Tag Archives: resurrection

Today’s Scripture – September 28, 2017

Luke 8:51-56 (NIV) When he arrived at the house of Jairus, he did not let anyone go in with him except Peter, John and James, and the child’s father and mother. Meanwhile, all the people were wailing and mourning for her. “Stop wailing,” Jesus said. “She is not dead but asleep.” They laughed at him, knowing that she was dead.
But he took her by the hand and said, “My child, get up!” Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat. Her parents were astonished, but he ordered them not to tell anyone what had happened.

Jesus often made pronouncements based on spiritual reality that seemed like foolishness to those whose eyes were only focused on physical realities. In this case, when Jesus and His party neared Jairus’ house, they could hear the wailing and sobbing of those mourning the death of this twelve-year-old girl. That was the physical reality.

But Jesus knew what He was going to do for this girl. He saw a reality that was hidden from the tear-blurred eyes of the family and friends. So He told them “She is not dead but asleep.” That was the spiritual reality. He was not telling them that she wasn’t really physically dead – she was, and the evidence of her death was so incontrovertible that everyone laughed at Him in response. He was trying to tell them that the girl’s current state was only temporary, that she would soon be “awakened” to life. (He used this same figure of speech when He talked to His disciples about Lazarus – that he had “fallen asleep,” and that Jesus was going to “wake Him up” (John 11:11). He then had to explain that He had meant that Lazarus had died (verse 14).)

But the people in Jairus’ house were blind to the spiritual reality. Their blindness didn’t discourage Jesus – they would all see the truth soon enough. He simply walked over to the bed where the girl lay, took her by the hand, and shouted, as if to one in deep sleep, “My child, get up!” Immediately, the girl took a deep breath and opened her eyes. Jesus helped her to sit up, and ordered her family to give her something to eat.

The family was obviously flabbergasted. They were sure that she had died. But they couldn’t deny the fact that she was now alive, and, as far as they could see, she had no trace of the fever that had killed her; she was completely healthy and strong.

Jesus swore them all to secrecy, not to keep the Father from getting glory, but to prevent Him from being mobbed in the future by crowds of people bringing corpses to Him to be resurrected. Physical death is the normal end for all mankind, and Jesus did very few resurrections. Those He did do were done as specific signs, and they were temporary; all of those raised to life would die again. Only Jesus rose from the dead never to die again, the first fruits of all those who will rise at the last day, incorruptible forever.

Father, spiritual reality always trumps physical reality. If You make a pronouncement, whether it is that a disease is healed, a sin is forgiven, or even that a death is temporary, that is the reality, and we need to take You at Your word, and move forward in faith. Help me, Lord, to keep my eyes and ears open to You and Your word as You speak wonders to me, that I can then share with others. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – August 30, 2017

Luke 7:11-17 (NIV) Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out–the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her.
When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.” Then he went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.
They were all filled with awe and praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people.” This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country.

 

People died every day in Judea, but Jesus only rarely performed resurrections. That’s because, due to the original sin of Adam and Eve, death is the lot of all people. Any reprieve that Jesus did give was only temporary – those resurrected people died again after a space of time.

What moved Jesus to act in this case was compassion. In addition to the grief over losing a beloved son, this man’s death had thrown the mother’s whole future into uncertainty. The woman was a widow, and the man being carried out was her only son, her only remaining means of support. If she was young enough, she might remarry and have a husband to provide for her needs, but that was iffy. If she was older, her prospects were significantly more gloomy.

As soon as He realized this, Jesus’ plan became obvious. He walked up to the woman and urged her to stop crying. Then He walked right up to the coffin and laid His hand on it, causing those carrying it to stop in their tracks. His words were simple: “Young man, I say to you, get up!” This was very similar to His later words to Jairus’ daughter: “Little girl, I say to you, get up!” (Mark 5:41)

No more needed to be done. The man in the coffin opened his eyes, sat up, and began to talk! The whole complexion of the scene was transformed. Sorrow was swallowed up in amazed joy; weeping and wailing faded into gasps of amazement and astonished laughter.

The people immediately decided that Jesus must be a great prophet. Both Elijah and Elisha had raised the dead (1 Kings 17:17-24, 2 Kings 4:18-37), so they figured that He must be someone like them. And, of course, they spread the word all throughout the land.

