April 24: The Resurrection and The Life

Read John 11:1-44

I am the resurrection and the life.  (John 11:25a)

I was a new believer in my teen years, when I faced one of my first encounters with sickness and death. My uncle’s health was declining. Having read enough in the gospels to realize that Jesus had some amazing miraculous abilities, I essentially did what Mary and Martha did. I sent for Jesus…OK, not quite the way that the sisters did by sending a person. Instead, through prayer, I invited him to come and heal. But much like Mary and Martha observed with Lazarus, my uncle’s health declined still further…and he died.

Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.

Both Mary and Martha voiced those words (vv. 21, 32). And those words were running through my mind after hearing of my uncle’s passing. The presence of death somehow indicated the absence of God. Don’t believe that for a moment!

Remember what Psalm 23 tells us?

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me… (Ps. 23:4)

Later, the psalmist tells us,

Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his faithful servants.  (Ps. 116:15)

It is true that God allows and even finds joy in the passing of His children. Physical death does not indicate His absence.

In addition, death does not signal His helplessness. As I walked past my uncle’s coffin, there was nothing he could do and nothing I could do. But the Jesus whose birth we celebrate in this season is both “resurrection” and “life.” He imparts eternal life to all who, by faith, appropriate His cross-work to their lives.

Deceased followers of Christ are still very much alive. Though they are “away from the body,” they are “at home with the Lord.” (2 Cor. 5:8) And the day will come at His return at an event we refer to as the “rapture,” when He will resurrect their decayed bodies. More than just restoring them to life, He will glorify them!

Because He is the resurrection and the life, death implies neither His absence, nor His helplessness! We have hope because Jesus is alive.

sbk

Posted in I am Jesus, Jesus: The Resurrection and The Life

April 23: Why Being New Matters

Read 2 Corinthians 4:1-6:2

He spoke at Creation, that first day amid the darkness and formless.

“Let there be light,” and there was light. (Gen. 1:3)

He spoke light with a Word, and it was. The Word created light and life.

Then the Word came, the image of God Himself in human form. And the Word gave life. The Word gave His very own life.

Jesus Christ, the Word in flesh, spoke light into the darkness of sin and death. He conquered death with the power that is His alone. He braved the pain of suffering, and He died so that mankind could live.

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (5:21)

Now we carry around His death so that His real life, the kind of living designed by God Himself, might be revealed in our earthly bodies. Not only that, but now that we are really alive, we die daily to ourselves and our expectations and our own motives. We do it so we might display the true life He has given us. We die daily to death-living because of the true hope that the very God who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us . . . in his presence (4:14).

Knowing this true and real hope, living this authentic life, the very gift of God, this is how we withstand hard times. When we hold this gift, this real and true living with tenacity and hope, we find strength to hold up under pressure. The stress of trials and troubles that sometimes threaten to overwhelm don’t touch us when we fix our eyes on the truth that we have died, and are dying, to ourselves. We are alive only in Christ Jesus, the God of all.

He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. (5:15)

The very God Who spoke light into Creation spoke light into our hearts with the Word, Jesus Christ. He gave us this light that He might draw all men to Himself. That we might become His ambassadors, shining His light, living His life, for all to see His creation power and know His life.

brw

Posted in 2 Corinthians, I am Jesus, Jesus: The Resurrection and The Life | Tagged

April 22: Two Stories

Read Matthew 28:1-20

Two stories circulated around Jerusalem during the decades following the crucifixion of Jesus. One is almost too good to be true. The other is too ridiculous to be believed. One has the power to save the souls of every person for eternity. The other only saved the hides of a handful for the moment. And, most significantly, one story is true. The other is a mere fabrication.

That they would fabricate a lie is understandable. After positioning guards at the burial location of Jesus, it seems both embarrassing and irresponsible that His corpse would come up missing. But that is what happened. The stone, which had been secured by a guard, had been rolled away. No body was found inside. I suppose it is even possible that a guard or two heard the angelic statement, “He is not here; He has risen, just as He said” (v. 6). Surely, the truth had to be concealed.

