Resurrection ~ 20120408 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
04/08 Resurrection and the Gospel; 1 Corinthians 15:1-8
Today is Resurrection Sunday. We celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The resurrection of Jesus is an essential part of the gospel message.
The gospel, or 'good news', is the good news message of salvation. Paul says we are being saved by it if we receive it, stand in it, and cling only to it. This is central. This is important. This is the focal point of the whole bible. Let's look at this message.
Christ the Messiah
First, the good news message is a proclamation of good news about a person. The person is Christ. This is a message about Christ. But Christ is not a name, it's a title. 'Christ' is a Greek word that means 'anointed one'. It is a translation of the Hebrew word 'Messiah', the anointed one. What does it mean to be the anointed one?
In the Old Testament, anointing with oil was used as a way to set a person or thing apart for a particular role, office or use. Kings were anointed (1Sam.10:1), and priests were anointed (Ex.30:30). Even the tabernacle was anointed to set it apart as holy (Ex.40:9). The prophet Samuel was sent by the Lord to anoint Saul and then David to be king over Israel. God promised David an heir who would sit on his throne, who would rule forever (2Sam.7:12-17). Isaiah expands on this promise, explaining that this coming king will be Immanuel, God with us, born of a virgin (Is.7:14); that he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighy God, Father of Eternity, Prince of Peace, and he will rule on the throne of David forever (Is.9:6-7). The Jews of Jesus' day were looking for this coming king who would free them from Roman oppression and restore Israel as a nation to her former glory. They were looking for a king, a political and military leader who would lead them in victory over their enemies and give them peace. That is what God's anointed king would do. When Jesus provided food for the multitudes, they wanted to make him a king by force, but he avoided it (Jn.6:15). When Jesus asked his disciples privately who they believed him to be:
After Jesus commended Peter for having divine insight into his true identity,
Then Jesus began to expand their view of what God's Messiah must do.
They had no category for this kind of Messiah. The Christ doesn't hide his true identity; he comes with fanfare in glory. The Christ doesn't suffer; he alleviates the suffering of his people. The Christ doesn't die, he wins.
This is not what Peter or any of the other apostles had signed up for. They were his select men, appointed to rule with him when he ascended the throne and began to rule. They had already been jockeying among themselves for the chief positions. So Peter takes it upon himself to give campaign advice to his Lord. 'Don't talk like that Jesus! It's bad for publicity.' You see, Peter, and the rest of the apostles didn't yet get it. They didn't understand the full role of the coming Christ. This is probably a key reason why Judas defected. During the trial and after the crucifixion the disciples seem lost. This wasn't part of the plan. This wasn't supposed to happen. The Messiah wins. We thought it was Jesus. But now he's dead.
What Jesus was beginning to teach his disciples, what they wouldn't get until after his resurrection, was that there was another vein of prophecy that the Messiah must fulfill. True, the Christ would be the Conquering King who reigns forever, the divine Son who would sit on his Father's throne. But the Christ must also be the suffering servant. Look back to Isaiah, chapters 52-53. In 52:7, we are pointed to the good news, good news of peace, of happiness, of salvation, good news of God reigning over his people. Messiah, the divine conquering king. In verse 13, he shall act wisely, he shall be high and lifted up, exalted. The Christ, ascending his throne. But as he goes on, we begin to wonder what kind of 'lifted up' this might be.
Christ Died For Our Sins
The shock of a disfigured Messiah, marred beyond human semblance, a sight so horrific that men hide their faces. A despised and rejected Messiah, a man of sorrows? Why? How? He goes on:
The Messiah, stricken, smitten by God, afflicted, wounded, crushed, chastised, scarred, oppressed, led to the slaughter, taken away in judgment, cut off out of the land of the living. Why? What has he done to deserve this? And the answer resounds 'Nothing!' He has borne our griefs, carried our sorrows, wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities, chastised to bring us peace, scarred to bring us healing. It's our fault. We like sheep have gone astray. We insist on rebelling against him and doing life our own way. But the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
You see, for the conquering King to bring in his reign of righteousness and everlasting peace, he must make peace between God and sinful man. The first thing he must conquer is not the Romans, but our hard, rebellious hearts. He must make us, sinners, righteous! He bears our iniquities. He is the final offering for sin. He satisfies the justice of a holy God, being crushed for our sins. He, the righteous one, made intercession for us, and makes us to be accounted righteous.
So the gospel message begins: “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures.” Christ, the conquering King, the Divine Son of God, the One who will reign forever, died. He died, not of old age, not of natural causes, not for anything he had done, but 'for our sins'; to pay the price our sins deserve. He substituted himself for us in order to make peace between God and us. Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures. The Messiah came as suffering servant to fulfill the the prophecies. He came to give his own life a ransom for many. He came as the seed of the woman to crush the head of the serpent. He came to be the sacrificial Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures.
