“THE FIRST DAY”
Christ the Lord is risen today! Our salvation is assured and Satan is defeated. In judicial terms, the devil has been tried, convicted, and sentenced. There is no appeal to a higher court because there is no higher court. All that’s left now is carrying out the sentence. The initial stage of Satan’s punishment will take place at Christ’s Second Coming.
Revelation 20:1-3 (John speaking)
1 And I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand.
2 And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years,
3 and threw him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he should not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed; after these things he must be released for a short time.
The second and final stage of Satan’s punishment will be more than imprisonment, it will be eternal destruction.
7 And when the thousand years are completed, Satan will be released from his prison,
8 and will come out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, God and Magog, to gather them together for the war; the number of them is like the sand of the seashore.
9 And they came up on the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, and fire came down from heaven and devoured them.
10 And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.
This will be followed by the Great White Throne Judgment where all unbelievers of all the ages will be judged, after which they will join Satan in the lake of fire.
Only then will God reveal the new creation, the new heaven and the new earth wherein we will dwell with the Lord and one another throughout eternity future (Revelation 21-22). Only then will sin and evil cease to exist. Only then will perfection be restored to the place it held before Adam and Eve were tempted by Satan and fell into sin.
That fall into sin not only brought down our first parents, it brought down all of creation with it. It brought death, decay, pain, sorrow, and suffering. And in the process, it placed a gulf of separation between God and His creatures that no sinner could ever bridge.
But in His matchless grace God had a solution. He would provide a way back from sin and death in the form of a Savior. His only Son would provide the remedy. He alone would pay the ultimate penalty for sin and effectively nullify the works of the devil for all who would repent of their sin and turn to the Son in faith.
However, Satan would do all he could to foil God’s plan. If he could just destroy God’s Son he could destroy God’s plan of salvation. It appeared that Satan was victorious when Christ died on the cross of Calvary, but the reality was that Jesus was victorious. God had said that would be the case in the very first Messianic prophecy all the way back in Genesis where God cursed the devil.
14 And the LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust shall you eat all the days of your life;
15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed (Satan and unbelievers) and her seed (Christ and believers); He shall bruise you on the head (a fatal blow), and you shall bruise Him on the heel (a wound).”
I don’t know if Satan fully understood that then, or if the whole weight of it didn’t impact him until that first day of the week when Jesus’ tomb was found to be empty. But it really doesn’t matter when Satan first knew that his ultimate destiny was eternal torment and destruction. The point is that he knows it now.
Last week we walked through the final days of Jesus’ life on this earth. We entered Jeru-salem with Him on what we have come to know as Palm Sunday. We were with Him and His disciples as He threw the moneychangers out of the temple. We saw Him con-front the Pharisees and religious leaders as He exposed their false teaching, their self-righteousness, their spiritual blindness, and their utter hypocrisy. Jesus went so far as to call them snakes. “You serpents, you brood of vipers, how shall you escape the sentence of hell (Matthew 23:33)?”
We were with Jesus in the upper room where He and His friends partook of the Passover meal one last time and where He instituted the Lord’s Supper. We saw and we heard His anguish in the Garden of Gethsemane as He asked His Father if there was any other way to accomplish salvation for those whom He loved. We saw that there was not. And we saw Jesus humbly submit to the will of His heavenly Father.
Then we saw Him betrayed by Judas, arrested by His enemies, deserted by His friends, illegally tried, mocked, beaten, tortured, and crucified in what was nothing less than a premeditated murder. Finally, we stood together at the foot of Jesus’ cross, were deeply touched by His suffering and anguish, heard His final words – “Father into Your hands I commit My spirit. (Luke 23:46)” – and then we watched Him die.
Now it is 3 p.m. on Friday afternoon. It’s over. Jesus is dead and Satan has won…or so it seems. The Jews have religious laws they must obey. They need to get the Lord’s body down off the cross and get Him buried before the sun goes down and the Sabbath begins. Surprisingly, two men who are not members of Jesus’ own family, muster up the courage to ask Pilate for His body. They are Joseph and Nicodemus.
Joseph is a member of the Sanhedrin. He comes from the town of Arimathea, which is located about fifteen miles northwest of Jerusalem.