Thus, the payoff. A large sum of money changed hands. The chief priests and elders couldn’t afford to have the soldiers passing along the true story, so the religious leaders gave them money. The company line was to be, “His disciples came during the night and stole Him away while we were asleep” (v. 13).

But the other story…the true one…was also to be passed along. Angels commanded it. “Go quickly,” they said, “and tell His disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see Him” (v. 7). That story caught the attention of the disciples. They saw the risen Christ and believed. Jesus appeared to yet other people…more than five hundred of them (1 Cor. 15:6). That story has been headline news ever since.

Although some people still today dismiss the true events about the resurrection of Jesus as impossible, we still carry the responsibility of sharing it broadly…with people of all nations. You see, God is calling out people from every “tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9) who will embrace this real story that is too good to be true. Share that story broadly.

sbk

Posted in Matthew

April 21: Three Days? Just Right!

Read Luke 24:1-53

You have probably heard some great stories of rescue through resuscitation. Some people that flat lined were brought back by CPR. In other instances, a defibrillator jump started life all over again. Time is critical when that happens. I have heard of a few extreme cases where someone was brought back after an extended time in cold water, but typically, we are talking seconds or minutes.

In contrast, three days seem impossible…even laughable!

It’s true, the reports had trickled in that first Easter morning. A stone rolled away. An empty tomb. An angelic encounter. Grave clothes left behind. But still, it all seemed so unbelievable…illogical…scientifically impossible.

Two men had even given up. They had packed their bags and started on a seven mile journey from Jerusalem to Emmaus. They were leaving hope behind, perhaps moving on with life. To them, Jesus had seemed like a powerful prophet, who had done some pretty impressive things. But their hopes that He was Israel’s redeemer had been dashed by His untimely and unfortunate death at the hands of His enemies. Now, three days later, they were moving on in disappointment. Three days was a long time…too long.

But their eyes had been blinded…blinded to the fact that a crucifixion was necessary in order to truly redeem and rescue…blinded by the natural human thought that the resurrection was just a pipedream…blinded by the idea that three days is not too long…and blinded in their ability to recognize that Jesus Himself was walking with them.

Blind, that is, until He broke the bread.

Suddenly, their fatigue melted into renewed strength. Suddenly, they understood why their hearts warmed and even skipped a beat as He spoke with them. He was alive! And even though they had been ready to call it a day, they raced back over the same seven-mile stretch of road they had just covered. This was news that had to be shared. The crucifixion had been a necessity, and the resurrection was a reality. They were eyewitnesses. They went back to announce that the rescue was complete.

Three days wasn’t too long! It was just right.

sbk

 

Posted in I am Jesus, Jesus: The Resurrection and The Life, Luke

April 20: How The Resurrection Changed Everything

Read John 20:1-31

When He showed up at the disciples’ secret meeting, Jesus spoke peace. He breathed His very Spirit. God Himself dwelling in man because of Jesus Christ.

Life had conquered death. No more just surviving or hiding out. The Victor had staked His claim, and it included true blessing, peace, real living.

Jesus Christ, dead three days, was alive. God Himself, the Author of life, rose up straight from the tomb, and everything changed. For the disciples. For Mary Magdalene. For you. For me. Everything. Changed.

The shame that haunted Peter since that dreadful night by the fire — the servant girl, all those denials, and then that wretched rooster — all that shame had been nailed to the cross. And now Peter could dive in head first. He could soak in and live out this life of His best friend and Savior.

The fear that had the disciples hiding out with the doors locked up had been laid to rest when God Himself killed the system of this world in His own body. Jesus Christ conquered the fear of death and the dread of darkness.

Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you. (20:21)

Because of His victory, they could go and tell all about the God Who gave everything so they wouldn’t have to. Because of His resurrection, they could bear the very Name of God within themselves.

