He Is Not Here, But Has Risen

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Luke 24:1-12

The bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ which we celebrate today as resurrection sunday is one of the fundamental tenets of the Christian faith. He died and rose again thus reconciling sinful humanity to the Father through the efficacy of the finished work on Calvary. He died in our place as a ransom for our sins. He appeased God’s wrath for the punishment of our sins. (See Isaiah 53:4-6). His death and resurrection paved the way for everyone who will believe in Him to have a relationship with the father and to have eternal life.

As has been said already, the resurrection is a fundamental tenet of the Christian faith. Without the resurrection of Christ, there will be no Christianity. Paul says “…if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (1Corinthians 15:17). That is a very categorical statement. What Paul is saying is that, without the resurrection, we are still sinners living in sin and everything we have believed in the name of Christ is a hoax—if there was no resurrection.

Paul went further to say, “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. These words speaks to us of the import of the resurrection in Christian doctrine. Randy Alcorn, in the book Heaven wrote that

The physical resurrection of Jesus Christ is the cornerstone of redemption…. Indeed, without Christ’s resurrection and what it means–an everlasting future for fully restored human beings…there is no Christianity”.

I will say that, if there is no resurrection, we better pack bag and baggage and walk away from the Christian faith. But thank God He “raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by [death] ( Acts 2:24). This is a wonderful testimony. Death couldn’t hold him captive. “God, His Father, heard His cry; Raised from the dead, He reigns on high”–Isaac Watts

The events leading to the resurrection points to one intriguing fact. The disciples disbelieved Him when He spoke about His resurrection all the while He was with them. John tells us that it was when Christ was raised from the dead that they remembered and believed what He had told them about His resurrection (John 2:22).

When Jesus died, the world of the disciples was shattered. All hope was lost (Luke 24:21). On the first day after the burial, Mary Magdalene, Mary the Mother of James and other women (Matthew 28:1, Mark 16:1, Luke 24:1, 10; John 20:1) went to the tomb to give Jesus’ dead body a befitting burial with spices prepared the previous day (Luke 23:56). The narrative clearly gives us an indication they were not expecting a resurrection either.  When they got to the tomb and didn’t find Jesus, their first thought was not that He had resurrected. Rather, “they were perplexed” (v.4). It was there; the truth of Christ’s resurrection was revealed to them:

Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen (vv.5-6)

These are words of great hope. Christ is alive! Christ didn’t remain in the grave. He rose to give hope to those who will believe in Him for the forgiveness of their sins. Now, when the women told the disciples; they also didn’t believe: “these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them” (v.11). All these ‘disbeliefs’ clearly indicates to us that the resurrection was not expected and couldn’t have been staged or fabricated by the followers of Jesus.

Why will they make up something they didn’t even believe or anticipated? Peter, we are told run to the tomb and and when he saw the tomb empty, he “went home marveling at what had happened.”(v.12).

Today, we have the testimony of Scripture telling us Christ is alive. We have no reason to doubt God’s word. Christ is alive!

Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures … he was buried … he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures (1Corinthians 15:3-4)

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Mourning With Hope.

Mourning with hope. How can mourning be hopeful? But the Bible says exactly that, believers must “sorrow not…as those which have no hope”.

…sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him (1Thessalonians  4:13-14).

Exactly a year ago, my dad, Rev. E.A. Mante died after a short illness. My dad is my hero. I learnt faith and perseverance from him as he endured through his life, a situation  he himself called his cross. His dedication to the Lord’s vineyard was exceptional. There are many things to say of him, but for me personally, he believed in me and the gift of God over my life. While alive, he insisted I attend a seminary to build me up in serving the Lord well.

On the day of his burial also, I experienced something that left a lasting impression on me. While the family took turns to pay their last respect, I understood in a profound sense the scripture that says “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Rev 21:4).

While I stood by my dad’s lifeless body, I was engulfed by this sense of peace which made me smile at him. Dada, as we affectionately call him was a christian who faithfully served the Lord. And that was a comfort to my heart . A comfort that gives me joy, knowing he is with the Lord.

This momentary  joyful experience however didn’t take away the pain of death we experienced as a family. Death is a reality of life, as natural as birth is. Once we are born, we will die. “A time to be born, and a time to die…”(Ecclesiastes 3:2).

Now when someone dies we grieve and it is appropraite because the Bible tells us “…we should weep with them that weep”. (Rom12:12). But as we mourn our loved ones, God doesn’t leave us on our own in inconsolable sorrow.

