To Know Jesus Christ and the Power of His Resurrection
Resurrection Day 2014
Introduction: Once again, we’ve gone from winter to spring and life is again coming back to that beautiful fullness which God has ordained to happen each year. In Florida, it’s not as noticeable as in many other places, but if you look, it’s still plainly evident, isn’t it!
The grass greens up, the flowers rush forth from their buds into blooms in a wild display of beauty, and the shackles of heavy coats or sweaters are replaced with light and comfortable clothes. We get excited about longer days and fun times outdoors. Life takes on a different outlook in the spring and this is what God intended.
It is in the spring that God ordained the first month of the Hebrew calendar to occur and it is in the middle of this first month that He decided His Son would be crucified. But, just like the barley which ripens at this time and puts forth its fruit, so God ordained that His own Son would come forth from the grave through the power of the resurrection at this time as well.
These things aren’t coincidence, but they were decided by God as He set things in motion at the beginning. Everything in nature is a reflection of His wisdom, and He uses the natural to make spiritual applications. It is all balanced and timed so perfectly so that we can see and know that His wisdom ordained it all.
In the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we have a hope which was anticipated from the very first moments of life on earth. Our first father, Adam, erred and through him came death. That death spread to all men and all men died because of it. But right there at the beginning, God made a promise that He would make all things right once again… and God always keeps His promises.
The Bible details how He did it and how we can be a part of what He has done. The wonder of spring is a small reflection of the marvelous wonder of our hope in the true life which will never die and which will never fade.
In the gospel of John, it says this before Jesus was crucified –
“Now there were certain Greeks among those who came up to worship at the feast. 21 Then they came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and asked him, saying, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”
22 Philip came and told Andrew, and in turn Andrew and Philip told Jesus.
23 But Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified. 24 Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.” John 12:20-24
In the springtime, the second Adam – the Lord Jesus – broke through the bonds of death and now He offers that victory to any who will simply receive it by an act of faith. His resurrection is what makes ours possible. For those who believe, they will become an eternal product of His wondrous work.
Text Verse: Jesus 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
The Jewish people knew of the hope of Messiah and they also knew of the resurrection of the righteous on the last Day when all souls would be brought before their Creator for judgment. But it appears that most didn’t understand that the resurrection of the righteous was because of the work of the Messiah and not something they could earn.
The connection wasn’t made even though the entire body of their Scriptures pointed to that. Righteousness doesn’t come from self before God, but rather it comes from God and is bestowed upon the undeserving sinner. And once it is bestowed, the true hope of spring becomes a reality.
As surely as Jesus Christ came out of the tomb on that spring morning, we too can have the assurance of eternal life through Him. It is all detailed and revealed in God’s majestic and Superior Word. And so let’s turn to that word now and… May God speak to us through His word today and may His glorious name ever be praised.
I. The Curse
Each year at this time, we come to church to hear about the hope of eternal life and the power of the resurrection. But without understanding the work of Jesus Christ in comparison to who we are before God, it doesn’t connect very well. And so today we will first look at why Jesus was needed at all. When we understand that, then we can call out to Him for what we truly need.
Christians talk about “getting saved” or “being saved.” But not much thought is ever given to what that means. If we stop and think it through as if we were souls lost on an ocean after our ship had sunk, we’d can better see the connection. Unless someone comes along and pulls us out of the water, we will be lost – confined to a watery grave.
“Getting saved” then from our perspective implies first and foremost that one is saved “from” something, not “for” something. Because of our careless approach toward “getting saved,” people think we’re simply talking about going to heaven. And everyone is going to heaven, right? “I’m not as bad as the next guy.”
Until we see and treat “getting saved” as from rather than for, we’re not really thinking clearly concerning our need for Jesus. And so at the time of year when we celebrate the resurrection, we need to look at why we needed a resurrection.
So let’s go right back to the beginning and see what happened at the fall of man in order to see what God has done to correct it. There, right after man was created, God gave him a command. It was one command and it was in the negative, “Don’t do this thing.”
Most of us know the story and we’ve read the words of judgment. First they were pronounced upon the serpent. At the end of his sentence came the promise of a Redeemer, the Seed of the woman who would crush the serpent’s head. After that, the Lord turned to the sentencing of the woman and then the man. Here are His words to both of them:
16 To the woman He said:
“I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception;
In pain you shall bring forth children;
Your desire shall be for your husband,
And he shall rule over you.”
17 Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’:
“Cursed is the ground for your sake;
In toil you shall eat of it
All the days of your life.
18 Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you,
And you shall eat the herb of the field.