Father, Jesus made it all look so easy. But this amazing power was not limited to Him and His ministry. After Pentecost, even Peter and Paul were able to restore life at Your direction (Acts 9:36-42; 20:9-12). Lord, Your kingdom is no place for free spirits or mavericks who decide on their own what needs doing and then demand that You honor their decision. But when You clearly call us to do something, whether speaking words of healing, sharing the good news of the kingdom, or even raising the dead, we, as Your people, are required to obey, no matter how improbable the situation. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – May 31, 2017

Matthew 28:11-15 (NIV) While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.

Roman soldiers were the best-trained, most disciplined military force of the time. When they were assigned to guard something, even a body in a tomb, they did so knowing that if they failed in their duty, their own life would be forfeit.

These soldiers failed, not because they were remiss in their duties, but because they were assigned to stop God’s plan, to stand in the way of His will, and all such efforts will ultimately prove to be futile. They absolutely could have stopped any human plan to steal Jesus’ body, but they could not stop God’s power from causing Him to come back to life, nor could they stop the angel from rolling the stone away from the tomb.

Some of the guards stayed at their post, not sure exactly what to do since their charge was now missing, but unwilling to leave the scene unguarded. The rest went into town. They did not go to their commander to admit their failure to carry out their duty – death would be the only outcome of that path. Instead, they went to the chief priests, to tell them all that they had experienced.

The priests listened to their story, exchanging troubled looks between themselves. When the guards finished, these religious leaders had two clear options: they could admit that they were wrong and believe in Jesus, or they could try to take control of the situation. The first course would be a rejection of all that they stood for, all that they held as dear and true. To turn to the truth about Jesus in repentance would be an admission that, for at least the last three years, they had not been following God at all, but had actually been fighting against Him. Even though this path was the one that clearly followed the truth, it was too costly to them personally, so was rejected out of hand.

The other course was to preserve both their reputation and their positions by controlling the message. So they concocted a story of these elite Roman soldiers all falling asleep on watch and, while they were asleep, the disciples of Jesus coming through and stealing His body from the tomb. To them this seemed perfect. No one believed that a dead body could suddenly spring to life, so credibility was on their side. Stealing Jesus body to fake His resurrection seemed like exactly the kind of thing His followers would do. And it had the added benefit of putting the disciples entirely on the defensive. Breaking an imperial seal and stealing something that imperial guards were charged with protecting was a capital offense for anyone even remotely involved. The threat of their own crucifixion would keep Jesus’ followers in their holes for months; maybe even drive them out of the area for good!

There was one fly in the ointment: if the soldiers admitted to falling asleep on watch, it would be their own lives that would be forfeit. There was no way that they would be willing to stick to the fabricated story when a swift beheading would be the inevitable result. So they turned to a reliable solution, used by liars for long ages past: they gave the soldiers a LOT of money, and promised that they themselves would explain things to their higher-ups (in this case, Pilate), so that they wouldn’t suffer any harm or disgrace. To a group of soldiers who had fainted at the sight of the angel, and then run away in fear, this option seemed very attractive!

The plan worked as far as getting the corrupting message out. And, of course, those who didn’t’ want to believe that Jesus was the Messiah lapped up these “alternate truths” completely. But the truth is still the truth, even if everyone is taught to believe a lie.

Father, it is amazing to me to see these men, religious leaders, clearly know the truth, and then consciously decide to invent a lie to save their own positions and reputations. This was no instance of being mistaken or uninformed, but of purposefully turning people away from what was clearly true, and making them believe a lie instead. Jesus’ earlier assessment of these men in His parables and denunciations turned out to be altogether correct, and His pronouncement of their awaiting doom was well-merited. Help me, Lord, to never turn away from Your truth, to never seek an “alternate story” in order to save my position or reputation, but to simply cleave to the truth wherever it many lead me. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – May 29, 2017

Matthew 28:8-10 (NIV) So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

This is the first of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances to His followers – the first of many. The women, prepared for seeing Him alive again because of the angel’s announcement at the tomb, were not terrified by the sight of Him, but were filled with awe, and fell at His feet in worship.

