“But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15: 20-22)
The evidence for the resurrection is overwhelming. However, the greatest evidence for the resurrection comes from our personal encounters and transformation by the risen Jesus, as Paul can testify.
Through one man, Adam, sin entered humanity and sin leads to death. Yet, through another man, Jesus, who became sin for us on the cross, we can gain life through his gift of righteousness.
Jesus Christ is the only solution to the problem of death which we all face. He was born, lived, died and was raised to life as a human, with a mortal body, at one monumental time in history. At that moment, Jesus defeated the powers of satan, sin and death. When we belong to him, we share in his victory and the grave will not be the end for us either. Simply, Jesus said, “because I live, you also will live” (John 14:19).
In Christ, our resurrection is inevitable, secured with the deposit and guarantee of the Holy Spirit that brings life now to our mortal bodies. We can therefore live this life with peace, purpose and a sure hope of eternal life.
“But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised… And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins…. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” (1 Corinthians 15: 12,13,17,20)
The resurrection of Jesus is not just one more detail about his life; it is the central conviction that changes everything.
a) The resurrection reveals God as Trinity, as the Father who raises (Gal 1:1), the Son who is raised (Rom 1:40) and the Spirit who is the power of resurrection (Rom 8:11).
b) The resurrection changes the meaning of salvation: ‘if we died with Christ, we believe we shall also live with him, knowing that Christ raised from the dead is never to die again’ (Rom 6: 8,9)
What then is this resurrection life that is promised to us? Death is not just an experience at the end of life. Every moment in time also experiences a ‘death’ as it moves from the present (when we can choose what to do) into the past (where what we did stays fixed and unalterable). This fixed nature of the past is the sting in sin: something once done, and regretted, cannot be undone. Yet because of the resurrection, the power of the cross reaches to every moment of our lives. Jesus is the Lord of time who can forgive and transform us from the cradle to the grave. Through the resurrection of Jesus, God can raise us whole into his loving embrace in eternity!
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’” (Matthew 28:19-20)
We continue on this journey through the resurrection appearances of Jesus in the New Testament. And following Pentecost last Sunday, rewind a little bit to another (pretty famous) resurrection appearance of Jesus in Matthew 28:16-20 where Jesus shares three instructions with His disciples. They are: 1) to make disciples all nations, not only Jews. This is the message of the Gospel, highlighted by John 3:16, Galatians 3:26-28 and Revelation 7:9. God’s eternal family being made of people from every nation, tribe, people and language; 2) to baptize disciples in the Trinitarian name of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Following the footsteps of Jesus in Matthew 3; and 3) to teach all disciples to obey everything He had commanded them. Not only the Sermon on the Mount or the bits that we prefer or like but “everything”. The question is whether this great commission continues to be our responsibility today? Well, as we obey everything Jesus commanded, I would say absolutely yes. The task of this great commission remains unfinished in our day. How will we play our part? Remembering that God is with us (by the Holy Spirit) as we do so.
“Peter replied, “Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”” (Acts 2: 38-39)
Peter’s speech at Pentecost was the culmination of a three-year journey as about 3000 ‘fish’ were caught for the Kingdom. It was also the realisation of his original calling by Jesus from Matthew 4:19: “Come follow me and I will send you out to fish for people.” Peter demonstrated authentic discipleship in the way he followed Jesus. Three key events on his journey, helped transform and prepare him for this moment. These are key for all disciples of Jesus.
· Peter submitted to discipline from Jesus. Particularly when Peter’s mind did not understand or perceive the will of God, but rather saw things from the perspective of man. God disciplines His children.
· Peter stepped out of the boat, showing courage and faith in Jesus. He did not copy those around him and risked failure.
· Peter’s response to failure shaped him. He was humble and correctable. As Christ redeemed him, his greatest failure became his greatest strength.
Are we following Jesus this closely? Authentic discipleship is not safe, easy or static. Yet as we submit to follow Jesus, He will transform us into His likeness which is our ultimate goal as Christians.
“Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” (John 21:25)
As Peter is recommissioned for Christian service, we see two particular tools on show in John 21. The first is forgiveness, with Jesus asking Peter three times “do you love me?” having been denied three times before (John 18:17, 25-27). Forgiveness removes the barrier of sin, crucial for serving Christ and Peter discovered, like Paul in 1 Timothy 1:12-16, that no matter how desperate his failure, how deep-seated his shame, the Lord can and does forgive, renewing us for use in His kingdom service. The second is obedience, as Jesus prophesied that Peter follow Jesus to death; in verse 18, “you will stretch our your hands”. Somewhat flustered by this commission, Peter wants to know the commission for the his fellow disciple, John (in verses 20-21). Jesus essentially invites Peter to mind his own business and be obedient to the calling he has been given. This reminds us all to avoid the dangers of coveting and comparison. To be obedient to the call Jesus has given us and not another person. The final verse of this chapter is wonderful. We know so much about Jesus from this gospel and the whole word of God, but this is just a foretaste of His beauty and wonder. As one Bible Commentator puts it, “in eternity our exploration will go on in ways at present beyond our imagining as we discover more and yet more of ‘the unsearchable riches of Christ.” Amen!
“The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.”” (John 21:17)
Despite everything Peter and the other disciples had seen and heard in the post-Easter confusion they got distracted from fishing for men and went back to fishing for fish. In times of stress and uncertainty there is a tendency for all of us to go back to what we know, forgetting that Jesus is our provider. But when a stranger on the shore calls and the nets bulge with tilapia they realise the fisherman’s friend is Jesus. Peter dives in the water, the others tow the catch back to the beach: both have a desire to be with Jesus, which cannot, must not, be ignored. After the breakfast barbecue, Jesus takes Peter aside and there is an honest evaluation of loyalty, which Jesus accepts is OK!
Jesus “said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.’ Thomas said to him, ‘My Lord and my God!’” (John 20:27-28)
We see in these early verses of John 20, various references to belief – belief in the other disciple, in verse 8; belief in Mary, verse 16; and belief in the disciples of verse 19. But in Thomas, disbelief is highlighted and only be rectified by his desire for physical proof. Thomas provides for disciples, a reassuring example of doubt. Who not only came to participate in the events of an early church in Jerusalem but also took (according to fairly reliable tradition) the gospel to India where he also laid down his life for Jesus. It is noticeable that despite Thomas’ doubt, Jesus not only heard his desire for physical proof but pursued him and instructed him to reach out his hand in faith, verse 26. You may experience doubt and it would be so much easier if Jesus could simply walk in the room. To this physically blind faith Jesus says, “blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (29) But reach out to Jesus, like Thomas did, asking that the Holy Spirit will reveal God’s truth to you and through the reading of His Word.
“Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”” (John 20: 21-23)
“If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” Jesus’ disciples followed Him and participated with Him in His death and resurrection. First experiencing sorrow, grief, hopelessness, and confusion. Then, after encounters with the resurrected Christ, experiencing joy, amazement, revelation and faith. This is the pattern for all true followers of Christ. Sharing in the glory and resurrection of Jesus also brings a commission into participating in God’s mission on Earth. As God sent His son, Jesus, Jesus in turn sends the Holy Spirit and in turn, we like the disciples are sent. We are not, though, sent in our own strength and ability, rather in the power and authority of the Holy Spirit. The unique mission of all followers of Jesus is to proclaim the forgiveness of sins. We are given the divine mandate to testify to the completed work of Christ on the cross. No longer are we subject to death by sin, rather life through Christ’s gift of righteousness. This is very Good News and must be shared so others can participate in the transformation only Jesus brings through His resurrection life.
“As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them” (Luke 24:15)
Have you have ever journeyed with an unexpected stranger? In Luke 24 we read about two disciples who are accompanied by one “they were kept from recognising” (verse 16). He took interest in them and asked questions, as they discussed everything that happened prior to this journey – presumably the life and teaching of Jesus, as well as their experience of His death, crucifixion and missing body. He rebuked their foolishness and disbelief in verses 25-27 but was invited to stay with them regardless (verse 28). Perhaps they were concerned for His welfare? They certainly recognised something significant about Him and His heart burning Word (verse 32). Of course, this stranger was no stranger at all. He was their Friend, Master and King; the crucified and resurrected Lord Jesus. Eventually He was revealed to them, breaking bread and sharing it with them in a very familiar and symbolic act (verse 30). This story causes me to remember that Jesus walks with us, whether we recognise Him or not. He listens, even to our disbelief, and speaks words of life and truth. Recognise His presence with you today and listen for His heart burning guidance as you live for Him.