Tag Archives: resurrection

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Commending Christ

 

Author John Stackhouse describes the discipline of “apologetics” as the Christian work of commending the faith as much as it is about defending the faith.(1) Commending the faith, he argues, is something the Christian community does wherever it is—with one another, with neighbors, with the world. Consequently, it is also something the Christian community does whether they are aware of it or not.

In his sermon before the Areopagus, the apostle Paul commended the gospel with reason and rhetoric that would not have gone unrecognized. This is the “good news,” he professed, and the “good life” depends on it. To the Athenian philosophers, he commended the gospel in terms that mattered deeply to them. “Since we are God’s offspring,” he said quoting an Athenian poet, “we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals.”(2) For on the contrary, he told them, the real and present Deity is now calling people everywhere to turn around and come near.

The apostle then followed this bold notion with a proof that would have caused as much, if not more, commotion in first century Athens as in hyper-rational modernity and cynical post-modernity. We know that God is the true creator, sustainer, and friend, he reasoned, because God “has given this proof… by raising [Christ] from the dead.”(3) Paul is telling the story of God in the world here, but he is also telling his own story. This Deity he commends to the Athenian philosophers is the risen Christ who appeared to him on Damascus road, who became ‘friend’ instead of ‘foe,’ and turned his own philosophy and consequently his life around.

Paul’s use of the resurrection as proof of all he has proclaimed to the Athenians is interesting on several levels. To begin with, while the apostle clearly sought to ground his Mars Hill message on a common foundation, he ended with a proof that must have seemed to some like a foreign tidal wave. For the Athenians, resurrection of the body was absurd and unreasonable, as much of an obstacle to them as the scandalizing cross to men and women of Jerusalem. While the philosophers of the Areopagus may have believed in the immortality of the soul, the body was what confined and imprisoned this soul. In their minds, there was a radical distinction between matter and spirit. Bodily resurrection did not make any more sense than a god with a body! For the Athenians, and indeed for all of us, this very proof required a radical turn of heart, mind, soul, and body. For some, this babbler’s new teaching was immediately labeled absurd. When they heard of this resurrection of the dead, reports Luke, there were scoffs and sneers.

Yet Paul’s apologetic, which was carefully researched, powerfully worded, and respectfully delivered, was not here ending on a careless note. On the contrary, he was ending with the chorus itself. For Paul, all of the words uttered up until this point would merely be noise had they not come from this very refrain. For if Christ has not been raised, both preaching and faith itself is useless, as he said elsewhere. Though it would have been a foreign language to the crowd at the Areopagus, Paul commended the resurrection as the very proof of his apologetic—for the entirety of his message was authoritative only and specifically because the resurrection had indeed occurred. Authors Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon note the central task of commending the Gospel: “Our claim is not that this tradition will make sense to anyone or will enable the world to run more smoothly. Our claim is that it just happens to be true. This really is the way God is. This really is the way God’s world is.”(4) For Paul, and for the apologist, the important Christian act of finding common ground must never involve burying what is real and living: Christ is risen from the dead.

This single event is the theological core of Paul’s identity and his highest apologetic. It is also the very pillar which makes abundantly clear that the true work of apologetics does not belong to Christians. Writes Stackhouse, “Spiritual adepts throughout the ages warn us that mere argument accomplishes little even within our own hearts.”(5) No one knew this better than the apostle Paul, who would never have otherwise considered Jesus anymore than one to despise: the work of conversion belongs to the Holy Spirit.

Thus, there were many at the Areopagus that day who sneered at Paul’s philosophical conclusions. There were also many who responded in the same manner they responded to any teaching considered at the Areopagus—namely, with fascination, with discussion, and with barren hearts and minds. But likewise, there were a number who believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others.(6) By the grace of God, the risen Christ was commended and the obstacles that kept him from sight were overcome.

Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

(1) The discipline of apologetics derives its name from the Greek word apologia, meaning defense. “Always be ready to give an answer (apologia) to anyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15).

(2) Acts 17:29.

(3) Acts 17:31.

(4) Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon, Resident Aliens (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1989), 101.

(5) John Stackhouse, Jr. Humble Apologetics: Defending the Faith Today (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002), 82.

(6) cf. Acts 17:34.

Ravi Zacharias Ministry –   Ascending Creatures

 

Most of us would likely miss it. Couched between Wednesday’s building crescendo of assignments and Friday’s promise of their demise, Thursday hardly seems more than a means to an end. Though the day is every bit as holy as Easter Sunday, most of the world moves through it unsuspectingly—unfortunately, even those who have confessed the momentous lines of the Apostles’ Creed: “On the third day he rose again from the dead. He ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.”

Today is Ascension Day, the day marking the ascension of Jesus Christ. Forty days after the celebration of Easter and the resurrection of Jesus, the church around the world holds in remembrance this eventful day. The gospel writer records: “Then [Jesus] said to his disciples…. ‘See, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.’ Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God.”(1)

The ascension of Christ may not seem as momentous to the Christian story as the resurrection or as rousing as the image of Jesus on the cross. After the death and resurrection, in fact, the ascension might even seem somewhat anti-climatic. The resurrection and ascension statements of the Apostles’ Creed are essentially treated as one in the same: On the third day he rose again from the dead. He ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty. One might even think that the one miraculous act flowed immediately into the other: as if the death of the body of Jesus was answered in the resurrection, a presence who then floated onto heaven. Unfortunately, the result of this impression is that many think of the ascension as somehow casting off of Christ’s human nature, as if Jesus is a presence that only used to be human. Hence, Jesus seems one more fit to memorialize than one we might expect to actually see face-to-face one day.

But in fact, this couldn’t be farther from the experience of the disciples, to whom Jesus appeared repeatedly in the days following the resurrection. To them it was abundantly clear that Jesus was not any sort of spiritual ghost or remote presence. He ate with them; he talked with them; he instructed them as to the ministries they would lead and the deaths they would face because of him. He was in fact more fully human than they ever realized, and it was this holy body, this divine person that they held near as they lived and died to proclaim his kingdom.

Consequently, the ascension they remembered was no different than the future they envisioned with him: he was raised as a human, fully human. As the disciples were watching and Jesus was taken up before their very eyes, a cloud hid him from their sight. The text then refers to them “looking intently up into the sky as he was going” when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them: “‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go’”(3) In this resurrected body, Christ ascended to heaven, fully human, fully divine, entirely glorified.

For the Christian, no action of Jesus is without weight, and this, his last action on earth, is weighed with far more hope than is often realized. Ascending to heaven, the work God sent him to accomplish was finally completed. The ascension was a living and public declaration of his dying words on the Cross: It is finished. In the ascension, Jesus furthered the victory of Easter—the victory of a physical body in whom God had conquered death. Because of the ascension, the incarnation is not a past or throwaway event. Because of the ascension, we know that the incarnate Son who was raised from the dead is sharing in our humanity even now. And just as the men in white informed the disciples, so we carry in our own flesh a guarantee that Christ will one day bring us to himself. It is for these reasons that N.T. Wright affirms, “To embrace the Ascension is to heave a sigh of relief, to give up the struggle to be God (and with it the inevitable despair at our constant failure), and to enjoy our status as creatures: image-bearing creatures, but creatures nonetheless.”(3)

Ascension Day, a holy day falling inconspicuously on a Thursday in May, is the conspicuous declaration that we are not left as orphans. In the same post-resurrection body that he invited Thomas to touch, Jesus invites us to full humanity even today. He ascended with a body, he shares in our humanity, extending his own body even now, promising to return for our own bodies. Christ is preparing a room for us, and we know it is real because he himself is real.

Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

(1) Luke 24:49-53.

(2) Acts 1:9-11.

(3) N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church (New York: Harper Collins, 2008), 114.

Alistair Begg – Raised from the Dead

 

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead.

1 Corinthians 15:20

The whole system of Christianity rests upon the fact that “Christ has been raised from the dead;” for “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (verse 13).

The divinity of Christ finds its surest proof in His resurrection, since He was “declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead.”1 It would not be unreasonable to doubt His Deity if He had not risen. Furthermore, Christ’s sovereignty depends upon His resurrection: “For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.”2 Again, our justification, that choice blessing of the covenant, is linked with Christ’s triumphant victory over death and the grave, for He “was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.”3

More than this, our very regeneration is connected with His resurrection, for we are “born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”4 And most certainly our ultimate resurrection rests here, for “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.”5 If Christ is not risen, then we will not rise; but if He is risen, then those who are asleep in Christ have not perished but in their flesh shall surely see God. In this way the silver thread of resurrection runs through all the believer’s blessings, from his regeneration onward to his eternal glory, and ties them all together. How important for believers is this glorious fact, and how they rejoice that beyond a doubt it is established, that “in fact Christ has been raised from the dead.”

The promise is fulfill’d,

Redemption’s work is done,

Justice with mercy’s reconciled,

For God has raised His Son.

1) Romans 1:4   2) Romans 14:9   3) Romans 4:25   4) 1 Peter 1:3   5) Romans 8:11

Devotional material is taken from “Morning and Evening,” written by C.H. Spurgeon, revised and updated by Alistair Begg.

Charles Stanley – The Resurrection: Does It Matter?

 

 Acts 2:22-24

Believing that the Lord Jesus Christ rose from the dead is essential for Christians. Merely recognizing that He died for our sins is not enough; we must accept His resurrection in order to receive eternal life. Christ paid our debt, but His sacrifice on the cross means nothing unless He possesses power over the grave. In vanquishing evil and death, the Lord made our salvation possible.

Jesus’ resurrection proved He was able to remove sin and its penalty. Assuming Christ remained dead would mean accepting the opposite—that believers are still in sin. And the inevitable end of a sinful life is death. Consequently, a person who denies Christ’s eternal nature looks toward a void future. Bertrand Russell, a famous atheist philosopher, offered this sad description of such hopelessness: “Brief and powerless is Man’s life; on him and all his race, the slow, sure doom falls pitiless and dark.”

Instead of enjoying Christian liberty and anticipating a home in heaven, those who reject resurrection are slaves to the present, with no real hope or meaning in life. Career, family, and good works can offer brief pleasure but not the kind of joy that comes from knowing we are right with the Lord and working in His will.

Resurrection is not a denominational issue or a point for theological debate. Either we believe Christ rose from the dead and ascended to heaven or we do not. If we reject His victory over the grave, we deny ourselves a place in eternity. But if we accept the truth, we will be saved.

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Everyday Easter

 

There is a great amount of anticipation leading up to Easter Sunday. Even for those who are “Christmas and Easter” church-goers, or for those who simply sit at home and dream of Easter baskets, chocolate rabbits, and colored eggs, anticipating Easter, on the one hand, is like waiting for the door to finally be unlocked, unhinged and opened onto a verdant spring meadow. On the other hand, Easter is stepping out onto that meadow and closing the door behind on the long, cold, dreary winter.

Yet, for many, the day comes and goes and then what? Easter is over again until next year. In some parts of the world, winter still hovers above and the grey of death has not given way to the springtime. The candy is eaten, the brunches are over, and everything seems to return to normal. All that anticipation ends in just one day—with grand celebrations and powerful sermons, and perhaps with even a first playful roll in the springtime grass—and then it’s over. Or is it?

The celebration of Easter is insignificant if the celebrations do not point to the continuing reality of the Risen Lord. Indeed, in many church traditions, the season of Eastertide which lasts until Pentecost asks this very question of those who lead congregations into continual contemplation of the resurrection until the day of Pentecost: how do we perceive the continuing presence of the risen Lord in our reality? Indeed, how do we? Is it simply the annual remembrance of a historic event from long ago?

If we’re honest, many of us do wonder what difference the resurrection has made in the practical realities of our lives. We still argue with our spouses and loved ones; we still have children who go their own way. We have difficulties at work or at school. We still see a world so broken by warfare, selfish greed, oppression and sin. Like the two men on the road to Emmaus recounting the events surrounding Jesus, perhaps we wonder aloud: “But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel” (Luke 24:21a). Things seem pretty much as they were before Easter Sunday, and the reality of our same old lives still clamor for redemption.

This is often the way we feel if we have only understood resurrection as an event long past that only speaks to a future yet to come. We feel this way if we do not connect Jesus’s prayer for God’s will to be done “on earth as it is in heaven” with the reality of the cry, “He is risen, as he said.” The glimpse into the kingdom of God that we get in the life and ministry of Jesus is ratified through the resurrection. New creation, new life, resurrected living is now a possibility for those who follow Jesus.

The risen Jesus told his followers, “As the Father has sent me, I also send you” (John 20:21). Jesus’s resurrection is not a promise for escape from the world, or a life free from trouble, but rather it commissions those who would remember his resurrection to be his ‘raising’ agents in the world. He sends us out with the extraordinary news that the dead can be raised to new life for death and evil do not have the last word! And as we begin to live in light of the resurrection, we can gain insight into its significance for the practical realities of everyday lives. As N.T. Wright has concluded: “Jesus is raised, so he is the Messiah, and therefore he is the world’s true Lord; Jesus is raised, so God’s new creation has begun—and we, his followers, have a job to do! Jesus is raised, so we must act as his heralds, announcing his lordship to the entire world, making his kingdom come on earth as in heaven.”(1)

We are sent out beyond Easter Sunday into Eastertide because everything has changed. As we live into and out of the resurrection, we demonstrate the continuing presence of the risen Lord in our lives and in this world.

Margaret Manning Shull is a member of the speaking and writing team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Bellingham, Washington.

(1) N.T. Wright, Surprised By Hope (New York: Harper Collins, 2008), 56.

(2) Artwork included in this essay is the work of Ben May Media, http://www.benmaymedia.zenfolio.com. Used by permission.

 

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Scars of New Creation

 

One of the most terrifying and deeply troubling news stories for me of the past few years has been one that has escaped broad notice by the Western media. It is the story of extreme and widespread violence against women in Eastern Congo. Raped and tortured by warring factions in their country, women are the victims of the most horrific crimes. As one journalist reported, “Many have been so sadistically attacked from the inside out, butchered by bayonets and assaulted with chunks of wood, that their reproductive and digestive systems are beyond repair.”(1) They bear their wounds in their own bodies, permanent scars of violence and oppression.

