Jesus is Alive!
Robert D. Pace
(Illustration) Perhaps you’ve heard this familiar story. But it’s worth repeating. Nicole was three years old and as eager for Easter to arrive as if it had been Christmas. As she and her dad shopped for new shoes she said, “Daddy, I can’t wait for Easter!” Her father asked, “Nicole, do you know what Easter means?” Her eyes brightened and she said, “Yes.” And with hardly a hesitation both arms shot straight up and she yelled: “Surprise!” [Adapted from a sermon by James Hewitt.]
What word could better summarize Easter! Jesus was crucified, buried, and sealed in the tomb but three days later there was a great surprise! Death and the powers of evil were surprised! Sin was surprised! The Roman Empire was surprised! The Pharisees were surprised! The disciples were surprised! Christ wasn’t in the grave He was alive!”
Today sanctuaries are filled with people celebrating this but sadly, many worshipers won’t return next Sunday. Why? The Barna Research Group unveiled a recent study to help explain:
74% of Americans say there’s no value in attending church.
81% say churches have too many problems.
48% say they don’t have time for church.
42% beg off because they’re disinterested.
Do you hear their complaint? They’re saying Church is irrelevant. But what’s more relevant than the issue of life after death and preparing for it? When it comes to what’s absolutely imperative in life Christ’s Resurrection is it! It’s the critical issue of life; the turning point of human history!
(Example) I want you to imagine a hypothetical situation. Let’s say, for some reason, the Government forced Christians to condense the Bible by 1000 verses. I know this is hypothetical and I don’t want to omit one word much less 1000 verses. But if Bible scholars met to abridge the Scriptures, what could be deleted without compromising its integrity?
Let’s imagine that the scholars omitted some genealogy passages. I understand the “begets” of Scripture are important, but we could get to heaven without knowing them all.
Or, what about the passages in Leviticus that outline the priests protocol for the Temple? Certainly Christians are not bound to that mode of worship, so we could live without that methodology.
There are even some miracles we count unique to our Faith that, if necessary, could be omitted. Perhaps scholars deleted passages dealing with Joshua’s halting of the sun or Elijah’s blinding of the Syrian army, or the story of the axe head that floated.
And if it were necessary, we could eliminate the accounts of Jesus walking on water or feeding the 5000 without impugning the essence of Scripture.
Remember, I’m not suggesting that we eliminate any parts of Scripture! I am illustrating something. And here is what I am illustrating: The one non-negotiable, untouchable portion of Scripture that must be left unblemished and intact is the Bible’s account of Christ’s Resurrection. Paul said if the Resurrection goes, then all we believe is invalidated—our entire Faith is vain. 1 Corinthians 15 says:
Our preaching is vain.
Our faith is null and void.
The apostles, that claimed to be eyewitnesses of the Resurrection, are liars.
Our sin we thought was dealt with at the cross still remains.
Death rules and consumes the souls of those that perish.
Everything about the Christian Faith and all the Bible claims hinge on the Resurrection—everything! All the great stories, miracles, testimonies, and prophecies are directly connected with the Resurrection—especially the promises. Every promise from Genesis to the Cross was literally buried in that tomb with Christ for three days. And had Jesus not broken the bars of death all those promises would have been invalidated. But when He arose, the promises arose!
That’s why 2 Corinthians 1:20 says: “no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.” All God’s promises are fulfilled through one person—Jesus Christ—and without Him they’re dead! He’s the “Yes” and “Amen” to the 1500 promises of this Book!
Jesus Christ, the “Amen”
I want to talk about that word “amen” for a moment. Along with “hallelujah,” it’s nearly a universal expression. People around the world know it.
(Definition) If you could read this word directly from the Hebrew or Greek it’s extremely intense. It expresses “absolute surety; total and undeniable certitude.” It attests that something is certain, valid, and binding. That’s why prayers are closed with it. It’s why congregations employ it to confirm a sermon or a benediction or Scripture reading.