19 In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread
Till you return to the ground,
For out of it you were taken;
For dust you are,
And to dust you shall return.” Genesis 3:16-19
In the bearing of each new life to be born, the woman would be sorrowed. She would feel the pain of the delivery and she would feel the pain of knowing that the child, like her, was destined for the grave someday. And the man would live a life of toil. He would eventually return to the dust from which he was taken.
No human is exempt and all are found to be under the curse – just ask a woman who’s had a child or ask a man who goes to work each day. The judgment was spoken; the sentence was executed. But in this there is more than the terror of physical death. There was the surety of spiritual death and eternal separation from God.
We know this because God promised the man that he would die on the day he disobeyed, and yet the man continued to live for 930 years. The death God spoke of the first time was spiritual death. The death mentioned at the curse would be the physical death which followed.
This premise is confirmed throughout the rest of the Bible. We are born spiritually dead and we are destined for physical death. Unless the spiritual is made alive before the physical dies, we will remain forever dead and separate from God.
Understanding this, and seeing the consequences of our spiritually dead selves, the Bible shows several times and in several ways the seriousness of the matter. One time He destroyed the world by flood. Humanity was separate from God and took no thought of seeking Him out. They corrupted themselves to the point where destruction was the only remedy.
But in the middle of this great sea of wickedness, it says that one man found grace in the sight of the Lord. He was a preacher of righteousness among a race of unrighteousness. And so the Lord instructed him on how to be carried through the destruction that lay ahead. We all know the story of Noah. The curse of death which was pronounced on man was to be executed on a global scale.
After this flood, a promise was made by the Lord that He would never destroy the earth by a flood again. Instead, the relationship would be handled in a different way. A man, Abraham, was selected and he was given a promise that through him all the nations of the earth would be blessed.
One of his sons, Isaac, was chosen to continue the promise and then again one of his sons was chosen. He was Jacob; he is Israel. From him came 12 patriarchs, chosen as a select and unique group. God would deal with them in one way while the rest of the world was allowed to follow their own path.
To this chosen group came the Law. It was God’s standard for righteousness where if a man did those things, he would live. But it was evident that no one could do all that was required in the law. The law only showed them how far below God’s standard they really were. And the law showed them the need for grace.
And grace was given. Once a year, they were given a day on which they could confess their shortcomings and be granted a temporary stay of God’s wrath. This was the Day of Atonement. But, through this group there was more than a just His law and His annual bestowal of grace for failing to meet that law.
Through these people, Israel, there was also the promise of the One who would come to restore all things; they were the stewards of God’s law and the bearers of the line of God’s promise.
But for the grace of God, the curse would fall upon them. When they rejected the grace, the wrath would come. Throughout their history, the Bible shows judgment upon their often unrepentant hearts, and then mercy upon them when they would again turn to Him for healing.
However, with only a few noted exceptions, the rest of the world languished in sin, death, and separation. What would come of it all? How could the curse be removed?
There is a curse upon us, a self-inflicted pain
Our father Adam broke God’s command
It seems as if things will never be right again
And for his transgressions our life God will demand
But there at the beginning was a promise of One to come
Who would reverse the curse and right Adam’s wrong
Whatever this One offers, I sure want me some
To the truth of His message, I wish to belong
Who will it be, how will it come about?
The thing that He offers, I know I cannot do without
II. The Curse is Reversed
Within the Law of Moses which was given to the people of Israel, there is an odd verse which Paul uses and expands upon in the New Testament. In Deuteronomy 21, we read this –
“If a man has committed a sin deserving of death, and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, 23 his body shall not remain overnight on the tree, but you shall surely bury him that day, so that you do not defile the land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance; for he who is hanged is accursed of God.” Deuteronomy 21:22, 23
What Paul told us concerning this is that in Christ the curse of the law was transferred to Jesus at His cross. To understand this, we need to realize that the law is God’s standard. It is the measure to which we can never attain.
And so God, in His grace, stepped out of His eternal realm and united with His own creation – this is Jesus, the Son of God and the Son of Man. He was born without Adam’s imperfection and He was born within the covenant people Israel, under the law.
Because He was born sinless, He was qualified to meet God’s standards. But He still had to do so. Was He capable of accomplishing the task? The four gospels are recorded to show us that He wasn’t just born without sin, but that He prevailed over the law by fulfilling it perfectly.
The law which was contrary to us was fulfilled in Him, but what good was that to us? Was God lording it over us? Was He showing us how greatly we deserve His judgment? No. That was already apparent in the giving of the law. So what good was it for us that Jesus had fulfilled the law?
