The Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ
“In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre. And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men. And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you. And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word. And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him. Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me.”
The resurrection of Christ is the single greatest event in the history of the world. Without it, our Savior’s incarnation, life, and death as our Substitute and Surety would be altogether meaningless. The resurrection of our Lord is so vital a doctrine that those who deny it deny Christianity altogether. Without the resurrection there would be no such thing as Christianity. Without this, we are yet in our sins, our faith is vain, our hope is a delusion, and our religion is a mockery of men’s souls! If Christ was not raised from the dead, redemption was not accomplished, justice was not satisfied, he is not God, and we are yet under the wrath and curse of the Almighty (1 Cor. 15:13-17).
Today, we seldom here anything preached about the resurrection, except at Easter. But that was not the case in the New Testament. Those who had seen the risen Lord and had experienced the power of his resurrection in the new birth went everywhere preaching “Jesus and the resurrection” (Acts 4:2; 17:18). That is to say, they preached salvation accomplished for sinners by the crucified, risen Christ. This is what Peter preached on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:23-24), before the Sanhedrin (Acts 4:10), and to the Gentiles (Acts 10:4).
Paul preached the resurrection constantly. Wherever he went, that was his message. This is what he preached in the Synagogue at Antioch of Pisidia (Acts 13:30, 37), before the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem (Acts 23:6), before Felix the Governor (Acts 24:15, 21), before King Agrippa (Acts 26:8), to the Church at Rome (Rom. 6:3-6), to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 15:4; 2 Cor. 4:14), to the Galatians (Gal. 1:1), to the Ephesians (Eph. 1:20), to the Philippians (Phil. 3:10), and to the Colossians (Col. 2:12). The great apostle to the Gentiles longed to know Christ “and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death."
Peter spoke of our living hope through the resurrection. — “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you” (1 Pet. 1:3-4).
And in Revelation 1:17-18 John tells us how that he saw and heard the risen, exalted Christ. — “And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.”
Our Lord himself declares his resurrection to be the foundation and cornerstone of our hope. He says in John 11:25, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live,” and in 14:19, “Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also.”
As you read the New Testament, you cannot avoid seeing that this matter of our Lord’s resurrection is vital to Christianity. It is a prominent theme. Unlike most matters of divine revelation, the Holy Spirit pointedly shows us evidence, upon evidence, upon evidence that the resurrection of Christ is an undeniable, irrefutable fact of history. Indeed, of all the facts recorded in Holy Scripture about our Savior, the resurrection is the one thing that is proved clearly and fully. The evidence is simply so overwhelming that it would be impossible to prove anything in the world to a person who rejects it. This thing was not done in a corner (1 Cor. 15:3-9).
Someone once said, “The resurrection of Jesus is the Gibraltar of Christianity and the Waterloo of infidelity and rationalism.” J.C. Ryle wrote, “It is the crowning proof that he has paid the debt which he undertook to pay on our behalf, won the battle which he fought to deliver us from hell, and is accepted as our Surety and our Substitute by our heavenly Father in heaven.” Thanks be unto God, he who was delivered to death because of our offences was also raised from the dead because of our justification (Rom. 4:25). The resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead is the proof of our redemption by his blood and the basis of our confident hope that we, too, shall soon be raised up from the dead.
The Glory of It
As we meditate upon the resurrection of our Savior, we should always have a sense of the glory of it. The opening verse of chapter 28 reads, “In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.” The verse quite literally reads, “In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the sabbath.” I take the verse to mean this: — When the Lord Jesus Christ died at Calvary and rose again, the old sabbath of the law ended and the new sabbath of grace began.
Behold our exalted Savior! Do you see him seated yonder upon his throne in heaven? There he sits in the undisturbed, undisturbable serenity of his absolute sovereignty! His rest is his glory (John 17:2; Phil. 2:9-11; Isa. 45:20-25). He has finished his work (John 17:4; 19:30). He has brought in everlasting righteousness by his obedience and obtained eternal redemption by his blood. Because Christ has finished his work, the salvation of his people is certain (Heb. 9:12). The works were finished before the foundation of the world in God’s purpose. They were finished in time when the God-man took his seat in heaven as our forerunner (Heb. 6:20). There is no more work to be done. Christ did it all. Since he has finished his work, he sat down in his glory. There he is resting; and his rest is his glory!