From a Biblical perspective, this custom began in Deuteronomy where God commanded Israel to say, “Amen” as the Priests read from Moses’ Law (27:15-26). When Israel said, “Amen” to the Law it attested that God’s Word was certain, true, and binding. That’s why Revelation—the Bible’s last book—closes with the word, “Amen.” It means this whole Book is completely true and steadfast.
But there’s another application this word carries. It means more than “so be it.” Isaiah 65:16 uses it as a divine title of God. God actually identifies Himself as, “The Amen.” This title affirms that God is trustworthy, steadfast, and faithful to uphold every promise in this Book! And with that definition in mind, Jesus appears in Revelation 3:14 to introduce Himself as “The Amen, the faithful and true witness.” In other words, He said: “I am here as the exclamation of truth! I am thoroughly reliable. I am the One in whom God’s promises are focused, fixed, and fulfilled, and whatever you need is in Me.”
The reason this Book lives and these promises pulsate with life is because Jesus has infused His very life within them! And I would rather put my faith in a promise than dismiss the hope of a miracle and accept defeat.
We have a tendency to approach our problems like the women approached Christ’s tomb; that is, expecting the worst. They arrived at the tomb intending to anoint and improve a corpse. But instead, they got a surprise—they witnessed a Resurrection! A Resurrection is what Christ, “the Amen” had promised three days earlier and that’s what occurred.
I have a question. How are you facing a situation that, without a miracle, is hopeless and impossible? Are you like the women walking toward the tomb, intending to beautify it or create a sweet fragrance? Or, are you staring it down with faith and ready to conquer it with a promise from God’s Word? Jesus said in Mark 11:22: “Have faith in God” . . . (23) “I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him.”
You know what makes that promise certain? The Resurrection of Jesus Christ! The Resurrection says: “If the stone of death has been removed, any mountain can be thrown into the sea! Christ’s triumph over death, hell, and the grave declares victory for whatever you face.”
(Insight) I want you to notice something strangely interesting. In Revelation 3-4 Jesus addressed the seven churches of Asia Minor. But have you considered the specific church to which He introduced Himself as “The Amen”?
You would assume maybe Philadelphia, the Church with a ‘door opened that nobody could shut.’ A Church with an opportunity like that could make much of God’s promises, but it wasn’t Philadelphia.
Christ could have introduced Himself as “The Amen” to the suffering and slandered church of Smyrna. Certainly they could use an affirmation of God’s promises that would sustain them through trying times. But it wasn’t Smyrna.
Perhaps it was Pergamum? This is the Church Jesus described being situated “where Satan has his throne.” If anybody needed God’s “Amen” to show up with supernatural authority it was these people worshipping at the epicenter of Satan’s throne. But this isn’t where Jesus introduced Himself as “the Amen.”
And it wasn’t Ephesus, Thyatira, or Sardis.
The church to which Christ introduced Himself as “The Amen,”—the One faithful to fulfill all God’s promises—is the least likely of the seven churches. It was the Church of Laodicea—the “lukewarm” assembly! This is the Church Jesus addressed without offering one word of approval. The Laodiceans weren’t doing anything right! They were callused, complacent, selfish, arrogant, and on the verge of being spewed from God’s mouth. Yet, without a word of commendation, Jesus, filled with love and grace, said: “If you will repent of your indifference I, “The Amen,” will guarantee and uphold every promise of this Book!”
(Application) The application is easy to make: If God makes His promises available to the prideful, uncaring, selfish Laodiceans, they are available to anybody! But in order to claim the promises one must first repent! As 2 Chronicles 7:14 says, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” Once that is done, Christ, “The Amen,” will activate His promises and make “all things possible.”
(Transition) Folks, everything about our Faith and future hinge on the Resurrection!
The Resurrection, As I See It!
You’ll need to read between the lines of Scripture with me because here’s the Resurrection as I see it:
Jesus tried, weeks in advance, to prepare His disciples for His death. He forewarned them of His betrayal, trial, and crucifixion. Despite His clear warning they couldn’t grasp it. So He said to Himself: “It’s alright I have a surprise three days later.”
