Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Responding to the Resurrection

What word or phrase comes to mind when you think about the resurrection of Jesus? Christians have been conditioned to believe that this was good. And it was. But not everyone agrees. Not everyone can accept the thought of a dead man coming back from the dead. But it was even more unbelievable then than it is now.

This past Sunday, in church gatherings around the world, we remember, and therefore celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. His death provided forgiveness, but without the resurrection, we could not know that He was truly the Son of God. His resurrection is important because to be resurrected means one has been dead, and Jesus had to die to truly buy our pardon.

So, the death and the resurrection are both important, equally so, as one purchased our forgiveness and the other provides us the hope of life eternal. But again, consider the word that came to mind a few moments ago. And now, as we look at the biblical responses to the truth of the resurrection, see if your response matches any of those that were there on that day, or the days to follow.

Initial Responses

In this section, I am going to list the Scripture reference, a name or group, and their reaction. It may not read conventionally here, but it should make sense. For the complete story, or for comparison, please check the passages in the Bible. All responses/word choices here are from the English Standard Version (ESV). For a more complete analysis, as usual, you may listen to the message online at http://www.fairfaxbaptistchurch.org/listen.html.

Matthew 28.1-10 The Resurrection Scene
  • The guards – trembled with fear, fainted
  • Mary Magdalene and the other Mary – fear; fear and great joy; worship, but still had fear

Matthew 28.11-15 The Attempted Cover-Up
  • Guard – fear they didn’t go to their Roman commander, for fear – see verse 14
    • They went to the chief priests
  • Chief priests – plotted a response (taken counsel) cover up, paid money

Mark 16.1-8 The Resurrection Scene
  • Mary, Mary, Salome – fear – v. 6 (they were alarmed) But entered the tomb anyway
    • Trembling and astonishment; afraid

One implied response might be bewildered because they were asking themselves who would roll away the stone (v. 3), only to find it had been moved when they arrived (v. 4). And the statement – it was very large, gives us an indication that they were amazed at some length by this. But that response is somewhat speculative, so let us now move on to Luke.

Luke 24.1-12 The Resurrection Scene
  • They – the closest antecedent for this is the word women (23.55) who would prepare the spice (23.56) and return on the first day of the week (26.1)
    • v. 4 – perplexed v. 5 – frightened
  • Apostles – did not believe (v. 11)
  • Peter – marveled (v. 12)

Luke 24.13-35 Two Disciples On the Road to Emmaus

  • Walked with Jesus, but did not recognize Him – their eyes were kept from it
    • Sad – v. 17
    • Amazed – v. 18 – amazed that Jesus had no idea what had happened
    • Crushed hopes – v. 21
    • Hearts burned within  v. 32 – they finally believed! And thus they told others.

Luke 24.36-43 Jesus Appears to Disciples
  • The Disciples
    • Startled, frightened – v. 37
    • In disbelief – v. 41
    • Joyful – v. 41
    • Marveled – v. 41

John 20.1-10 The Resurrection Scene
  • Mary Magdelene – Ran to tell others
  • Peter/Disciple Jesus loved went to tomb
    • Disciple Jesus loved – got to tomb, looked in, but didn’t go in – why?
    • Peter – went straight in
    • Then the other disciple went in – and believed!

John 20.11-18 The Resurrection Scene, cont’d
  • Mary Magdalene
    • Weeping – v. 11 – sad, concern (v. 13, not knowing where Jesus was)
    • Belief – v. 18

John 20.19-23 Jesus Appears to Disciples
  • Disciples
    • Fear – v. 19 – of the Jews
    • Glad – v. 20 – when they saw Jesus

John 20.24-29 Jesus Appears to Thomas
  • No belief – v. 25, end
  • Belief – v. 28, when He saw Jesus, but did not have to touch

This brief look has simply been the reactions from those recorded in the gospel accounts. Matthew gives us the account of the guard and the priests, but all other instances are from people who knew Jesus, who spent time with Jesus, who had heard Jesus talk about the sign of the Jonah, of rebuilding what others would destroy, etc. The same people who had seen Jesus bring others back from the dead. And what were there reactions?

