Resurrection Sunday 2021
Message – …and the Church’s response was Passion!
…and the Church’s response was Passion!
Well it’s Resurrection Sunday!!!
The week began with testimonies of the resurrection of Lazarus from the dead being spread about Jerusalem, a town that just 3 weeks earlier had people in it who had actively tried to kill Jesus. As a result the people were stirred to cry out Hosanna, upon Christ’s arrival while laying down various pieces of cloth and palm branches before Him.
They did not know that this too was in preparation for His death. The word “Hosanna” means come Lord now and save.
This was in fulfillment of at least two passages in the Old Testament, but the one I thought was more relevant to us today was from Psa 118:20-29,
“(20) This is the gate of the LORD; the righteous will enter through it. (21) I will give thanks to You because You have answered me and have become my salvation. (22) The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. (23) This came from the LORD; it is wonderful in our eyes. (24) This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. (25) LORD, save us! LORD, please grant us success! (26) Blessed is He Who comes in the name of the LORD. From the house of the LORD we bless you. (27) The LORD is God and has given us light. Bind the festival sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar. (28) You are my God, and I will give You thanks. You are my God; I will exalt You. (29) Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His faithful love endures forever.”
So it was fulfilled…Israel cried out for salvation, acknowledged God as the source of their salvation and even called out to Jesus for saving…and at the end of the week He was bound to the altar and became their salvation.
Over the course of that fateful week, He poured out His heart in passionate displays of love, teaching, warnings, righteous anger, miracles and devotion.
A verse lifted from Luke I think illustrates how the passion of His work, from beginning to end – but especially the end, was never far from His mind…it consumed His thoughts and drove His actions…not out of trepidation but out of passion to fulfill the will of the Father.
Luke 12:49-50, “(49) I came to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already set ablaze! (50) But I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how it consumes Me until it is finished!”
One of the most heart rending displays of passion that week was when Jesus lamented over Israel and their blinded hearts. He was indeed to be their salvation, but they did not have the eyes to see it, but were instead offended at Him.
Luke 13:34-35, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem! The city who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her. How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! (35) See, your house is left to you desolate. And I tell you, you will not see Me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’”
So, Jesus died…bearing all the weight and guilt of our sin in His body on the cross.
Justice demanded it – not out of some self-focused outrage from a personally sustained indignity from mankind against Himself…but out of mutual and collective honor within the Godhead.
To ignore man’s treason in the garden and all of those that followed, would be to honor man more than the members of the Godhead Who collectively created them. But being filled with mercy as well as wrath, They assumed the liability for man’s fall by becoming man themselves in the person of Jesus. For it pleased the Father that IN HIM all the fulness of the Godhead should be represented and dwell.
When that sinless life was offered up, the ransom for man’s treason was paid and we were set free from a debt we could not ever truly pay.
Jesus said it as some of His last words on the cross. The greek word is Teleo and was translated “It is Finished”.
It is a word ripe with meaning. It means, to make an end of something. To accomplish or complete it. We have to be careful here, because we cannot reduce it’s meaning to merely to end something, but to bring it to perfection or its destined goal. To carry something through all the way to perfection!
At this point He gave up His spirit into the hands of the Father and the veil in the temple dividing the Tabernacle of Meeting from the Holy Place was torn in two from top to bottom.
This was very symbolic – that veil represented the division between those who would meet with God and the God they wanted to meet.
It was torn from God to man – from Top to bottom which agrees with the message of Good News Jesus both preached and lived!
The message was always Life – and life is to know God in intimacy and eternal union.
So Jesus’ death was of the utmost importance…but that is not where the story ended…it is in fact, where it began!
Jesus then rose from the dead…but what did THAT do? I mean, if sin was dealt with at the cross…why the resurrection?
Well it served 3 purposes…Justification, New Life & a future resurrection for us!
If forgiveness of sins is the proverbial heads end of the coin of redemption, then Justification is the tail end or flip-side of that same coin.
This word Justification is only used in two places in the entire Bible and they are providing the outline, if you will, for today’s message.
The word Justification as it is used here in Romans 4 means the act by which one declares a person to be made right. IT DOES NOT MEAN the essence or character of justice…and that is an important point which we will develop as we go this morning.