He predicted how the Sanhedrin would wrongly convict Him and the Roman government would sustain their verdict. But still nobody understood. Peter even rebuked Him for suggesting a demise of the sort. But Jesus thought to Himself: “It’s alright, I have a surprise three days later!”
He told the apostles that Satan was behind this sinister plot and there was nothing to fear because after He died He would have a surprise—three days later!
And when He attended the Passover in Jerusalem everything unfolded just as He predicted. He was betrayed, tried, convicted, and crucified. But the end was the beginning. When He drew His last breath on the cross He descended to Abraham’s Bosom where the departed saints had gathered. After two days of preaching to them they accepted Him as the Messiah. That’s when He announced it was time to revisit Jerusalem and reclaim His body.
But He needed a song for the trip back to Jerusalem. So He turned to the great Psalmist and King and said: “David, you’re qualified because you prophesied in Psalm 16:10: “you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay.” “Do you still believe that, David?” Instantly, David pulled out His harp, called for his musicians that accompanied him in the Old Testament, and sang but one word: “A——men!”
A moment later, all Abraham’s descendants joined in singing that one word song. And they sang it during their triumphal procession toward that tomb in Jerusalem. When they arrived, Jesus reclaimed His Body, rolled away the stone, and then stepped onto Jerusalem’s dusty streets and said, “Surprise.” A few days later, He continued His trip and dispatched all the Saints of the Old Testament into the presence of His Holy Father.
(Transition) Do you see what else Christ’s Resurrection does? The Resurrection removes the fear of death.
The Resurrection Removes the Fear of Death
The fear of death is the greatest threat secular people face; and it should be! Death rears its hideous head, sweeps by, strikes, and without remorse leaves loved-ones weeping in its wake.
Proverbs 24:20 says: “the evil man has no future hope.”
Psalm 37:38 says: “all sinners will be destroyed; the future of the wicked will be cut off.”
And Jesus said in Matthew 13:42 that the wicked will be thrown “into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Unbelievers are plagued with a constant inner nagging about their future. They may deny it, but in their solitude and the quiet moments before falling asleep, they contend with these thoughts of the afterlife. It’s why the Bible says, “There is no peace . . . for the wicked” (Isaiah 48:22).
Think about how people are controlled by this fear of death. For many, it dictates what they eat and drink and which activities they engage in. People plagued with the fear of death are ready to consult a specialist at the least ache in their body.
(Illustration) Years ago, there was a ruthless commander that led his army on a path of destruction wherever they went. Their greatest wrath was reserved for Christians—especially monks. As the army invaded one village the commander was pleased to hear that the monks had escaped to the mountains. But then word came that one refused to flee, which enraged the commander. The commander stormed to the monastery, found the monk and said: “Do you know . . . I am He who can run you through with a sword without batting an eyelash.” The monk stared back and said: “And do you know . . . I am one who can let you run me through with a sword without batting an eyelash.” (Wisdom from the Daily, page 184. Quoted in MacDonald, THE LIFE GOD BLESSES page 77.)
Christ’s Resurrection extracts the teeth from death. It makes men confident at their dying hour. It reduces death from a appearing as giant black hole that consumes all who draw near it, to a crack in the pavement. Christ has removed the sting from death and the smallest amount of power from the grave! The Resurrection of Christ overpowers all things!
(Illustration) One of the most moving musical masterpieces of the ages is Handel’s “Messiah.” Although it’s synonymous with Christmas it was written for Easter. A musician once asked someone if they knew which part of the “Messiah” contained the highest note. The person guessed it was either “The glory of the Lord” or “The Hallelujah Chorus.” But it isn’t. The most exalted note of the masterpiece occurs in the song: “I know that my Redeemer liveth.” And it’s reached on the phrase “He’s risen, Hallelujah.” Think about that. Handel did not do this by “chance.” He knew the Resurrection was the apex of the Christian life!
If the Resurrection really is the imperative of human history and the turning point of life, Christians cannot withhold that Good News! We cannot remain silent when we see people dying without Christ as their Savior. I’m challenging you to find someone to share that message with this week!