By my count, upon first learning of the resurrection, the two primary responses were fear and disbelief.
  • Fear was true of everyone except for the religious leaders who plotted a cover-up.
  • Disbelief was true of all of the apostles/disciples.

After having seen Jesus, then we get responses of:
  • Astonishment, joy, and marveling (the women and the disciples)
  • Worship (by the women) according to Matthew.

I am guessing that these words, whether you believe in the resurrection or not, were not the first thought that came into mind at the beginning of this post. Again, for some disbelief may be where you are. But your change will almost certainly not come from seeing Jesus. And that is why Jesus says to Thomas (and really to all the disciples), in John 20.29: “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed!”

What's the Point?

Jesus defeated death. It was nearly unfathomable to those alive in the 1st Century. But it has become so commonplace to us that we often overlook its significance. You might say, that is an unfair statement. But I dare say, if someone came back from the dead today, we would tell everyone whether they would listen or not. That is what happened to the women and the disciples. Once they determined this resurrection was real, they couldn’t help but tell others about it  no matter the cost.

What had happened was the best thing that ever happened. Death was defeated. A man, who was also God, had died, but came back to life, and more importantly has never died again. And they wanted to tell the world. And so should we.


Thus, our JOURNEY letter for this post is E for Evoke. This post has dealt with the emotions and the responses of the people then, and you have recorded yours today. But we need to be about stirring up the emotions of all people for the sake of Jesus. That is what the word evoke means  to stir up something. And the something in this case is the heart.


Two types of people are reading this post.
  1. Those who believe that Jesus rose from the grave.
  2. Those that don’t.

First, let me take a moment to cover at a generic level some reasons for not believing Jesus died, and rose again.
  • Some have not really heard the truth of the story.
  • Others have heard and have questions.
  • Others have heard and have doubts.
  • Others have let their doubts become calloused and think it impossible.

If any of those descriptions fit you, let me ask you to examine the facts openly. I am not suggesting that you change your mind. I am saying simply seek the truth, at all costs, regardless of where it leads you. A new movie called Risen gets at this concept. (You can find my review on my personal blog here.)While the movie is not entirely biblical, it is based upon events of the Bible, and shows a Roman Tribune who seeks to know the truth no matter what. I think before we can honestly dismiss anything, we should seek to know the facts. As we have seen today, a lot of our reactions are based upon emotion. But emotion doesn’t always deal with facts. Seek to know the truth and then make your decision. It will still require faith, but you might be surprised how the facts support the Christian claims.

Now, for those who believe Jesus rose from the grave, your next step is to tell others. We talk about a lot of things that we see on the news, or in a ballgame. But the greatest news of all time is still impacting people today. And God allows us to be His broadcast team. This isn’t gossip. This is real. This isn’t just a possibility of something that might happen. This is something you are already convinced has happened. So why don’t we share this greatest hope, this greatest truth, with everyone?

On a recent trip to Israel, our group saw many tombs. Of course, we saw Jesus' tomb, the tomb of John the baptizer, the tomb of Lazarus, caves (Sidonian) near Beit Guvrin which date to 200-300 BC, and many sarcophagi of the Sanhedrin dating between 70-135 AD at Beit Shearim. Despite covering a period of 300-400 years, all of these tombs/graves had one thing in common. They were all empty!

Now the reasons for their emptiness might be many. Grave robbers have always been a threat. Decomposition is certainly a factor. And other causes are possible (as in the case of Jesus). But regardless of the reason, all of the the tombs are empty. And that means that one day your tomb will be empty too. So, if there is more to you than this shell, which the Bible says there is, where will you be spending it? Again, there are two types of people reading this post:
  • Those that believe the Jesus is who He says.
  • Those that don’t.

Either way, eternity will not be spent in a grave. But your response to the Savior who was crucified, buried, dead, and now lives will determine where you spend it, just as my response will determine where I spend it. You may not believe today, but neither did Jesus' closest friends – initially. But their response would change and the message they spread has changed the world. Whatever your response has been, I hope that all of us will choose to begin to share the greatest truth in all history – that Jesus is alive. Forevermore.

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