Can you imagine what it must have been like for the followers of Jesus on Saturday, the day after Jesus had been crucified? All was lost. Jesus was dead. They had given up everything to follow Him. Everything in them had sensed that He was truly who He said He was, that He was the promised Messiah and Savior who had been prophesied about for centuries. Yes, they had run away when Jesus was arrested. Yes, they feared death as much as the next person, but they were followers of Christ. So, now what?
For those who had ears to hear and eyes to see there was no mistaking that Jesus Christ was the promised Messiah. Truly the Savior had come. . . and now He was dead. Even though Jesus had warned them, it was as if they never saw it coming. (John 2:18-22; Matthew 12:39-40; Matthew 16:21; Matthew 27:62-64)
They had heard Jesus’ words about his upcoming death, burial and resurrection. They had heard how the Holy Spirit would come, but in the midst of the struggle and devastation they had “forgotten” the truth that they had built their lives upon.
So many times we do the same. Life has suddenly become so difficult that we focus our attention on the storm that rages around us and we forget about the Rock on which we stand (Matthew 7:24-27). We forget the promises of Christ and the character of God. We begin to worry and doubt like one who has no God, but that is not who we are. That is not whose we are.
Saturday must have been so difficult for Jesus’ disciples but we must remember that we can never truly evaluate a situation until we can view it from Sunday’s perspective. We can never know the truth about a situation until we have heard God’s perspective.
We read the story of Easter morning in Luke 23:54 – 24:12.
“It was the day of Preparation, and the Sabbath was beginning. 55 The women who had come with him from Galilee followed and saw the tomb and how his body was laid. 56 Then they returned and prepared spices and ointments. On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.”
“But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. 2 And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. 5 And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” 8 And they remembered his words,9 and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, 11 but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12 But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.”
In these verses, the two angels could have spoken many words of truth or direction, but in that moment of desperation they told the women to “remember.” That was to be the way out of their darkness and despair. That was to be their path back to faith. Remember. Remember what Christ had said.
The women were familiar with the prophecies. They had heard Jesus’ words about his upcoming death, burial and resurrection, but in the midst of their struggle and brokenness they had “forgotten” the words of Christ. So, in response to the angel´s words the women remembered, and then shared the good news with others. Surely these women are not the only one’s who have struggled with “spiritual forgetfulness.”
We struggle with forgetfulness in our Christian lives as well. Throughout scripture we are encouraged to remember and not forget.
Isaiah 46:9 instructs to, “Remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other.”
1 Chronicles 16:15 exhorts the people to, “Remember God´s covenant forever, the word which He commanded to a thousand generations.”
In Deuteronomy 6:12 we read, “Take care lest you forget the Lord.”
Psalm 103:2 declares, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.”
We read of a similar struggle of the psalmist in Psalm 42:5-6 as he spoke to himself,
”My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you from the land of Jordan and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar.”
The solution to the psalmist´s being cast down was to remember God´s faithfulness in the past.
Jonah 2:7 tells of Jonah´s prayer from the belly of the fish, “When my life was fainting away, I remembered the LORD, and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple.”
How many times have we failed to remember? Life has suddenly become so difficult that we focus our attention on the storm that rages around us and we forget the rock that our life is built upon (Matthew 7:24-27). In Christ, the solution and solace are right there within our reach, but we often do we forget His promises.
In the Easter story the women´s “remembering” was a redefining of the information that lie before them. The facts were still the same. Jesus had been crucified and died three days earlier. The tomb was open. . . and it was empty. Their hearts were broken. But now the angels were giving them a different lens through which to view their situation. The angel was pointing them towards the truth and it was based on remembering the words of Christ.
Because of the resurrection of Christ, Christians can now view the world through the lenses of Christ. We can now see the world through the lens of grace. The lens of eternity. The lens of forgiveness. The lens of hope. The lens of love. The lens of God´s faithfulness. The lens of God´s sovereignty. The lens of God´s character. The lens of God´s promises.
But we must remember. It is possible for one to have correct theology, but not walk in it. In Christ we now own the right lenses, but it is “remembering” that actually puts them on. It is the remembering that actually allows us to walk by faith.
Remembering who God is and what He has done is essential as we grow in our faith. So much so that even the Holy Spirit helps us. In John 14:26 Jesus told His disciples, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”
We must join with the Holy Spirit to remember. To keep God and His truths on the forefront of our minds we are to think on His Word and come into His presence in prayer (Psalm 143:5). If not, we fall prey to the perspectives and desires of the world.
This is our goal. Where God becomes our chief desire and the source of our strength. Where Christ is the truest reality in our lives. Where Christ is the place that our minds drifts to and the joy that our heart seeks. Where He is the lens through which we view and understand all that we encounter in life.
Like the women at the tomb, as we remember the faithfulness of Christ we gain the perspective and the peace that is found in Christ.
My father tells the story of sitting with an elderly Christian man. He was visiting him in the nursing home. The man´s mental capabilities had decreased to the point that he was hardly able to function with the world and the people around him. As my father sat with him he had no idea if the elderly man could hear or even understand anything that my father was saying. Towards the end of their time together my father suggested that they pray and in that moment everything changed. The man began to pray as if there was nothing wrong with him at all. The work of God, the Spirit of God, the memory of God was so imbedded in His heart and mind that somehow, even in this hindered state, the words flowed as he returned to a very familiar place.
That is the kind of memory we should long for as Christians. That the memory of God and our strength of faith would be so imbedded in our hearts, minds, spirits and souls that even in that type of situation our spirits would continue to remember the blessedness of God.