Turn with me to Rom 4:1-3,
“(1) What then can we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? (2) If Abraham was justified by works, then he has something to brag about–but not before God. (3) For what does the Scripture say? Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him for righteousness.”
Now you may read the rest of this chapter on your own and I encourage you to do so, but for the sake of time skip on down to verse 20-25.
“(20) He did not waver in unbelief at God’s promise, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, (21) because he was fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. (22) Therefore, it was credited to him for righteousness. (23) Now it was credited to him was not written for Abraham alone, (24) but also for us. It will be credited to us who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. (25) He was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.”
“(1) Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, (2) through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”
Our justification, though built upon the foundation laid in the death of our Lord, only becomes an accomplished fact and an effective reality through Christ’s rising again and our being united together with Him IN His resurrection.
By faith we are united to a LIVING Jesus whose death was essential for our redemption.
So often, the gospel is presented as a set of facts which have to be agreed with and confessed as truth, but that is nothing more than an intellectual nod to God.
The Gospel message is not something which should read like an accountant’s data spread sheet. Even if everything is said just right, the best we can say about it is that the facts are all there – but it doesn’t take your breath away!
We cannot separate the redemptive work of Jesus from Jesus Himself.
As Spiros Zodhiates says, “We are saved, not by believing the fact that Christ died for our sins, but by union with the crucified and risen, exalted Savior.”
Did you hear that – not only by our union with Him in His death – No! Our redemption is only complete when we enter into our union with Him in His life!
Only through union with a living Savior Who has within Himself the virtue of His redemptive death does justification, forgiveness, and all the blessings of redemption become ours.
Consider the following verses which identify our forgiveness and our justification as being found NOT in agreeing to a set of facts, but by our being placed into a living union with Jesus by faith… [Just so you know I have taken the liberty to add Jesus’ actual name in places were only a pronoun like He or Who are used.]
Both Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14 say,
“In Jesus we have redemption through his blood”
We are accepted IN the beloved according to Ephesians 1:6
“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus” – Rom. 8:1.
Justification is ours as we are “in Christ” in such living union with Him- that His life becomes identified with ours and ours with His. Because of this identification or incorporation, Christ’s acts are repeated in us so that in His death we die to sin, “crucified with Christ“ (Gal. 2:20), and in His life we live to righteousness (Rom. 6).
It is only by Jesus’ risen life that He can come into living union with man so as to effect our full redemption.
This is why there are SO many statements in the New Testament which speak in terms of consistency in our walk of faith, the need to produce fruit which is the outward and obvious proof of our union with Him, to work out our salvation with deep respect and awe towards God Who is at work IN us…and so on. It is the underlying point behind many of the letters to the churches in Revelation 2 – 3.
So in the passage we read in Romans 4:25 it was actually saying,
“He was delivered up [to death] on account of our trespasses [to make restitution for them]; and He was raised on account of our justification [that it might become an accomplished fact]” (a.t.).
Again to borrow from Dr. Zodhiates on this, “He died to purchase what He rose again to apply.”
We are not just saved by His death, but according to Romans 5:10, we are “saved by his life“.
1Corinthains 15:17 tells us that, “If Christ be not risen, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins“
In his exposition on this specific word in Romans 4:26, Dr. Zodhiates ends with these words which I somewhat paraphrase…
In Hebrews, the same truth is presented from the point of view of the priesthood of Christ. In OT ritual, only when the high priest took the blood within the veil and sprinkled it upon the Mercy Seat was the offering for sin completed and the covenant-fellowship with God established.
In the same way, Christ’s offering for sin was not completed until, after His resurrection in the heavenly sanctuary, where Hebrews 9:11-14 tells us,
“(11) Now the Messiah has appeared, high priest of the good things that have come. In the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands (that is, not of this creation), (12) He entered the holy of holies once for all, not by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. (13) For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who are defiled, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, (14) how much more will the blood of the Messiah, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to serve the living God?”
Only then was the new covenant which is realized in the eternal and intimate fellowship between God and redeemed sinners established.
It is in Him as the living, prevailing High Priest, and not merely through something which He did in the past, that we have peace with God. He is now always at the right hand of God interceding for us as Romans 8:34 tells us.
