ was indeed the Son of God; that Jesus Christ was declared to be the Son of God with power, by His resurrection from the dead. All the hope, peace and the encouragement of the Gospel is wrapped up in the question, “Is Jesus who He claimed to be?” Jesus claimed to be the Son of God. All the hope of the promises of the gospel are wrapped up in that one question. “Is he indeed the Son of God?” The resurrection of Jesus Christ declares that He is indeed the Son of God with a mighty word of power.
The fact of the resurrection is the most substantiated fact in all of human history, the fact that there are those who don’t believe it, even though they will accept evidence for far lesser things we accept are true in history, is not a question of whether the information is there. It’s a question of their will; it’s a question of the deadness of their heart. The fact that any of you actually believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God is an evidence that the power of that declaration; that Jesus Christ has been given the power over death and over hell and over the deadness of men’s hearts. The resurrection of Christ is a wonderful, amazing and powerful declaration to us of the diety of Jesus Christ.
The second message of the resurrection is [one] of warning that is not to trifle with this One who is the Son of God. Jesus himself, in His conversations with His disciples and with the scribes and pharisees spoke about a general resurrection. There be a general resurrection at the end of time of all the wicked and the righteous. He says, “Do not marvel at this for the hour is coming in which all who are in the grave will hear His voice and they will come forth; those who have done good to the resurrection of life and those who have done evil to the resurrection of condemnation.
Paul adds his thoughts to this when he is preaching to pagans on Mars Hill in Acts chapter 17. After he rehearses characteristics of the glory of God and the character of God he brings them to the reality of their need for the Lord, their sin. He tells them that God commands all men everywhere to repent because He has appointed a day in which He will judge the world by the man He has appointed and He has given proof of this to all men by His resurrection of the dead. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is a guarantee to each of you and to all those outside those walls as well. There is going to be day of reckoning. This is a sober message of the resurrection.
There is going to be a day of judgment and all will be raised, and all will stand before the throne of God, and have to give an account. Some will be raised to condemnation. Some will be raised to go into everlasting life, the glory of life with the Lord forever. The message of the resurrection is a message of judgment and if that is the only message of the resurrection we had, you and I would be just filled with despair because who of you can stand before that throne? Who of you can say to the Lord, “Well, look at all that I have done?” Who wants to put the ledger sheet of your good deeds and your sins before the throne of Almighty God? The psalmist said, “If You, oh Lord, should mark iniquities, who could stand?” We have to hear the message, the sober message of the resurrection, of the day of accountability to come. The resurrection of Jesus guarantees that day will come.
We have a third message and this is a message for believers. Those of you that have trusted in Christ, there’s two aspects of the blessing of the resurrection to you, the message of the resurrection to you that I want to encourage you on today.
The First is the blessings that come to you in the truth and the message of resurrection of Jesus Christ and the first blessing is the assurance of your justification. You ask yourself that question, “How in the world am I going to stand before the throne of God?” This is the answer, Jesus suffered for our offenses and He was raised again for our justification. The resurrection of Jesus Christ conveys to you the blessedness that you are justified before God. When you stand before the Lord, you don’t stand in your righteousness. There is no merit in you, the merit is all in Christ. When God calls you to account before that great throne, your eyes are going to be totally directed to Christ and Christ is going to stand and say, “I paid for that one’s sins.” The blessedness of the resurrection is the message of your justification. It’s the ground of your hope.
Remember when we went through 1 Corinthians 15 and Paul, countering those who denied that there was a resurrection, made the point that if we have hope in this life, we are, of all men, most to be pitied because we’ve embraced a lie, we’ve preached a falsehood. It’s an empty pursuit. Why are you here? But he goes on to say that indeed Christ has been raised from the dead. Our hope not only in this life, but our hope for life to come. If we have hope only in this life, what is the purpose of our suffering? Why go through the trials that you go through? Why deny yourself anything? If there is only hope in this life. Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.
