SS Lesson for 03/27/2016
Devotional Scripture: 1 Cor 15:1-18
The lesson reviews the facts of Resurrection Faith. The study's aim is to understand the centrality of the resurrection in our Christian faith. The study's application is to develop greater confidence in our salvation because of the resurrected Jesus Christ.
(Adapted from the Bible Expositor and Illuminator Commentary)
But he said to them, "Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him.
The four Gospel accounts of the Resurrection contain various differences in recorded details (e.g., the number and names of the women who came to the tomb, the number of angelic messengers who appeared, and the women’s reactions to the Resurrection announcement). None of the writers reported all the data; they were free (within veritable limits) to summarize, particularize, and emphasize different aspects of the same event. The various recorded differences reflect the natural effect of this unique event on different eyewitnesses, thereby confirming the Resurrection as a historical event.
The Sabbath, Saturday (Nisan 16), concluded at sunset and the new Jewish day, Sunday (Nisan 17), began. That evening after sunset the women who had witnessed Jesus’ death and burial (cf. 15:40, 47) bought spices, aromatic oils, to anoint Jesus’ body (lit., “Him”) the next morning. This indicates that they did not expect Jesus to rise from the dead (cf. 8:31; 9:31; 10:34). Spices were poured over a dead body to counteract the odor of decay and as a symbolic expression of loving devotion. Embalming was not a Jewish custom. Very early on the first day of the week (Sunday, Nisan 17) just after sunrise the women went to the tomb. They left home while it was still dark (cf. John 20:1) and got to the tomb shortly after sunrise. Two of them knew that a large stone had been rolled in front of the tomb’s entrance (cf. Mark 15:47). Only Mark recorded their concern over the practical problem of getting it rolled back. Evidently they were not aware of the official sealing of the tomb or the posting of a guard (cf. Matt. 27:62-66). When the women arrived on the scene, they looked up toward the tomb and immediately noticed that the stone... had been removed, for (gar; cf. 1:16) it was very large and thus easily seen. The women entered the tomb’s outer room that led to the inner burial chamber. They were startled to see a young man (neaniskon; cf. 14:51) sitting to their right probably in front of the burial chamber. The unique circumstances, the accompanying description, and the revelatory message (16:6-7) indicate that Mark viewed him as an angelic messenger sent from God even though Mark called him a young man, as he appeared to the women. The white robe pictured his heavenly origin and splendor (cf. 9:3). Luke (24:3-4) and John (20:12) mentioned the presence of two angels, the number necessary for a valid witness (cf. Deut. 17:6); but Matthew (28:5) and Mark referred to only one, presumably the spokesman. The women were alarmed (exethambēthēsan; cf. Mark 9:15; 14:33) when they encountered the divine messenger. This compound verb of strong emotion (used only by Mark in the NT), expresses overwhelming distress at what is highly unusual (cf. 16:8). Sensing the women’s distress, the angel commanded them, Don’t be alarmed (cf. same verb, v. 5). They were looking for (zēteite, “seeking”) the dead body of Jesus, the Man from Nazareth who had been crucified, expecting to anoint it (cf. v. 1). But the angel announced, He has risen! (“He was raised”; ēgerthē, pass.) indicating that the Resurrection was God’s act, a New Testament emphasis (cf. Acts 3:15; 4:10; Rom. 4:24; 8:11; 10:9; 1 Cor. 6:14; 15:15; 2 Cor. 4:14; 1 Peter 1:21). His body was not there as they could easily see. The tomb was empty! The angel’s message clearly identified the Risen One as the Crucified One, both referring to the same historical Person, and it revealed the meaning of the empty tomb. The certainty of the Resurrection rests on the angel’s message from God which people then and now are called on to believe. The historical fact of the empty tomb confirms it. The women were given a task. They were to go and tell Jesus’ disciples that they would be reunited with Him in Galilee. The words and Peter, unique to Mark, are significant since much of Mark’s material likely came from Peter. He was singled out not because of his preeminence among the disciples but because he was forgiven and still included in the Eleven despite his triple denial (cf. 14:66-72). The message that Jesus was going ahead of (from proagō) them into Galilee recalled the reunion He had promised (cf. the same verb in 14:28). His followers would see Him there which implies a Resurrection appearance (cf. 1 Cor. 15:5). This does not refer, as some say, to His second coming. Mark’s journey motif (cf. introduction to Mark 8:31; also 10:32a) did not end with Jesus’ death, for the risen Jesus continued to lead His followers. These women were the first to hear the news of Jesus’ resurrection but their reports were disregarded initially as women were not considered eligible witnesses under Jewish law. The disciples did not go to Galilee immediately. Jesus’ additional appearances to them in the Jerusalem vicinity were necessary to convince them of the reality of His resurrection (cf. John 20:19-29). The women... fled from the tomb because (gar; cf. 1:16) they were trembling (tromos, a noun) and bewildered (astonishment, ekstasis; cf. 5:42). For a time they said nothing to anyone (Matt. 28:8) a double negative expression in Greek unique to Mark, because (gar) they were afraid (ephobounto; cf. Mark 4:41; 5:15, 33, 36; 6:50-52; 9:32; 10:32). Their response was similar to Peter’s at the transfiguration (cf. 9:6). The object of their fear was the awesome disclosure of God’s presence and power in raising Jesus from the dead. They were overwhelmed with reverential fear and reduced to silence. Several interpreters believe that Mark concluded his Gospel at this point. The abrupt ending is consistent with Mark’s style and punctuates his development of the themes of fear and astonishment throughout his Gospel. The reader is left to ponder with awe the meaning of the empty tomb as interpreted by the angel’s revelatory message (cf. 16:9-20).