As I told you earlier, this word Justification is only used twice in all of scripture, the second occurrence is found in Romans 5:18 and it goes like this,
“So then, as through one trespass there is condemnation for everyone, so also through one righteous act there is life-giving justification for everyone.”
In this second usage this word is focused on the sharing in the life Jesus gives us through His resurrection. Which brings us to our two other reasons for Jesus’ resurrection…
New Life & a future resurrection with Him:
Rom 6:3-12, “(4) Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. (5) For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, (6) For we know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that sin’s dominion over the body may be abolished, so that we may no longer be enslaved to sin, (7) since a person who has died is freed from sin’s claims. (8) Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him, (9) because we know that Christ, having been raised from the dead, no longer dies. Death no longer rules over Him. (10) For in that He died, He died to sin once for all; but in that He lives, He lives to God. (11) So, you too consider yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. (12) Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, so that you obey its desires.”
An Old Testament prophecy which had a dual fulfillment – one for that day and one for the day in which God would deliver His people from their sins…
Ezra 9:8,9, “(8) But now, for a brief moment, grace has come from the LORD our God to preserve a remnant for us and give us a stake in His holy place. Even in our slavery, God has given us new life and light to our eyes. (9) Though we are slaves, our God has not abandoned us in our slavery. He has extended grace to us in the presence of the Persian kings, giving us new life, so that we can rebuild the house of our God and repair its ruins, to give us a wall in Judah and Jerusalem.”
Though the presentation of this may have been a little different, none of this represents real news to you, but the preaching of it to true believers never gets old!
In fact it is what we preach when we take communion. In the taking of it, we dramatize our death with Him and our resurrection to New Life in and with Him.
According to Paul, it is a “preaching or telling forth” of His death until He returns!
Today, as we have and are focusing upon both the fact and meaning of Jesus’ resurrection, I felt it was appropriate to consider more than just what He did FOR us…but also, what our response to it should be…and that is of course a New Life lived in union with Him which produces the fruit of that union life – a new and approved character. We become LIKE Him. But there is more to it than even that!
So as we are winding down, I want to set before you some examples of how His resurrection was responded to by those who knew Him and see what we can learn from them.
The figures I am going to use are Mary, Peter, Thomas and John.
In the end, all of these believed in and honored the redemptive work of our Messiah Jesus, but the road from despair to belief was different for each.
As you know, on Wednesday nights we have recently been looking at the life of King Hezekiah and something has bothered me about his relationship with God since we started reading about him several weeks ago.
The other day I told Teri about it and some preliminary conclusions I had come to regarding it.
Then yesterday as I was out on my bike for exercise and clearing my head, I found the thought back in my mind again and realized that I had been going over this issue sort of piecemeal for weeks now but, now I had a New Testament comparison found in John and Peter.
You see, what had bothered me was the response of God to Hezekiah as compared to David. Though Hezekiah’s walk was arguably better than David’s in terms of comparing outward acts of godliness and sins.
Hezekiah seemed to walk the straight line… pretty tightly and there are only a few examples of sin – both of which seemed rather trivial when compared to David’s sins. Yet, I was picking up on an apparent lack of relational familiarity in Hezekiah’s relationship with God when compared to Davids.
As far as similarities go…both men served the Lord and pursued what was right.
When it came to sin though, Hezekiah allowed himself to get into pride and presumption, but David got outright angry with God, stole a man’s wife and then murdered him, he seemed to fail at raising His kids in the fear of the Lord…I mean by comparison, it seems like David’s track record was somehow lacking when compared to Hezekaih’s – yet, God kept telling Hezekiah that He was blessing him, in part, due to King David. And as we know, of the two of them, only David is called a man after God’s Own heart…so what gives?!
Well that, as I said, is when the life testimonies of Peter and John came to mind.
You see in David, you had a combination of both Peter and John and I will circle back to David and Hezekiah as we wrap this up, but… let’s quickly look at these four people and their response to the resurrection of Jesus.
Now both Peter and John, along with James, were those Jesus ALWAYS seemed to have at His side.
