Why does the Lord allow a situation to grow worse after we pray about it? Part 5

25Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?’ ” John 11:25-26

As we are studying the historical record of Jesus’ seventh miraculous sign in the gospel of John (John 11:1-44), we are learning reasons why the Lord may allow a situation to grow worse after we pray about it. So far we have learned that the Lord does this to …

– Display more of His glory (John 11:1-4).

– Declare His love toward us (John 11:5-6).

– Deepen our sensitivity to His will (John 11:7-10).

– Develop our faith in Him (John 11:11-16).

The fifth reason why the Lord may allow a situation to grow worse after we pray about it is to DISCLOSE MORE OF CHRIST’S IDENTITY TO US (John 11:17-27). The scene now shifts from the region of Bethany in Perea (John 10:40; cf. 1:28) to the Bethany in Judea (John 11:18). Both towns became locations where people believed in Jesus for His gift of everlasting life. “So when Jesus came, He found that he had already been in the tomb four days.” (John 11:17). When Jesus arrived in Bethany of Judea, He found that Lazarus had “already been in the tomb four days.” It was the custom of Jews in general to bury their dead on the same day that the person died because embalming was not practiced by the Jews 1 and because of the warm climate which would contribute to a rapid rate of decay. 2  The dead body would be washed, anointed with perfumes, and wrapped in a white cloth.

“Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles away.” (John 11:18). Jesus and His disciples traveled about forty miles from Bethany of Perea to Bethany of Judea. John informs us that Bethany of Judea was “two miles away” from Jerusalem, perhaps to explain why so “many of the Jews” from Jerusalem were there to comfort Mary and Martha (John 11:19) and  to witness Jesus’ miracle (cf. John 11:45-46).  

“And many of the Jews had joined the women around Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother.” (John 11:19). It was expected of Jews to console the bereaved. In the Jewish culture, the period of mourning for the dead lasted thirty days. The first three days, no work was done, only weeping took place. Dr. Tom Constable writes, “Jewish rabbis believed that the spirit of a person who had died lingered over the corpse for three days, or until decomposition of the body had begun. They believed that the spirit then abandoned the body because any hope of resuscitation was gone.” 3 The rest of the first week there was deep mourning. The remaining thirty days involved lighter mourning.

When someone dies, it is so encouraging to see an entire community show support to those who are left behind. This support make take the form of a sympathy card, a visit, a meal, a cry with the bereaved or a tender hug.

“Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met Him, but Mary was sitting in the house.” (John 11:20). Everyone deals with death differently and that is okay. The personality differences of the two sisters are seen here in their response to Lazarus’ death. Martha is active and assertive going out to meet Jesus. She seeks Christ in her grief. Mary, on the other hand, is quiet and contemplative, sitting at home. Jesus consoles each sister differently, taking into consideration their differing personalities.

“Now Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.’ ” (John 11:21). Martha is saying, “Lord, You could have prevented this. We sent word to you before Lazarus died. You could have come immediately and prevented his death. But no! You waited two more days and Lazarus died. We needed You, Lord. Why didn’t You come?!” Notice that Martha’s faith was limited to whether Jesus was there.

But Martha did not let her anger and disappointment cut off her relationship with the Lord. She said to Jesus, “But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.” (John 11:22). She still believed Jesus could meet her need.

Jesus reassures her. “Your brother will rise again.” (John 11:23). He is referring to what He is about to do. He does not rebuke her for expressing her anger or disappointment. Jesus understands our humanness and the need to deal with feelings when faced with a loss. He dealt with losses, too. He had already lost John the Baptist (cf. Matthew 14:10-13).

Martha responds to Jesus, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” (John 11:24). Martha did not realize that Jesus was talking about raising Lazarus from the dead immediately. She thought He was referring to the final resurrection when the Messiah-God comes to set up His Kingdom (cf. Job 19:25-27; Daniel 2:44-45; 7:9-14, 26-27; 12:1-3).

Have you ever felt like Martha did near the grave of a loved one? You are angry with God for letting your loved one die. Maybe you prayed to God to save your spouse or child from death, and God let him or her die. Your heart was broken in two. It felt like God punched you in the gut! You were so overwhelmed with sadness and then anger. Why would God let this happen? What might Jesus say to you near your loved one’s grave? I believe He might say the same thing He said to Martha.

“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.” (John 11:25). This is the fifth “I AM” statement by Jesus in the gospel of John (cf. John 6:35; 8:12; 10:9, 14; 11:25) whereby He claims to be the same God who appeared to Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3:13-14). Jesus is the Guarantor of both resurrection and life.

As “the Resurrection” (John 11:25), Jesus guarantees a future resurrection to all who believe in Him. The person who believes in Christ “shall live” again physically through resurrection even “though he may die” physically. As “the Resurrection,” Jesus guarantees a future bodily resurrection to all who believe in Him. When Jesus comes back for His Church, all believers in Him will receive glorified resurrection bodies that will be free from sin and death (cf. I Corinthians 15:35-56; I Thessalonians 4:13-18).

Next, as “the Life,” Jesus guarantees that “whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.” (John 11:26a). This phrase, “shall never die,” is extremely powerful. Christ guarantees that all who believe in Him shall “never” experience eternal death or separation from God. How long is “never”? It is forever. The moment a person believes in Jesus, he or she receives “life” from Him that can “never” be taken away from him or her.

Jesus had made similar promises in the gospel of John which include “shall never hunger,” (John 6:35), “shall never thirst” (John 4:14; 6:35), “shall never perish” (John 10:28), and “shall not come into judgment” (John 5:24). Christ guarantees that the moment a person believes in Him for everlasting life, he or she is secure forever!!! What this also means is even though Lazarus had died physically, he was still alive spiritually because he had believed in Jesus.

Jesus makes this promise to “whoever lives and believes in” Him. We may be surprised to see the words “whoever lives.” Usually Jesus says, “whoever believes in Him” (John 3:15-16; 4:14). Why does Jesus add the words “whoever lives” as a condition for this promise? Dr. Bob Wilkin explains, “Jesus only offers His life to living human beings who believe in Him. He does not extend eternal life to nonhumans (Satan, fallen angels, demons); nor does He extend eternal life to humans who die in unbelief.” 4 Christ does not offer eternal life to people after they die. The Bible says, “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.” (Hebrews 9:27). There are no second chances to get to heaven after we die. This life is the only opportunity people have to get right with God through faith alone in the Lord Jesus Christ alone. Reincarnation is not found in the Bible. Jesus’ promise is made to living human beings (“whoever lives”), not to those who have died.

Let’s look at Jesus’ evangelistic invitation to Martha. He said to her, “Do you believe this?” (John 11:26b). Christ is asking Martha (and us), “Do you believe I guarantee a future resurrection and never-ending life to those who believe in Me?” This question is rarely asked of non-Christians today by Christians who practice evangelism. Instead, they ask the non-Christian questions like…

“Have you turned from your sins?”

– “Have you been baptized with water?”

– “Have you surrendered your life to the Lord Jesus?”

– “Have you given your life to Christ?”

– “Have you asked Jesus into your heart?”

– “Have you confessed Jesus as your Lord?”

No mention of the word “believe” is made in these common invitations. This is not what Jesus did with Martha. If we want to become more like Jesus, we must evangelize the lost the same way that He did. He asked Martha, “Do you believe this?” that I am the Resurrection and the Life Who guarantees a future resurrection and never-ending life to those who believe in Me?