Satan knows lots of things. He knows what people do (Job 1:6, 7), he knows the Scriptures (Matthew 4:3-6), and he knows how to persuade (1 Chronicles 21:1). But the ability to know everything (that is, being omniscient) is an attribute of God, not of Satan (or of any other created being for that matter). Satan was able to persuade Judas to betray Jesus (Luke 22:3, 4; John 13:2, 27), which resulted in Jesus’ crucifixion and apparent defeat. But would Satan have gone ahead with his plan if he could have foreseen Jesus’ subsequent victory over death? Common sense tells us no. Satan was not the only one unable to foresee Jesus’ victory through resurrection, although Jesus had predicted it (compare Luke 18:31-34; John 20:9). The women who went to the tomb were not expecting him to be alive, given their intentions to prepare his body properly. They had witnessed the last moments of his life, had seen Joseph of Arimathea place the body in his own tomb (Matthew 27:55-61; Mark 15:40-47; Luke 23:49-55; John 19:25-42). They went to do what should be done for the dead; they ended up being surprised by life.
The four Gospels share divine inspiration and a common purpose. Yet each Gospel was written in a distinctive way for the needs of a particular original audience. In that regard, the four Gospel accounts of the resurrection of Jesus complement one another in the aspects and details they provide, but each is a condensed account. For example, Mark’s especially brief account does not mention the guards posted by Pilate (compare Matthew 27:62-66) and notes only one of the two men (angels) who were present at the tomb (compare Luke 24:4). The Gospel of Mark constitutes only about 18 percent of the four Gospels taken together, and this brevity is a basis for Mark’s being called the Gospel of action. In rapidly shifting scenes, we see Jesus encounter the world’s sinfulness time after time, overcome its adversity, and alter the course of events profoundly as a result. Mark’s fast-paced biography comes to its climax at the empty tomb—where death itself is overcome by the power of the one able to grant eternal life.
The closing verses of Mark 15 recount Joseph of Arimathea’s reverential kindness and courage in requesting from Pilate the body of Jesus. Having received permission, Joseph placed it in his own new tomb, which was “cut out of a rock” (Mark 15:46; compare Matthew 27:60). The fact that Joseph was “a rich man” (Matthew 27:57) fulfilled the prophecy about Jesus in Isaiah 53:9: “He was assigned a grave . . . with the rich in his death.” But Jesus’ body was not to remain there.
1 Now when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, that they might come and anoint Him.
2 Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen.
3 And they said among themselves, "Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?"
4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away -- for it was very large.
5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a long white robe sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed.
28'And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. 29 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.
20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth.
27 As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit-just as it has taught you, remain in him.
6 Now I know that the LORD saves his anointed; he answers him from his holy heaven with the saving power of his right hand.
21 Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, 22 set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.
7 The path of the righteous is level; O upright One, you make the way of the righteous smooth.
16 I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.
"This is what the LORD says to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I take hold of to subdue nations before him and to strip kings of their armor, to open doors before him so that gates will not be shut: 2 I will go before you and will level the mountains; I will break down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron. 3 I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the LORD,
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 3 he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. 4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
2 For if the message spoken by angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, 3 how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him.
18 They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. 19 But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. 20 "Go, stand in the temple courts," he said, "and tell the people the full message of this new life."