In this holiest week for Christians around the world, the broken and wounded body of Jesus is commemorated in services of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. The broken body and spilled blood of Jesus is remembered in the symbols of bread and wine on Maundy Thursday, and in the black draping of curtains and cloths on Good Friday. Jesus suffered violence in his own body, just as many do around the world today.

Even as Christian mourning turns to joy with Easter resurrection celebrations, it is important to note that Jesus bore the wounds of violence and oppression in his body—even after his resurrection. When he appeared to his disciples, according to John’s gospel, Jesus showed them “both his hands and his side” as a means by which to identify himself to them. Indeed, the text tells us that once the disciples took in these visible wounds “they rejoiced when they saw the Lord” (John 20:20).

The resurrection body of Jesus contained the scars from nail and sword, and these scars identified Jesus to his followers. And yet, the wounds of Jesus took on new significance in light of his resurrection. While still reminders of the violence of crucifixion his wound-marked resurrection body demonstrates God’s power over evil and death.

But his wounds reveal something else. God’s work of resurrection—indeed of new creation—begins in our wounded world. His resurrection is not a disembodied spiritual reality for life after the grave; it bears the marks of his wounded life here and now, yet with new significance.

N.T. Wright, who has written extensively on the central importance of Christ’s bodily resurrection for Christians, says it this way:

“The resurrection of Jesus means that the present time is shot through with great significance….Acts of justice and mercy, the creation of beauty and the celebration of truth, deeds of love and the creation of communities of kindness and forgiveness—these all matter, and they matter forever. Take away the resurrection, and these things are important for the present but irrelevant for the future and hence not all that important after all even now. Enfolded in this vocation to build now, with gold, silver, and precious stones, the things that will last into God’s new age, is the vocation to holiness: to the fully human life, reflecting the image of God, that is made possible by Jesus’ victory on the cross and that is energized by the Spirit of the risen Jesus present within communities and persons.”(3)

Indeed, Paul’s great exposition of the resurrection of Jesus in 1 Corinthians 15 ends by reminding the Corinthians, “Therefore, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.” The point of the resurrection is to demonstrate that entropy and death do not have the final word—either for humans or for God’s creation. God’s last word is resurrection in the midst of our human, often-wounded lives now.

The reality of the resurrection marked by the wounds of Jesus can bring this kind of hope and this kind of joy of new creation even into the darkest places. The reality of the bodily resurrection also compels a response from those who live in its light. We work and we toil, and perhaps even pour out our blood, sweat, and tears to tend the wounds of others. The hope of the resurrection reminds us that our labor is far from in vain for Christ has gone ahead of us. We bear the scars of toil even as we bear the image of resurrection reality in this world. We bear them as new creation, remembering that Jesus continued to wear his scars as part of his resurrected life.

The visible wounds of Jesus after his resurrection also bring hope in the midst of our suffering. Even our suffering does not have to be in vain. Many women in the Congo, despite all their horrific suffering, seem to understand this. Behind the Panzi Hospital that treats the majority of these rape cases, a new center of refuge called “City of Joy” is being built. It will be a place of long-term healing and refuge for women who have been victimized and abused in Eastern Congo. Many of the women, who carry the cement for the building on their heads, were themselves victims of these crimes. Their wounds still visible on their bodies, they are building a city of joy.(4)

Margaret Manning Shull is a member of the speaking and writing team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Bellingham, Washington.

(1) Jeffrey Gettleman, “Rape Epidemic Raises Trauma of Congo War,” New York Times, October 7, 2007.

(2) Artwork in this article is the work of Ben Roberts, http://www.benrobertsphoto.com, used by permission.

(3) N.T. Wright and Marcus Borg, The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions (New York: HarperCollins, 1999), 126-127.

(4) Nicholas D. Kristof, “What Are You Carrying?” New York Times video blog, March 8, 2010.

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Dust and Ashes

 

The life and ministry of Jesus—his birth, his life and death, his resurrection and ascension—are all echoed in the celebrations and seasons of the church year. For the Christian, preparations are made for his coming during the season of Advent. Anticipation is garnered for the triumphant entry of God into the world in Jesus on Christmas Day, while the season of Epiphany unfolds further glimpses of his life and ministry. Each season of the church year is filled with expectation, discovery, and hope.

Ash Wednesday begins the season of Lent. And unlike Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany, Lent is a solemn season for the Christian. As part of the Ash Wednesday worship service, ashes are imposed on one’s forehead in the pattern of a cross. The imposed ashes are from the previous year’s Palm Sunday fronds—fronds reminiscent of those waved triumphantly as Jesus entered Jerusalem on his way to Golgotha. The Jews believed he entered the city as the coming King; they did not yet understand he would reign through suffering and death.

These ashes remind us of our common destiny: “From dust you come and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19). For the Christian, the Lenten season is also meant to remind us of our common mission to walk the path with Jesus toward death. It invites us to lose our lives in order to find them anew, resurrected with Jesus on Easter morning.

Whether or not one actively observes Lent, the season can serve as an invitation to evaluate our own lives and to examine the invitation of Jesus to die with him. We can enter this deathly contemplation with the anticipation of resurrection on Easter morning. But Christ’s path to resurrection is the path of laying down lives, the path of relinquishment, and the path of self-denial. This path feels entirely unnatural, for it takes us in the opposite direction of self-preservation.

Yet, Jesus said that if anyone wants to follow him, if anyone really wants the kind of life he offers, the kind of life he modeled for us in his own, then they must deny themselves, take up the cross and follow him. Following Jesus will lead us all to the cross, and will lead us all to the place of death. For the Christian, this is the downward journey of Lent. “From dust you have come, and to dust you shall return.” Of course, regardless of the gods we follow, we all share in this destiny; like Jesus, we, too, will die. The pressing question, in light of this common destiny, is how shall we now live? How shall my life today respond to the reality of death and the invitation of life?

The life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer provides an illustration of one answer to this question.(1) Bonhoeffer grew up in a home full of privilege and status. His father, a prominent psychiatrist, provided the best of what life had to offer. Bonhoeffer attended the finest university, and took a year before his ordination to study in the United States. His life was filled with promise and potential.

Yet, this life seemingly marked for success, would be marred by loss and suffering. He lost one brother in World War I and he would lose another in World War II. He eventually would be arrested by the Nazi regime for aiding Jews to safety. And while he embraced the risk of peace and dared to love in the face of one’s enemies, he would be implicated in a plot to assassinate Hitler and executed at the age of 38.