For the believer, the Bible and our faith regulates how we must mourn the dead. From the text quoted above, we find this phrase “sorrow not, even as others which have no hope”, a phrase I believe teaches us a lot as we mourn our loved ones.

1: Sorrow With Hope

When Paul says “sorrow not, even as others which have no hope”, I believe he teaches a very crucial lesson. Our sorrow and mourning shouldn’t be characterised by despondency and hopelessness. For the believer, death is a departure from this fallen world and body into a far glorious place in eternity removed from the sorrows and pains of this world.

As painful as death is, it is also  transition from this life into the presence of God.  Psalms 116:15 tells us “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints”. Here is a truth so marvellous to ponder over despite the difficulty of the passing of loved ones. In death, God receives His children immediately into His presence of bliss where they will rest from their labour. Our hope is beyond this life. Even in death, we have hopes of an eternal life.

2: Sorrow Without Hope

Because Paul says “sorrow not, even as others which have no hope”, it is clear there are those who sorrow without hope. To these people, death ends it all. There is no hope for an after life. But that is not what the Bible teaches. There is life after death and the Bible’s teaching is explicit on that. For those who don’t believe in Christ, when they die, according to the Bible, they are carried to hell.

Death as stated earlier, is a reality we will all face. The death of another human being simply tells us one day we will all die. But death doesn’t end it all. Death ushers the soul into eternity, either eternal life or eternal damnation. “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment”(Hebrews 9:27).

These two forms of sorrow have two different implications. Those who mourn the dead with hope are those who have a hope of eternal life. However, those who think death ends it all must be ready for the reality of eternal damnation separated from God.

3: Ressurection of The Dead

In the text, Paul again teaches a very important lesson with regards to death: “The Resurrection”. He said “if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him”. In these words is the gospel; the death and resurrection of Christ. If we believe in the death and resurrection of Christ, then in a similar fashion one day there will be a resurrection of all the dead. We will once again see our love ones who have died in the Lord.

Christ died for sinners and if you believe in Him, then your eternal life is guaranteed. If you don’t, the opposite is true. Your eternity separated from the glory of God is also guaranteed. Faith in Christ has a correlation to our eternal destination.

To all whose relatives have died in the Lord, if you are a believer, be encouraged. Don’t let sadness over shadow the joy that your loved one is in a better place and one day, you will be reunited.

Till we meet again, Dada rest in peace.ANTI 20150715_091812

Our Ways Are Not God’s Ways.

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Last week, Christians worldwide celebrated Easter, the commemoration of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. If you are a believer, this season marked the day your salvation was secured. If you are not a believer, He died for sinners and until you come to Him in Faith, you have no reason to celebrate Easter.

There is one fascinating account of the Easter events which teaches a number of lessons in our sourjourning as pilgrims on this side of eternity. The account is in Luke 24, where two of Jesus’ disciples were undertaking a journey to a village named Emmaus. While travelling, they discussed the events that had taken place in Jerusalem, namely, the death and resurrection of Jesus (vv.13-14). Immersed in their lamentation, Jesus joined them on their journey and we are told their eyes were kept from recognizing him. (vv. 13-16).

On hindsight, the reader of the Bible sees the victory in the death and resurrection of Christ. However, as we read the narration, one fact emerges; the disciples, who walked with Christ were dejected by His death. They believed Jesus was going to be their political deliverer from Roman rule. But in cold blood, the life of their leader who offered hope to them was brought to an abrupt end, so to speak. He was lifted on a cross  and gruesomely murdered. He died a death reserved for criminals–crucifixion.

When Jesus joined in the conversation with the disciples on the road to Emmaus, he asked, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?”(v.17). Their reaction to the question was evident of the content of their conversation:

And they stood still, looking sad (v.17).

Why were they sad? Because their hopes and expectations about the man Jesus has been curtailed. .

We had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel (v.21)

The disciples had their hopes and expectations. They had hopes of deliverance from Roman oppression. Their hope was political. But God’s agenda for sending His Son was grand than political, it is redemption from spiritual death and bondage. It is reconcilatory. God is in Christ reconciling the world –Jews, Romans, Greeks, Gentiles — to Himself. Jesus came to restore lost humanity into relationship with God. The agenda is mammoth, a worldwide reconciliation; calling a “great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages” (Revelations7:9). This is God’s agenda for sending Christ.

Regardless of the dreams and expectations we hold for our lives, we must come to a basic truth in our faith walk that our ways are not God’s ways and most often, our expectations fall short of God’s ways. Expectations can and do slip through our hands. But God’s agenda is bigger than any expectation we may have. He is working behind the scenes working out His own agenda concerning our lives and that must settle our hearts.