13 He told us how he had seen an angel appear in his house and say, 'Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. 14 He will bring you a message through which you and all your household will be saved.'
15 After the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the synagogue rulers sent word to them, saying, "Brothers, if you have a message of encouragement for the people, please speak."
17 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.
11 This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another.
6 But he said to them, "Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him.
7 But go, tell His disciples -- and Peter -- that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you."
8 So they went out quickly and fled from the tomb, for they trembled and were amazed. And they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures
5 If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.
12 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? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade-kept in heaven for you
18 For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, 19 through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison 20 who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, 21 and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also-not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ
29 When they had carried out all that was written about him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb. 30 But God raised him from the dead, 31 and for many days he was seen by those who had traveled with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. They are now his witnesses to our people.
3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.
20 And Isaiah boldly says, "I was found by those who did not seek me; I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me."
6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
37 They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38 He said to them, "Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39 Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have."
30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?"
7 Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, "It is the Lord," he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. 8 The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. 9 When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread. 10 Jesus said to them, "Bring some of the fish you have just caught." 11 Simon Peter climbed aboard and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, "Come and have breakfast." None of the disciples dared ask him, "Who are you?" They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14 This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.
26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" 27 Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe." 28 Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!" 29 Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."
We can learn a lot from tombs. The early inhabitants of Italy were the Etruscans, and almost all that we know of them comes from their tombs. The British have filled Westminster Abbey with tombs. Some of them include a carved image of the one buried there horizontally as in death. When the Greeks carved images, they carved them vertically, as they were in life. Under the Capuchin Church in Vienna are tombs of Austria’s rulers. One holds the remains of Empress Maria Theresa (1717–1780) and her husband Francis Stephen of Lorraine (1708–1765). An image on their double sarcophagus depicts them sitting up, as if they are just awakening on the morning of the resurrection. Is this a testament to their faith in the risen Christ and to their confidence in their own resurrections? There is a story about a man walking in a country cemetery when he saw a stone that read, “Death Is Eternal.” He was astounded that anyone would put such a line on a tombstone. He walked over to investigate and discovered that his view had been obscured by another tombstone. What it really said was, “Death Is Eternal Life.” Until Jesus rose from the dead, our view of both death and life was partial and obscured. Now we can see the true nature of both more clearly.
The town of Delft in the Netherlands is famous for its fine china. Not only that, the town is notable for the tomb of William of Orange (1533–1584), the founder of the nation. Those willing to pay the small admission fee can go in and see his tomb today. But if you can get to Jerusalem, there is no admission charge to see what some think to be the tomb of Jesus. Of course, there is a significant difference: the tomb of Jesus is open and empty! The fullness of the Christian religion depends on that empty tomb. Our forgiveness depends on it. The apostle Paul said that if Christ did not come back from the dead there is no forgiveness and we are still in our sins (1 Corinthians 15:17). Belief in the resurrection is vital (Romans 10:9). No other tomb is so important to humanity as the empty tomb of Jesus. While a single nation may honor the tomb of William of Orange, people in all nations honor the fact that the tomb of Jesus is empty. He is eternal. He rose from the dead. He sent forth his disciples into all the world. He ascended to the Father. Now we, who know the tomb is empty, must go into our world and take the message everywhere as those first followers did.
A. The testimony to the resurrection.
1. (1-5) The women discover an empty tomb and a special messenger.
Now when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, that they might come and anoint Him. Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. And they said among themselves, "Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?" But when they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away; for it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a long white robe sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, "Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him."
a. When the Sabbath was past: The earliest the women could go to the tomb and properly embalm the body of Jesus was on Sunday morning. Sabbath was over at the start of Saturday evening, but it wasn't light enough until Sunday morning to do the work. The time from sundown on Friday to sunrise on Sunday must have been dark, empty, desperate days for the disciples.
b. Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome: These women proved themselves to be the most devoted followers of Jesus, and they were the first to proclaim His resurrection.
i. Brought spices: "Spices were not used for mummification, which was not a Jewish custom, but to offset the odors from decomposition." (Lane)
c. Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us? The women were not expecting to find an empty tomb. They came wondering how the stone door would be opened. This shows that the resurrection accounts cannot be the product of wishful thinking. The disciples of Jesus did not expect it to happen.
i. Matthew 27:65-66 reminds us that there was a guard set round the tomb. All this shows that the stone could not have been rolled away by the women (they were not strong enough) or by the disciples (even if they were brave enough, they could not overcome the armed guards). We also understand that no one else wanted to roll away the stone. Matthew 28:2 tells us that it was an angel who rolled it away.