We must remember that we were lost, sinful and without hope. We must remember that the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord. We must remember that all who turn from their sin and put their faith in Jesus Christ are forgiven and will live forever in heaven. We must remember that Christ´s resurrection is the proof that our sin debt has been paid in full.
We are familiar with Easter, the celebration of Christ’s resurrection, but theologically and practically speaking what is so significant about Christ’s resurrection? By the Lord’s Supper and hymns we often remember that Christ died on the cross to pay for our sin, so that we could be forgiven, but what did the resurrection accomplish? We find much of the answer to this question when we look to the writings of Luke.
In the earliest days of the early church, after Jesus’ ascension, the primary responsibility of the Apostles was to be witnesses of what they had seen. Because of this Jesus gave them “many proofs appearing to them for 40 days” after his resurrection. Jesus then sent them out “to be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the world.” They were not sent out to establish a new systematic theology. They were not scholars or philosophers. They were common men who were supposed to tell what they had seen and explain what it meant. They had seen Jesus do many things, but their primary testimony was to that of His resurrection. This was one essential factor when the disciples looked for a replacement for Judas in Acts 1:21-22. It had to be one who had been with them since the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. He had to join them in their task of being eyewitnesses to Jesus’ life, ministry, death and resurrection.
They would testify to Jesus’ coming to earth, to his sinlessness, to His miracles, to His being the Son of God, to His dying for the sins of man, but the importance of all these claims would be confirmed by Christ’s resurrection.
As we look to the writings of the early church the resurrection of Christ is the proof that everything else about Christ is true. Romans 1:4 tells us how Jesus was declared to be the Son of God . . . by His resurrection from the dead. In 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 Paul notes that the death, burial and resurrection of Christ are the issues of “first importance” in the faith.
Jesus was alive! It did not happen in secret where there would be no witnesses. The Apostle Paul writes in Acts 15:3-6 “He (Jesus) appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive.”
Jesus is the Savior, the Messiah, the King, the Christ and it all hinges on the fact that he was raised from the dead. Throughout the book of Acts the Apostles defended themselves before the Sanhedrin, the priests, the government officials, to non-believers by appealing to the resurrection of Jesus Christ, to which they were eyewitnesses. (Acts 4.10-11). Even their sermons focused on Jesus and His resurrection. It was the key. We see this in Acts 2, 3, 4 and 5. Many had claimed to be great teachers. Many had proclaimed themselves the promised messiah. Many had been crucified by the Romans, but none had ever been raised from the dead.
The death of Jesus was essential because it paid the price for our sin, but crucifixion itself would not have been out of the ordinary for Jesus’ day. Thousands were crucified by the Romans. Yes, it was savage and barbaric, but it alone did not bear testimony that sin had been forgiven and that death had been conquered. It was only through the resurrection of Christ that we know that the penalty for sin has been paid in full and that death had been conquered. Romans 6:9 says, “We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.”
It is similar to the story in Mark 2:6-12. In this story Jesus is teaching in a home in Capernaum. The house is so filled with people that no one else can enter. Outside the house stand four men who have brought their paralytic friend to see Jesus. Because of the crowd they cannot approach Jesus. They then decide to climb up on the roof, dig a hole and lower their friend through the roof down to Jesus. In response Jesus forgives the paralytic.
At the same time, there were teachers of the law sitting in the room watching. At this point they began to question in their hearts, “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 8 And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? 9 Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic— 11 “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.”
Jesus had paid the price for our sins, but how could we truly know that our sins had been forgiven and that sin had been conquered? The answer. . . Christ’s resurrection. Because of this, the Gospel was preached focusing on Jesus Christ and his death, burial and resurrection.
Our confidence is in that fact that since our heavenly Father raised Jesus from the dead, He is also able to raise us from the dead. Christ’s resurrection has proven the Father’s dominion over death and sin and promised salvation through Jesus Christ. This is the answer to man’s greatest need. We no longer have to be afraid. As we read in 1 Corinthians 15:55 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
We read in Romans 8:11, “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.”
1 Corinthians 6:14 declares, “God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power.”
In John 11:25-26 Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
This resurrection power is not only for salvation, it is also our hope as we live the Christian life. In Ephesians 1:17-21 the Apostle Paul talks of, “The immeasurable greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places.”
We must remember. . . that the resurrection. . . is our hope.
“Hope” in our culture often means wishful thinking, but in biblical times it meant confident expectation. It was a certainty not yet taken hold of. As we read in Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”
1 Peter 1:3-9 it is summarized with these words, “3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
Though we do not know what the future holds in our world or in our lives our confidence is in the untouchable, imperishable, undefiled, unfading, hope and inheritance that awaits us in heaven. In the words of Peter, “we have been born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” The resurrection is the proof of the promises and the power of God that will be realized for our eternal good when Christ returns.
During our time in Spain we noticed that many of the European movies are fatalistic, with tragic endings, where the good guys don’t win and things don’t work out in the end. Maybe that is more a commentary on their long history as countries and as a continent. In response it was an encouragement when we watched American made, family movies. Even in the midst of the tense portions of the move we would reassure each other that it was an American movie, so because of that we could relax knowing that it would end well.
As Christians this is even a greater certainty. Our ending is secure. As we keep eternity in view we gain the proper perspective of hope even in the most difficult of days. And how is this possible? Through the resurrection of Christ.
So, for now we endure, given courage by the glorious inheritance that awaits us. As we go out, remember the resurrection as your proof that our sins have been fully paid for, that death has been defeated, of God’s power to save, and the proof of the eternal inheritance that awaits us. The resurrection is our proof and our hope.