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THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST: THREE POSSIBLE SCENARIOS

Easter 2Pretend with me that we are a forensic investigators, and we’ve been given the call to respond to a just-happened crime scene. We drop everything and rush to the location. From there, what do we do? If you’ve ever watched crime drama TV shows or real-life documentaries, you know that one of the first things we would do is carefully examine the scene.  We would not just scan the area but carefully inspect how it was arranged. We’d consider the rules of time and space and science. From there, we would use our sense of logic to rule out different scenarios to reasonably, and many times without question come up with a conclusion of what happened. The evidence would speak for itself.

We are bound by this physical world we live in, so much so that there are many who believe that’s all there is. How then, do we explain one of the most hotly debated events of history, the resurrection of Christ?

I was reading about the resurrection the other day and I came upon the first investigation of exactly how His tomb appeared that morning. It is written by the disciple John, an eyewitness and one of the first sleuths on the scene, together with another one of Christ’s disciples, Peter.

John writes of himself, reporting in the third person:  “He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there, but did not go in. Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’s head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen”.  (John 20:5-7).

To understand the scene, we need to understand the mode of Jewish burial at the time. As was the custom, the deceased would be wrapped in linen bands and spices. A mixture of aloe, (a powdered wood like fine sawdust), and a gummy myrhh would be inserted between the folds of the linen to preserve the body.

Yet the body was missing. There were only three possibilities of how and why Jesus was no longer there:

1) The body was stolen,

2) Jesus got up on his own, resuscitated, having only swooned not really died), or

3) He rose from the dead.

First of all, it is significant that the burial cloth was there at all. If the body was stolen, the linen cloths that it was wrapped in would have been taken with the body. Not only were they still there, but they were undisturbed. The word that John uses for the word “lying” is “keimena”,* which refers to things that have been carefully placed in order.  John noticed that there had been no disturbance in the tomb. Criminals (or the disciples themselves, as unbelievers would speculate), would not have had any time, to take the body apart from the graveclothes, and certainly not to fold the cloth that had been around his head.

Did Jesus merely wake up from a very bad beating? In that case, he would still be in a physical body and would have left behind evidence of a physical body freeing itself from the strips of linen. If so, they would have been displaced. Even if we can imagine that he got up and put everything back as if to appear that he rose from the grave, the spices used to preserve the body would have scattered and stained the floor.

The disciples saw none of these things. Jesus had risen, and in a resurrected body.

The Bible tells us that we who trust and believe in Him will be as He is:

“Buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection.” (Romans 6:5-6)

Our tired bodies that hurt and die will no longer give us grief and pain. Having taken the punishment for our sin, He gave us His righteousness in exchange. Because of that first Easter morning, because Christ has paved the way, we can know that physical death is not the end, and we’ve been given a glimpse of our eternal hope.

He is risen, He is risen indeed.

*The Gospel of John: Volume 5- Triumph through Tragedy, John 18-21, James Montgomery Boice, P. 1567

FOUR REASONS THE VIRGIN BIRTH OF CHRIST IS SIGNIFICANT

 

Nativity

 

Larry King, host of the former “Larry King Live” talk show, was once asked who in all of history he would most like to interview, if given the chance. King replied, “Jesus Christ.” Why? To ask Him one question: “Are you indeed virgin born?” The answer to that question, added King, “would explain history to me.”

A crucial question indeed, for the implications of the virgin birth as a historical fact would oblige the cynic to acknowledge Jesus Christ as the Son of God. You see, it is impossible to believe in Christ as the Son of God and not accept the virgin birth. For God to accept Christ’s death as payment in full, He had to be pure, unaffected by sin. That is what makes the virgin birth so miraculous.

To quote form D. James Kennedy’s book, “Solving Bible Mysteries”, the virgin birth is significant because:

  1.  If Jesus were not born of a virgin, then He would have inherited sin like the rest of us.
  2.  If Jesus were not born of a virgin, then He cannot be the divine Redeemer, because the   sacrifice    for sin must be perfect.
  3.  If Jesus was not born of a virgin, we have no Savior.
  4.  If Jesus was not born of a virgin, we have no hope after death.

The key here is that we can’t take one part of the life of Christ without the other. If we study His life, we see that He lived a perfect and sinless existence. It points back to verify His miraculous birth, (which, by the way, was foretold thousands of years earlier).

And the ultimate affirmation? The resurrection. Also according to Kennedy’s book, “The resurrection is the most firmly attested event of ancient history. Because we know that Jesus was truly raised from the dead, we know that His birth must have been just as miraculous”.