There is the hope of the resurrection that gives us purpose and meaning for everything we encounter in this life; there’s the assurance of your own resurrection. Because Christ is raised from the dead, He is the first fruits of all who have fallen asleep. He is the guarantee of your own resurrection, your own bodily resurrection on the last day. He guarantees that fact because He’s been raised. As in Adam all die, as in Christ, all will be made alive. You die as the dust, your body is returned to the dust and when you’re raised again you’ll be given a new body and live forever with the Lord in the new heavens and the new earth. The message of the resurrection for you who believe is a glorious hope for your future. This life is not the end. As wonderful as moments in this life are, and I encourage you to enjoy that, being here with you today is a wonderful joy. This is a happy day but this isn’t the end. The life that comes is far greater. Because some of you are sitting here with aches and pains, soreness, this, that and the other, and discomfort or whatever and one day you and I will be sitting together and we won’t have to talk about our headaches, our rheumatism, or whatever it is. All we’ll be talking about is the Lord. The message of the resurrection for you that believe is a great resurrection of your justification, of your hope, of your own personal resurrection.
It’s a message to you of comfort when you mourn. This perhaps is one of the greatest encouragements and comforts of the resurrection which most of you have experienced here. You’ve experienced the loss of someone you loved [which] might have been a child, might have been a brother, sister, a parent, a cousin, a friend. Probably everybody’s lives in here have been touched by death. Death is the great enemy. It seems to be the one that is victorious over us, brings great sadness into our lives, a great sense of loss, a great sense of emptiness.
But as Paul said in that passage we read earlier, Paul wants you to grieve, the bible never tells you not to grieve. Paul doesn’t want you to grieve as those who have no hope. What is it that gives you hope? It’s because Jesus died and rose again. That’s what gives you hope in your grief. You know in the last day, the dead in Christ will rise first and then we who are alive will be caught up together with them. We will be together forever with the Lord. The message of the resurrection to believers is a great message of comfort. That even through the tears of grief. We can have peace, hope and comfort.
The message of the resurrection for believers is not just a message of encouragement of the blessings that are confirmed to us through that, but it also brings us a message of calling us to Christian obedience and faithfulness. The resurrection is the essential element in saving faith.
In Romans 10 Paul says, “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” The belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ is an essential element to saving faith. Now, there may be those who are early in their christian experience who struggle with different aspects of the faith and God is definitely very patient and kind and compassionate to us but ultimately our Christian faith is established and confirmed through our reception and belief in Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. It’s the essential element of our faith. But in addition, it calls you to a new set of affections. In Colossians 3 Paul says, “You then were raised with Christ,” which happens when you trust Christ. Seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above not on the things of earth.”
So as a christian, hearing the word of the message of the resurrection, one of the things that Christ is calling you to is to a new set of affections. Where is your mind? Where is your heart? Is it on the things of this earth? Is this where your attention is? Is this where your devotion is? Now that’s not to say we aren’t involved in the things of this earth. We are [involved]. We have to work. We have to care for our children, eat, sleep, do all the things that are part of this life and participate in that’s totally part of it but the idea is, “Where ultimately is your affection?”
Is your priority in the things of this earth or is it lifted above. Is there another priority? Is it more important to please God or to please yourself? The message of the resurrection is that Christ calls you to set your affections on things above. To answer the question, “which is more important, to please Christ or please yourself?” That you’re called to answer that question, “It’s more important that I please Christ.” It’s more important that we as a church please the Lord and have our affections on Him.
The encouragement of the resurrection is also that you and I, as we think about the christian life, think of the challenges of the Christian life, it’s an overwhelming responsibility. Part of the message of the resurrection is the God will provide through Him everything you need for life and godliness.
In Ephesians 2 it talks about how when you were dead in trespasses and sins, God made you alive together with Christ and seated Him in the heavenly places. You’re not in this world on your own. You’re not left to your own strength and your own wisdom and your own energy.
In Ephesians 4 Paul talks about how each of us was given grace according the measure which Christ gives because when he ascended on high He lead captivity captive and gifts to men. The message of the resurrection is when we think about the awesome responsibility of living the Christian life is that we’re not on our own. We’re with Christ. Christ is with us and He poured out in our hearts His holy spirit. It’s His strength and His grace and it’s His help that helps us to keep going, to persevere to live a life that would bring glory to Him.
So, beloved I would encourage you to hear the message of the resurrection. The powerful declaration of the deity of Jesus Christ. The sober warning that the resurrection guarantees, there will be a day of accountability. But the message to you as believer is you’ll be ready for that day, as you are found in Christ. Justified, raised with Him, strengthened by His grace to follow him all the days of your life.
May you find the Lord and the message of His resurrection a prompting to bow before him in humble adoration and to live with expectant hope. Amen.