Look at Martha’s response. “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” (John 11:27). She did not say “I think I believe…” nor does she say, “Maybe I believe…” She said, “Yes, Lord, I believe…” Martha was convinced that Jesus was the Christ – the One who guarantees a future resurrection and never-ending life to all who believe in Him. Could Martha believe that Jesus was the Christ without realizing she herself had eternal life? No. To believe that Jesus was the Christ was to believe His guarantee of eternal life. To doubt His guarantee of eternal life was to doubt Jesus as the Christ. If a person does not believe he or she is eternally secure the moment he or she believes in Jesus for eternal life, then he or she has not understood Jesus’ offer.

Some people think it is not enough to believe in Christ for eternal life. They think you must also turn from your sins, confess your sins, invite Jesus into your heart, surrender to the Lord, be baptized, continue in good works, obey all of God’s commands, and the list goes on and on and on. But this is foreign to the gospel of John which was written specifically to tell non-Christians how to obtain eternal life (John 20:31). Ninety-nine times John uses the word “believe” in his gospel. 5 If we want to become more like Jesus, we must use the word that God uses the most in evangelism – “BELIEVE”!!!  

Many people today make a distinction between head faith and heart faith. They have told us that we can miss heaven by eighteen inches because we have believed in Jesus with our head but not with our heart. But where does the Bible make this distinction? It does not. Nowhere in the Bible does God distinguish head belief from heart belief. All belief is belief. If we believe in Christ for eternal life, then we know we have eternal life because Jesus guarantees, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life.”(John 6:47).

To doubt that we “truly believe” is to disbelieve Jesus’ promise. Either I believe Christ’s promise or I do not. If I do, I have eternal life. If I do not, I stand condemned as one who “has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18). The gospel of John does not condition eternal life on whether one has “heart belief” instead of “head belief.” Saving faith is the conviction that Christ died for my sins and rose from the dead, and then believing or trusting in Him alone for His free gift of eternal life. What makes saving faith saving is not the amount or uniqueness of the faith, but Whom your faith is in and What your faith believes. Saving faith results instantly in eternal salvation because it believes in the right object: the promise of eternal life to every believer by Jesus Christ Who died for our sins and rose from the dead (John 3:15-18; 6:40, 47; I Corinthians 15:1-8; et al). Therefore, those who refer to “head belief” or “heart belief” are reading into the word “believe as the Bible neither does, nor provides basis for doing.

When Martha answered Jesus’ question with, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world” (John 11:27), neither she nor Jesus analyzes her faith to distinguish head faith from heart faith. Martha confidently affirms that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of God, Who is to come into the world.” What Martha believes about Jesus is exactly what John says in his purpose statement is all that a person must believe to have everlasting life (John 20:31). She knows she has believed in Christ, the Son of God, and therefore she is certain she has eternal life.

Does Jesus correct Martha’s response? Does He caution her to wait and see if her faith is real (as so many do today) through the manifestation of good works or fruit first before making such a statement? Does He ask her if she believes in her “heart” and not merely in her “head”? He does not because as long as any sinner comes to believe that Jesus is “the resurrection and the life,” that is, “the Christ, the Son of God,” he or she knows they have everlasting life.

What would Martha’s faith be like if Jesus had not delayed, and hence, had not raised Lazarus from the dead? Her understanding of Christ’s Person and power would be less. But because Jesus did not get there in time to heal Lazarus, Martha came to know that Jesus is “the Resurrection and the Life.”

One of the reasons God allows our situations to worsen after we pray about them is so He can reveal more of Himself to us. So instead of getting discouraged when God is silent, we can expect Him to reveal more of Himself to us.

The story is told of an atheist who was spending a quiet day fishing on a lake when suddenly his boat was attacked by the Loch Ness monster. With one easy flip of his tail, the beast tossed the man and his boat high into the air. Then the Loch Ness monster opened his mouth to swallow both the atheist and his boat. As the man sailed head over heels, he cried out, “Oh, my God, help me!” At once the ferocious attack scene froze in place, and as the atheist hung in midair, a booming voice came down from the clouds saying, “I thought you didn’t believe in Me?” The man pleaded, “Come on, God, give me a break. I didn’t believe in the Loch Ness monster either.”

Even when a person is facing death, God can reveal more of Himself to that person so that in the case of the atheist, he can believe in the Lord. Maybe you have been praying a long time about a situation and it seems to get worse and worse. Take heart, God may be about to reveal more of Himself to you.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, some of us may be standing beside the grave of a loved one right now. And like Martha, we may be disappointed or even angry with You for allowing our loved one to die after we prayed to You to save him or her from death. Thank You for reminding me today that You know how it feels when a loved one dies. You wept when You saw the grief that was caused by Your dear friend’s death (John 11:35). You sometimes delay Your answers to our prayers to reveal Yourself to us in a deeper and more powerful way like You did with Martha. You showed Martha (and us) that You are “the Resurrection and the Life” by raising her brother from the dead so that she could know that You have the power to provide a future bodily resurrection and never-ending life to all who believe in You alone. Thank You, my Lord and my God, for reminding me that all I must do to receive a future bodily resurrection and never-ending life is to believe in You alone. Please help me to be clear when I share this message with non-Christians. Thank You for reminding me that I need to use the same word You used the most in evangelism – BELIEVE. In Your holy and precious name I pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 207.

2.  Dr. Tom Constable, Notes on John, 2015 Edition, pg. 202.

3. Ibid., pg. 201.

4. Dr. Robert Wilkin, The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (pg. 507). Grace Evangelical Society. Kindle Edition.

5. John 1:7, 12, 50; 2:11, 22, 23; 3:12(2), 15, 16, 18(3), 36(2); 4:21, 39, 41, 42, 48, 50, 53; 5:24, 38, 44, 46(2), 47(2); 6:29, 30, 35, 36, 40, 47, 64(2), 69; 7:5, 31, 38, 39, 48; 8:24, 30, 31, 45, 46; 9:18, 35, 36, 38; 10:25, 26, 37, 38(3), 42; 11:15, 25, 26(2), 27, 42, 45, 48; 12:11, 36, 37, 38, 39, 42, 44(2), 46, 47; 13:19; 14:1(2), 10, 11(2), 12, 29; 16:9, 27, 30, 31; 17:8, 20, 21; 19:35; 20:8, 25, 29(2), 31(2).

How can I grow closer to the Good Shepherd? Part 4

“Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.” John 10:17-18

We can also grow closer to the Good Shepherd when we INITIATE OBEDIENCE TO HIM (John 10:17-18). Jesus said,Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again.” (John 10:17a). God the Father has a special love for His Son who sacrificially obeyed His will. Jesus did not mean that the Father’s love resulted from the Son’s performance. The Father’s love for Jesus would still have existed if Jesus had failed to obey Him completely. The Father loved the Son unconditionally in eternity past (John 17:23-24). However, the Son’s full obedience to the Father’s will resulted in the Father having a special love for the Son that obedience under testing brought out.

Likewise, God loves all believers unconditionally, but when they obey Him, they enjoy an intimacy with Him that only obedience can produce. Christ said in John 14:21, “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.” For Christ to disclose or “manifest more of Himself to a believer, the believer must be trustworthy and obey Him. Intimacy or friendship with Christ is conditioned upon obeying Him. “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.” (John 15:14). This friendship refers to Jesus disclosing His thoughts to those who obey Him. Thus, Jesus’ friends are those to whom He entrusts Himself. Intimate fellowship with Christ requires obedience to Him. When believers initiate obedience to Christ, they draw closer to Him and experience an intimacy with Him that is absent among disobedient believers.