That He Was Buried
The second point of the gospel message is 'that he was buried.' What is the significance of the Roman soldiers hastening the crucifixion by breaking the legs of their victims, but finding Jesus already dead and running him through with a spear? What is the significance of Joseph's request to bury the body and Pilate's demand to verify that he was indeed dead, the hurried wrapping in burial cloths and spices, the placing in a new tomb and rolling a huge stone to seal the entrance? What is the significance of the Jewish leaders' fears that the disciples might steal the body and securing a guard of soldiers and an official edict to seal the tomb and verify that it was undisturbed? The significance of 'that he was buried' is to certify that he was indeed dead. The Christ was dead and buried.
That He Was Raised On The Third Day In Accordance With the Scriptures
The third point of the good news is that Jesus did not stay dead. He is alive! Jesus was raised from the dead on Sunday morning! The significance of the resurrection is that Jesus accomplished what he set out to do. He was perfectly obedient to his Father. He took the cup of God's wrath against us, and drank every dark drop. He carried our sins to the cross, paid for them in full, and cried out 'it is finished'. Jesus voluntarily gave his life as a ransom for us. The Father was pleased with his sacrifice, and showed his approval by raising him from the dead.
The resurrection of Jesus is also said to be 'in accordance with the scriptures'. The passage we read in Isaiah 53 requires a resurrection. God promises, because of his obedience to death, to divide him a portion with the many.
The New Testament writers point to Psalm 16, a Psalm of David, that says 'you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption' (Ps.16:10), and they make the point that this was not fulfilled in David, because he died and stayed dead. It must be pointing to Jesus, David's greater Son. Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 tells us that Jesus is the firstfruits of the resurrection – pointing to our future physical resurrection that will be like Jesus' resurrection. Leviticus 23:10-11 describes the offering of firstfruits, which was to be presented on the day after the Sabbath; the Sunday after the Passover.
And That He Appeared
The final point in the proclamation of the gospel is that the resurrected Jesus appeared.
The apostle here lays out the incontrovertible evidence of the authenticity of the resurrection. The resurrection of Jesus was no hallucination, no trick of the active imagination, no wishful thinking on the part of his disciples. Jesus appeared numerous times to different groups of people, many of whom were skeptical and certainly not expecting it. On one occasion the resurrected Jesus appeared to more than five hundred brothers, and Paul invites his original readers to go interview them to verify the claim.
In our culture, faith is often defined as believing something that has no evidence to back it up. We hear things like 'it takes a lot of faith to believe that,' indicating that the less evidence there is to support a claim, the more faith it takes to believe it, and the greatest amount of faith is required to believe something that is contradicted by the facts. This is not biblical faith, and God does not expect us to believe things for which there is no evidence. Biblical faith is placing trust or confidence in God and his word because he has proven himself trustworthy.
God is not opposed to giving us a foundation of solid evidence on which our faith can rest. In the Old Testament, God pointed to his ability to declare things that had not yet happened, so that when they happened, it would prove that he is who he claims to be. Consider the disciple Thomas. In God's providence, he was not in the room when Jesus first presented himself alive to his disciples.
Thomas was a committed follower of Jesus. He believed that Jesus was the promised Messiah, the coming King. On one occasion, he declared his readiness to follow Jesus to the death if that was what he required (Jn.11:16). Thomas believed, but now the evidence was pointing in a different direction. Jesus was dead. This didn't fit what he knew of the scriptures, so he must have been wrong about Jesus. He had been deceived. He had given three years of his life to following a lie. He would not be duped again. He demanded hard evidence. It would take more than a vision to convince him. He demanded proof that the one who was claiming to be Jesus resurrected was really the same Jesus he had known. He needed to know that this was not an identical twin or a look-alike. He wanted to see the unmistakable evidence of continuity that this was the same Jesus who had been nailed to a cross, who had a spear thrust into his side penetrating his heart.
Jesus appears, and he does not rebuke Thomas for his lack of faith. He invites him to test the evidence for himself He does not condemn him for doubting, but he tells him that the time for doubting is over now that the evidence is here. Thomas, who up to this point was resolved in his skepticism, is persuaded by the evidence.
Thomas believes. He believes that this crucified Messiah is indeed the Lord of the universe, God in the flesh. Thomas trusts him personally as his own Lord and God. Thomas is persuaded by the evidence, a converted skeptic. The statement of Jesus is often misunderstood as scolding Thomas for his demand for proof. In the context this cannot be. Jesus did not deride Thomas for being skeptical. He gladly offered himself as evidence. Jesus doesn't say that it would have been better if Thomas had believed something he thought was not true. God never asks us to believe something that is not true. Thomas was called by Jesus to be a witness. Thomas, like the other Apostles, was called to bear witness to Jesus, to his life, death and resurrection. He saw, and he testified, so that we who have not seen, who could not be there, can read his eye-witness account and believe. Jesus was looking beyond Thomas to those skeptics today who would be persuaded by the historical evidence of Thomas' testimony and believe. And he calls us blessed. This is the context of Thomas' statement in John's gospel.
This is the good news message of salvation. That the Messiah died for our sins according to the scriptures, that he was indeed dead and buried, that he was raised back to life by his Father as proof that he is who he claimed to be, and that this proof was documented by multiple eyewitnesses, including skeptics, so that we, today, reading the historical record, can be convinced to place our trust in the sin bearing work of God's Messiah.