42 And when evening had already come, because it was the preparation day, that is, the day before the Sabbath,
43 Joseph of Arimathea came, a prominent member of the Council, who him-self was waiting for the kingdom of God; and he gathered up courage and went in before Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus.
44 And Pilate wondered if (Jesus) was already dead.
45 And ascertaining this from the centurion, he granted the body to Joseph.
What do we know about this man Joseph? We know that he was, “…a disciple of Jesus, but a secret one, for fear of the Jews (John 19:38).” We know that he, “…laid (Jesus’) body in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out of the rock (Matthew 27:60).” Further-more we know that he was, “…a good and righteous man (he had not consented to [the Council’s] plan and action)…(Luke 23:50-51).”
So Joseph is a believer who has been afraid to publicly declare his faith in Jesus. But after what he has seen this day, he is no longer afraid. Now he doesn’t care who knows. And he isn’t the only one. Nicodemus comes with him.
39 And Nicodemus came also, who had first come to (Jesus) by night; bringing a mixture of myrhh and aloes, about a hundred pounds weight.
40 And so they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in linen wrappings with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews.
41 Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had yet been laid.
This is the same Nicodemus who had come to Jesus in John 3 and asked Him how it was possible to be born again. John’s gospel does not reveal the outcome of that meeting, but now it would appear that Nicodemus has put his faith in Jesus as well. We do know that he has earlier defended Jesus in the Sanhedrin.
50a Nicodemus said to them…
51 “Our Law does not judge a man, unless it first hears from him and knows what he is doing, does it?”
These two men, Joseph and Nicodemus, whose lives have been touched by Jesus, express their gratitude and thanks by honoring Him in His burial. Isn’t it interesting that while Jesus lived they had denied Him. The disciples, on the other hand, had stayed with Him while He lived, but fled in fear when He died.
Now it is Friday night. Jesus is buried. The preparations are complete and the Sabbath begins. It is safe to assume that the Jewish leaders are glad their ordeal is finally over and they’re rid of the one they called “a blasphemer.” But something still bothers them. Judas has already committed suicide so he’s not the problem. No, it’s something else. Jesus had promised that He would be resurrected. Not that would be a real problem! So the chief priests and the Pharisees decide to be sure it doesn’t happen.
So on Saturday morning, the Sabbath day, the Jewish leaders go to Pilate and say…
63 “Sir, we remember that when He was alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I am to rise again.’
64 “Therefore, give orders for the grave to be made secure until the third day, lest His disciples come and steal Him away and say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last deception will be worse than the first.” (“This guy could cause us more trouble dead than He did when He was alive.”)
65 Pilate said to them, “You have a guard; go, make it as secure as you know how.”
66 And they went and made the grave secure, and along with the guard they set a seal on the stone.
Do you think it’s just possible that these religious unbelievers, in the innermost recesses of their minds are terrified that Jesus may in fact have been the Messsiah? I wonder. Back in the 1970’s the rock band Blood, Sweat, and Tears had a major hit song entitled, “And When I Die.” Among the lyrics were these: “I can swear there ain’t no heaven, but I pray there ain’t no hell.”
That is precisely the way I thought before I came to faith in Christ. I didn’t believe the gospel but I was afraid it was true. Do you know anyone who thinks like that? Did you think like that before you were saved? But this morning the really important question is this: Is there anyone here who still thinks like Blood, Sweat, and Tears? “I can swear there ain’t no heaven, but I pray there ain’t no hell.”
Back to the Jewish leaders – I don’t think they’re at all worried about the disciples trying to steal Jesus’ body. They’ve scattered in fear for their lives. How could they even consider trying to overcome the power and authority of both the Jewish leaders and Rome itself? I think that it is at least possible that they were rationalizing, saying to themselves, “If we can just keep Him dead, then He can’t be the Messiah, can He?”
To such thinking we say, “How can they be so blind?” That’s spiritual blindness!
So, by late on the Sabbath, Saturday, the tomb is “secure,” and the Pharisees and the other religious leaders can relax and take it easy. After all, these religious men aren’t supposed to do any work on the Sabbath. And they always obey God’s laws, don’t they?
The sun goes down and the Sabbath ends. Jesus’ credibility is on the line, isn’t it? His assurances that He would rise from the dead, not to mention His promise of eternal life to all who will believe and trust Him for their salvation, His very claim of deity, that He is God’s only Son, the Jewish Messiah, the Christ – all of these claims are in jeopardy.