The answer is that within the law itself, there is what we call the doctrine of substitution. One thing can take the place of another. On the day of grace, the Day of Atonement, an innocent animal was slain in place of the guilty. In this act, God’s wrath against the sins of the people was restrained for yet another year. It was their faith in this act that provided God’s grace and mercy.
But an animal is in a different category than man. It could never truly take away sin; it could only temporarily withhold God’s anger at the sins of the people. A sinless man, however, could take away the sin. His death, in substitution for the sin of Adam, and of you and I, would work.
The fulfillment of the law by Jesus wasn’t God’s arrogant display of greatness over His fallen creatures, it was a demonstration that the law was, in fact, fulfilled. His standard had been met. And that law, which allows for substitution, was now embodied by Jesus Christ. Finally, there was hope for us.
If, in His grace, He would just give Himself for us, then He could take away the curse, remove the wrath, and bring us out of the sentence of eternal condemnation that we deserve…
Let’s go back and evaluate the curse of God upon man in the Garden of Eden and see where the substitution was pictured. Let’s look again at the Lord’s words to the woman and to Adam, listen and see Christ in them –
“I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception…” Within the body of the law itself, Isaiah told us that Jesus would be known as a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering. He was one whose soul was in labor – all of this was anticipated in His life and in His cross as a substitution for us.
“In pain you shall bring forth children…” Jesus gave His life while living under the law. He suffered at the cross to bring “many sons to glory.” In pain He brought forth God’s children.
“Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you…” The desire of the redeemed is to be the Bride of Christ. We have been redeemed from the curse of the law, in order to be united to a Husband. Jesus is that Husband who rules over His bride – the church, whom He purchased with His own blood.
“Cursed is the ground for your sake…” In Isaiah, Jesus is said to be a root out of dry ground; the cursed ground.
“In toil you shall eat of it All the days of your life.” Again in Isaiah it says, “He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied.” Jesus labored throughout His life in the harvest field of man. He ate the food of His own creation all His days, just like any other man.
“Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you,…” Jesus Christ did not exempt Himself from walking in this fallen world, filled with thorns and thistles. And in His harvest field of man, there have been many who have rejected Him, being thorns against Him as He held out His grace and love to them.
The greatest example of this is when Christ Himself was given a crown of thorns. The very sentence of the first man for his disobedience became the crown of the Lord who sentenced him.
“And you shall eat the herb of the field…” The instructions for the Passover in the book of Exodus say this – “Then they shall eat the flesh on that night; roasted in fire, with unleavened bread and with bitter herbs they shall eat it.” (Exodus 12:8)
Jesus not only participated in the Passover each year, He became our Passover Lamb – crucified for us after leading a life in bitterness to redeem fallen man. He died for us on the same day that the Passover Lamb was slaughtered, thus perfectly fulfilling the ancient pictures that He had given to His people.
“In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread…” In the Garden of Gethsemane, according to Luke, Jesus sweat – as it were – great drops of blood falling to the ground, thus earning His bread, that being the Bread of Affliction, in order to redeem fallen man.
“Till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken;…” The mortal part of the Lord Jesus died on Calvary’s cross and was interred for the sins committed by His own creatures. Thus He died in fulfillment of the law which He had given and which nobody else could measure up to. Death came in as a result of sin, and sin was dealt with by His obedient death.
The very sentence of the first man for his rebellion was carried out in the Person of Jesus Christ. The Lord God didn’t cause the man to receive anything that He Himself wasn’t willing to endure. Thus He is both Just and the Justifier of everyone who calls on Him.
But, there is one exception in the curse between Adam and Jesus “For dust you are, And to dust you shall return.” Jesus, because He prevailed over the devil was resurrected by the power of God. The curse has been removed in His resurrection and now anyone who calls on Him will likewise be freed from the finality of death.
To show us the wisdom of God, the plan of the ages, and the immensity of the act which is the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we need to again go back to a time before the law, the time of Noah when God judged the world through water. In understanding the story of Noah, we can see the reality of what the resurrection signifies.
In Genesis 8:4, after the curse of the waters prevailing over the earth for 150 days, we read this –
“Then the ark rested in the seventh month, the seventeenth day of the month, on the mountains of Ararat.”
This day, the 17th day of the seventh month is at the same time of year that Jesus Christ came out of the grave almost 2400 years later. You see, the Bible uses two calendars, the creation calendar and the redemption calendar.
Until the time of the Exodus, the calendar started in the fall, but at the Exodus, the first month was changed to the spring for the covenant people. It is the calendar of redemption. The 17th day of the seventh month in the creation calendar is the 17th day of the first month of the redemption calendar.