John & Peter upon hearing about the body of the Lord missing at the tomb, Peter starts running towards the tomb…John passes him, coming to the tomb first, yet somehow, Peter entered first then John.
While Peter appears to leave perplexed, John is said to immediately believe once he entered the empty tomb.
When the other women encountered the angel at the tomb, that angel told the women to go tell the disciples AND Peter, that Jesus had risen.
Peter had so quickly turned from “I would die with you” to “I never knew the man” that it would make a head spin…and so by his own words he distanced himself from Christ.
Also, though he possessed a love for the Lord, by his own admission, but it was the love of a friend as was confirmed when Jesus questioned him regarding it.
Jesus never denied Peter, He was only giving Peter a chance to own his failure and follow as His disciple once more…which Peter, in the end did do!
Peter is often referred to as impetuous Peter for several very good reasons.
He lived in the moment, he lived with passion and zeal…all of which conspired to make him a man of action!
It is Peter who:
- Jumps out of the boat to walk with Christ on the water.
- First exclaims that Jesus was Messiah – the Son of the living God.
- Rebuked Jesus for saying He was going to die
- Who told Jesus that He would never allow Him to wash His feet…until Jesus told him it was a condition for fellowship at which point Peter immediately and with equal zeal told Jesus to give Him an entire bath then!
- Had the nerve to speak up and talk when Jesus was standing there transfigured before him with Moses and Elijah…the others were silent!
- Who first claimed he would died with Christ
- Though we do not know it for sure it is assumed by many that it was Peter who cut off the High Priest’s servant’s ear when they came to arrest Jesus in the garden.
While other disciples did act in similar ways, Peter outshines them all! There was nothing reserved and nothing particularly tame about this man.
John on the other hand seemed to be a man of few words (at least until he had a pen in his hand) and not too much attention is drawn to him, yet it was:
- He alone who leaned upon Jesus at supper
- he alone stood by Jesus’ mother at His crucifixion
- he alone was commissioned by Jesus to care for His mother in His absence
- and it is at least possible that it is this same John who was the prominent Apostle and writer of the 1, 2 & 3 John, Gospel which bears his name and the last Revelation Jesus gave to His church was committed to him to pen.
John is set forth as the disciple Jesus loved – this was not necessarily in comparison to the others, but writers in that day often did not evoke their own name in writing – they would use some other name or term in its place. The one John chose for himself was ‘the disciple Jesus loved”. Why is that? Was this a statement of pride – placing himself above the others? That doesn’t seem likely for many reasons the least of which is that it would be inconsistent with the message of the Gospel he was writing. No – it seems like it was the only thing that naturally sprang to mind. He saw himself as dearly loved by God! His self-definition was “one loved by God”.
Then there was Thomas who refused to believe unless presented with hard evidence.
Thomas was not quick to believe. He was the one protecting his own heart. Not to be played the fool, he would not believe unless he saw.
Rather than paint him the skeptic, I believe his lack of belief sprang from a deeper and more profound issue.
These men had all given their lives for the past 3 years and were devoted to it for life.
However, to have their master, Lord and friend snatched from them was deeply wounding and quite honestly – terrifying. I believe behind Thomas’ unbelief came from a fear deep in his heart that if spoken, might come out something like this – “I know Jesus was more than just a man. I believed He was Messiah… and if Jesus could be taken from me, nothing in this life is either certain or safe!”
I believe we stand to learn as much from his response to Jesus upon seeing Him as we do in his unwillingness to believe without seeing.
I believe Thomas loved the Lord deeply, but was acting out of a wounded heart. As such his heart was like a bird with clipped wings. It “could” fly, but it would take some healing first. He could not allow himself to hope…for if it were not true, if Jesus was not truly risen, then he stood to lose Jesus all over again and that he could not stand!
As such, he protected his heart through disbelief.
What was the risen Lord’s response to this? He presented Himself to Thomas and invited him to – come place his finger in the whole in in wrists and his hand in the sword pierce in His side and said to him, “Don’t be unbelieving, but believe!”
How beautiful and kind is this!
Though it does not say one way or the other I don’t think Thomas even touched Him. Upon seeing His Lord alive and standing before Him – and hearing His words as lovingly accepting and inviting as ever…from his heart sprung the response, “My Lord and My God!”