Now it is early Sunday morning. It is the third day.
1 And when the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, brought spices, that they might come and anoint Him.
2 And very early on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen.
3 And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?”
4 And looking up, they saw that the stone had (already) been rolled away, although it was extremely large.
Matthew tells us that an angel of the Lord had come and rolled back the stone. In the pro-cess the Roman seal was broken and the guards literally passed out. They “…shook for fear of him, and became like dead men (Matthew 28:4).”
5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting at the right, wearing a white robe; and they were amazed.
6 And he said to them, “Do not be amazed; you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified. He has risen; He is not here; behold, here is the place where they laid Him.
7 “But go, tell His disciples and Peter, ‘He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, just as He said to you.’”
Just as there were multiple angels at Christ’s birth, so now there are at least four angels here at His resurrection. Mark has just said there was an angel in the tomb.
2 …an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it.
3 And his appearance was like lightning, and his garment as white as snow.
4 And it happened that while they were perplexed about this, behold two men suddenly stood near them in dazzling apparel;
5 and as the women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the Living One among the dead?
6 “He is not here, but He has risen. Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee,
7 saying, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.”
8 And they remembered His words,
9 and returned from the tomb and reported all these things to the eleven and to all the rest.
And so they do. But their belief in the resurrection is shaky at best. They go to Peter and John and say, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him (John 20:2).” Peter and John know they didn’t take the body. So the men run to the tomb, Peter looks inside, sees the linen grave clothes, “…and went away to his home, marveling at what had happened (Luke 24:12).”
8 So the other disciple (John himself) who had first come to the tomb entered then also, and he saw and believed.
9 For as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead.
10 So the disciples went away again to their own homes.
John is the first to fully grasp the reality of Jesus’ resurrection, although years later, when he writes his gospel, he admits that none of the disciples had yet understood the signifi-cance of the OT prophecy that the Messiah would not stay in the ground.
10 For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol (Hades or the grave); neither will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.
When the Holy Spirit would come and open their spiritual eyes, they would understand this passage and all of the Scriptures.
In the gospel writers’ accounts they tell us that both the women and the disciples at the tomb marveled, were amazed, astonished, perplexed, and frightened. None of that is surprising, is it? Even believing hearts wrestle with doubting minds, don’t they? Even saving faith wrestles with unbelief, doesn’t it?
One of the verses in the NT that reaches deep into my own soul is the one where the man whose child is possessed by a demon pleads with Jesus.
22b “…if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!”
23 And Jesus said to him, “If You can! All things are possible to him who believes.”
24 Immediately the boy’s father cried out and began saying, “I do believe; help my unbelief.”
Does it seem strange to say that even believers sometimes struggle with unbelief? It shouldn’t. The very best of us must deal with an imperfect faith. We are, after all, still in this body of flesh, aren’t we? “Lord, I believe, help me in my unbelief!” Well, does the testimony of angels help? Does the empty tomb help?
“Do not be amazed; you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been cruci-fied. He has risen; He is not here; behold, here is the place where they laid Him (Mark 16:6).”
“Why do you seek the Living One among the dead? He is not here, but He has risen. Remember how He (told) you…saying, that the Son of Man must be deli-vered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again (Luke 24:5-7).”
Now from this point on we not only have the empty tomb, but we have Jesus, in the flesh, appearing to hundreds of people. After Peter and John have gone from the tomb Mary lingers. She is the first person to whom Jesus appears.
12 and she beheld two angels in white sitting, one at the head, and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying.
13 And 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.”
14 When she had said this, she turned around, and beheld Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus.
15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said, to Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.”
16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means, Teacher).
17 Jesus said to her, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren, and say to them, “I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.’”
18 Mary Magdalene came announcing to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and that He had said these things to her.
Then in Matthew 28:8-10 and Luke 24:9-11 the Lord appears to other women as well. Among them are Mary, the mother of James, Salome, and Joanna. While all of this is taking place, the Roman soldiers who have been guarding the tomb go to the Pharisees and tell them what has happened and, I suspect, to look for “a little cover.”
12 And when they had assembled with the elders and counseled together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers.
13 and said, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came by night and stole Him away while we were asleep.’