On that day, the ark of Noah rested on the mountains of Ararat. At that time, the curse of the waters reversed and began to subside. The name Ararat means “the curse is reversed.” On the same day that the ark struck the ground and held fast, Noah was brought to the safety of the land called Ararat – “the curse is reversed”
Noah and his ark then is a picture of the true reversal of the curse which was pronounced allllll the way back at the fall of man in Chapter 3 of Genesis. There, only 5 chapters after the fall of man, Noah and his amazing adventure was given as a sign of what was to come.
Imagine the intricacy of what God did in order to bring that about, and then the wisdom of placing it in the pages of the Bible so that the two could be connected when looking at it through the lens of Christ. Only in Him can this beautiful plan be clearly seen.
Everything in creation is balanced upon that central point in time – the cross and the resurrection. The cross took away that which was opposed to us and the resurrection granted us the chance for new life and an eternal hope. His cross and His resurrection happened in the springtime – a time of renewal and life.
There, in the wondrous springtime, Paul tells us that we were redeemed from the curse because of the cross. And it is the resurrection which proves it to us. In the work of Jesus Christ, the curse is reversed.
The curse upon man was neither unjust nor unfair
What came upon us we truly deserved indeed
It is we who turned our backs on God, without a care
When we honestly look in the mirror, it must be agreed
But the Lord Jesus, though no wrong He had done
Bore the same curse that was pronounced on you and I
A crown of thorns and a cross of wood for God’s own Son
There at Calvary, the Perfect One did die
Carried away in His death is my sin
And eternal life is promised in the resurrection
Over the devil, Hades, and death He did win
To grant us eternal life without any imperfection
III. A Righteousness Which is Not My Own
The cross of Jesus Christ asks us to evaluate ourselves and our standing before God in a unique way. If you ask unbelievers why they should go to heaven someday, they will give an immensely wide variety of answers.
In an interview, just this week, Michael Bloomberg, the former Mayor of NYC said this in an interview with the New York Times – “I am telling you if there is a God, when I get to heaven I’m not stopping to be interviewed. I am heading straight in. I have earned my place in heaven. It’s not even close,”
He believes that he has earned the right to go to heaven because of the money and effort he has spent on a liberal agenda, including anti-gun laws and taking on obesity and smoking. How about you? Maybe one of these answers is what you would give:
I’m a good person.
I’m not a bad person.
I’m not so bad as other people.
I try to live a good life.
I work hard at helping others.
This list goes on and on – people comparing themselves to others or claiming that their deeds are sufficient to make God happy with them. But then there are a few who will honestly tell you… I’m headed for hell. They know they aren’t good enough. They instinctively know it and they don’t try to hide it.
The reality which the Bible tells us is that nobody… nobody is good enough. The law, given to Israel at Mount Sinai, is God’s standard and we have all failed to meet it. Our attempts at doing good only demonstrate that we aren’t good enough.
Think about it. There have been billions and billions of people who have lived before you and me. Surely you can’t be a better person than all of them, can you? And yet, other than Jesus, not one of them has popped back out of the grave. Not one. They are all in the grave and they will stay there until Judgment Day.
Only one Man has ever come out of that pit, Jesus Christ. And His resurrection is the most documented occurrence in all of human history up to that point. We hold fast to stories about Julius Caesar, Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, Cleopatra, and a host of other notable figures of the past.
And yet, none of them, nor any other person, has even a minute amount of evidence to back up their lives in comparison to that of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. And there isn’t one other validated record, ever, that a person has come out of the grave. Not one!
Of all of those billions of people, not one. Now how sure are you of “being a good person.” And so what is it that makes a follower of Jesus Christ so special? What is it that says, “This person is righteous before God. This one will be given eternal life?” Paul explains it in Philippians 3 –
“But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. 8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death…” Philippians 3:7-1
Before these words, he first showed us how he once was the cat’s meow in “being a good guy.” He was of the covenant people. He was circumcised according to the Law. He was of the noted tribe of Benjamin, a high honor within the covenant community.
He was a Hebrew of the Hebrews – a way of saying that He was the cream of the crop. On top of that, Paul was a Pharisee. He was a member of the highest class of Jewish religious society.
He pursued the law in the very strictest sense, he persecuted those he felt were working against the law, and He was blameless in his actions under the law. If any person could claim a title to “being a good guy” and meriting heaven, it would be Paul.
And yet, when He met Christ, he realized the truth. He was so far short of God’s standards, that he knew he could never be found worthy before God – never. If Paul couldn’t make it, how much any of us? Billions and billions of us not even as worthy as a man who was seemingly so worthy…. and yet so unworthy.
And so to set the stage for the Source of his righteousness, Paul told us that the things which were gain to him – that long and distinguished list of merit badges – those he learned to count as loss for Christ.
