27 Mar Alive Forevermore
“And we bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus.” -Acts 13:32
On their journey to a village called Emmaus, two of Jesus’ disciples were speaking to one another about the crucifixion when the risen Jesus drew near. Their eyes were kept from recognizing him, and Jesus asked what they were talking about. Disheartened, they explained how Jesus was delivered up to death and crucified. “But,” they said, “We had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel” (Luke 24:21).
These two men had heard of the empty tomb, and of how the angels there said Jesus was alive. But they had also heard that their companions, who went to the tomb, did not see Jesus. They doubted whether he was actually risen from the dead – and for them, a dead savior was no savior at all. Surely, as Jesus was laid in the tomb, there were many more who lost their hope that God was for them, that he would fulfill his covenant and come through on his promises. Surely they echoed the cry of these two disciples: “We had hoped that he was the one.”
These words illuminate for us the reality that unless Jesus was raised from the dead, we can have no confidence at all that Jesus is who he said he was. No confidence that God made good on his word to save his people. Many others had come claiming to be the Messiah, after all. The resurrection then, is proof that Jesus of Nazarene is exactly who he said he was. He’s the Son of God and Son of Man. The resurrection and the life. The I AM. The good shepherd. The way, the truth and the life. He is the redeemer, the One.
The apostle Paul takes this even further. The resurrection is not merely our confidence in Jesus’ identity; it’s the assurance of eternal life, the proof of Jesus’ dominion over all things, and it’s essential to our salvation. Paul says that unless Jesus was raised from the dead, our faith is completely futile. We would still be in our sin, enslaved to it and hopelessly ruled by its power. And we would be of all people most to be pitied, because unless Jesus was raised, we would have hope in this life only (1 Corinthians 15). But because Jesus has been raised, Paul says, we can know that God accepted Jesus’ sacrificial death as the final payment for our sins. It’s the receipt that declares that it has been finished. Jesus took God’s wrath for our sin, and God raised Jesus up to show that our debt of sin has been paid for once for all. Our old self was crucified with Christ, the power of sin was broken, and we have been set free and raised with Christ to newness of life (Romans 6:1-14). And because Jesus has been raised, we can know that Jesus has power and authority over not just sin, but death too. Jesus has won the victory, and the sting of death is gone. We will dwell with him forever, and our hope rests not in a broken and decaying world, nor in our broken and decaying bodies. No, our hope rests in a king who conquered the grave, who loves us, and who we will joyfully worship with new bodies in a better, abiding city (Hebrews 13:14).
When it looked like all had failed as Jesus breathed his last and was buried in the tomb, God was accomplishing his best work. It was impossible for the pangs of death to hold his Son, and therefore through death, Jesus defeated death (Acts 2:22-24). What a mystery! And so, we can be assured that our God is powerful, wise, trustworthy and faithful. He fulfilled his promises when he raised Jesus from the dead. We can trust him with a living hope, because we have a living Savior (1 Peter 1:3).
So when all feels hopeless, we need not be like Peter, who rebuked Jesus for announcing his sufferings to come (Matthew 16:21-23). Like Peter, we cannot see as God does. His ways are higher and mysterious, and his purposes are good. He brings victory and life from death. So in your sufferings, remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead (2 Timothy 2:9). In times of great weakness and need, remember the ability of the God of peace, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus (Hebrews 13:20-21). And when you are tempted to fear, hear the words of Christ:
“Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.” -Revelation 1:17-18
This post is the last in a series celebrating Lent, for the purpose of preparing our hearts to treasure Christ more. Each post in the series is coupled with art from local artist Kathryn Schermbeck. Our hope is that these words, reading guides, and pieces of art would lead you to worship as you remember the radical and costly grace of God.