In fact, it was not until after his death that Bonhoeffer’s ministry and influence had its most potent force. Many are now familiar with his books The Cost of Discipleship and Life Together. He has been a theologian of immense influence, not just for students of theology, not simply for Christians yearning to grow in their understanding of discipleship, but for a watching a world full of questions about injustice and suffering. In his letters and papers published posthumously, Bonhoeffer argued that the will of God and the way of discipleship would not always lead to self-preservation or advancement. The will of God involves giving our lives for the sake of others (which Bonhoeffer believed would be the case for his action against Hitler). He wrote, “Christ’s vicarious deeds and particularly his death on our behalf, become in turn the principle and model of the self-sacrifice that makes community possible… [T]he church is the church only when it exists for others.”(2)

Following the downward path of Jesus can lead to a renewed, hopeful, and restored vision of life for anyone. For as we embrace our inevitable deaths and declines, as we embrace the downward path, we have the opportunity to let go of the false things we think make up our lives. We let go of thinking that the accumulation of wealth, power, and resources make up a good life; we let go of thinking that busyness makes us important; we let go of thinking that our personal safety and security are to be preserved at all cost. And as we let go, we can embrace those who make life fullest, we can put others’ interests before our own, and exist for the sake of others. And what is done on behalf of others for the sake of Christ will indeed endure beyond our deaths.

The season of Lent is the season of dust and ashes. It is the journey toward one man’s death on a cross and toward our own. Bonhoeffer understood this as he wrote from his prison cell, and Jesus understood this as he bore the weight of suffering, misunderstanding, shame, and death at Golgotha. The way to resurrection life is not by saving our lives, but in losing them. Whether one observes Lent or not, the call to “take up our crosses” is issued to all.

Margaret Manning is a member of the speaking and writing team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Seattle, Washington.

(1) Biographical information on Dietrich Bonhoeffer excerpted from Martin Doblmeier interviewed on Speaking of Faith, Feb. 2, 2006. Doblmeier produced the 2003 documentary, Bonhoeffer, broadcast on PBS.

(2) Dietrich Bonhoffer, A Testament to Freedom: The Essential Writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, edited by Geffrey B. Kelly and F. Burton Nelson (New York: HarperCollins, 1995), 343.

 

Charles Spurgeon – The resurrection of the dead

 

“There shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.” Acts 24:15

Suggested Further Reading: 1 Corinthians 15:35-44

There are some faint glimmerings in men of reason which teach that the soul is something so wonderful that it must endure for ever. But the resurrection of the dead is quite another doctrine, dealing not with the soul, but with the body. The doctrine is that this actual body in which I now exist is to live with my soul; that not only is the “vital spark of heavenly flame” to burn in heaven, but the very censer in which the incense of my life smokes is holy unto the Lord, and is to be preserved for ever. The spirit, every one confesses, is eternal; but how many there are who deny that the bodies of men will actually start up from their graves at the great day! Many of you believe you will have a body in heaven, but you think it will be an airy fantastic body, instead of believing that it will be a body like to this—flesh and blood (although not the same kind of flesh, for all flesh is not the same flesh), a solid, substantial body, even such as we have here. And there are yet fewer of you who believe that the wicked will have bodies in hell; for it is gaining ground everywhere that there are to be no positive torments for the damned in hell to affect their bodies, but that it is to be metaphorical fire, metaphorical brimstone, metaphorical chains, metaphorical torture. But if you were Christians as you profess to be, you would believe that every mortal man who ever existed shall not only live by the immortality of his soul, but his body shall live again, that the very flesh in which he now walks the earth is as eternal as the soul, and shall exist for ever. That is the peculiar doctrine of Christianity. The heathens never guessed or imagined such a thing.

For meditation: Spurgeon went on to quote Job 19:25,26; Psalm 16:10; Isaiah 26:19; Daniel 12:2; Hosea 6:1,2; Hebrews 11:19,35. Does your hope match up to the hope of the Old Testament saints and the experience of Enoch and Elijah who rose bodily into heaven without suffering death?

Sermon nos. 66-67

16 February (Preached 17 February 1856)

 

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – He Knew His Future

 

“Jesus answered and said unto them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up'” (John 2:19, KJV).

A missionary in Turkey sought to teach the truth of the resurrection of Christ to a group of people.

“I am traveling, and I have reached a place where the road branches off in two ways,” he said. “I look for a guide, and find two men – one dead, and the other alive. Which of the two must I ask for direction – the dead or the living?”

“Oh, the living!” cried the people.

“Then,” said the missionary, “why send me to Mohammed, who is dead, instead of to Christ, who is alive?”

Jesus is the only person who has ever accurately predicted his own resurrection. He said He would be raised from the dead on the third day after dying on the cross for our sins, and He was!

Further, He was seen on many different occasions after His resurrection – once by as many as 500 people. He still lives today in the hearts of all who have placed their faith in Him, demonstrating His life of love and forgiveness through them.

Whenever men meet the living Christ, they are changed. The whole course of history has been changed because of Him.

“The gospel not only converts the individual, but it also changes society,” historian Philip Schaff wrote. “Everywhere the gospel has been preached, dramatic change has resulted. It has established standards of hygiene and purity, promoted industry, elevated womanhood, restrained antisocial customs, abolished human sacrifices, organized famine relief, checked tribal wars and changed the social structure of society.

“Born in a manger and crucified as a malefactor, He now controls the destinies of the civilized world and rules a spiritual empire which embraces one-third of the inhabitants of the globe.”

Bible Reading: John 2:20-25

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: I will reflect often today on the fact that the risen Christ of history is the same loving Savior who now lives within me, offering me His love, His peace, His comfort, His wisdom, His strength. I will claim by faith His resurrection life to enable me to live supernaturally each moment of every day.

 

Ravi Zacharias Ministry –   The Blind or the Liars

 

Ravi ZIn Atlanta, the blind are leading the blind, quite literally. In an exhibit that hopes to promote understanding between people with and without eyesight, Dialog in the Dark takes small tour groups through a variety of environments in complete darkness, inviting them to rely on senses they are far less used to trusting. For approximately one hour, visitors are led by visually impaired guides like George Pinon, who has been blind since age 3. Along the way, visitors can ask questions of their visually impaired guide, whose face remains unseen until the end.(1)

Such a scenario challenges every negative connotation associated with this turn of phrase, “the blind leading the blind.” The idiom is, of course, not meant to depict actual visual impairment like Pinon’s, but rather the far more common impairment of insight, knowledge, and vision of reality. Typically, the saying is applied in situations where the person (or people) in charge knows no more than those whom he is leading. The phrase is one used in antiquity, most notably used by Jesus in Matthew 15:14 and Luke 6:39. “Let them alone,” Jesus said of the Pharisees; “they are blind guides of the blind. And if one blind person guides another, both will fall into a pit.”

Like Jesus seems to do of the scribes and Pharisees of his day, the non-religious sometime describe every religious person in such terms. They reason that the anatomy of faith in general promotes a culture of the blind leading the blind. Moreover, Christianity in particular, they argue, is founded on such a blindness. The deluded disciples, blind by their love for Jesus or perhaps simply their need to be right, perpetuated a story that continues to delude the world. In his Letter to a Christian Nation, Sam Harris writes that nonbelievers like himself are thoroughly dumbstruck by the pervasiveness of Christian blindness, by the Christian “denial of tangible reality,” by the suffering these Christians create “in service to religious myths” and their wholehearted “attachment to an imaginary God.”(2)

While blindness to reality is a common accusation among the nonreligious, their accusations typically extend well beyond the charge of blindness. Charles Templeton, for instance, describes the resurrection story as a fable put forward by followers hoping to keep the dream alive. He insists that resurrection is first of all implausible, and that the story must be false because there are no secular histories which mention it. What’s more, he describes the discrepancies within the gospel accounts themselves as evidence of dishonesty or tampering of the storyline. Like many, he ends with the sharp conclusion that though Christians embrace it with blind eyes: “The entire resurrection story is not credible.”(3) In such a scenario, however, it would be far more accurate to accuse Christians of being “the deluded following the liars” than “the blind following the blind.”