Whatever expectations drive our lives, we must ensure they align with God’s revealed will in His word. We see this clearly playing out in the conversation when Jesus rebuked His disciples for lack of Faith in God’s revealed will and from the Scriptures taught them God’s will concerning His suffering:

25:And he[Christ] said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!
26:Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory ?”
27:And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

If we are going to think God’s thoughts and not merely go through life with what we think is God’s way, we must be people who expose ourselves to God’s will through what He has revealed in His word. Our expectations must not be simply what we want God to do. But our expectations must be what God wants to do. And the only way to know this is through faith built from His word.

Christ rebukes the lack of faith of the two in the revealed will concerning His suffering. Then He takes them through an exposition of the things written about Him. Truly, there is no reliable place for the believer to thrust their anchor than in the word of God. To allay our fears and assuage our worries, we must as a matter of necessity look to the word of God.

May God grant us grace that our expectations will align with what He has revealed in His word concerning His work in us through Christ.

He Is Not Here, For He Has Risen

 

jesus-resurrection-life

Today is Resurrection sunday, the third day after Christ was crucified and He rose again. The gospels record that, on the third day after His crucifixion, at dawn, some ladies went to the tomb to attend to His body: “When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him” (Mark 16:1).

While with His disciples, Christ spoke often of His death and resurrection (Mark 8:31). However, the events after His crucifixion gives us an indication His own disciples didn’t believe it when He spoke of His resurrection. His death dashed their hopes. They thought He was the deliverer of Israel from Roman oppression (Luke 21:13-21). But here, the one they have sunk all their hopes in has been brutally murdered. Their hope was gone. The women who went to the tomb encountered an angel and the conversation points us to three proofs of the resurrection:

He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. 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 .” So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. 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 28:6-10).

1: The Empty Tomb:

“He is not here…Come, see the place where he lay”

These words point us to the truth of the risen Messiah. There was no body to be anointed by the women. The tomb was empty. Again, so the women will be certain of the angel’s proclamation, he bid them further “Come, see the place where he lay”. The Empty tomb is there to prove Jesus resurrected. The empty tomb is very crucial a sign of the resurrection because the events surrounding the burial of Jesus makes it impossible for the tomb to be empty apart from a bodily resurrection. Before He was buried, there was the fear His body will be stolen to prove a resurrection by the disciples. So the chief priest and the Pharisees approached Pilate to ensure maximum security was available: “Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.” So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard ( Matthew 27:65-66).

By the gospels narration, there is no reason to believe the disciples stole Jesus’s body to fake a resurrection. These were men who were terrified and were no where to be found during His crucifixion. Peter had denied Him thrice and from the conversation on the road to Emmaus, the disciples were expecting no resurrection. How could they, who were not expecting a resurrection and had lost all hope, spoof a resurrection story?

He resurrected. The empty tomb is proof.

2: Jesus’ Own Words

“for he has risen, as he said”

If we trust Christ, we must trust His words. The angel’s announcement carried weight. He reminded the women Jesus resurrected as He promised. Indeed, one of the charges against Him was that He had said they should destroy the temple in Jerusalem and in three days He will raise it up again (John 2:19).

Later John will tell us that, when Jesus spoke about the temple, He was talking about His body:

But he was speaking about the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken (John 2:21-22).

Do we believe in the words of Jesus? Every word He spoke? Then His resurrection must be believed.

The bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ which we celebrate in this season as Easter is one of the fundamental tenets of the Christian faith. He died and rose again thus reconciling sinful humanity to the Father through the efficacy of the finished work on Calvary. He died in our place as a ransom for our sins. He appeased God’s wrath for the punishment of our sins. (See Isaiah 53:4-6).His death and resurrection paved the way for everyone who will believe in Him to have a relationship with the father and also to have eternal life.

3: Eye Witnesses
“he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him”… And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!”

Jesus didn’t just resurrect and vanish into thin air. He actually revealed Himself to His disciples and some other people. Paul, recounting the death and resurrection of Jesus said:

he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. (1Corinthians 15:4-8)

Paul, prior to his conversion, he was Saul, a vicious enemy of the Christian faith. However, he embraced the Christian faith and became its number one advocate. What happened? He experienced the resurrected Christ. He became an eye witness of what he was opposing. On a journey to Damascus to apprehend Christians and execute them, he met with the Lord Jesus.(Acts 9). This same enemy of Christ and Christianity, later on wrote to defend the resurrection (1Corinthians 15:12-18).

There is no hope for the Christian without the resurrection. But because He rose, we have cause to be hopeful.

Because I live, you also will live (John 14:19).