Some people may ask, “If Jesus is God, how can He die? God does not die.” I like to respond to this question by asking a question. “When humans die, do their spirits or souls stop existing?” They respond, “No our spirit or soul does not die,” to which I reply, “So even when we die as humans, it is the body that dies, not our spirit or soul. We do not stop existing altogether.” The same is true of Jesus. Though His physical body died on the cross, He did not stop existing as God. Just before Jesus died on the cross, He cried out with a loud voice, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.” Then “He breathed His last” (Luke 23:46). John writes, “bowing His head, He gave up His spirit” (John 19:30). Jesus’ spirit went to His Father in heaven when He died. Therefore, He did not stop existing as God.

Then Jesus said to His Jewish audience, “I lay down My life that I may take it again.” (John 10:17b). The purpose of Jesus’ death was to rise again, enriched with resurrection power. From Jesus’ perspective, death was only the beginning, not the end. Christ knew He would not remain dead. Christ said, “No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.” (John 10:18). We see that Jesus’ death was voluntary (cf. John 10:11, 14, 17-18). Jesus was under no obligation to sacrifice Himself for sinners. That’s why it’s called grace.

Although the Jews would hand Him over and the Romans would crucify Him, this was only possible because He let them (cf. John 19:10-11). An unbelieving observer may conclude that Jesus was overpowered by the Jewish authorities and crucified. But Jesus makes it clear that no one took His life from Him. He chose to lay it down. He also had authority to lay down His life and take it up again. Christ had the power to call upon thousands of angels to destroy His enemies and deliver Him from death (Matt. 26:53), but He chose to endure the cross out of love for us and His Father (Romans 5:8; Philippians 2:6-8). The Father commanded Jesus to lay down His life and take it up again and Jesus submitted to His Father.

Anyone can lay his or her life down in death sacrificially, but only Jesus Christ could “lay it down” and then “take it [up] again” in resurrection! This is what separates Jesus Christ from all other religious leaders and founders. All other religious leaders and founders in history are still dead in the grave. But Jesus Christ is the only One who had the authority to take up His life in resurrection, proving that He is God (Romans 1:4) and that He has defeated sin, death, and the Devil (cf. Romans 6:5-14; 8:11; I Corinthians 15:54-57; Colossians 2:15; Hebrews 2:14-15). The New Testament writers attributed Jesus’ resurrection to all three members of the Trinity: the Father (Romans 6:4), the Son (John 2:19), and the Spirit (Romans 8:11).

The One Who voluntarily laid down His life for us and took it up again in resurrection loves each of us very much. He wants to give us the same power that raised Him from the dead to enable us to live a life that obeys and honors Him (cf. Ephesians 1:18-20)! The more we give Him our obedience, the more He will reveal Himself to us in intimate ways.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, there is no one like You. You loved me so much that You voluntarily laid down Your life for me and took it up again in resurrection to honor Your Father’s will. Your obedience to the Father reminds me that when I give You my obedience, You will reveal more of Yourself to me. Right now my Lord and my God, I want to give You everyone and everything I have. I look forward to what You are going to teach me about Yourself today. In Your everlasting name I pray. Amen.

Is Jesus Christ Alive Today? (Video)

This video contains a message of everlasting hope that is found in the risen Lord Jesus Christ. Please share this video with those you want to see in heaven.

The song “Because He Lives I Can Face Tomorrow” by Jesusman, is Public Domain Mark 1.0 and is therefore not subject to copyright.

How can a holy God come into my life and cleanse me from all my sin?

“Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up…’ But He was speaking of the temple of His body. Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said.” John 2:19, 21-22

We learned last time that the temple of God is located in every believer in Jesus Christ now (I Corinthians 3:16; 6:19). You may wonder, “How can a holy God come into my life and cleanse me from all my sin?” The next several verses in John 2 explain.

“Then His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up.’” (John 2:17). Jesus’ zeal or enthusiasm for God would ultimately lead to His death. Do we have this kind of zeal for God’s kingdom? God’s work? Are we willing to risk our lives or reputations for the Lord? This kind of enthusiasm comes from a dynamic relationship with the Lord. We cannot manufacture this kind of zeal on our own. It comes from knowing and loving Jesus!

“So the Jews answered and said to Him, ‘What sign do You show to us, since You do these things?’ ” (John 2:18). The Jews did not question Jesus’ actions, but they did question His authority. Who does He think He is by doing this? They demanded a miraculous sign to prove He has the right to take such action. I love Jesus’ response here. He confuses them even more. “Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’” (John 2:19). He used this statement to stimulate the thinking of these Jews. “Then the Jews said, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?’ ” (John 2:20). Such a massive and enduring structure was not likely to be destroyed and rebuilt in three days.

Thanks to John’s post-resurrection perspective we know that Jesus is not speaking of destroying the literal temple, but rather He is talking about His own body – that it will be destroyed and then raised back to life. “But He was speaking of the temple of His body. Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said.” (John 2:21-22). It is not the Jerusalem temple but the human body of Jesus that represents the presence of God. Let me remind you of something. Christianity is not about buildings. It is not about a church building. It is not even about a philosophy of life. Christianity is about a relationship with the One who died and rose again for our sins so we can have eternal life.

So the reason a holy God can come into our contaminated lives full of sin is because of Christ’s death and resurrection. God’s holiness demands that sin be punished, but His heart desires that the sinner be pardoned. Hence, God sent His Son Jesus to take the punishment you and I deserved.

The United States was shocked in 1998 by the tragic news of two young boys who opened fire on schoolchildren as they ran from their building in Jonesboro, Arkansas. Four children and a teacher were killed and five others were injured. The teacher died when she stepped forward to shield one of her sixth graders. She saved the girl but lost her own life. The teacher became her substitute and died in her place.

Jesus Christ died as our Substitute. Just as the teacher took the bullets for the young girl, Christ took the punishment for our sin and died in our place. Jesus Christ did what our good works could never do. We are saved by Christ’s dying, not by our doing. Three days after His death Jesus came back to life. By rising from the grave on the third day He proved He had conquered sin and death and that He is God (Romans 1:3-4).

Christ’s death and resurrection make it possible for a holy God to live inside of us. Praise Jesus for laying down His life so we may enjoy fellowship with Him both now and forever! While going to heaven to live with Christ in the future is extremely important, it is also important to know that Jesus wants His disciples (followers) to take sin seriously in their lives now. He wants us to trust Him to cleanse our lives of all sin and corruption. He wants us to rely on His indwelling resurrection power to help us say “NO” to sin and “YES” to the Savior.

Prayer: Precious Savior and Lord, it is mind boggling to know that the holy God of the Bible indwells every believer in Jesus Christ, including me!!! Thank You, Lord Jesus, by making this possible through Your shed blood on the cross which not only paid the penalty for all of my sins (John 19:30), but also continues to cleanse me of my daily sins so I may enjoy closeness with You (I John 1:7). Thank You for Your resurrection power which is always available to help me to say “No” to sin and “Yes” to holy living. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Christ’s resurrection provides a relationship for our souls

“Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to Him, ‘Rabboni!’ (which is to say, Teacher).” John 20:16

There is a third thing that happened to Mary Magdalene on that first Sunday after Jesus’ death and burial that helped her to see the resurrected Lord. And this is what we also need. If we are going to see Jesus’ resurrection in our daily lives, we need a relationship for our souls (20:15b-18). That’s exactly what happened with Mary. There are two incredible recognitions that occur in one verse.

