Easter, 2013

Ten Lessons from the Resurrection of Jesus

Intro:  Well over three hundred verses are concerned with the subject of Jesus’ resurrection in the New Testament. But first let’s think for a moment about the timing here. Last week we celebrated the day of his rising. It is now a week after Jesus rose. In the Gospel narratives this would be about the time the disciples, or some of them at least, were just discovering for themselves that he was really alive. Or to be more accurate, when Jesus revealed himself to them. For a week they had been hearing from some, most notably the women, that he had risen. What were they thinking as they came together again a week later? We know what they came to think because the NT has so much to say about it.

The fact of the resurrection is pervasive in NT narrative, preaching and theological reflection. So let’s go through some of the high points about as the NT presents these things to us. So let me offer you ten key lessons that the NT writers draw from the resurrection of Jesus.

1. We are told that this event is a sign for unbelievers in Jesus’ own words: Matthew 12:38-40; cf. John 20:24-29.

At first I asked this text, why no sign? First of all, Jesus did not perform miracles on demand. Furthermore, they had already seen signs if they were paying attention. But most of all I realized that what the text says in effect is No sign except the best sign!

But there is more to this text. The Jonah story was not universally popular among Jews. After all it tells the story of the redemption of Israel’s enemies. Furthermore some Jews justified Jonah because they felt that his heart was for his own people Israel and that he did not want Israel shamed by those foreign pagans. So Jesus’ illustration may have rubbed them the wrong way.

2. But unbelievers are not the only ones who doubt. Believers do as well, and the resurrection is the answer for the believer’s doubt: Luke 24:38-43. We saw this last week in the case of the apostles, and noted that while it is Thomas that gets saddled with the description of doubt, it was actually all the apostles that doubted.

3. The resurrection, when coupled with the cross, is the center of the gospel itself: 1 Corinthians 15:1-19; Romans 4:24-25, 10:9, 10.

Paul could not be clearer. If Christ is not raised here are the consequences:

v. 14 our preaching is in vain.

v. 15 we are misrepresenting God.

v. 17 your faith is futile.

v. 17 you are still in your sins. This is the case because the crucifixion and   resurrection are a package deal. As Paul puts it in Romans 4:25, He “was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.”

v. 18 Christians who have died are lost.

v. 19 we Christians are to be pitied above all people.

4. It provides the reason for the total commitment of our lives:1 Cor. 15:57-58 reads, “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore (i.e. considering all I have just written about the resurrection), my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”

5. It serves as the guarantee that Jesus’ teachings are true: Acts 2:22-24, 36. The apostles and other disciples had believed the teachings of Jesus, but when he was arrested and crucified they naturally began to doubt. This is not unlike many cases that we know about or experience. We seem to be getting along fine in the faith and then something very bad happens, perhaps something totally unexpected. Now our faith is shaken and perhaps even forsaken. We may be mad at God. Perhaps we toy with the thought that surely God does not care, or perhaps he does not even exist. What God worthy of worship would make such a world? What God worthy of our faith would govern the world this way? Surely, our faith as been in vain, we may think. Thoughts such as these may very well have troubled the disciples. Have they ever troubled you?

6. Further, the resurrection is the driving force for evangelism: Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 10:39-43.

7. It is the key to the believer’s daily power to live the Christian life: Rom. 6:4-14, 7:4ff, 8:9-11; Phil. 3:10. We looked at this some last week.

8. The fact that Jesus is the resurrection and the life even addresses the fear of death: John 11:25; 1 Cor. 15:54-58; cf. Hebrews 2:14-15.

9. The resurrection, especially when coupled with the ascension, is directly related to the second coming of Jesus: Acts 1:11; Revelation 1:7.

10. Lastly, this event is a model of the Christian’s resurrection from the dead (Acts 4:2; 1 Cor. 6:14; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18) and provides a foretaste of heaven for the believer (Philippians 3:20-21; 1 Peter 1:3-5).

Conclusion: Again I will stress that every view is a point-of-view. Are we seeing the risen Christ by faith. He said to Thomas, “You have seen and believe. Blessed are those who have not seen and believe.” Leonard Sweet tells a story to illustrate that faith has to do with how we see. Two shoe salesmen were sent to a third world country to sell shoes. After a while one of them telegraphs back that no one there has shoes and so how could he sell shoes there. He wants to come home. The other sends a telegram saying, this is a fabulous assignment. No one here has shoes. Please send me 5,000 pair immediately.

