One Easter morning, one of my friends sent text message to her aunt, along with a photo of the rolls she had just taken out of the oven saying, “Christ Has Risen and so have the rolls!” She showed me the photo on her phone. The morning sun glistened on these delectably looking, mouth-watering, perfectly risen golden rolls. She used her mom’s recipe, who was her aunt’s sister. I am sure her aunt believed that she was looking at the rolls her niece had just baked and not looking at stones or some other round objects. I bet she could even smell and taste them from memory. She had no reason to doubt her niece. Still, she had to have faith that her niece was telling the truth because she wasn’t with her niece to see and smell and feel and taste and hear the “Mmms” from the guests eating the rolls firsthand. In a way, believing that God raised Jesus from the dead takes that same kind of faith in the Father fulfilling His Promise to us. Jesus has risen! Jesus has risen indeed! We were not there to see Him rise, but we have faith that it is the “Gospel Truth!” This brings us great joy – “MEGA-JOY”, as a former pastor of mine described the joy Christians share during Christmas and Resurrection Sunday and every day in between.
Jesus rising from the dead is a Fulfilled Promise I accept by faith. However, some Christians try to present the Resurrection of Jesus Christ as a “proven fact” and “more” than something we believe because God says so in His Word. During my first three or four years of my Christian walk, I heard the same sermon every Easter. I even had a tract about why the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is a proven historical fact (I think written by Josh McDowell) and not only God’s fulfilled promise Christians believe by faith. Every Easter Sunday, I heard the same sermon about the “Swoon Theory” and the “Hallucination Theory” and the “Impersonation Theory” and the “Spiritual Resurrection Theory” and the “Wrong Tomb Theory” and the “Stolen Body Theory” and how all these theories are bogus. I heard the pastor refute every theory with the help of psychology, biology and Scripture. People who only attended church on Christmas and Easter must have thought the pastor had a very limited sermon repertoire.
But, what about FAITH? What about believing in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ because the Bible says it happened? If the Resurrection of Jesus Christ could be proven by historical artifacts, psychology and biology or any other human intellectual rationale, we would not need faith. Hebrews 11:1 teaches, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Verse 6 adds, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.”
The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is a MIRACLE. A “miracle” is “a surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by nature or any scientific laws and is thereby considered to be the work of a divine agency (‘the miracle of rising from the grave’)” [from a Google search]. Christians believe that this “divine agency” is the Triune God. I believe in miracles and that the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is a miracle that cannot be scientifically or otherwise humanly proven. I believe that Jesus rose again by the faith God has given me to believe in Him and to believe His Word, the Bible, to be true.
This is what the Gospels say about the First Resurrection Sunday:
The women disciples of Jesus are the first to discover the empty tomb and to see the Risen Lord. They go to the tomb early Sunday morning and find the huge stone rolled away from the entrance and the tomb empty. The angels tell Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Salome that Jesus has risen from the dead, just as He said He would! The angels declare, “WHY DO YOU LOOK FOR THE LIVING AMONG THE DEAD? HE IS NOT HERE; HE HAS RISEN!” They run to tell Peter and James and they also go to see the empty tomb. (See Matthew 28:1-8; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-12; John 20:1-10). These women were the first to proclaim the GOOD NEWS!
Mary Magdalene, the woman Jesus healed of seven demons, is the first to see Jesus alive! Mary stays outside the tomb, while Peter and the others have gone home. She sees someone she thinks is a gardener and pleads with Him to tell her where Jesus’ body has been taken. It is when Jesus says, “Mary” that she recognizes that it is Jesus! (See Mark 16:9-11; John 20:11-18). Jesus meets the other women on their way back to the tomb. He instructs them to go and tell His disciples He will meet them in Galilee (See Matthew 28:9-10).
When the guards who were stationed at the tomb reported what had happened, the chief priests bribe them to say the disciples stole the body. They also promise to make sure they would not get into trouble with their superiors. The rumor of the stolen body spread among the Jews (Matthew 28:11-15).
Jesus appears to two disciples and to Simon Peter. Mark briefly mentions this encounter, while Luke goes into detail of how Jesus meets two disciples on the road to Emmaus. The disciples do not recognize Him while they walk and listen to Him explain how all the Scriptures point to the Messiah. It is only when they are eating and He breaks bread with them that they recognize Him, and He vanishes. They go and tell the other disciples that “THE LORD HAS RISEN!” JESUS CHRIST HAS RISEN INDEED! They also tell of Jesus appearing to Simon [Peter] (See Mark 16:12-13; Luke 24:13-35)
Jesus appears to ten disciples, in Thomas’ absence. He says to them, “Peace be with you.” Jesus exhorts them for not believing the reports of His resurrection. He begins to prepare them to preach the Gospel – the GOOD NEWS – and build His Church. When Thomas returns and hears Jesus had been with the disciples in his absence, he says he will not believe it unless he sees and touches Jesus wounds for himself. (See Luke 24:36-43; John 20:19-25). Eight days later, Jesus appears to the disciples when Thomas is present. He tell Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see My hands; and put out your hand, and place it in My side. Do not disbelieve, but believe” (See John 20:26-27). Thomas is the first disciple to procaim, “MY LORD AND MY GOD!”
“JESUS HAS RISEN! JESUS HAS RISEN INDEED!” I cannot prove it, but I believe it with all my heart because, just like freshly baked rolls, I have tasted God’s goodness in saving a sinner like me.
“Taste and see that the Lord is good;Blessed is the [person] who takes refuge in Him.”
“Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the Bread of Life. He who comes to Me will never go hungry, and [anyone] who believes in Me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35).
Christ the Lord Is Risen Today
(By Charles Wesley)
Christ the Lord is ris’n today, Alleluia!
Sons of men and angels say: Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
Sing ye heav’ns, and earth reply: Alleluia!
Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia!
Where, O death is now your sting? Alleluia!
Dying once He all doth save, Alleluia!
Where thy victory, O grave? Alleluia!
Love’s redeeming work is done, Alleluia!
Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!
Death in vain forbids Him rise, Alleluia!
Christ has opened Paradise, Alleluia!
Soar we now where Christ has led, Alleluia!
Foll’wing our exalted Head, Alleluia!
Made like Him, like Him we rise, Alleluia!
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia!
“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe” (See John 20:29). Do you believe “Christ has died, Christ has risen and Christ will come again” for you?
A Joyous Resurrection Sunday to You All!
[I will be taking a few weeks off from blogging, so that you can catch up on your reading.]