Thought for the Week - 21st AprilPastor Gareth Watkins
Matthew 28: 1-9
1 Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. 2 And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. 3 His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. 4 And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men.
5 But the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. 7 And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.”
8 So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word. 9 And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, “Rejoice!” So they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him.
I’m writing this on resurrection Sunday, where Jesus rose again! We have so much to be thankful for. We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Jesus Christ. The churches wouldn’t be here, and the miracles of God wouldn’t be here. Our hope for the future wouldn’t be here. We would have nothing if it weren’t for the life, the death, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
In the scripture above, we read the story of Easter. There is so much in that story. We read about the Marys, the Christ, the Romans, and the disciples. There are stories upon stories all held within those verses. And yet, if you ask people today, many wouldn’t know the story. They wouldn’t know what resurrection Sunday is all about. People have lost their way with the things of God.
Paul, who came later on, used that story as the basis of the whole of his ministry. St Paul went around all the Middle East at that time, proclaiming Christ. Proclaiming that Christ lived, died, was buried and rose again. In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul recounts his life after he’d risen from the dead. Paul said, for example, that He was seen by Cephas, by the twelve, by over 500 people at once, by James, and by the apostles. Then Paul says – which is an incredible statement – the risen Jesus Christ was seen by him. Bear in mind Paul came on the seen well after Christ was crucified and resurrected. Yet Paul is saying that he was one of them that has seen the risen Christ. He was someone who came on the scene after the events. And yet in Corinthians he states he was one who had seen the risen Christ.
Many of us have seen Christ today. Some people would’ve seen Christ in a spiritual sense, with their eyes shut seeing Him stand before them. Some would have seen Him in open eyed vision. Some may have seen Him standing there instead of someone else as they’re being prayed for. There are many ways of seeing Christ. People today have seen Christ for themselves.
The resurrected Christ appeared to all these different types of people. Cephas, the twelve, James, the five hundred, and by Paul. A respected historian, Professor Marcus from Cambridge University said:
“The resurrection by Jesus Christ is one of the most attested events in history. Jesus is still revealing Himself to people today personally through all the centuries that have gone on since, up until the current day.”
The resurrected Christ is still revealing Himself today, and His resurrection is one of the most attested events in history. Christ is risen, hallelujah! People have seen Him in the days after, the centuries that followed, and even today.
Some years ago, a man called Ian McCormack came to speak at our church. That man saw Christ. He was a man that was stung by jellyfish to the point of death. While dead, he had an encounter with God, and in that encounter He met with Christ. He was given a choice to wake and live in the light of Christ and tell people of Him, or to die. He chose life and to walk on with Christ. He chose to live and testify of the resurrected life of Christ, and the eternity that waits for people. That testimony was alive in God as he spoke.
We all know that many people don’t accept that Jesus was an actual person who lived. Even more people wouldn’t accepted that He was resurrected from the church. Even people in the church sadly argue whether Jesus Christ was resurrected from the dead.
I would say without the resurrection of the dead, our faith is in vain. There would be no point in going to church if there was no resurrection of the dead. There would be no forgiveness of sin, and there would be no salvation. There would be no Christianity because Christ would have failed. He would have died and never came back. He wouldn’t have been victorious over the devil and over sin. Without that salvation and victory over sin, we have nothing.
But with that victory over sin, with the defeat of the devil, with the hope of life in eternity that God awaits for us, with the atonement with God, we have every reason to come to church. Because we have a Christ who takes us not just from this life, freeing us from our sin now, but forward from this point unto eternity where we’ll live forever with our Father. That is what the Christian Gospel is about.
The hope of mankind is freed from their sin, and given a hope of life eternal. That is what those scriptures tell me.
In 1 Corinthians 15: 14 we read:
14 And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty.
If we haven’t got a risen Christ, our preaching is empty. If the dead don’t rise, what’s the point in faith? If sin still has a grip on our lives, what’s the point in Christ dying for our sin? God sent His son Jesus Christ to be the sacrificial lamb that would be slain for us, and through His blood that was shed on that altar, then we have the life of God.
In 1 Corinthians 15: 20 we read:
20 But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died.
Christ is risen from the dead! Paul saw it, Paul believed it. We’ve seen it, we’ve believed it. Now we are a part of His body, alive in Christ again. Christ is risen from the dead! We can read this, or we can start feeling it. We can start declaring it!