In fact, I think most Christians would vigorously agree that the resurrection is indeed unfathomable. In the same way that Mary and Joseph understood that pregnancy among the virginal does not make sense, the resurrection flies in the face of what we know to be true of dead bodies: they do not rise. On this point, no one is blind. If by some way a body did happen to rise, it would have been a miracle unparalleled in history. On these details, I think most Christians and atheists can, in fact, agree!

But the claim that resurrection is implausible cannot be accurately bolstered by the claim that secular histories make no mention of it. Secular writers of the time, including Pliny, Josephus, and the Roman historian Tacitus, in fact affirm the biblical accounts in matters of historic detail. Christ’s life, his reported miracles, his sentence under the Roman procurator Pontius Pilate, his crucifixion, and his reported resurrection are all well documented by the historians of the era. Templeton’s insistence that a miracle of resurrection proportions would have convinced the entire population in a matter of hours is optimistic at best; there are far too many who prefer to watch from afar or to keep their eyes closed entirely.

Further, the oft-mentioned claim of discrepancies in the biblical accounts of the resurrection story cannot be used to logically discount the story itself. First, error must not be confused with imprecision. It makes sense that Paul mentions men as the first witnesses of the risen Christ because in that historical context women (who are named as the first witnesses in other accounts) were not considered valid witnesses. Second, falsity must not be confused with perspective. The minimal differences between the gospel accounts actually assure there was legitimate conveying of perspective going on and not simply a memorized story they needed to keep straight.

Finally, the theory that the story was conjured up by disciples who simply believed what they wanted to believe is not quite plausible. If the disciples had agreed to propagate a story, it serves to follow that they would have known to conceive something far less remarkable, a story that would accommodate the arguments they would undoubtedly face. With even the slightest bit of intelligence, one could see the claim that Jesus had only “spiritually” or “figuratively” risen again could not be proven false by antagonists. Furthermore, when standing up for these falsified claims was a matter of life or death, it seems likely that at least one of them would have buckled; far more likely than an entire group—and many others—being willing to die for a lie. A far cry from “the blind leading the blind,” such a scenario would call for “the liars following the liars.”

On the contrary, the disciples took the dangerous and difficult road—the inconceivable road—and they went to great lengths to proclaim it. Unlike those who might call them “blind” for conceding to the unfathomable, I find it far more difficult to examine the bigger picture and yet refuse to see.

Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

(1) Elizabeth Landau, “Being blind, ‘You Have to Be Adventurous,’” http://CNN.com, May 12, 2009, accessed May 12, 2009.

(2) Sam Harris, Letter to a Christian Nation (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2007), 91.

(3) Charles Templeton, Farewell to God: My Reasons for Rejecting the Christian Faith (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1996), 122.

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – No Other Savior

dr_bright

“There is salvation in no one else! Under all heaven there is no other name for men to call upon to save them” (Acts 4:12).

As a young sceptic, I had difficulty believing in the resurrection, for I could not believe in the supernatural. But as I became aware of the uniqueness of Jesus and of the different quality of life that was His, I was forced to reconsider the biblical claim to His resurrection.

Since it is a matter of historical fact that the tomb in which His dead body was placed was empty three days later, I set out to discover if the tomb could have been empty on any other basis than the biblical claim that He had been raised from the dead. In my research, I learned that there were three different theories explaining the empty tomb.

First, it was proposed that He was not really dead but had fainted from the loss of blood on the cross, and that He recovered in the cool of the tomb (this notion is today expounded by certain skeptics under the name of the “swoon theory”). Second, it was conceivable that Jesus’ body was stolen by His enemies; or third, that it was stolen by the disciples.

Experience and logic have forced me to discount all three of these theories as impossibilities. First, Jesus could never have moved the stone or escaped from the guards in His weakened condition. Second, Jesus’ enemies had no reason to steal His body since they did not want to give credence to a belief in His resurrection. Even if they had stolen the body, they could simply have produced it to discount the resurrection.

Third, the disciples who deserted Jesus at His trial and crucifixion were the same men who, having seen Him after His resurrection, spent the rest of their lives telling everyone who would listen, even at the cost of their own lives, that Jesus was alive. Ask yourself this question, “Would the disciples be willing to die as martyrs propagating a lie?”

Christianity alone has a living Savior; in Him alone is salvation.

Bible Reading: Romans 10:9-13

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: Several times today, as the Holy Spirit prompts me, I will remember to thank God for the gift of His Son as my personal Savior and will tell someone else that Jesus is alive and wants to be his Savior, too

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – A Sigh of Relief

Ravi Z

Most of us likely missed it. Couched between Wednesday’s building crescendo of assignments and Friday’s promise of their demise, Thursday hardly seems more than a means to an end. So even though it is every bit as holy as Easter Sunday, most of the world moved through it unsuspectingly—even those who have confessed the momentous lines of the Apostles’ Creed: “On the third day he rose again from the dead. He ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.”

Yesterday was Ascension Day, the day that marks the ascension of Jesus Christ. Forty days after the celebration of Easter and the resurrection of Jesus, the church around the world holds in remembrance this eventful day. The gospel writer records: “Then [Jesus] said to his disciples…. ‘See, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.’ Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them.  While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God.”(1)

The ascension of Christ may not seem as momentous to the world as the resurrection or as rousing as the image of Jesus on the cross. In fact, after the death and resurrection, the ascension might even seem somewhat anti-climatic. The resurrection and ascension statements of the Apostles’ Creed are essentially treated as one in the same: On the third day he rose again from the dead. He ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty. One might even think that the one miraculous act flowed immediately into the other: the death of the body of Jesus was answered in the resurrection of Christ, a presence who then floated on to heaven. Unfortunately, the result of this impression is that many think that the ascension somehow points to the casting off of Christ’s human nature, as if Jesus is now a presence that only used to be human, one we see far more fit to memorialize than we expect one day to see actually face to face.

But in fact, this is far from the experience of the disciples, to whom Jesus appeared repeatedly in the days following the resurrection. To them it was abundantly clear that Jesus was not any sort of spiritual ghost or remote presence. He ate with them; he talked with them; he instructed them as to the ministries they would lead and the deaths they would face because of him. He was in fact more fully human than they ever before realized, and it was this holy body, this divine person that they held near as they lived and died to proclaim his kingdom.

Moreover, the ascension they remembered was no different than the future they envisioned with him—he was raised as a human, fully human. As the disciples were watching and Jesus was taken up before their very eyes, a cloud hid him from their sight. The text then refers to them “looking intently up into the sky as he was going” when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them: “‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go’” (Acts 1:9-11). In this resurrected body, Christ ascended to heaven, fully human, fully divine, and entirely glorified.