First, Jesus calls Mary by name. So Mary was able to say to Jesus, “You recognize me, Lord” (20:16a). At first,Mary mistakes Jesus for the gardener. “She, supposing Him to be the gardener, said to Him, ‘Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away.’ ” (John 20:15b). Her tears and her focus lead her to conclude Christ is the gardener. Did you ever wonder how is Mary going to carry Jesus? That is a lot of faith and strength for her to think she is going to carry a dead man’s body by herself.

Here’s the big question for our lives, “Who do we mistake Jesus for?” We may laugh at Mary and say how could she have mistaken Jesus for the gardener? But who do we mistake Jesus for? Perhaps we have mistaken Jesus for luck. Something has happened in your life and you have said, “I was so lucky! I can’t believe that car missed me coming around that blind curve. I can’t believe I did not die when that car ran the red light! I can’t believe I haven’t died from COVID-19! I am so lucky!” No. The resurrected Jesus Christ was there. That is why you are still alive.

Sometimes we mistake our risen Lord for fate. Or we mistake Him for our own intellectual ability, like somehow we figured everything out and did it ourselves. God does use our minds, our heart, and our strength. But it was Christ who was there for us. So who do we mistake Him for?

Mary mistook Him for the gardener, but Jesus would not let her stay there. I love the way that Jesus recognized her. One word, one name. “Mary!” (John 20:16a). In the native language – Mariam.  In John 10:3 Jesus said that the true shepherd “calls His own sheep by name.” The incredible thing to me that the first word out of the mouth of the resurrected Jesus Christ is not some great words of theology. It is a name. The name of one of His devoted followers. Mary. It is the name she had heard so many times before. It is the name she heard when Jesus cast the demons out of her life, when He called her out of a life of sin. She heard it again and again as He had taught her along with the other disciples day by day. But this time it took on new meaning because it helped her to recognize Jesus Christ is alive and He is here. He spoke her name in the midst of her pain and confusion and He does the same with us.

The resurrection of Christ moves from being an historical event to being a personal event when we hear Jesus Christ speak our name. It’s something personal. Other gods are not speaking our names because they are still dead in their graves. But Jesus is not dead. He is alive and He comes to us speaking our name.

If Jesus spoke your name what would it sound like? What do you think it sounded like to Mary? If Jesus came into your life right now and spoke your name, how would you hear it? We need to learn how to hear it. I’ll tell you how I think He spoke it to Mary. With tenderness, compassion, concern, and power all rolled up into one. It is a tone of voice that is filled with hope for you and what God can do in your life. He speaks it with a tone that knows everything you have done wrong, and yet it is a forgiving and compassionate tone of voice. That is how I hear Him speaking our names. 

When Mary hears Jesus speak her name, she recognizes Him. “She turned and said to Him, ‘Rabboni!’ (which is to say, Teacher).” (John 20:16b). Mary moves from saying, “You recognize me, Lord” to saying, “I recognize You, Lord.” Mary is saying, I see You. I understand who You are. You are my risen Lord. Mary refers to Jesus as “Rabboni” which means “Teacher.” Even after His death and resurrection, Jesus is still our Teacher who passes on the truths of His Father.

“Jesus said to her, ‘Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them,’ ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.’ ” (John 20:17). Mary embraces her risen Lord because she loved Him and did not want to lose Him again. When Jesus tells Mary, “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father,” He is telling her that it will be a while before He ascends to His Father (cf. Acts 1:4-11). But Christ has an important job for her to do now. She was “to go” to His disciples whom He now refers to as His “brethren.” This reminds us that believers in Jesus become members of the same family with God as their Father and Jesus as their Brother (John 1:12; Hebrews 2:11-12).

“Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that He had spoken these things to her.” (John 20:18). Mary did as Jesus commanded her and faithfully told the disciples all that Jesus spoke to her. What she says to the disciples is the best thing we can say about any moment of our lives – “I have seen the Lord.” I’ve seen the Lord give direction for my family. I’ve seen the Lord comfort me in this painful situation. I’ve seen the Lord show me His will in this decision. I’ve seen the Lord’s presence even in this place that I don’t want to be in. I’ve seen the Lord heal my friend of a deadly disease. I’ve seen the resurrected Lord.”

Are we seeing Jesus’ resurrection in our daily lives? If not, it is becausewe need evidence for our minds. We need answers for our hearts. And we need a relationship for our souls. This is not about a religion or philosophy. It is about a  Person who loved us so much that He died in our place for our sins and rose from the dead. And He is alive today and He is speaking your name. The risen Lord Jesus wants to be personally involved in our lives. He wants to have a love relationship with us.

Would you like to begin a relationship with Jesus now that lasts forever? All He asks is that you come to Him as a sinner, realizing He died for your sins and rose from the dead, and then believe or trust in Him alone for His gift of everlasting life. Jesus said, For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16). Christ is alive today and He has the power to give you everlasting life. All He asks is that you believe in Him alone for His free gift.

Prayer: My faithful risen Lord Jesus, thank You for rising from the dead and speaking my name with compassion and love. You are not some impersonal force who is far away from His creation. You still speak my name in the midst of pain and confusion which comforts and soothes my soul. You are involved in my life every day, teaching me truths from the Father. I have seen You give direction for my family. I’ve seen You comfort me in this painful situation. I’ve seen You show me Your will in the decisions You have led me to make. I’ve seen Your presence even in places that I did not want to be in. I’ve seen You protect me from careless drivers. I’ve seen You in the every-day circumstances of life. I praise You, my resurrected Lord. And I beg of You to have mercy on those who are rejecting You at this time. Please send Your Word to them so they may believe You are the Resurrection and the Life who guarantees a future resurrection and never-ending life to all who believe in You. Glorify Your name my risen Lord! In Jesus’ name. Amen.  

Christ’s resurrection provides answers for our hearts

“Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?’ ” John 20:15a

If we are going to believe in a resurrected Lord and the difference He can make in our daily lives, we need some answers for our hearts. Christ’s interaction with Mary Magdalene provides this for us. John may have been the first to believe Jesus’ resurrection (John 20:8), but Mary was the first to see the resurrected Lord (John 20:10-15a). Many students of the Bible refer to this as the greatest recognition scene in all of literature – Mary seeing Jesus unexpectedly. The incredible thing about this scene is Mary does not recognize Jesus at first.

“Then the disciples went away again to their own homes. But Mary stood outside by the tomb weeping, and as she wept she stooped down and looked into the tomb” (John 20:10-11). After Peter and John returned to their homes, Mary Magdalene returned to the tomb. She was weeping outside the tomb, stricken with grief over the death of Jesus and the confusion about His missing body. As she wept, she looked into the tomb.