Mary did not have eyes to see Him…but she did have ears.
We know little of her after the events of the resurrection, but we know that she loved Him and her knowledge of Him was intimate. She was among those women who sought to honor Jesus after His death by tending to His body – and she did so at the first possible chance afforded her since she was forbidden to do so earlier due to the Sabbath. So her trip from Bethany was EARLY, before the sun was even fully up.
Though she, like others, did not recognize Him when she saw Him (which may have been due to His concealing Himself as He did from the disciples on the Road to Emmaus) nothing could change the way He said her name.
He had already spoken to her calling her “woman” and asking her who she was looking for – and I personally believe there was a little bit of playfulness in this from Jesus, but after she answered in distraught tones all He said according to John 20:16 was, “Mary” and bursting out her mouth came an affectionate term used of one’s instructor “Rabboni”. I think that tells us all we needed to know of this dear woman.
So what do we learn from these accounts and responses to our Lord’s resurrection and in particular how does Peter and John give us any more insight into the relationship God had with David and Hezekaih.
Well many things I suspect but here are a few to get you started…
We do not specifically know when Peter believed but it is clear that he did, though it seems as if he had prevailing concerns over his denial of Christ, which Jesus addressed on the seashore one morning…inviting him to feed His lambs and confirming his future devotion by telling Peter he would die a martyr’s death.
We know that Peter went on to be one of the greatest Apostles. In traditional fashion it was Peter who:
- first spoke up in the upper room and helped to determine who would take Judas’ place.
- first to preach the gospel following the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
- It was Peter who first led Gentiles to Christ and baptised them.
- When the man was healed of blindness at the beautiful gate, it was Peter spoke to him and Peter who addressed the gathering crowd who were awestruck at the healing…
- Out of all the apostles, it was Peter who alone was said to have healed many just by his shadow falling upon them.
In the end, Peter’s zeal met with devotion and was martyred for his faith by inverted crucifixion.
John’s belief was the only one which seemed nearly instant. It did not require an angel or the eye-witness testimony of one who had seen or heard…nor did his belief wait until Jesus appeared to the 11. He only needed to see the empty tomb and it says these two simple words, “he believed”.
John, assuming it is the same John, lived in Jerusalem and helped lead the early Jewish believers there. He was exiled to Patamos where Jesus gave him the honor of seeing and penning the last revelation of Jesus to His church.
Tradition has it that the emperor attempted to kill John by boiling him in oil, but the oil would not burn him! I don’t know if it’s true, but something tells me it easily could have been.
Above all – it is John’s belief in his being the focus of God’s love in Christ that I believe made him the kind of man and friend to Jesus that he was. It made him have eyes to see what other could not see, at least at first and it was his Love for Christ that offered him some of the most honored and intimate interactions with Jesus in the Gospels. To be called upon to be His mother’s caretaker and son being perhaps the greatest!
So what do these men have to do with my puzzle regarding David and Hezekiah and furthermore what does all of this have to do with the Justification the resurrection of Jesus provided for us?
I believe passion was the difference between Mary and Thomas, between John and Peter and in the end I believe it was the crowning distinction between David and Hezekiah.
The funny thing is…I see so much of Peter in David’s passion! David so freely and immediately responds with a great heart towards God. He truly loves Him! Yes, his passion was sometimes more fast and furious than deep and devoted, but not much! Passion is a trait of the heart and as such influences and expresses itself in both our godly acts as well as in our sins.
But God seems to love passion and is sometimes more than a little irritated by obedience apart from it. God does not want obedience devoid of heart – He was hearts which produce obedience as a result of passion!
So what do we learn from all of these regarding our response to so great a salvation…it’s simple and it’s been said from the beginning – Love the Lord your God with ALL of your Heart, with ALL of your mind, with ALL of your will and with ALL of your strength!
- Like John it is THAT which will influence you heart to be quick to believe
- Like Peter to be quick to respond
- Like Thomas to be quick to repent
- Like David to serve Him with passion and
- Like Mary to be quick to recognize Him for Who He really is.
Justification being declared RIGHT with God is what Jesus’ resurrection brought us, but it is only realized as we are united with Him in life and THAT requires passion!