For the Christian, no action of Christ is without weight, and this, his last action on earth, is weighed with far more hope than is often realized. On the day Jesus was taken into heaven, the work God sent him to accomplish was finally completed. The ascension was a living and public declaration of his dying words on the Cross: It is finished. Ascending to heaven, Jesus furthered the victory of Easter—the victory of a physical body in whom God had conquered death. Because of the ascension, the incarnation is not a past event. Because of the ascension, we know that the incarnate Christ who was raised from the dead is sharing in our humanity even now. And just as the men in white informed the disciples, so we carry in our own flesh a guarantee that Christ will one day bring us to himself.  It is for these reasons that N.T. Wright affirms, “To embrace the Ascension is to heave a sigh of relief, to give up the struggle to be God (and with it the inevitable despair at our constant failure), and to enjoy our status as creatures: image-bearing creatures, but creatures nonetheless.”(2)

Truly, Ascension Day, a holy day falling inconspicuously on a Thursday in May, is the conspicuous declaration that we are not left as orphans. In the same post-resurrection body he invited Thomas to touch, Jesus invites us to full humanity even today. He ascended with a body, he shares in our humanity, extending his own body even now, and he is coming back for those in bodies. Christ is preparing a room for us, and we know it is real because he himself is real.

Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

(1) Luke 24:49-53.

(2) N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church (New York: Harper Collins, 2008), 114.

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Easter Skeptics

Ravi Z

As it happens every Easter season, various scholars and skeptics weigh in on whether or not Jesus was actually raised from the dead. Bart Ehrman’s latest book, How Jesus Became God, is a case in point. Writing as a historian, he questions many of the gospel remembrances of the events surrounding the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. His conclusion is that the gospels are not reliable, historical witnesses. But is this really the case?

A careful reading of the four evangelists’ remembrances of the resurrection does indeed reveal many different emphases and details. The Gospel of Matthew, for example, tells us that a great earthquake occurred as an angel of the Lord descended and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it. The Gospel of Mark, on the other hand, tells us that a young man sitting at the right, wearing a white robe was inside the tomb to announce Jesus’s resurrection. The Gospel of Luke tells us that two men suddenly stood near the women in dazzling apparel and John’s Gospel reports the discovery of the linen wrappings abandoned in the empty tomb.(1)

There are many other differences in the retelling of the resurrection appearances of Jesus, and this should be expected from different testimony. No two people report exactly the same details about any event or happening! But there is one feature that is the same in all four gospel testimonies: the resurrection announcement is made first to the women who followed Jesus (Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:1; Luke 23:55-24:5; John 20:1). Many reasons have been offered as to why women serve as the immediate witnesses to the resurrection: the women stayed with him through the crucifixion, so he appeared first to those who stuck with him to the last; women traditionally carried out the burial rituals in first century Judaism, so they were witnesses by default. Others suggest that the first women witnesses represent Jesus’s elevation of the status for women of the first century and for women in general.

While all of these are plausible, historical reasons, there is another strategic, indeed, apologetic reason why the women were the first witnesses. In the first century, the testimony of women was not counted as credible. In both Josephus, the first century Jewish historian, and the Talmud a woman’s testimony is considered unreliable at best. “But let not the testimony of women be admitted, on account of the levity and boldness of their sex…since it is probable that they may not speak truth, either out of hope of gain, or fear of punishment.”(2) The Talmud states that “any evidence which a woman [gives] is not valid (to offer)….This is equivalent to saying that one who is Rabbinically accounted a robber is qualified to give the same evidence as a woman.”(3) No man in the first century would give credence to a woman’s testimony.

Given that a woman’s testimony was not credible, why would the gospel writers report them as witnesses; indeed, the first witnesses for the resurrection? Wouldn’t it have made more sense to offer some credible, male testimonial?

Anglican priest and physicist John Polkinghorne answers this question with a resounding “No!” He writes: “Perhaps the strongest reason of taking the stories of the empty tomb absolutely seriously lies in the fact that it is women who play the leading role. It would have been very unlikely for anyone in the ancient world who was concocting a story to assign the principal part to women since, in those times, they were not considered capable of being reliable witnesses in a court of law. It is surely much more probable that they appear in the gospel accounts precisely because they actually fulfilled the role that the stories assign to them, and in so doing, they make a startling discovery.”(4) In this sense, the women offer very strong historical evidence for the testimony that Jesus was resurrected from the dead.

Of course, the biblical narrative confirms the unexpected choice for chief witnesses to God’s great action in history. God chooses those whom we least expect in ways that are profoundly remarkable: Deborah, the first woman judge over Israel; Gideon, the least and the youngest in his tribe and family chosen to defeat the Midianites; David, a simple shepherd boy to be the king of Israel; Rahab and Jael, non-Israelite woman who help defeat Israel’s enemies; and finally, tax-collectors, fishermen, and women—Mary, the mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, Mary of Bethany, Martha, and Salome as key witnesses to the ministry of Jesus. In the biblical narrative, God chooses those we might be tempted to overlook or ignore—those who were the last and the least in their society—to bear witness to the great work of God.

While historians like Bart Ehrman may fail to see the forest through the trees, the unexpected witnesses documented throughout the Bible offer a compelling vision.  Something remarkable happened in the life of Jesus and women were the first witnesses. Their testimony offers an unexpected apologetic for every generation of seeker.

Margaret Manning is member of the speaking and writing team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Seattle, Washington.

(1) cf. Matthew 28:2; Mark 14:5; Luke 24:4; John 20:5.

(2) Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 4.8.15.

(3) Talmud, Rosh Hashannah 1.8.

(4) John Polkinghorne, Exploring Reality: The Intertwining of Science and Religion (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005), 86-87.

Charles Stanley – Doubting Thomas

Charles Stanley

Bible Study: John 20:25-29

Thomas is an everyman. He hadn’t yet seen the resurrected Jesus, though he’d heard, as you and I have heard, that Jesus had risen from the dead. Angry, hurt, and confused, he resisted believing the bewildering accounts of resurrection—accounts that came from trusted friends he had lived with for three years.

Thomas was no stranger to resurrection. With his own eyes, he’d seen Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead—and he had believed. But he had also personally seen Jesus crucified, and that’s when his dream of the kingdom died. Crucifixion seemed more powerful than resurrection, more final. Faith crumbled; hope was crushed.

Then Jesus appeared alive, and gently said, “Peace be with you,” offering Thomas all the proof he needed. The proof he personally needed. Resurrection, it turns out, was more permanent than death.

Face it: Believing in resurrection isn’t easy no matter how many people tell you it happened. Jesus still has to bring us to belief, to give our hearts and minds and souls peace in faith. Without appearing physically to us, He gives us what we need in order to believe—what we ourselves need. And as He did with Thomas, Jesus seeks us out.

 

REFLECTION QUESTIONS

1. Think back to the first time you were told that Jesus had risen from the dead. What was your reaction? Did you find that information easy to believe or terribly difficult? Why?

