He Saw and Believed

Today is Easter Sunday and many, the world over celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Let us concentrate on some important aspects of that marvellous event, on the morning of that first day of the week, so long ago. The bible tell us the women had watched from a distance ( Matthew 27:55). Watched as Joseph of Arimathea ( that honourable member of the Jewish council who had donated his own prepared tomb for the burial of Jesus) and Nicodemus (another Jewish leader whom Jesus had taught the meaning of conversion or being born again – John 3) had hastily anointed the body of Jesus. It appears they thought, “ At the first possible moment we will complete the anointing… So it was that as light dawned on the Sabbath morning that Mary Magdalene, Salome, the mother of James the Elder and of John, as well as Mary the mother of James were on their way to the tomb where Jesus’ body had been laid. As they were walking in what was not yet the full light of a new morning they concerned themselves with what they perceived as a problem saying, “ Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?” ( Mark 16: 3) But when they got to the tomb they looked and they “saw that the stone which was very large, had been rolled away” ( It is good for us to remember that this stone was rolled away from the entrance, not to permit Christ to come out but to enable the disciples to go in!) Then they went quickly, in fact they fled from the sepulchre, “Trembling and bewildered”. ( Mark 16: 4, 8a). What did this mean? “Someone must have tampered with Jesus’ tomb. Did they perhaps steal his body…?” They didn’t stick around in order to launch an investigation, however. They were simply too frightened. They simply fled! Mary Magdalene, younger than the others outran them and met up with Simon Peter and John. It appears Simon had planned to pay his last respects before he left for Galilee (to take up his fishing profession once again as he had said) . But breathlessly Mary Magdalene said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb and we don’t know where they have put him” John 20:2. The two men were shocked at this news but that didn’t stop them from having a footrace to the tomb. John outran Peter and when they came to the tomb they stooped down to look inside, Peter was the first to do so then “the other disciple” who surely was John. What did they see and what did they do? John in his gospel writes, that Peter saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen (John 6:7f.) No, the linen burial clothes were lying, not unwound and carefully folded as some have suggested, not thrown aside as in a covering when one rises from bed, but lying there on the stone slab in the shape of the body. ( Peter Marshall in The First Easter, p. 107 ) Here was visual proof of Jesus’ resurrection. Marshall a powerful Christian preacher of a some seventy years ago wrote, “ Mute but eloquent evidence that a living being had come out.” He continued: The grave clothes lay like the shrivelled, cracked shell of a cocoon, left behind when the moth has emerged and hoisted her bright sails in the sunshine…. Or, more accurately, like a glove from which the hand has been removed, the fingers of which still retain the shape of the hand. ( The First Easter, p. 107) There too was the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. It was “folded up [ and) by itself”. The disciples saw that and no doubt it would be printed on their memory long afterward. They saw, and they believed! That’s evident from the word for seeing, that John used here. It is the Greek word “ theorei” which does not have the common meaning of “seeing”, as one looks at a panorama nor that kind of seeing in which a scientist peers through his microscope. No, this seeing means to gaze with the light of a revelation. A God-given revelation that leads to a conclusion. A conclusion that is a knowledgeable understanding . Call it an ‘unshakable reflection.’ A reflection that arrives at a most certain conviction that, “Behold, Jesus Christ had risen from the dead!” Heaven itself bore wittiness to the fact of Jesus’ resurrection. For when the women had seen the massive stone rolled away and had entered the tomb the Gospel writer Mark tells us ,“ they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed” Mark 16: 5. Luke tells us there were even two of these men dressed “in clothes that gleamed like lightning.” Luke 24:4 Surely these men were angels, heavenly messengers to whom the Resurrection would not have been a mystery. We may say their words were the first Gospel preached after the resurrection. They spoke of “Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified” Mark 16: 6; cf. Matthew 28: 5b. These words conveyed the name of his humanity, as well as the humility of his home town, and the humiliation and disgrace of his death on a cross. Yet let us not stop only to hang our heads in shame and in self-reproach. For listen to the gospel which rang as it were through all of creation. “He is not here; he has risen, just as he said.” Come and see the place where he lay” Matthew 28: 6b. “He is not here, he has risen, just as he said…” Dear listeners this great and merciful wonder is attested and underlined by no less than eleven appearances of the risen Savior before his ascension into heaven. Not only that but the apostle Paul, in his first letter to the congregation at Corinth writes that not only“ He, ( that is Jesus) appeared to Peter, and then to the twelve” but that afterwards “ he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time…” ( 1 Cor. 15: 6). Now it is so, that for many people to accept as true, Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is simply not believable. It is something for which Christians are roundly ridiculed. It is seen as a figment of his close followers’ imagination. To be sure, there are those who are willing to concede that he rose in the minds of those followers. He lived on in those minds that they might be comforted, as if he was still with them, But to believe in a real resurrection of the flesh of someone who “obviously perished on the cross.” They would dismiss that completely. After all, as there saying goes “ You only live once” and then it is over. Yet what we read in the Gospels and in Paul’s letters is not written that you and I and all who accept Jesus’ resurrection as fact might believe and take comfort in a lie. There is small comfort in lies. Isn’t that why the evil one who would see you left without any comfort is the “father of lies?” It is written that you and I also might believe and, believing, have life in Jesus Christ. O, then the importance of Christ’s resurrection is very great. The apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15: 17 says, “ If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith”. But then again, what does he say in Romans 10: 8, 9, there quoting from the Old Testament Deut. 30:14? The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, that is, the world of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Dear listener, how can we be sure that the debt of sin is cancelled, our guilt, our misery and shame, done away with? How can you and I have confidence that even if we have to go through death’s dark tunnel we will come out safely in the bright land beyond? But then the Lord, and you can say, my Lord, is stronger than death. He rose from the dead, triumphantly. He has shown his power to conquer death and the grave. Believe in him and he will carry you through , United to him, and loving in close fellowship with him you too are justified. What does that mean but that he will treat you as if you never sinned. He will welcome you into his holy presence. He’ll give you true joy and everlasting life. He’ll comfort you so that you don’t need to despair when the challenges become great, the pain, unbearable. But then, if you have risen with Christ, by grace, through faith set your heart and mind on him and on the things that are above. Don’t doubt, and don’t join the crowd of scoffers, those Christ deniers who will be in for a rude shock when they die and come to stand before the judgment seat of God. Be at peace with Jesus Christ, and rejoice, yes, give thanks for him who said, “ I am the resurrection and the life.” Seek for, and practice that fellowship with him in the company of those who rejoice likewise and worship him with reverence deep. Don’t wait, but today, when you hear his voice, his Word, submit your life to him. You’ll never be sorry you did!

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