Anchor Sunday School Class
From Tragedy to Triumph, John 20:19-
When we look at the upper room in Jerusalem on the night after the crucifixion of Jesus, we see a microcosm of where many are living today. These disciples of Jesus had left everything to follow Him, believing He was the Messiah, sent from God. Their hopes and dreams of a Messianic kingdom had been dashed in a few hours of abject horror. The One who had claimed to be the light of the world was now extinguished in the darkness of death. The One who said He had come to make God known was apparently abandoned by that God, for they heard the terrifying scream “God why have you forsaken me?” Jesus who had made the radical claim that He was the resurrection and the life, was now a victim of death, not a victor. In that upper room we see a little group of dejected, despairing followers of Jesus behind a bolted and barricaded door. Fear has replaced hope. Bitter disappointed has replaced anticipation. They are broken in spirit, dazed, stunned, and sit in silence, too beaten down to speak. Their dreams of a Kingdom have turned into a nightmare of horror: Jesus is dead. And those three words have not only wrapped them in unmitigated despair, but smashed any hope of truly knowing a life of love, joy, and peace. Jesus is dead! Those three words cover them in darkness, and chain them in a prison of deep sorrow. There is nothing left for which to live. They now should “eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow they too will die.” Here is one pathetic picture we see in the Gospels: defeat, despair. I say again, we also see a picture of current human existence. I remember years ago, walking through a country cemetery and seeing a tombstone with this cynical inscription: “Here I lie, just as I expected, with no hope of being resurrected.” NO HOPE! Sadder words were never written nor spoken. Those pitiful disciples 2000 years ago, the struggling masses today, all are defined by those elegiac words! “No Hope!”
However, we see another picture in the Gospels. A TRANSFORMATION had occurred! We see those same men, but no longer a picture of despair! We see them aflame with confidence that can only be explained in terms of “God has come upon them.” Their tongues are no longer silenced by fear! The book of Acts unfolds to us their message of hope, peace, joy, and redemption. Their message rings like iron! Rather than playing the role of cowards cringing behind closed doors, they are out in the streets, proclaiming a new radical message: “Jesus is not dead, for He has been raised by God in the power of the Holy Spirit!!!” They are now planning to conquer the world with this captivating message, this gospel of the LIVING CHRIST! What has happened? How do we explain this transformation from tragedy to triumph? Between the two pictures something astounding occurred: CHRIST HAS BEEN RAISED, HE IS ALIVE!
Much has been written about the FACT OF THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS, and thankfully many strong voices have assured us that we do not give away our brains when we declare “Christ the Lord is risen today…Halleluiah!” (Revelation 5:15). Keen intellects have called us from a dystopian mentality to a mind “set above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God (Colossians 3:1).” We stand on a solid rock when we join the universal community of faith in declaring “Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, and the last enemy to be destroyed is death (I Corinthians 15:20).” With gratitude for substantial and erudite writings, let us look at the MEANING OF THE RESURRECTION.
First of all, the resurrection of Jesus is God’s vindication of Jesus and the validation of the claims Jesus made about Himself. It is imperative to grasp this historic fact: when the early Christians went forth proclaiming the gospel, they did not say “Jesus rose,” but declared “He was raised.” This is not mere semantics, for the gospel reveals that the empty tomb testifies to God’s actions through the Spirit in raising Jesus from death. God raised Jesus from the dead in the power of the Holy Spirit, and thereby vindicating “Jesus as Lord,” and validating the amazing claims that Jesus made. He claimed to be the light of the world. He claimed to be the one sent from God to make God known (John 1:18). He claimed to be the bread of life, the One sent from the Father to do His will, His work, and proclaim His Word (John 6:35-58). He admonished heartbroken followers to “let not your hearts be troubled,” for He is “the truth, the way, and the life (John 14:1-7).” The early Church preached “God raised Jesus from the dead (Acts 2:24, 32; 3:15; 4:10; Romans 1:1-5; I Corinthians 15:15). How do we know His claims are true and not the ravings of a mad man? Good question. Gospel’s answer: God raised Him from the dead! God vindicated Jesus, validated His claims by raising Him from the dead in the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:11).
Secondly, the resurrection testifies to the RIGHTEOUSNESS OF JESUS, HIS SINLESSNESS. Had Jesus remained in the tomb, a logical conclusion would be: “The wages of sin is death, (Romans 3:23) and Jesus died because of sin’s wages.” Furthermore, we could conclude “Just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men because ALL HAVE SINNED (Romans 5:12).” But on the resurrection morning, “Heaven and nature sang,” “He who knew no sin became sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God (II Corinthians 5:21). He who was righteous, became the unrighteous, so that we the unrighteous might be clothed in HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS. How do I know this? GOD RAISED HIM FROM THE DEAD, and we are assured that “we are redeemed, with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb WITHOUT BLEMISH OR DEFECT (I PETER 1:18-19). Because of the resurrection, we can be at peace, believe in God “Who raised Jesus from the dead, glorified Him (I Peter 1:21).” And “when He shall come with trumpet sound, O may I then in Him be found, dressed in HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS ALONE, faultless to stand before the throne.”
Last of all, and there are many other joyful results of the resurrection of Jesus, we know that DEATH DOES NOT SPEAK THE FINAL WORD! So many events and experiences cause us to acknowledge “We do not know!” It is imperative that we do not become victims of “what we do not know,” but cling to “what we do know.” Job set the tone for us by defying the incomprehensible in confessing “I KNOW that my redeemer lives.” The apostle Paul declared from the context of suffering: “We KNOW that the God who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead, will also raise us with Jesus, and present us with you in His presence (II Corinthians 4:14).” And again the apostle Paul spoke to the grieving believers at Thessalonica, encouraging them with this truth: “We grieve, we hurt because of death, but not as those who have no hope. We believe that Christ died and was raised to life, so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in Him (I Thessalonians 4:13-14). Because God raised Jesus from death, we know that there “will be a new heaven and new earth. There will be no more death, or mourning, or crying, or pain, for this old order will pass away. He who sits upon throne says ‘I am making all things new’ (Revelation 21:1-8).”
The prophet Hosea thundered forth with the question “Where O death are your plagues, where is your destruction (13:14)?” Paul replies to that ancient question with categorical certainty “thanks be to God who gives us the victory through Jesus Christ our Lord (I Corinthian 15:55).” That victory is firmly established: “Christ has been raised! He speaks the final word! And that word is ‘Because I live, you too shall live’ (John 14:19).”
May the message that JESUS CHRIST IS ALIVE, dry the tears caused by the cruel hand of death, lift the fallen spirit, mend the broken heart, give hope to the hopeless, joy to the despairing, and motivate us to keep on keeping on, knowing that “our labor in the Lord is not in vain (I Corinthians 15:58.” May during this Easter season we remember the last recorded words of Jesus “Yes, I am coming soon (Revelation 22:20). And because God raised Him from the dead, we can be embraced with encouraging words “Christ was sacrificed once to take away sin, and He will appear again to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him (Hebrews 9:27).” God raised Him from the dead. Jesus is vindicated as Lord of Lord of Lords and King of Kings. God raised Him from the dead, and His claims are validated. God raised Him from the dead, the sinless Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. God raised Him from the dead, and those in Him will gather together to “dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” So, let us during this wonder-filled season, join with the Church in Heaven: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb (Revelation 7:10).” Amen, praise and glory!