2. Thomas had seen miracles; he’d witnessed many demonstrations of Jesus’ supernatural power. Yet the crucifixion shook his faith badly. Has anything ever shaken your faith to the core, even though you may previously have seen numerous works of God? What can you learn from Thomas’s experience?

3. In order to believe, Thomas needed something tangible—something special for him. The vast majority of Christians have never seen the resurrected Jesus, yet God gives us what we each need in order to believe. What did (or do) you need for faith to become real? How has Jesus revealed Himself to you? How do you still need Him to do so?

Charles Stanley – Our Risen Savior

Charles Stanley

1 Corinthians 15:12-19

Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection form a solid foundation for our Christian faith. Scripture tells us that Jesus lived a perfect life—one without any sin. As the spotless Lamb of God, He willingly went to the cross and sacrificed Himself for us (1 Pet. 1:18-19). Christ bore our sins and endured our punishment so we might be reconciled to God.

The Savior’s death was accepted by the Father as full payment for our sins, and it made a way for us to be at peace with Him (Rom. 5:1). Three days after the crucifixion, Jesus was raised from death to life. He had overcome the grave. In victory, He ascended into heaven and now sits at the Father’s right hand.

Christ’s death and resurrection are a picture of what happened at our salvation. Recognizing ourselves as sinners who could not pay for our own misdeeds, we expressed faith in our Savior. Then, “our old self was crucified with Him” (Rom. 6:6), and we were reborn spiritually. Because of His sacrifice, we were forgiven, reconciled to God, and adopted into His family. Heaven will be our eternal home.

Paul emphasized the importance of the resurrection to the Christian life. He explained that if it were not true, our faith would be in vain.

The risen Christ appeared to many people. He let Thomas touch Him to know that He was alive. After the Lord ascended into heaven, the Father sent His Holy Spirit to indwell believers and bear witness to the truth of the resurrection. Our faith is based on the secure foundation of a risen Savior.

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – On the Third Day

Ravi Z

The earliest creeds of the Christian church confess that Jesus “suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.” It is then confessed, “On the third day, he rose again.”(1) While modern presuppositions may tempt us to interpret the death and resurrection of Jesus as symbolic or spiritual in nature, there was nothing abstract about the events and details confessed by those who first beheld them. Jesus’s suffering was an actual, datable event in history, his crucifixion a sentence inflicted on an actual body; the proclamation of both was the remembrance of a cold reality, something akin to remembering the Holocaust or the Trail of Tears. Likewise, “the third day” was a tangible, historical occasion—albeit an occasion of unfathomable proportions.

Yet the resurrection of Jesus was not viewed as merely a static fact on this particular third day, a fixed event to remain in this history alone. “We believe that Jesus died and rose again” wrote the apostle Paul, “and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.”(2) For those who first beheld it, the resurrection was an event with inherent consequences for everything—for order and purpose, for what it means to be human itself. The earliest confessions of Christ’s death, burial, and third day rising from the dead are immediately followed by certain understood implications. As the Misfit in Flannery O’Connor’s short story observes of this resurrected one, Jesus went and “thrown everything off balance.”

In the eyes of Jesus’s contemporaries, the Misfit is exactly right. This rabbi who was accused of blasphemy for calling himself equal to God was immediately here shown by God to be speaking the truth. The resurrection verified Jesus’s ties with the Father and his claims to divine authority; the Sonship of Christ was visibly and unmistakably confirmed by the Father. “For God raised him from the dead” writes Paul in 1 Thessalonians 1:10. This connection was clear.

And therefore, the resurrection was recognized as being far more than an event. For if “God raised Jesus from the dead,” as Paul, the unlikely Jewish believer, testified, then history is a display of God’s movement among us, a glimpse of the profound and ongoing invitation of God. The resurrection provides ground for seeing Christ’s life in light of each and every prior act and Word of God, vindicating and verifying the ministry and person of Jesus and his vicarious humanity among us. The prophets’ words, like the whole of Scripture, take on new dimensions in light of this truly human one before us: “On the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence” (Hosea 6:2). “Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. 5But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole” (Isaiah 53:4-5). Through the life of the risen Son, the resurrection directs us to the movement of the Father in all of history to nothing less than the uniting purpose of a redemptive God today.

For those who first confessed it, the identity of the risen Jesus was a pronouncement of divine authority, wisdom, messiahship, and humanity—in the present. As one New Testament scholar observes, “[F]or Paul and probably for most early Christians, it was precisely the resurrection of Jesus which declared that he was lord, saviour, and judge, and that Caesar was not.”(3) The risen Jesus is a pronouncement that it is God’s very Son who has come among us, bringing with him a very human means to the Father here and now. In the death and resurrection of the Son, humanity itself becomes the stuff of which God’s final assurance of life is once and for all established. The resurrection pours instant light on what it means to be fully human and what it means to truly live in the vicarious humanity of the Incarnate Son.

Thus, Paul is abundantly clear on the far-reaching, present significance of the third day. “If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died.”(4) With implications for both today and tomorrow—for bodies collective and individual, for lives and for deaths—the resurrected Christ has indeed “thrown it all off balance” in a world that may well prefer to “leave the dead lie,” as another O’Connor character suggests. In this mysterious space, Christians continue to discover what it means to live further into both the unfathomable and the real, the truly human and the gloriously divine:

We believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord. He was crucified, died, and was buried. And on the third day he rose again.

Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

(1) Excerpts from the Apostles’ Creed. Similar wording is found in both the Nicene Creed and the Creed of Athanasius.

(2) 1 Thessalonians 4:14.

(3) N.T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God, (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003), 371.

(4) 1 Corinthians 15:19-20.

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Easter Present

Ravi Z

An empty tomb, abandoned linen burial wrappings, and the reversal of all that was expected and anticipated—heralds the dawning of a new day. The resurrection of Jesus was the reason, the impetus for a new age—a new way of living and being in the world as residents and heralds of God’s new creation begun. Without this event, there would be no Christian faith and on its significance, the apostle Paul was clear: “But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain” (1 Corinthians 15:13-14).

As Christians emerge from worship services around the country, and indeed, the world, looking back on the historical significance of the resurrection, and looking forward to the promise of life after death for our eternal future, I wonder if we miss the significance of Easter present—and the significance of the resurrection of Jesus in our lives here and now. If we only associate the resurrection with life after death, something not for this age but for a spiritual age to come, we fail to see the resurrection as anything more than a symbolic promise for another time. But if the only significance of Easter is a spiritual metaphor for new life and re-birth in the future, this message is just as easily told through colored eggs rabbits, and spring flowers.(1) Similarly, if we only celebrate the resurrection as something that happened long ago, we fail to do the creative work of drawing conclusions about what resurrection means for the present day.

God’s raising of Jesus is the sign in history that God had begun the work of new creation—namely, what began in the bodily resurrection of Jesus could now, and would now, continue in the present day. Indeed, Paul tells us in Romans 8 that “the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the children of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will, but because of him who subjected it in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body” (8:19-23). God’s new creation has begun with the bodily resurrection of Jesus. As Paul writes in Colossians, Jesus is the first born of all creation. Thus even now our work in this world is the work of resurrection as we walk with Jesus into the consummation of God’s future.