14 “And if this should come to the governor’s ears, we will win him over and keep you out of trouble.”
15 And they took the money and did as they had been instructed; and this story was widely spread among the Jews, and is to this day.
These Roman soldiers know that story is a lie, don’t they? They know they hadn’t just fallen asleep because they were tired. They know something supernatural happened.
Now it’s Sunday afternoon and Luke tells us of Jesus’ appearance to Clopas and his traveling companion (possibly his wife Mary) on the road to Emmaus, a village about seven miles northwest of Jerusalem. As they walk together and talk about the events of the last few days, Jesus approaches and begins walking with them, but Luke 24:16 says, “…their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him.”
Jesus asks them what they’re talking about. They stop walking and Clopas asks…
Luke 24:18b-21, 25-27
18b “Are You the only one visiting Jerusalem and unaware of the things which have happened here in these days?”
19 And (Jesus) said to them, “What things?” And they said to Him, “The things about Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word in the sight of God and all the people,
20 and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him up to the sentence of death, and crucified Him.
21 “But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, it is the third day since these things happened.”
25 And (Jesus) said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!
26 “Was it not necessary for the Christ (the Jewish Messiah) to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?”
27 And beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.
When they reach their destination Clopas and his companion ask Jesus to stay with them.
30 And it came about that when He had reclined at the table with them, He took the bread and blessed it, and breaking it, He began giving it to them.
31 And their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; and He vanished from their sight.
32 And they said to one another, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scrip-tures to us?”
In vv. 27, 32 we get a glimpse into the reason for existence of our church. God has planted us here in Lake Geneva to explain the Scriptures to those who love Jesus Christ and want to know Him better. The question is often asked, “How can I be sure I am a Christian?” Does your heart burn within you when the Scriptures are explained and come alive to you? Yes? Then that’s a good indication that you are a Christian.
Now it is Sunday evening, the third day since the crucifixion. The disciples have come together and are hiding behind closed doors when Jesus appears. He “…stood in their midst, and said to them, ‘Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you (John 20:19b, 21).’” But Thomas is not with them and so He does not believe. Eight days later, when Thomas is with the disciples, Jesus appears to them again.
27 He said to Thomas, “Reach here your finger, and see My hands, and reach here your hand, and put it into My side; and be not unbelieving, but believing.”
28 Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and My God!”
29 Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.”
Over the next thirty-two days the resurrected Jesus Christ appears to the disciples once again at the Sea of Galilee. Then in the Apostle Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth he tells us that Jesus also “…appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now (“now” is about twenty-five years later), but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, (and) then to all the apostles (1 Corinthians 15:6-7).”
And so, with the hymn-writer, we can joyfully and confidently say, “He lives!”
What evidence is there that Jesus was resurrected?
• Many thousands of people knew that Jesus was resurrected because the tomb was empty. It was clear that the disciples could not have stolen the body.
• The Pharisees knew that Jesus was resurrected because they tried to cover it up.
• The early Christians knew that Jesus was resurrected because hundreds of them testified to seeing Him alive after His crucifixion.
• Some of His most skeptical critics, like James, knew that Jesus was resurrected because James was converted, became the head of the first church in Jerusalem, and then suffered and died for his testimony of faith.
• Some of His most hostile and violent enemies, like Saul of Tarsus, knew that Jesus was resurrected because Saul too was converted, became the Apostle Paul, wrote much of the NT, and willingly laid down his life for his faith in the living Christ.
But in the end, all of the arguments aside, each of us must believe in simple faith.
Thomas saw with his eyes, believed, and was blessed. But how much more blessed are those who have not seen with their physical eyes, but with their spiritual eyes, and have believed? I hope you are one of those this Resurrection Sunday morning.
Listen, Jesus Christ was here. He walked this earth, He died, and He went back to the place from which He had come. But that isn’t the end of the story. Forty days after His resurrection from the dead, Jesus once again appeared to His disciples on the Mount of Olives just outside the eastern wall of Jerusalem. He spoke to them and He speaks now directly to you and to me.
6 And so when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?”
7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know the times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority;
8 but you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”
9 And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.
10 And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was departing, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them:
11 and they also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.”
And so, we await the Rapture of the church when the resurrected and living Jesus will return for us.
20 He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming quickly.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you all. Amen.
~ Pray ~