“And she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain” (John 20:12). Even though angels had announced to Mary on a previous visit that Jesus had risen (cf. Luke 24:5-6), Mary still did not understand because grief had overtaken her. “Then they said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him’ ” (John 20:13). These angels do not announce the resurrection of Jesus, instead they express amazement at her sorrow. “Woman, why are you weeping?” Christ’s resurrection was the least appropriate time for tears. But Mary did not understand that Jesus was alive!If she had believed the previous announcement of the angels that Jesus had risen, she would not be weeping. But overcome with grief, Mary wants to know where Jesus’ body has been taken. She had come to the tomb to complete the burial of Jesus, but even that had been taken away from her.

Look at what happens next. “Now when she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus” (John 20:14). Why didn’t Mary recognize Jesus? Two reasons why Mary could not see the risen Jesus:

Her TEARS. She couldn’t see Jesus through her tears. When the Bible says she was “weeping” [klaíō, κλαίω] (20:11, 13), it is not talking about a little tear making its way slowly down her cheek. It is a word for wailing or “weeping vehemently.” The tears were streaming down her face and had blurred her vision. We see in Mary someone with a broken heart after all she had been through. Because of those tears she couldn’t see Jesus. The second reason she did not recognized Jesus was…

Her FOCUS. It all has to do with her sight. She couldn’t see Jesus because she was focused more on the empty tomb that was in front of her than the resurrected Lord who was right behind her. She’s peering into this empty tomb trying to find the resurrected Lord when He’s standing right there ready to give her hope.

Some erroneously conclude that Mary did not recognize the risen Lord Jesus because it was a different person than Jesus. There is nothing in the biblical text to substantiate this. The same Jesus who died is the same Jesus who rose from the dead (see I Corinthians 15:1-8). Over five hundred eyewitnesses attest to this fact.

The empty tomb is a great thing, but it is the resurrected Lord we really worship. We don’t worship a tomb. We don’t worship a place. We worship the living Lord Jesus. Anytime we allow ourselves to focus more on some tradition, some place, some ritual and we get our eyes off the resurrected Lord, we start to lose hope. So Mary did not see the risen Lord at first because of her tears and her focus.

What happened to Mary can also happen to us. There are times in our lives when the resurrected Lord Jesus is right there in front of us and He wants to give us hope, but we don’t see Him because our emotions have blinded us or we have lost focus. It is easy today to loose focus on the Person of our risen Lord Jesus because of the impact the coronavirus is having on our lives. Nearly half of humanity is confined within their homes and apartments, hoping they won’t be added to the statistics that are tracking the deadly wake of COVID-19. As I’m writing this, there have been over 1.8 million confirmed cases worldwide and nearly 115,000 people have died so far. There will undoubtedly be tens of thousands of additional deaths before it is all over.

Mary is asked two questions by Jesus to help her find the answers her heart needed. The first question is “Why are you weeping? (John 20:15a). Mary’s heart is broken after all she has been through. She sees the cross and Jesus taken to the cross. She sees Him taken to the tomb and buried. Now three days later, she comes back to the tomb and thinks His body has been stolen. Because of this, she is deeply hurt. She is crying.

Some of us may feel like Mary did. Your dreams are at a dead end like Mary’s were. Or maybe our expectations take a total U-turn from what we thought was going to happen. Or the support that we have been depending on in our lives crumbles from beneath us. We know exactly the kind of feelings Mary felt at the tomb. Jesus is asking us, “What is making you hurt?” That is what Jesus was asking Mary and now He is asking us. “What is it that is making you hurt?”

Mary is so much like us. She reminds us so much of what we need when we hurt so deeply – to listen and realize that Jesus cares about the fact that we hurt, that He cares about the struggles we have been going through in our lives. For Mary, her hurt was keeping her from seeing God’s hand at work in her life. That can happen to me and to you. God does not want our hurt to keep us from seeing that He is at work in our lives. Jesus Christ is alive.

Martin Luther who started the Lutheran Church and pioneered the reformation, was obviously not a perfect person any more than the rest of us. But he had quite a wife. One day he was in a deep depression over something that had gone wrong. On the third day of his depression, his wife came downstairs dressed in mourning clothes. He asked her “Who’s dead?” Luther’s wife said, “God is dead.” He said, “What do you mean God’s dead? God can’t die!” His wife says to him, “I just thought He had died considering the way you’ve been acting the last three days.” 

We can sometimes act like Martin Luther. Sometimes we act like Jesus isn’t alive. Yes, our world has drastically changed because of COVID-19. We are restricted to our homes most of the time. But what is more important? That, or the fact that Jesus is alive and guarantees a future resurrection and never-ending life to those who believe in Him (John 11:25-26)? Maybe some person offended you at work. What’s more real? That or the fact that Jesus is alive? Maybe you did not get something that you wanted to get. What’s more real? The fact you didn’t get something you wanted to get or that Jesus has a life for me in eternity? 

But Mary is just like us. The little things hurt us not to mention the big things. Those little things grow into bigger things. For Mary this was the biggest hurt she had ever faced. Jesus came to her and said, “Why are you weeping?” He asks us that question too. He wants to know because the resurrected Jesus Christ has an answer for our hurt. He has a hope. That’s what the resurrection is all about.

Then He asks her a second question: “Whom are you seeking?”  (John 20:15b). These questions had to do with her tears and her focus. Whom are you seeking? What are you looking for? As I read the Bible, I have noticed that God has the habit of asking great questions. The first question that God asks in the Bible, back in the book of Genesis, Adam has sinned. He’s hiding behind the bushes in the Garden of Eden and God comes into the garden and asks, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9). That’s a great question. God knew that Adam was behind the bushes. That wasn’t what the question was all about. “Where are you, Adam, in relation to Me? How come you are not fellowshipping with Me? How come you’re not close to Me?”

God asks great questions. Jesus Christ was in the habit of asking great questions. At the feeding of the four thousand He looked at the disciples and asked, “How many loaves do you have?” (Matthew 15:34). He says, “Just give Me what you have, and I will take care of the rest.” He asked His disciples, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” (Luke 9:18). Then He asked the disciples, “But who do you say that I am?” (Luke 9:20a). One of the greatest questions Jesus ever asked and He asked this one several times, “What do you want Me to do for you?” (Matthew 20:32).

Sometimes we need to stop asking God questions and let Him ask us questions. Take time to be quiet and listen to the risen Lord Jesus. Maybe He wants to ask, “Why are you hurting? Whom are you seeking? Where are you in relation to Me? What can you give to Me? What do you want Me to do for you?” Mary listened to these questions and her life started to turn around. Will you listen to God?

Some of you reading this article are restless and seeking answers for your fearful and hopeless heart. You may be seeking the Lord Jesus and not even know it. Jesus is inviting you to come to Him just as you are. Listen to His voice: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28). When you come to Jesus just as you are, He will give you spiritual rest. The rest Jesus offers here refers to a state of mind that exists when a non-Christian realizes he or she does not have to earn or work for their salvation (cf. Romans 4:5; Ephesians 2:8-9). This refers to the positional rest of eternal life that is based on trusting in Christ’s finished work on the cross alone (John 3:14-15; 19:30). Christ can give you everlasting life as a free gift because He paid for it through His death and resurrection (Romans 6:23b; I Corinthians 15:1-8).