The Lord Jesus Christ has entered into his rest, and his rest is glorious, because he has finished his work (Isa. 11:10; 2 Cor. 5:17-21; Rom. 8:34; Heb. 10:11-14), and his rest is glorious, just as Isaiah 11:10 declared it would be. Our Savior’s rest in heaven is his glory. In fact, as I have just stated and as indicated by the marginal translation of the last sentence of Isaiah 11:10, his rest is his glory.
As God the Father rested on the seventh day, because his work of creation was finished; so God the Son rested in the seventh day of time and entered into his rest forever, because he has finished his work of making all things new for his people (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 10:11-14).
That which is his rest is our rest (Matt. 11:28-30; Heb. 4:3). We keep the sabbath of faith, a spiritual sabbath, not a carnal one. We rest in Christ, trusting his finished work, by faith entering into his rest.
The believer’s life is a perpetual keeping of the sabbath. None of us keeps it perfectly. Our best faith in this world is still unbelief. But we do keep this blessed sabbath rest sincerely, ever looking to Christ, ever coming to Christ, ever resting in Christ. Our all glorious Christ gives rest to every sinner who comes to him in faith. He says, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
“I heard the voice of Jesus say,
‘Come unto me and rest,
Lay down, thou weary one, lay down
Thy head upon my breast.’
I came to Jesus as I was -
Weary, and worn, and sad:
I found in Him a resting place,
And He has made me glad!”
The Lord Jesus Christ has given and continually gives us rest. He gives us the rest of complete pardon (Isa. 45:22; Eph. 1:6), perfect reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:17; Col. 1:20-21), absolute security (John 10:27-30; Phil. 1:6; 1 Thess. 5:24), and of his special providence (Rom. 8:28). We do not keep a carnal, legal sabbath, but a perpetual, spiritual sabbath of faith. Christ is our Sabbath. We rest in him.
As the ceremonial sabbath of the law portrayed a strict, universal consecration to God, so this blessed sabbath of faith involves the perpetual consecration of ourselves to our God and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ (Matt. 11:29-30). We keep the sabbath of faith when we willfully, deliberately take the yoke of Christ. If we would keep the sabbath, it involves much, much more than living in religious austerity one day a week. To keep the sabbath is to bow to Christ’s dominion. To keep the sabbath is to learn of him what to believe, how to live, what to do, how to honor God. To keep the sabbath is to bow to his will.
How can a troubled, weary, heavy-laden, tempest tossed sinner obtain this blessed sabbath rest? I can tell you, both from experience and from the Word of God, there is only one way we can enter into his rest. We have to quit working! We have to trust Christ alone for everything!
Our Lord’s resurrection glory was announced in a remarkable way. We are told by Matthew that, “There was a great earthquake.” Then we are informed that, “The angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow.”
Our Lord did not need the help of an angel to roll the stone away from his tomb. But God was pleased to make his Son’s resurrection a glorious thing, accompanied by signs and wonders. Therefore, when his Son arose Conqueror of death, hell, and the grave, he shook the earth and sent an angel wrapped in glory to the scene.
I stress this because we need to always remember that our Lord’s resurrection was a type, pledge, and picture of our own. As the grave could not hold him beyond his appointed time, it shall not be able to hold us. As the angel of the Lord witnessed his resurrection, the angels of glory shall both witness and be instruments of our resurrection. They shall gather God’s elect in the day of harvest. As our Savior arose with a renewed, glorious body, but still a recognizable material body, so, too, we shall rise with glorious, yet material bodies in the last day (1 John 3:2).
Let all who are taught of God take comfort. Be patient. There is a day soon coming when you and I shall appear with Christ in glory! Here we often meet with trials, sorrows, and persecutions. In this world our lot is one of suffering, weakness, pain, decease, bereavement, and death. But glory awaits us! We shall rise again!
The Terror of It
Should these lines be read by any who are yet without Christ, I must not fail to remind you of the terror of our Lord’s resurrection. Whenever you think of that great day, do not forget the terror that seized these hardened Roman soldiers and the terror that will seize your soul when Christ shall appear in flaming fire, taking vengeance on his adversaries.
We read in verse 4, “And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men.” Those soldiers had witnessed many dreadful sights. They were men of blood. Nothing much bothered them. But as soon as they saw God’s angel, not the risen Christ, but just his angel, they froze with fear.
How will you react to the blast of God’s trumpet, the glorious appearing of our great God Jesus Christ, God’s avenging angels, the glory of his saints, and the great white throne? Fear and terror will seize your soul. You will be unable to speak. But your very soul shall wail before the Son of God whom you have despised. When you cannot hide from his presence, you will melt like wax before him. — “Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him” (Rev. 1:7). — “And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb” (Rev. 6:15-16).