When life is miserable, depressing, and when it’s all coming against us we can say that the devil has no right over us because Christ has risen from the dead! The devil will come to us to try to steal and rob from us the things that God has given us. We need to declare that Christ has risen, and satan has no rights! We are not under those things because Christ has risen! He has given us a life in abundance and we don’t need to be under the heel of the oppressor.
We are under a different dispensation and time. Those things that belong to the past stay in the past. Because of Christ, our future is with him. That is what we need to hold on to. We look forward to the Christ that is ahead of us. We are part of the resurrection of Christ, and our lives are going forward unto Him.
Christ is truly, historically, spiritually, been risen from the dead! Have no doubts that Christ rose from the dead physically, historically and spiritually. Christ was made alive so that all of us could be made alive. That is what God has brought to us this Easter!
The god of this age speaks to us all the time, through the news, the internet, and the TV. It comes to rob, to steal and to destroy. That is what the devil does. At the beginning of time there was only two characters – God and the devil. Since that time, God has been creative and the devil has been destructive. He’s tried to steal, to kill and destroy everything God has made. The planet is being destroyed through plastic and pollution, wars and bombs etc. He’s come to destroy our families and our lives. Any good thing that God has given, the devil comes to destroy.
Through Jesus Christ, God has come to give us life, happiness, peace, kindness, hope, blessing. And the resurrected Christ brings all those things to us so that we can be alive spiritually. The resurrected Christ brings so much to our table. Jesus Christ is there. He’s resurrected, which means that even today in 2019, He can appear to you and me. He’s not dead and stuck in a grave somewhere. The Holy Spirit is not just stuck in one place, it’s all over the world. The Holy Spirit has been poured into this world, so that we can all experience Him. It’s not for just one or two, it’s for everybody. That is what the power of the resurrection means.
And yet, people don’t believe it. People are more interested in the physical, temporal things of this life. But those things are temporary. The things of God are eternal. Yet people are cruelly stuck without any understanding of the truth that is Jesus Christ. Satan has come to steal and destroy their truth. And he’s done a good job, through the press, education and their own selves. He’s robbed people of their truth. He hates Christ, he hates God, and he’ll hate you for that Christ that can be inside you.
The devil tried to kill Jesus Christ. All the babies were slaughtered by Herod. Mary and Joseph had to run off to Egypt. Read the story of Moses. Hitler tried to slaughter all the Jews. Without the Jews there couldn’t be the restoration of Israel. Without the restoration of Israel, there’d be no Israel for Christ to come back for. Satan has tried to kill Christ so many times. He’ll try to take you and me down too. He’ll try to kill the spirit of God in you.
Paul comes out and declares the Good News around the country. He’s declaring that Jesus Christ is the power of God for salvation for all that believe. Who’s the all that believe? Me and you! Everyone who wants to believe will not perish, but will have eternal life, because of Jesus Christ. Paul went around preaching and proclaiming things that were against and contrary to the things that the devil was saying. That our salvation is in Jesus Christ defeats the powers of darkness. The scriptures say that “those who walk in darkness will see a great light” (Isaiah 9:2). The defeat of sin, the breaking of the chains that hold us and ensnare us.
Praise God, the resurrection says that those people do not need to walk in darkness! Christ breaks the chains that once ensnared people. He brings atonement with God. The resurrection brings a new identity. We can try to reinvent ourselves, but this identity is given to you by God. It’s a new identity, where you’re not like the person you were. It’s a new identity in Christ.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ can bring for us a new identity, a new reason for living, a new hope for the future. The resurrected Christ brings our salvation, personal and real, and a communication with God. It’s incredible!
The resurrected Christ brings the Holy Spirit into our lives. The resurrected Christ prepares us for eternity, for our resurrection. Are we sure of our resurrection? We don’t speak much of that. We are going to be resurrected too. We get saved to live the life that Christ would have us to live, and ultimately we die a physical death, and then the Bible speaks of our resurrection, our life in eternity, and our new bodies. All because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
What is your response to these wonderful truths? Our only response really is like the two Marys, who ran to Jesus, held Him by the feet and worshipped Him. That can be the only response that we can have. To worship Him. Hold onto Him. Thank Him and praise Him. Bless Him. Adore Him. That has to be our response. He’s done so much, we can’t ever repay. We can never understand fully.
Worship Him as your saviour, your friend and your redeemer. Our saviour lives!