N.T. Wright, who has written extensively on the central importance of Christ’s bodily resurrection for Christians, says it this way: “The resurrection of Jesus means that the present time is shot through with great significance. What is done to the glory of God in the present is genuinely building for God’s future. Acts of justice and mercy, the creation of beauty and the celebration of truth, deeds of love and the creation of communities of kindness and forgiveness—these all matter, and they matter forever. Take away the resurrection, and these things are important for the present but irrelevant for the future and hence not all that important after all even now. Enfolded in this vocation to build now, with gold, silver, and precious stones, the things that will last into God’s new age, is the vocation to holiness: to the fully human life, reflecting the image of God, that is made possible by Jesus’ victory on the cross and that is energized by the Spirit of the risen Jesus present within communities and persons.”(2)

Indeed, in Paul’s great exposition of the resurrection of Jesus in 1 Corinthians 15, he ends by telling the Corinthians, “Therefore, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord” (15:58). The point of the resurrection, and why it must remain central to our entire Christian experience, is that entropy and death do not have the final word—either for humans or for God’s creation. God’s last word is resurrection.

And God declares it today. This final word gives great hope for our present existence with all its pains and struggles. In light of resurrection, our work, our toil, even our blood, sweat, and tears are far from in vain. For our present work brings the work of God in the past forward, as we live out of the power of the resurrection. Indeed, the historic event of the resurrection coupled with the hope of future resurrection fill our “today” with the fullest of human life.

Margaret Manning is a member of the speaking and writing team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Seattle, Washington.

(1) Eggs were often used as a sign for the resurrection, the yolk representing new life, hidden within the shell. In addition, rabbits are always associated with fecundity. For additional information see http://www.history.com.

(2) N.T. Wright and Marcus Borg, The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions (New York: HarperCollins, 1999), 126-127.

Our Daily Bread — Victory Over Death!

Our Daily Bread

John 5:24-30

The hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth. —John 5:28-29

An ancient painting I saw recently made a deep impression on me. Its title, Anastasis, means “resurrection,” and it depicts the triumph of Christ’s victory over death in a stunning way. The Lord Jesus, newly emerged from the tomb, is pulling Adam and Eve out of their coffins to eternal life. What is so amazing about this artwork is the way it shows how spiritual and physical death, the result of the fall, were dramatically reversed by the risen Christ.

Prior to His death on the cross, the Lord Jesus predicted a future day when He will call believers into a new and glorified existence: “The hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth” (John 5:28-29).

Because of Christ’s victory over death, the grave is not final. We naturally will feel sorrow and grief when those we love die and we are separated from them in this life. But the believer does not grieve as one who has no hope (1 Thess. 4:13). The witness of Jesus’ resurrection is that all Christians will one day be taken from their graves to be clothed with glorified resurrection bodies (1 Cor. 15:42-44). And so “we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:17). —Dennis Fisher

Dear Lord, thank You for sacrificing Your life for our

sins so that we might live. We’re thankful that because

You died and rose again, we can have assurance that

one day we’ll be with You in a place of no more death.

Because Christ is alive, we too shall live.

Bible in a year: 2 Samuel 12-13; Luke 16

Insight

In our passage today, John portrays Jesus as both life-giver and judge (5:24). As life-giver, Jesus gives us eternal life. As judge, Jesus will not condemn us (Rom. 8:1). God has given Jesus authority to be life-giver and judge “because He is the Son of Man” (John 5:27). The title “the Son of Man” is a Messianic title (Dan. 7:13-14) that speaks of Jesus’ deity and humanity. Jesus used the title synonymously with “the Son of God” (Matt. 26:63-64).

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – He Knew His Future

dr_bright

“Jesus answered and said unto them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up'” (John 2:19, KJV).

A missionary in Turkey sought to teach the truth of the resurrection of Christ to a group of people.

“I am traveling, and I have reached a place where the road branches off in two ways,” he said. “I look for a guide, and find two men – one dead, and the other alive. Which of the two must I ask for direction – the dead or the living?”

“Oh, the living!” cried the people.

“Then,” said the missionary, “why send me to Mohammed, who is dead, instead of to Christ, who is alive?”

Jesus is the only person who has ever accurately predicted his own resurrection. He said He would be raised from the dead on the third day after dying on the cross for our sins, and He was!

Further, He was seen on many different occasions after His resurrection – once by as many as 500 people. He still lives today in the hearts of all who have placed their faith in Him, demonstrating His life of love and forgiveness through them.

Whenever men meet the living Christ, they are changed. The whole course of history has been changed because of Him.

“The gospel not only converts the individual, but it also changes society,” historian Philip Schaff wrote. “Everywhere the gospel has been preached, dramatic change has resulted. It has established standards of hygiene and purity, promoted industry, elevated womanhood, restrained antisocial customs, abolished human sacrifices, organized famine relief, checked tribal wars and changed the social structure of society.

“Born in a manger and crucified as a malefactor, He now controls the destinies of the civilized world and rules a spiritual empire which embraces one-third of the inhabitants of the globe.”

Bible Reading: John 2:20-25

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: I will reflect often today on the fact that the risen Christ of history is the same loving Savior who now lives within me, offering me His love, His peace, His comfort, His wisdom, His strength. I will claim by faith His resurrection life to enable me to live supernaturally each moment of every day.

 

John MacArthur – Striving According to God’s Power

John MacArthur

“These are in accordance with the working of the strength of [God’s] might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead” (Eph. 1:19-20).

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the great hope of believers. Because He lives, we will live also (John 14:19). Peter said we have been “born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away” (1 Pet. 1:3-4). We and what we have are protected by God’s power (v. 5).

In Ephesians 1:19-20 Paul draws two comparisons. The first is between the power God demonstrated in the resurrection and ascension of Christ, and the power He demonstrates on behalf of every believer. That power is described as God’s “working,” “strength,” and “might.” Together those synonyms emphasize the greatness of God’s power, which not only secures our salvation, but also enables us to live godly lives.

The second comparison is between our Lord’s resurrection and ascension, and ours. The grave couldn’t hold Him, nor can it hold us (1 Cor. 15:54-57). Satan himself couldn’t prevent Christ’s exaltation, nor can he prevent us from gaining our eternal inheritance.

In Christ you have all the power you will ever need. For evangelism you have the gospel itself, which “is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16). For difficult times you have the assurance that the surpassing greatness of God’s power is at work in you (2 Cor. 4:7). For holy living you have God Himself at work in you “both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13).

No matter how weak or ill-equipped you may at times feel, realize God “is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that [you] ask or think, according to the power that works within [you]” (Eph. 3:20). So keep striving according to that power (Col. 1:29), but do so with the confidence that ultimately God will accomplish His good in your life.

Suggestions for Prayer:

Thank God that He can and will accomplish His purposes in your life (Phil. 1:6; 1 Thess. 5:24).

Pray for wisdom in how you might best serve Him today.

For Further Study:

Read Psalm 145, noting every mention of God’s power David makes. Allow those examples to fill your heart with confidence and praise.