If God can create the universe and perform miracles in healing, in nature, in provision and rise from the dead, it is no problem to believe that He could perform the miracle of the virgin birth. This is a wonderful and great cause to rejoice for those who come to Him with saving faith.

“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel…” Matthew 1:23

May the wonder of Christ’s birth fill you with joy this Christmas season.

 

ONE SURE-FIRE WAY TO GREAT GAIN

Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. (1 Tim. 6:6)

Contentment 2Sometimes I hear people say that if we are godly, we’ll be blessed with material gain. While we may be blessed with some wealth, I don’t think it’s necessarily as a result of any righteousness on our part. If this were so, what about the disciples? They were humble fishermen and working class men who never received worldly riches. They left their nets behind when Christ called them to follow him.

On the other hand, we can also take a look at Solomon, one of the richest men of the Old Testament. He had everything, and in the end came to realize that all the riches in his life and its personal pleasures amounted to nothing but emptiness. He had squandered them for himself. He expressed the futile attempt to be satisfied apart from God is “vanity” and “chasing after the wind.” (Eccl. 1:14).

I believe Solomon might well have approved of a story that was once told of a king who suffered from a persistent illness and was told by some wise men that he would be cured if the shirt of a contented man was brought for him to wear. The problem was that there were no contented men to be found. Finally they went to the ends of the earth and found a man who was truly content. But he had no shirt!

The Apostle Paul seemed to have gotten it right. To the church at Philippi, he expresses a heart of contentment:

I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.”  (Phil 4: 11-12).

In this text, we are reminded that to give our lives to gaining possessions reflects discontent and foolishness. It is to show that our sufficiency and security lies in things that won’t matter beyond the grave. In Job 1:21, Job says, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there.”

This Thanksgiving, let’s remember that if we have food and clothing, that alone is reason for thanksgiving to God, and as his children, He promises to provide for our needs:

Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how god clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them.” (Luke 12:27)

If God has given us anything beyond that, that is certainly additional reason to be thankful and to use it for His glory, whatever the amount.

Dear friends, have you got a good way to distinguish between your wants and your needs?

Why or how do you think that hoarding or greed can become an issue?

MUSINGS AT EASTER

EasterDear Friends,

A few thoughts crossed my mind this morning that I’d like to share concerning this Easter season and whatever you may believe about God and who He is. As I reflected upon the questions and doubts we often have about His character and even His existence, it occurred to me that for whoever we call “god” to be the one true God, He would have to conquer death, and He would have to demonstrate the greatest act of love. I concluded that both of these were fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

Now this is by no means a comprehensive list of the attributes of God, but they struck me to be compelling, even in their simplicity:

 1)      Conquering Death – There is one seeming mystery that none of us human beings have ever been able to overcome. None of us have ever come back from the dead. Despite our advancements in technology or science, we can’t stop that darn aging process and never once have we seen a loved one return from the grave.

Isn’t it logical that if there is a God (for anyone who may wonder), wouldn’t He be able to conquer the biggest hurdle of man’s existence? Wouldn’t He, being the Creator, be able to both create life and rise from the dead? Shouldn’t He be able to show that death is nothing over Him, to answer the greatest uncertainty of all? Not that I would presume to tell God what to do, but if God is God, I would expect Him to, or He isn’t God.

 And that is exactly what He did.

“Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. Then they went in and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. And it happened, as they were greatly perplexed about this, that behold, two men stood by them in shining garments. Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen!” Luke 24:1-6

If there is any other God but Jesus Christ, wouldn’t they have demonstrated his/her own resurrection?

2)      Demonstrating Love – If God is a God of goodness and love, wouldn’t He have the capacity to demonstrate the greatest act of love? If we as human beings know how to love, how much more is the One who created that love able to go far beyond any “goodness” we can muster? That act of love was dying on the cross to take the punishment for our sin. Because He was the Son of God taking on the form of man, His sacrifice was enough to take on all of our punishment and satisfy justice. What greater love could there be than an Omnipotent, pre-existing Being would humble Himself to not only become one of us, but to die for us? His staying on that cross doesn’t call into question his claim to be the Messiah, it confirms it.

 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death– even death on a cross! (Phil. 2:8)

And that is what Easter is all about. He took our place of punishment, forgiving in Godlike proportion. Because of the resurrection, we have the promise and the proof that we, too, will transcend death, that we have no reason to despair, fear and grieve like those who have no hope.

Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection.” (Romans 6:5-6)

May His presence and love be evident to you this Easter, and may the reality of His death and resurrection become your foundation of saving faith.