If you came to Christ in faith just now, Jesus gave you everlasting life which can never be lost (John 10:28-29). God became your Father and you became His child forever (John 1:12). Jesus now lives inside of you through His Holy Spirit who will comfort, guide, and teach you so your life will magnify Jesus (John 14:16-17; 15:26; 16:13-14). Jesus wants to be your best Friend. You can get to know Him better by spending time with Him, talking to Him through prayer anywhere, anytime about anything (John 15:7; Philippians 4:6-7). Learn to listen to His voice as you read and study the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16-17). I recommend you begin with the fourth book of the New Testament, the gospel of John, because it is all about Jesus and how you can have everlasting life in His name. It will also reveal to you God’s plan and purpose for your life.

Prayer: My risen Savior and Lord, please forgive me for losing focus on You and Your resurrection. I have allowed so many things to distract me from what is really important. Thank You for coming to me with questions just like You did with Mary Magdalene that first Sunday after Your death and burial. Your questions show me that You really do care about me. You care especially about my heart. You care about my disappointments, my hurts, my needs, and my worries. Your presence in my life calms my troubled heart and assures me that there is hope for today and tomorrow, and all the tomorrows You graciously give to me. Thank You for helping me refocus on what is eternal. As I quiet my soul in Your presence, what would You say to me right now Lord Jesus? I am listening. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Christ’s resurrection provides evidence for our minds

“Then the other disciple, who came to the tomb first, went in also; and he saw and believed.” John 20:8

As we celebrated Jesus’ resurrection today, those of us who believe in Jesus as our Savior are filled with joy as we sing and worship our risen Lord! However, it may be difficult for us to realize what it was like for those who discovered the empty tomb on that first resurrection Sunday. When Mary saw that the tomb was empty, she wasted no time and “ran” to Peter and John, “the other disciple, whom Jesus loved” to tell them that “they” (the religious leaders), “have taken away the Lord out of the tomb” (20:2b).

Why didn’t Mary remember Jesus’ promise that He made before His crucifixion, saying He would rise from the dead on the third day (Matthew 16:21; 20:19)? Why didn’t Mary relay the message of the angel announced to her (and the other women) earlier that morning, that Jesus had risen (cf. Matthew 28:1-8; Luke 24:1-10)? Mark’s account tells us that fear had overcome Mary, so she said nothing to anyone (cf. Matthew 28:8; Mark 16:8). Since Mary was a former demon possessed person, she may have feared people would easily suspect her of having hallucinations (cf. Mark 16:9; Luke 8:2). She may have thought that the angels were actually men who took Jesus’ body. What would that be like to have the body of the One you followed stolen from His grave?

In 1876, a gang of counterfeiters from Chicago attempted to steal the dead body of President Abraham Lincoln and hold it for ransom. Even though their attempt to steal Lincoln’s remains failed, it led to Lincoln’s corpse being buried again in Springfield, Illinois, in a steel cage under tons of cement so that it would not happen again. When the rest of the nation found out about this failed attempt to steal the President’s remains, it was in shock that a leader like that would be defiled in that kind of way.

That is probably how Mary and the disciples of Jesus must have felt. Their response is not uncommon. Even for us, when we first discover the shocking truth of the resurrection of Christ, we may have more confusion or doubt than we have of joy or hope. For example, when we attempt to apply the truth of Christ’s resurrection to our lives, we may have confusion –  “How does Jesus’ resurrection apply to my situation?” Or we may have fear“I’m afraid of what this power might do in my life.” Or we may even have doubt– “I don’t know if this power will work in my life.” For Mary it was confusion (20:2). For the disciples in the Upper Room it was fear (20:19). For Thomas it was doubt (20:24-25).

Notice Mary said, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb” (20:2b). Often when it comes to the resurrection of Jesus and how that resurrection can apply to our lives, the hope is right there in front of us. We just cannot see it yet. How can I start to see the resurrected Jesus there where I am confused?  

When Mary informed Peter and John of the empty tomb, they wasted no time talking. They ran toward the tomb. “Peter therefore went out, and the other disciple, and were going to the tomb. So they both ran together, and the other disciple outran Peter and came to the tomb first” (20:3-4). These verses are captivating because of their eyewitness nature. John probably wrote these verses thirty-five years after it happened. But as we read this almost two thousand years later, it reads like it happened today. Like he just saw it. If this happened to me, I would not forget it either. It is almost funny to read this eyewitness account because it is so fresh and real to John. Even though it is thirty-five years later, John wants his readers to know he was faster than Simon Peter. That sounds like someone else I know – me!

Even though John arrived at the empty tomb first, he does not go into the tomb. “And he, stooping down and looking in, saw the linen cloths lying there; yet he did not go in” (20:5). John seems to wait at the entrance to process what he sees as quickly as possible. “Why would the linen wrappings be here without the body? Is there any sign of forced entry? Any indication of foul play? Where is the body? What has happened here?”

“Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; and he saw the linen cloths lying there, and the handkerchief that had been around His head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded together in a place by itself” (20:6-7). Peter pushes his way past John, as if to say, “Out of the way John. I’ve got to go in there to see what has happened.” That’s just the way Peter was. Peter also saw thestrips of “linen cloths lying there” where the body of Jesus had been placed and he also saw “the handkerchief that had been around His head.” Instead of being tossed aside, it was “folded together in a place by itself.” The fact that this head piece was “not lying with the linen cloths” suggests that Jesus first unwrapped the face cloth and folded it, set it down, and then unwrapped the rest of His grave clothes. The fact that the grave clothes were not in disarray and that the headpiece was neatly folded, demonstrates that the body was not stolen. Grave robbers would have been in a hurry and either taken the body with the wrappings or would have ripped and scattered them. Thieves would not have been this careful.

John now goes into the tomb. “Then the other disciple, who came to the tomb first, went in also; and he saw and believed” (20:8). What did John “believe?” Mary’s report that the tomb was empty? Doubtful. When John saw that Jesus’ body was missing and the position of His grave clothes, he believed Jesus had risen from the dead. The evidence persuaded him to believe Christ was alive.

But I learned something new about the folded head piece. To understand the significance of the folded head piece, you must understand a little bit about the Master and Servant relationship in Jesus’ day. When the servant set the dinner table for the master, he made sure that it was exactly the way the master wanted it. The table was furnished perfectly, and then the servant would wait out of sight until his master had finished eating. How did the servant know his master was finished eating? His master would rise from the table, wipe his fingers, his mouth, and clean his beard, and would wad up that napkin and toss it onto the table. The servant would then know to clear the table. For in those days, the wadded napkin meant, “I’m done.” But if the master got up from the table, and folded his napkin, and laid it beside his plate, the servant would not dare touch the table, because the folded napkin meant, “I’m coming back!” John may have understood Jesus’ folded head piece to mean He was coming back! He was alive!

If you and I are going to see Jesus’ resurrection in our daily lives, we need evidence for our minds. For example, when you say, “I believe Jesus Christ rose from the dead,” how do I know you are not making that up? What makes that statement any different than saying, “I believe that the scrambled eggs I ate this morning has the power to change my life?” What makes it any different? Evidence. Something amazing happened in that tomb.

There are three different words used for “saw” in these verses (20:5-6, 8). When we are told that John bent down and “looked in” the tomb, the word for “saw” [blépō, βλέπω] means “to glance or look quickly at something”  (20:5). When Peter entered the tomb, the word John uses for “saw” [theōréō, θεωρέω] refers to a “careful observation” (20:6). This is the word that we get the English word “theorize” from. When Peter saw the linen cloths lying there, he was thinking it through, wondering what was happening. He was coming up with a theory. The third word John used for “saw” [horáō, ὁράω] means “to perceive with intelligent comprehension” (20:8). Peter saw more after entering the tomb than John did in his first glance from outside the tomb, but John saw into the meaning of it all better than Peter. Peter had more sight, but John more insight. The evidence of Christ’s resurrection convinced John even before he met the resurrected Jesus.