ii. The stone was not rolled away to let Jesus out. John 20:19 tells us that Jesus, in His resurrection body, could pass through material barriers. It was rolled away so that others could see into the tomb and be persuaded that Jesus Christ was risen from the dead.
d. A young man clothed in a long white robe sitting: The women saw an angel in human form, who told them of the resurrected Jesus and showed them the empty tomb.
e. Who was crucified. He is risen! The angel painted the contrast between what Jesus was and what He is. He was crucified, beyond all doubt - that means He was dead. Now, He is risen - not only resuscitated, but resurrected.
i. There are several examples in the Bible of people being resuscitated before this, such as the widow's son in the days of Elijah (1 Kings 17:17-24) and Lazarus (John 11:38-44). Each of these was resuscitated from death, but none of them were resurrected. Each of them was raised in the same body they died in, and raised from the dead to eventually die again. Resurrection isn't just living again; it is living again in a new body, based on our old body, perfectly suited for life in eternity. Jesus was not the first one brought back from the dead, but He was the first one resurrected.
ii. We should also say that Jesus still is risen. He ascended into heaven and continues to reign as resurrected man, still fully man and fully God.
iii. Jesus of Nazareth . . . who was crucified: These were not exalted titles for Jesus. Nazareth was not a place to be proud of and crucified was a title of shame, not honor. Yet Jesus was not ashamed to be called "of Nazareth" and "crucified." "This description of his shame has become his crown of glory, for Paul and all who look to the Crucified and Risen Christ as Saviour and Lord." (Robertson)
f. See the place where they laid Him: The actual event of Jesus' resurrection is nowhere described, but the discovery of it is recorded in some detail. Here, the women who intended to give Jesus' body a more proper preparation for burial discovered that the stone was rolled away from the tomb and that the body of Jesus was not inside the tomb.
i. Those women were later grateful that the angel told them to see the place where they laid Him. It would have - it should have - been enough to merely hear the testimony of the angel. Nevertheless, when they saw it, it gave them ground to stand on even more solid than the testimony of an angel. "One eye-witness is better than twenty ear-witnesses; men will believe what you have seen if they do not believe what you have heard." (Spurgeon)
When we see the place where they laid Him is now empty, we see that the Father did not forsake Jesus.
When we see the place where they laid Him is now empty, we see that death is conquered.
When we see the place where they laid Him is now empty, we see that we have a living friend in Jesus.
g. He is risen! The fact of Jesus' resurrection is a matter of history. What it means can only be understood by what the Bible tells us. Therefore, it is important to consider what the empty tomb of Jesus and His resurrection means.
i. The resurrection means that Jesus was declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead (Romans 1:4).
ii. The resurrection means that we have assurance of our own resurrection: For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus (1 Thessalonians 4:14).
iii. The resurrection means that God has an eternal plan for these bodies of ours. "There was nothing in the teaching of Jesus approaching the Gnostic heresy that declared that the flesh is inherently evil. Plato could only get rid of sin by getting rid of the body. Jesus retains the body; and declares that God feeds the body as well as the soul, that the body is as sacred thing as the soul, since the soul makes it its sanctuary." (Morgan)
iv. The resurrection means that Jesus has a continuing ministry: He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He ever lives to make intercession for them (Hebrews 7:25).
v. The resurrection means that Christianity and its God are unique and completely different and unique among world religions.
vi. The resurrection proves that though it looked like Jesus died on the cross like a common criminal He actually died as a sinless man, out of love and self-sacrifice to bear the guilt of our sin. The death of Jesus on the cross was the payment, but the resurrection was the receipt, showing that the payment was perfect in the sight of God the Father.
2. (7-8) The angel gives the women a message to relay.
"But go, tell His disciples; and Peter; that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you." So they went out quickly and fled from the tomb, for they trembled and were amazed. And they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
a. Go and tell: Through the angel, the women received a message from Jesus they had to deliver. We might think of this message as an invitation, because through this message the disciples were invited to meet with Jesus.
i. This shows that the invitations of Jesus are filled with grace. The disciples had completely failed Jesus. He had every right to be done with them, but in grace He extended this kind invitation to them.
ii. This shows us that the invitations of Jesus are always fulfilled on His part. He said that He would meet them in Galilee and indeed He did (John 21:1 is one example).
iii. This shows us that when Jesus invites us He wants to reveal Himself to us. "He is going before you into Galilee, there you shall see Him" was the message. The main object was to see Him, for Jesus to reveal Himself to His people.