All throughout Scripture, people, and even angels refused worship offered to them by people as completely inappropriate, redirecting people to worship God instead. But Jesus did not redirect the worship of these women. That is because worship of Jesus is actually entirely appropriate, because He is, in fact, God in the flesh. Jesus’ only response to the worship of these women was to tell them not to be afraid, and to reiterate the commission given to them by the angel: to remind the disciples to go up to Galilee for a meeting that had been arranged before Jesus had been arrested.

In all of this interaction with the women, note the swirling of intense feelings that ran through the whole event: fear, joy, and awe were intermixed, sometimes overlapping, as they often are when people are confronted with the Divine. But in it all, the emotions were overridden by the women’s devotion to Jesus, and their eager obedience to His commands.

Father, I see three things in this encounter that really stand out to me.  First, the women encountered the risen Jesus as they were already on their way to the disciples in obedience to the angel’s command. We, too will tend to encounter Jesus in the midst of obeying Your commands. Second, the appropriate response to Jesus’ presence is not to pull out our demands and our prayer lists, but to bow down in awe and worship. And finally, our actions need to be continually fed by our absolute devotion to Jesus, and our complete obedience to Your commands. Help me to keep all three of these truths at the center of my life, today and every day. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – May 28, 2017

Matthew 28:1-7 (NIV) After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.
There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.
The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”

The women returned to the tomb as had been planned. The previous evening they had watched the sun dip below the horizon, signaling the end of the Sabbath, and had made a beeline for a dealer in spices, where they bought what they needed. (See Mark 16:1.) Then they went back home to prepare everything for the following morning. By the time the sun was clearing the horizon, they were nearing the tomb, where an amazing sight awaited them.

Just before they rounded the last bend in the path to the tomb, a strong earthquake accompanied by a bright flash of light startled them. By the time they arrived at the tomb itself, the stone had been rolled away from the mouth of the tomb, ripping from its cords the clay seal that bore the mark of Pontius Pilate and the authority of the Roman Empire. And the streak of light had coalesced into the form of a man whose body and clothes shone like lightning. The guards were lying motionless on the ground, their minds shocked into a stupor by the stunning sights and sounds.

The women were shocked, too. Though rooted to the spot in fear, they kept their senses long enough to hear the angel give them the glad tidings: Jesus had risen from the dead. The tomb was empty. Then he pointed a glowing finger directly at them, and commissioned them to go and share the good news with Jesus’ disciples. And then he simply disappeared.

It didn’t take more than a quick glimpse into the tomb to tell them that the slab that had held Jesus’ body now only held the hollow, collapsed shell of the linen cloth that Joseph and Nicodemus had swathed Him in. It really was true! Jesus really had risen from the dead, just as He had promised! And so they turned back toward town.

Father, some good news seems almost too good to be true, even if it is delivered by a brilliantly shining angel. And this news was definitely that kind. Even though Jesus had foretold His resurrection numerous times, and promised that it would surely happen, the minds of His followers refused to accept it until it was delivered in such a way that they couldn’t possibly doubt. Help me to hear anew all of the great promises that You have made to me in Your word, and help me to have an open heart that doesn’t doubt, doesn’t question, doesn’t even try to figure out the whys and hows, but simply accepts your word and acts on it in faith. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – May 27, 2017

Matthew 27:62-66 (NIV) The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.”
“Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.

The chief priests and Pharisees had two big problems. First, they refused to accept Jesus for who He claimed to be, in spite of His mighty and inexplicable miracles, including such things as healing a man born blind (John 9), and resurrecting a man who had been dead for four days (John 11). They fully believed that when God did send the Messiah, He would do things their way, and would fully agree with their own ideologies. Since Jesus didn’t do those things, they rejected Him as the Messiah, despite all of the other signs that He performed.

Their second problem was that they had no idea of what God was actually able to do. The miracles in their Scriptures had become for them more like a mythology since, as far as they could tell, He didn’t do mighty miracles any more. (The miracles of Jesus they attributed to another source entirely – see Matthew 12:24.) Their religion was not a walk with God in power, but had degraded to dry forms, without any power at all.

Therefore, when it came time to deal with Jesus’ prophesied resurrection, the only means that they could think of that something like that could be pulled off in the “real world” was deception. His students could break into the tomb and steal the body, then show people the empty tomb and claim that He had been raised. It never entered their closed minds or hard hearts that Jesus could actually rise from the dead for real.