May God give you grace to lay these things to heart. Be wise and consider what your last end shall be. Remember, there is a resurrection. There is a judgment yet to come. There is a thing such as you have never imagined called “the wrath of God and of the Lamb”
The Comfort of It
I want you who are born of God, when you think of the resurrection of our Lord, to always get the comfort of it. — “And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay” (vv. 5-6).
These words were spoken by the angel and recorded by the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit for the benefit of God’s elect in every age and in every place. They are full of meaning. They tell us that we have no cause for fear in this world. Whatever may come our way in this world, whatever trouble or trial we may face, let us remember the resurrection of our Lord and be at peace. The best news you will ever hear came from a graveyard. — “He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay."
Child of God, that means that our Savior is King, our sins are gone, and it is well with our souls!
It is certainly true that our Lord shall appear in the clouds of heaven and the earth shall be burned with fire. The graves shall give up their dead. The sea shall give up its dead. The judgment shall be set. The books shall be opened. The dead shall be judged. The angels of God shall divide the good from the bad and the bad shall be burned with everlasting fire. But there is nothing in all this to make believers afraid.
Clothed in the righteousness of Christ and washed in his blood, we shall be found without spot and blameless before him. We shall be found in that Ark which cannot be hurt when the flood of God’s wrath is poured out upon the earth. In that great day, “An entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 1:11). That is to say, we shall enter into everlasting life in a blaze of glory! Then, and not until then, shall both the wicked and the righteous understand the Psalmist’s words, “Blessed are the people whose God is the Lord” (Ps. 33:12).
The Message of It
What is the message of our Lord’s resurrection? The angel said, “And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you. And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word. And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him. Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me” (vv. 7-10).
First, our Lord appeared to these two faithful women who had come to honor his body. They had been the last to leave him after his death and the first to come to his tomb. How greatly he honored their faithfulness! These two women were the first to see the risen Lord! They were the first to hear the risen Christ! They were the first preachers of the Resurrection!
Our risen Redeemer’s first thought and first word was for his people. He said, “Go, tell my brethren.” Does that fact not touch your heart? Those words, “my brethren,” deserve an eternity of thoughtful contemplation. The disciples were weak, frail, erring, and filled with unbelief and sin, just as we often are. Yet, the Lord Jesus Christ calls them and us “my brethren.” Just as Joseph comforted his brethren who had sold him, so the Lord Jesus comforts and encourages our hearts. Sadly, the disciples had not lived up to their profession, but had yielded to the fear of man, just as we often do; but Christ is still not ashamed to call them and us “my brethren.”
What a joyful meeting that must have been! How unexpected! Yet, that is just what we should expect from him who is not ashamed to call such things as we are “my brethren.” Mark (16:7) tells us that the angelic messenger was especially concerned for Peter. He seems especially commissioned to give a message of grace and forgiveness to the most fallen of those whom the Master calls “my brethren.”
When he was about to enter into his glory, the Lord Jesus made it a point to show himself to his poor disciples repeatedly, as if to assure them that no change had taken place in his heart. His love for them was still as fresh and as full as when he first embraced them in electing love before the world began. As if to manifest the nearness, dearness, and completeness of his affection for his poor, fearful people, he said to Mary; “Go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father and your Father; and to my God and your God (John 20:17).
If the Son of God is not ashamed to call us his brethren, let us never be ashamed to own him as our Lord.
The Assurance of It
The fact of our Lord’s resurrection is so basic and fundamental that it under girds and assures us of many things. When we look down into the empty tomb and up into heaven upon the risen Christ, we are assured that the Word of God is all true. Our Lord arose from the dead exactly as he said he would (Matt. 12:40; 16:21; 17:9, 23). We are assured that our Savior is himself “the mighty God.” Only he who is himself God has power over life and death (Ps. 68:17-20). Our Redeemer’s resurrection assures us that redemption is accomplished. Justice is satisfied. Our sins are pardoned. Righteousness has been brought in for us.
The resurrection, assuring us of redemption’s accomplishment, is our assurance that all God’s elect shall be saved. — “As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him” (John 17:2).
And we are assured that when our Lord Jesus Christ comes again, there will be another resurrection (John 14:1-3; Job 19:25-26; Ps. 73:24; Isa. 26:19; Hos. 6:2; John 5:28-29; 1 Cor. 15:21-58; 1 Thess. 4:13-18). And after that great, general resurrection comes the judgment!