iv. This shows us that when Jesus invites us He always remembers His promises. "As He said to you," the angel added to the invitation. What Jesus says, He will do, and He can never fail in any promise.
b. His disciples; and Peter: We are amazed that Jesus wanted to meet with these men who failed Him so deeply, yet He made special notice of Peter. Some say He distinguished Peter because he was separate from the rest of the disciples in the sense that he was no longer among them. This was probably not the case. Instead, Jesus distinguished Peter because He had special hope, special forgiveness, special restoration for the one who denied Him the worst.
i. "If any of you have behaved worse to your Master than others, you are peculiarly called to come to him now. You have grieved him, and you have been grieving because you have grieved him. You have been brought to repentance after having slidden away from him, and now he seals your pardon by inviting you to himself." (Spurgeon)
c. For they trembled and were amazed: "These women left the tomb, and fled. Seized with trembling, and astonishment; - the actual Greek word there is 'ecstasy,' - seized with trembling and ecstasy, filled with fear; so they fled." (Morgan)
d. And they said nothing to anyone: This does not mean that they made no report of the resurrection because we plainly know that they did (Mark 16:11 and Luke 24:9). It means that as they left the scene of the empty tomb, they did not discuss it among themselves. They didn't try to figure it out or match their stories. They simply went to make a report to the disciples as the angel invited them to do.
The resurrection of Jesus is a singular event in history. It is in a category that consists of just that one item. It is distinct from other resurrections in the Bible, such as the raisings of the Shunammite woman’s son (2 Kings 4:32-37), the son of the widow of Nain (Luke 7:11-15), the daughter of Jairus (Luke 8:49-56), and Lazarus (John 11:38-44). Those resuscitations were instances of temporary restoration of physical life by the reunion of soul and body—temporary because all those people died again later. The resurrection of Jesus, by contrast, is permanent. That permanence is attested by Jesus himself: “I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever!” (Revelation 1:18a). That permanence has vital implications. Death is God’s penalty for sin (Genesis 2:16, 17; Romans 5:12), but now the risen Jesus holds “the keys of death and Hades” (Revelation 1:18b). Another characteristic that sets Jesus’ resurrection apart from the others noted above is that his body was transformed, not merely resuscitated. After his resurrection, he appeared and disappeared in ways he had not done previously (Luke 24:31, 36, 51; John 20:19, 26), although he still had a physical body that could be touched (Luke 24:37-43; John 20:27). The transformation of Jesus’ body prefigures the transformation to come of those who belong to him when we are raised on the last day (1 Corinthians 15:42-57; compare Philippians 3:21, below). The lost also will undergo a transformation, though theirs will be in preparation for eternal death rather than eternal life (Daniel 12:2).
From our vantage point some 2,000 years later, the open, empty tomb is the universal image of Christ’s victory over death. The women who found the tomb to be open on that first Lord’s Day morning had prepared themselves to be confronted with death. Instead, they were confronted with the announcement of life. The reality of death confronts all, and we make preparations for it. We help friends and family members in funeral planning. We purchase cemetery plots. We acknowledge our own forthcoming deaths by writing wills. But the best preparation is to let our thoughts dwell on the life that is to follow: resurrection life. Jesus has promised that what was accomplished in him on that third day will also be accomplished in us when he returns. The power of life over death that he demonstrated for himself is the same power that will instantly and forever transform us. As Paul joyfully proclaimed, Christ “who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body” (Philippians 3:21). Jesus is Lord over death, having conquered it. That makes him Lord over eternal life—our eternal life.
Therefore as we prepare for death, we keep in mind that “the last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Corinthians 15:26). Death is our enemy, but it is ultimately a defeated enemy. When Jesus Christ returns (and every day brings us closer), we all will be changed. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, death will be no more. Then we will walk where death can never again rip us asunder, neither soul from body nor one from another. The women on that first Lord’s Day ran in fear from the empty tomb; our task today is to run in joy with the message of the empty tomb. May we ever proclaim Christ’s victory over his death; may we never lose sight of the fact that his victory is ours as well—for eternity.
1. We can have good intentions but engage in acts of service that God does not need from us (Mark 16:1-2)
2. Sometimes problems we think we will have are solved before we face them (vss. 3-4)
3. The unexpected is often frightening to us (vs. 5)
4. Not many seek Jesus; those who do often look for Him in the wrong places (vs. 6)
5. Those of us who know that the Lord lives have a message to take to others (vs. 7)
6. We are often afraid as we set out on our mission for Jesus, but we need not be (vs. 8)