From which point of view do you see Jesus and his message? The fields are still ripe for harvest. The people you know who are in unbelief or doubt are hungry for something true and real. Go and tell them. Invite them in. They have no “shoes” and you have what they need.

Thoughts on Love from I Corinthians 13 (part 3)

While love never ends, many other things will end. (vv.8ff)

We are told here that some of the churches most cherished gifts will pass away. These passing gifts are partial at best. Even prophecy and knowledge are incomplete. We live in the age of information, the age of the knowledge explosion, yet the love of many grows cold. I don’t wish to return to an age of ignorance, but I wish to add to our knowledge faith, hope and love.

IV. We are all beginners and always will be in this life.

This is the conclusion of I. Cor. 13. “Now we see in a mirror dimly [ainigma –in a riddle, indistinctly], but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”  The expression “face to face” harks back to Moses: Ex. 33:11 says “Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.” Numbers 12 explains this in more detail: “Hear my words: If there is a prophet among you, I the Lord make myself known to him in a vision; I speak with him in a dream. Not so with my servant Moses. He is faithful in all my house. With him I speak mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in riddles, and he beholds the form of the Lord.” Paul may have had these scriptures in mind as he composed this passage.

Just how much don’t we know. One of my sayings is, I don’t know what I don’t know. Certainly if I don’t know it, I may not know that I don’t know it. I know that I don’t know the distance from earth to Pluto, but that is something I know I don’t know. But I also know that I can look it up. But what about things that I don’t know that I don’t know? These are the potentially more serious things. The Bible is sufficient to tell us what we need to know, but it is not comprehensive. When we see face to face we will know.

Do you want to know fully with the security that you are safe in the arms of God. This is an important qualification because some of what we will come to know will no doubt include stuff we would rather not know. We are experts at rationalization, at hiding things even from ourselves. Everything will be in the light, but we will be safe with the God who is generous with His love.



Thoughts on Love from I Corinthians 13 (continued)

II. Love is relational (vv. 4-7)

Notice that this famous description of love is entirely phrased in terms of relationships. Jesus founded his church on relationships with his disciples. He didn’t write a book, but he built relationships. Even Paul, who was perhaps the most systematic thinker of the early leaders, says that it was the “love of Christ” that constrained him in service. As he writes in Gal. 5:6 “the only thing that matters is faith working through love.” Or, as John put it: “Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue but in deed and truth.” (I John 3:18) This passage should remind us that love here is not a sentimental feeling but is something we do.

“Love is kind” and it “bears all things.” The second person of the Trinity was happy and content in eternity. He needed nothing nor was there any necessity for him to interrupt his beautiful fellowship with the Father, yet that is exactly what he did. He looked upon our circumstances and freely chose to enter our history and begin the process of bringing us back to love and light. The NT describes what was done from the viewpoint of the Father in John 3:16. Then Paul describes it from the viewpoint of the Son in Phil. 2:6,7 “though he existed in the form of God He did not regard equality with God as something to be held on to, but emptied himself by taking on the form of a slave, by looking like other men, and by sharing in human nature.”

God is said to be both love and light. In order to get back to love we must get into light. Love and truth are inseparable. This is why Paul will say in another place that we are to “speak the truth in love.” Jesus himself is our model for this. Love “rejoices in the truth.” (v. 6)

“Love does not brag, it is not puffed up.” These negative qualities have been already addressed earlier in the letter. The Corinthians could not have missed the point that he is speaking directly to their sub-Christian behavior. He continues here to try and reshape the way they see the spiritual life. The Gospels tell us that even the apostles themselves were vying for first place in the kingdom. That is not the way of love. Jesus came like an alien to a world that knew almost nothing of the kind of love he brought with him. The early Christians, like Paul, who wanted to write about this love had to redefine a word (agape) in order to begin communicating about it. Yes, the Greek language had four good words for love, but none of them were adequate until the Christians took over the word agape and began to pour new meanings into it. They virtually reinvented the word.

[This blog entry is dedicated to my mother-in-law Nancy Lyndon in celebration of her 79th birthday this week.]

–to be continued.