The heritage, the honors and the accolades, the studying, the promotions… none of it was of any value in comparison to knowing Jesus Christ because none of it, not one bit of it got him one step closer to the resurrection.
In fact, he openly proclaimed that “Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.”
In saying this he uses the word for rubbish, skybala – a word which comes from two other words meaning “dog” and “to throw.” His previous riches were nothing more than something you would toss to feed a dirty animal.
It’s comparable to what Isaiah says about our good deeds. Isaiah calls them “filthy rags” using a term which indicates a menstrual cloth. Our deeds, even Paul’s deeds, could do nothing to reverse the curse God so long ago pronounced on our souls.
But in His grace and in His tender mercies, God offered to him and to each of us a Substitute. In Christ, we can be found, as Paul says, “in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith.”
This is the marvel of Jesus Christ. All of those stories, such as of Noah on his little boat out there on the great sea of chaos, every type and every picture God has given in the pages of the Bible show us, time and time again, that God has a plan and that what He does is open and available to us by mere faith.
What is the marvel of the resurrection? Why are we here today? It’s because in Jesus Christ there is a reversal of the curse upon mankind. There is a righteousness that can be granted to us, not through our own deeds, but through His.
In calling out and receiving Him through a simple act of faith, the curse is reversed. We move from our cursed father Adam, to the Lord Jesus. We too can share in the power of His resurrection. While we yet walk in this tiring life, we are united to Christ.
We can fellowship together in the suffering of Christ. In calling on Him, we are conformed to His death so that we have, in time and at the call of God, the sure and unchanging guarantee that we are in Jesus Christ and that we will be raised to eternal life.
People of the world are under the delusion that there are many paths to God, or that all religions are the same. But there is no greater lie than this. There is, and by understanding the nature of God, there can be, only one way to be reconciled to Him. It is by what He has done, not by anything we could do.
We are completely and entirely at the mercy of God, and that mercy is displayed in the death of His own Son for anyone who is willing to accept the premise, believe in His work, and call on His name. It is either Jesus, or it is eternal death. Peter tells us, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12
There is hope in Jesus Christ because there is the power of the resurrection for all who believe… simply believe. If you have never taken the time to humbly ask Him to forgive you of your sins and to grant you that eternal life, please do so today. Settle things with Christ, be reconciled to God, and have the assurance that you are God’s beloved child.
Closing Verse: “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but is risen!” Luke 24:5, 6
Next Week: Genesis 47:7-12 (And Jacob Blessed Pharaoh) (117th Genesis Sermon)
The Lord has you exactly where He wants you and He has a good plan and purpose for you. Call on Him and let Him do marvelous things for you and through you.
Sharing in the Resurrection
For so long, I thought I was good enough
I trusted in myself and not in what God had done
Of all the things I did, certainly it was good stuff
He would be happy with me, like a favorite son
But then I heard the word about Jesus
That He lived perfectly, something I had not done
And then He gave His life up for all of us
Why would He do that if I really was number one?
If He needed to die so that I could live
Then obviously I had figured it all wrong
It doesn’t matter what I do or how much I give
I had overestimated myself all along
Those things that were once seemingly gain to me
I suddenly counted them for Christ as mere loss
Without Him I was separated from God eternally
Unworthy, and to be removed and disposed of like dross
Yet indeed I also count all things loss, as my heart now sings
For the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus
My Lord for whom I suffered the loss of all things
Only He died on a cross to reconcile us
I count my many gains as rubbish
That I may gain Christ and in Him be found
Not having my own righteousness, as one so selfish
But one which is from God by faith, one eternally sound
I wish to know Him and Him alone
Through the power of His resurrection
And the fellowship of his sufferings which do atone
Being conformed to His death and awaiting perfection
If by any means that I may attain
To the resurrection of the dead
An eternal state of glory I will gain
Because of the work of Christ, my Lord and my Head
He is the resurrection and the life
Whoever believes in Him, though he die
He shall live forever, without fear or strife
Because of Him, “Hallelujah” is our cry
When the last trumpet sounds we will be taken to glory
We shall all be changed, completion of the gospel story
Where O Death, O where is your sting
When Christ our Savior, us to Himself does He bring
Where O Hades, O where is your victory
When Christ translates His children to eternal glory
The sting of death is sin and the strength of sin the law
But thanks be to God who gives us victory through our Lord
My beloved brethren be steadfast in all you’ve heard and saw
And cling confidently to God’s superior word
Know for certain that your labor is not in vain
Be of good cheer, for you… Christ is coming again
Hallelujah and Amen…