Yes, everything changed when God killed death with the perfect life of His Son Jesus Christ.

And His victory remains. His life still saves. When Jesus Christ left that grave, He left behind the shame and the death and darkness and the sin that we couldn’t conquer ourselves.

When Jesus Christ rose up from the grave, He changed everything about life for the disciples and for us. Now we don’t have to life by just surviving. When we trust Him for real life, hand Him all our shame and wickedness, He hands us the victory and the living He died to bring us.

And now everything is changed because Jesus is alive.

brw

Posted in I am Jesus, Jesus: The Resurrection and The Life, John

April 19: The Conqueror

Read Matthew 28:1-20

As we began this study two weeks ago, God described an animosity that has impacted mankind since that fateful day in the garden when Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. That animosity was between mankind and Satan and his demons. Satan desires to steal, kill, and destroy.

But we also discovered a demonic plot and a divine plan. The demonic plot was to annihilate the Son of God, Mary’s first-born. The divine plan was to bring about the redemption of mankind through the Son of God. Ironically, the plot and the plan intersected at the cross. If Satan smiled as Jesus bowed His head and gave up His spirit, God’s smile must have been broader yet. Isaiah reminds us of the substitutionary merits of Christ’s suffering:

“But he was pierced for our transgressions,     he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him,     and by his wounds we are healed.” (Is. 53:5)

The demonic plot was unsuccessful. The divine plan was victorious. The cross was a mere flesh wound for Jesus but a fatal wound for Satan.

Though defeated and awaiting final judgment, Satan is still fighting. With the resurrection as one of the clearest evidence of his impotence, attempts to deceive people into believing lies began as early as that first Easter Sunday. As the women joyfully fled from tomb to share the miracle with the disciples, guards went into the city to explain the impossible. The final results included two conflicting messages that were to be spread. The one: “God is dead! His body was stolen!” The other: “Jesus lives! Believe it and live!”

If you are a Christ follower, don’t be surprised by the opposition you may face today as you seek to spread the news of the gospel. Satan is going down swinging! Rather than succumbing to the opposition, boldly share that Christ lives and transforms with the strength that the Spirit of God provides.  We are more than conquerors!

sbk

Posted in Demonic Plot, Divine Plan, Matthew

April 18: Hoped in Vain?

Read Luke 24:13-24; John 21:2, 3; and 1 Corinthians 15:13-20

Some of those alive at the time of Jesus…yes, even some of His closest followers…some of them drew the wrong conclusions.

After having spent time with Him witnessing His miracles and hearing His teaching, their hopes were raised. “Could this be the One?” “Could He be the One of whom the prophets spoke?” “Could Jesus be the One come to rescue them?”

But though that hope had been slowly kindled over the course of many encounters, it seemed that it had only taken a single event to nearly extinguish it – Christ’s death. Granted, in most cases death will do it, alright! Yeah, sure, Jesus had recently raised Lazarus. But, even in that instance, Jesus had been the “raiser,” not the “raisee.” And when the “raiser” dies, no one is left to raise Him, right?

From their vantage point, it was over. Hope was a thing of the past. The demonic plot had been victorious. Might as well leave town and head to Emmaus. I guess it is time to go back to the way things had been, grinding out a living as fishermen. There was no reason to announce the Messianic message. There was no purpose to the preaching circuit they once traveled. There was no foundation for faith . . . at least not faith in Jesus. There was no release from the bondage of sin. There were no valid words of encouragement to be offered at a funeral. Without the resurrection of Jesus, faith was just a painkiller that dulled the ache of life without treating the source of the pain. It must have all seemed too good to be true anyway. So, they might as well go back to life as they had once known it.

That was life before the full dimensions of the divine plan were clear. That was life before the resurrection and its implications were clear.

But, as we will see tomorrow, the resurrection was a game changer! The divine plan won out.

sbk

Posted in 1 Corinthians, Demonic Plot, Divine Plan, John, Luke