These verses describe three different ways of seeing the truth of Jesus’ resurrection. I can take the truth of Jesus’ resurrection and just glance at it as I run by. Or I can gaze at it and try to figure it out. But the third way, the way John saw, is I can get it. John looks at the evidence and sees what has happened, and something happened in his mind. We have had this happen with spiritual truth. It is when the truth is perceived in our minds so that it becomes real in our lives. We are convinced that it will make a difference in who we are. This isn’t just some theory. This is real. 

Some people think that to have faith means you stop thinking. But we cannot believe in something that our mind rejects. Christianity is reasonable because it is based on historical facts. The resurrection of Christ makes sense when you start to look at what really happened. It is not true that there is no evidence for our faith. There are a number of very strong evidences for the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

1. The historical record. The Bible explains,  “Concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was … declared to be the Son of God with power… by the resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1:3-4). The proof that Jesus rose from the dead was that He was seen alive after His death by over five hundred eyewitnesses (I Corinthians 15:5-8). Listen to what a former persecutor of Christianity wrote in the Bible. 3 That Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. 6 After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once” (I Corinthians 15:3-6).

Notice the phrase “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.” Hundreds of years before Jesus came to earth, the prophet Isaiah predicted in the Old Testament Scripture that the Messiah would die for our sins. “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:6). When Jesus died on the cross, He fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy. The proof that Jesus died was “that He was buried (I Corinthians 15:4a). We do not bury a living person, we bury a dead person.

Next, we see that Jesus “rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (I Corinthians 15:4b). The verb “rose” is in the perfect tense in the original language, and it means Jesus rose from the dead in the past and He remains risen today. You will never hear a news report today that says Jesus’ dead body has been found. Why? Because He is risen and He remains alive today!

Notice the phrase, “according to the Scriptures.” Jesus’ resurrection also fulfilled Old Testament Scriptures written hundreds of years before Christ came to earth. In Psalm 16:10, King David wrote, “For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.” On the day of Pentecost in Acts 2, a follower of Jesus named, Peter, said that when Jesus rose from the dead, He fulfilled what David wrote hundreds of years before. “Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses.” Acts 2:29-32

Finally, in I Corinthians 15, we see the proof that Jesus rose from the dead was that He was “seen” by over 500 eyewitnesses (I Corinthians 15:5-8). This is more than enough evidence to substantiate that Jesus rose from the dead.

Just as history proclaims that George Washington was the first President of the USA, so history proclaims that Jesus Christ was resurrected from the dead. The resurrection of Christ is the most attested fact of history. Thomas Arnold authored a three-volume history of Rome and was appointed to Oxford’s Chair of Modern History. Concerning the evidence behind the resurrection of Jesus Christ, he said,

“I have been used for years to study the histories of other times, and to examine and weigh the evidence of those who have written about them, and I know of no one fact in the history of mankind which is proved by better and fuller evidence of every sort, to the understanding of a fair inquirer, than that Christ died and rose from the dead.”

Frank Morison, a British trial lawyer, vowed to write a book disproving Christianity and committed to base his book on a collection of facts. Using a critical method of evaluation and despite his initial beliefs, he concluded that Christianity is true. The resurrection convinced him, and he wrote a book Who Moved the Stone? which begins with the chapter, “The Book that Refused to Be Written.”

Former atheists Josh McDowell and Lee Strobel set out to disprove the resurrection of Christ only to be persuaded by the historical evidence that Jesus did indeed rise from the dead. You can read about the evidence that persuaded them to believe in Jesus in their books – “More Evidence that Demands a Verdict” (1999) by Josh McDowell and “The Case for Christ” (2013) by Lee Strobel.

Another proof of Jesus’ resurrection is 2. The change in the lives of His followers. His disciples were not shrewd men who figured out some weird way to start a new religion. They did not say, “Let’s get our Leader killed off. Then we’ll go hide out in an upper room and then all of a sudden we will have a new hope.” No. After Jesus’ death, these men were discouraged . They were hiding for fear of the Jews. And all of a sudden their lives were changed overnight! And they went out preaching the message of Jesus Christ without fear. They were not afraid of being arrested or of being put to death. What happened to them? The resurrection of Jesus Christ. 

The third proof of Jesus’ resurrection is 3. The silence of Jesus’ enemies. If you were one of Jesus’ enemies (the Romans or Jewish religious leaders), and you have the disciples going around saying Jesus is alive and it’s bringing people away from your faith to a new faith, what would you do to stop them? Go find the dead body! If you could find the dead body of Jesus Christ, it would bring this entire movement to a stop. But they couldn’t find the body. Why? Because there was no dead body to be found. They tried to make sure that the body would stay there in the tomb. They sealed the tomb and had Roman soldiers guard it to keep somebody from trying to get in to the tomb. But they forgot that somebody would be getting out. And when Jesus burst out of that tomb in resurrection, there was no body there.

The final proof of Jesus’ resurrection – 4. The changed lives of people today. Look at what the risen Lord Jesus is doing in the lives of people from every nation today! Former atheists and God-haters are coming to faith in Christ. Those who once hated God and people, are now loving God and people because of the risen Lord Jesus Christ. And I am one of those people.

You may say, “I believe in another religion. It has changed my life just like your belief in Jesus Christ. What’s the difference?” The difference is an empty tomb. The difference is Christians have a reality behind their faith. Their faith is based upon historical facts. It is not a man-made philosophy or superstition. We have evidence for our minds.

For John that evidence was very powerful. What did he see that made him believe? Was it the stone that was cast aside? No. Was it an angel? No. He saw the grave clothes lying there and he believed. There was something about the arrangement of the grave clothes. A lot of people say they were lying there as if Jesus had just evaporated out of them immediately. And because they were folded so neatly, not torn aside. Remember, the strips of linen would have been wrapped around the body. You couldn’t get a body out of that and leave it just lying there undisturbed. So when John saw that he believed. That evidence persuaded him to believe that Jesus rose from the dead.

I find verse nine to be very significant. “For as yet they did not know the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead” (John 20:9). The disciples did not yet understand the prophecies of Scripture that indicated Jesus would rise from the dead. Their belief in the resurrection preceded their understanding that the resurrection was foretold in Scripture. The first believers did not manufacture a resurrection story to agree with their interpretation of prophecy. Instead, they were first convinced that Christ had risen and then they came to an understanding of the Scriptural teaching of this truth.

I wonder. What if we had stopped at the empty tomb that morning? What if this were all we had of the resurrection account? They went in and the clothes were there, and the linen was there undisturbed. I think if that were true there would be some of us who would say, “Wow, Jesus must be alive for His clothes to be arranged that way!” Others of us may say, “Maybe I can believe.” There would be a lot of us who would say, “There’s just not enough evidence.”  When it comes to seeing the resurrected Lord, some of need more than just evidence for our minds. We will talk more about that tomorrow, Lord willing.