So they determined to use the best “real world” solution that they could think of: an imperial guard. When the soldiers of Rome were assigned to guard something, they guarded it with their lives. Pilate was easily persuaded to assign a guard. To be honest, he simply wanted all of this to go away. If guarding the tomb for seventy-two hours would stop all of the lunacy surrounding Jesus, then so be it.

Of course, God is not intimidated by earthly guards, or even whole armies or nations. Despite the fact that these Jewish leaders slept well that night, believing that they had done all that was necessary to prevent Jesus’ “resurrection,” before they woke the next morning, Jesus would be alive, the seal on the stone would be smashed by angelic power, and the imperial guard would be running to the city in complete terror.

Father, You are the Sovereign God, and what You determine to do will be done, no matter who tries to stand in Your way! The mightiest force on earth at the time couldn’t stop Your plan, and the mightiest forces on earth now or in the future can’t stop it either. Thank You for Your mighty power, and for Your ultimate unstoppable plan, which includes eternal life for all of Your people. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – March 21, 2017

Matthew 22:23-33 (NIV) That same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question.  “Teacher,” they said, “Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and have children for him.  Now there were seven brothers among us.  The first one married and died, and since he had no children, he left his wife to his brother.  The same thing happened to the second and third brother, right on down to the seventh.  Finally, the woman died.  Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?”
Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.  At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.  But about the resurrection of the dead–have you not read what God said to you, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”
When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at his teaching.

The Sadducees only accepted the five books of Moses (Genesis through Deuteronomy) as authoritative Scripture.  They argued that since there is nothing about a resurrection from the dead or even an afterlife, in those five books, it wasn’t real.  Their argument to Jesus, a woman with seven legitimate husbands, was designed to show how chaotic an afterlife and resurrection would be, with people squabbling over whose wife was whose, and with all having legitimate claims.  Surely God wouldn’t allow any kind of afterlife if it had potential to be that messy!

But Jesus showed them wrong on two key points. First, they did not know the Scriptures.  God’s revelation is progressive, with Him making Himself known at deeper and deeper levels as each generation learns and assimilates the previous revelations.  Thus the later writings, the history, the prophets, and the wisdom literature, show even more of God’s character, and throw additional light on the things He revealed about Himself in the earlier writings.  This is true all the way to the point that Jesus is the ultimate revelation of God, and throws everything that He revealed about Himself earlier into the clearest light.  (See Hebrews 1:1-3, and a lot of the rest of the book of Hebrews.)  By not accepting God’s later revelation as valid, the Sadducees had intentionally left themselves blind to important things in the earlier revelation that they did accept.

Second, they did not know the power of God.  The Sadducees were loath to accept any miracle.  Even though they accepted the miracles in the books of Moses, they were more deistic in their theology, believing that God didn’t work that way anymore.  This gave them a very narrow view of who God is and of what He is capable of accomplishing – even the ability to keep order among a woman and her seven husbands at the resurrection!

Jesus then made two additional points:  one, a clear teaching about the nature of the resurrection; the other a clear teaching about something the Sadducees had missed in the books of Moses.  The first teaching wat that the nature of the resurrection life is not just an extension of the natural life, but is supernatural in its very nature.  People are resurrected to a life of such intense focus on God and on serving Him that there is no space for marriage or giving in marriage, or for squabbling over whose wife is whose.

The second teaching is that the books of Moses really do support an afterlife and resurrection.  When God identified Himself to Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3:6), He used the present tense:  “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”  They were still alive in God’s presence even as He was speaking to Moses, long after their earthly lives were over.

Don’t miss the reaction of the listening crowd in verse 33.  Many people had for years bought into the theology of the Sadducees, partly because they were the party of the high priests, and partly because their logic seemed unassailable.  But Jesus’ teaching rang to true to their hearts that they suddenly saw everything in a new light – a light full of hope for a future in God’s presence.

Father, Jesus’ teaching shows us a lot, but way more than just about the afterlife and resurrection.  He also gives us greater confidence in Your word, and all of the depth of meaning that You have put into even the earliest writings for all who have eyes to see.  Thank You, Lord!  Amen.

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