Prayer: My precious risen Lord Jesus, thank You for providing evidence for our minds that persuades us to believe You truly rose from the dead. When John looked in that tomb and saw Your body was missing and the position of Your grave clothes, he believed You were alive and were coming back! One of the things I love the most about You, Lord Jesus, is You meet us where we are at. Many people today are confused about Your resurrection. Please reveal more of Yourself to them so that their confusion is changed into confidence that You are alive and You can give them everlasting life when they believe in You. Thank You, Lord Jesus. In Your name I pray. Amen.

The darkness is gone because the Son is risen

“Now the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.” John 20:1

The apostle John wrote the gospel of John to non-Christians so they “may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (20:31). In chapters 1-12, John records seven miraculous signs of Jesus to persuade non-Christians to believe in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God so they may have eternal life in His name. Then in John 20 he records the eighth and greatest miraculous sign – the resurrection of Jesus! The entire book of John has been leading up to this exciting event! What makes it even more exciting is that John was there to watch it all happen as an eyewitness.

Some people think Jesus was in His resurrected body for a short time on earth and was seen by only a few people. But the truth is He was is in His resurrected body on earth for over a month and He was seen by over 500 people (Acts 1:1-3; I Corinthians 15:3-8). This is an incredible event and today we are going to see how Jesus’ resurrection can make a difference in our daily lives.

After His resurrection, Jesus appeared to a lot of different people at different times. Today we are going to see that He first appeared to Mary Magdalene. The resurrected Jesus is alive. He makes Himself known in peoples’ lives. The exciting thing about each of these appearances is the difference it made in people’s lives when they saw Him alive after His death and burial.

As we take a look at how the empty tomb challenged the life of Mary Magdalene, we are going to see how He can make a difference in our daily lives. “Now the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb” (20:1). Let’s look at three important details in this one verse.

The first detail is that it was “on the first day of the week.” What is the first day of the week? Sunday. In the Old Testament, believers worshiped God on the Sabbath which was Saturday. But in the New Testament believers got together on Sunday because that was the day of Jesus’ resurrection (cf. Acts 20:7). This is why believers around the world worship the Lord together on Sunday. It is resurrection day! Some believers insist that you must worship the Lord on Saturday to be a true believer. But the Bible tells us in Romans 14:5-6a that it doesn’t matter what day or night of the week you worship because we are no longer under the regulations of the Old Testament Law anymore (cf. Romans 10:4; Galatians 3:24; 4:5). So you could worship the Lord together on a Wednesday night if you wanted to. What matters is that your observance shows your commitment “to the Lord” (Romans 14:6).

The second detail is the word “early.” The Greek word [prōi, πρωί] refers to “the watch that is between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m.” It is very early in the morning while it is still dark. The reason Mary and other women [note plural “we” in verse 2, cf. Luke 24:1,10) got up early to go to the tomb was because it was a tradition of the Jews to go to the tomb for at least three days after the person was buried to take care of the body and make sure all the spices were in the right places. They couldn’t go on the Sabbath day, so they had to wait until Sunday. So as early as she could get up on Sunday while it was still dark, she went down to the tomb.

The third detail to observe is that “it was still dark.” This reference to it being “dark” may refer to both the physical darkness of the morning and the emotional and spiritual darkness that Mary was probably experiencing. Mary no doubt was stricken with grief by Jesus’ sufferings and death. After all, this was the Messiah-God who had healed her from demon possession (cf. Mark 16:9; Luke 8:2). He wasn’t supposed to die like this! Mary had no idea what had already happened that Sunday morning. So this was a very dark morning for her emotionally and spiritually.

What about you? Is this a dark day for you? Is your life filled with doubt and uncertainty in light of the coronavirus? Are you struggling with negative attitudes this week? You may not admit it to anyone else, but you may be thinking, “I wouldn’t be around me this week if I were honest about it.” Some of you may be struggling with your faith. You think, “I hear other people talk about faith and how great faith can be and how it makes a difference in their lives but if I was really being honest, I’d have a lot of question marks about it. I’m not a very trusting person.”  

The fourth detail to notice is that John says, “the stone had been taken away from the tomb.” The word for “taken away” [ērmenon, ἠρμένον] means “to lift up and carry away.” It conveys the idea of being “tossed aside.” It was not slowly rolled away. It was thrown aside by the angel of God when he arrived (cf. Matthew 28:2). The power of God tossed this stone aside! This is probably why Matthew tells us the Roman guards shook with fear and became like dead men (cf. Matthew 28:4). I would have done the same!

When the stone was thrown aside, it was not so Jesus could come out of the tomb. Jesus in His resurrected body went through the grave clothes that surrounded Him. Jesus in His resurrected body had the power to go through doors and into the rooms without the doors being opened. So I’m suggesting that Jesus had already come out of the tomb before the stone was thrown aside. The stone was removed so the disciples could come into the tomb and see that it was empty. This is what makes Christianity distinct from all other religions. The founders of all other religions are still dead in their graves, but Christians worship a Jesus Christ that left an empty tomb behind Him! We worship a Jesus Christ who rose from the dead and remains alive today! Hallelujah!

If you are struggling in the dark with bad attitudes, doubts, or your faith, the resurrection power of Jesus Christ can change all of that. The same power that brought Jesus back to life can also resurrect a joyful attitude in you and replace your doubts with an unwavering confidence in Jesus and His promises. His resurrection power can revitalize your faith so that all fear is gone and His joy can overflow in your life.

If part of your struggle in the dark is with sin and shame, please know that Jesus’ resurrection power guarantees unlimited forgiveness in Christ to all who believe in Him. You may think your sin is too great for God to forgive. You may believe shame-based lies that say no one could accept or love you as you are. This is not true. Listen to God’s voice of truth: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). God loved you so much He sent His Son to die in your place when you were still an ungodly sinner. God loved you at your worst. He did not wait for you to clean up your life. He loved you just as you are. God loves you regardless of what you have done or what others say or think of you.

The risen Lord Jesus now invites you to come to Him just as you are to receive His forgiveness. The Bible says, “Everyone who puts his trust in Christ will have his sins forgiven through His name” (Acts 10:43). The word “everyone” includes the worst and the best of people. It includes people of all faiths. It does not matter if you are a Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Atheist, Agnostic, Protestant, Catholic, Jew, or Universalist, Jesus invites you to believe or trust in Him alone to receive His unlimited forgiveness.

The Bible says the moment we believed in Jesus alone, “He forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:13-14). No one can successfully condemn you now because Christ was condemned to death for your sins, removing your guilt ( Romans 8:34b). Jesus was raised to life, satisfying God’s demand to punish your sins (Romans 8:34c). Jesus is now at the right hand of God the Father defending you against all accusations (Romans 8:34d). And Jesus intercedes for you that your faith won’t fail, you won’t give up, so that you can encourage others (Romans 8:34e; cf. Luke 22:32).

Hallelujah! Jesus is alive, and we who believe in Him are forgiven of all our sins – past, present, and future! The darkness is gone because the Son is risen! Oh let us worship our risen Savior together!!!

Prayer: My risen Lord Jesus, I worship You this day because You have conquered sin, death, and the devil through Your death and resurrection. The darkness is gone because the Son is risen! You alone are my risen Savior, Lord Jesus! There is none like You. Even when I have dark days filled with doubt, fear, and shame, You are still alive and You are with me and love me more than I could ask or imagine. Thank You for dispelling the darkness on that first Sunday after Your death and burial. And thank You for continuing to dispel the darkness in this world through Your gospel of grace. In Jesus’ name. Amen.