Taking a "Good Look" at Jesus' ResurrectionJuly 10, 2023
When it comes to the resurrection of Jesus, we Christians are somewhat like humorist Ring Lardner when he looked out over that vast hole in the earth called the Grand Canyon for the first time. He wrote, "It is obvious that something has happened here." When we look into the resurrection of Jesus from the tomb, it's a classic understatement to say that it's obvious that something has happened. For those who look with the gift of Holy Spirit illumination, they see that something incredible, stupendous, supernatural, and victorious has happened. On the other hand those who look only with human intelligence, see something implausible, impossible, and immaterial as far as daily living is concerned.
We look with our eyes but see with our minds. Looking at the event of the resurrection isn't a matter of seeing things as they really are, but seeing them as we are. How we look at things is based on what we are like. This means that all are looking is done through a particular paradigm or worldview, so that we always see things, not as they are, but as we are.
Have you taken a "good look" at the resurrection of Jesus? How well do you see the resurrection of Christ?
A pastor friend tells a true story of a trial that took place in a courtroom in north-west Mississippi. A shooting had taken place and one old black man was the only material witness to the shooting. On the witness stand the defense attorney was questioning the old fellows ability to see clearly enough in the twilight to properly identify the man accused of the crime. He said, "Sir, how well do you see?" "I sees pretty good," replied the old man. "How far can you see at night?" asked the lawyer. The man paused and thought for a minute then asked, "How far it be to de moon?"
It's not how far you can see out, but how far you can see into the greatest event in history -- the bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus -- that matters. In other words it's not sight, but insight that really matters.
John Piper articulately summed up the importance of the right look at the risen Christ when he said, "If your life is flat, empty, without exhilaration, without significance, without a single and fulfilling orientation, it is because you do not see the risen Christ, for who be really is. Some of you see him scarcely at all, perhaps. Others have such a pitifully small and sentimental picture of him on the wall of your mind that you are starving for the real thing. If we could keep in view the risen Christ as be really is, our bottomless appetite for beauty and greatness and wonder would find satisfaction, and our lives would be unending worship and joyful obedience."
I. Three Ways of "Looking" at the Resurrection
A. A Curious Glance into the Empty Tomb -- Jn 20:5
The Greek word used for John's "looking in and saw," is "blepei." This is the common word for the way we look at most things throughout our day — a sweeping glance. The word means to see it, but not to see into it.
Many people today have the outlook toward the empty tomb that the disciple John initial possessed - that of the curious glance. The resurrection becomes the focus of their attention annually around Easter. They realize that something significant has transpired but it doesn't make any difference in their daily lives.
The word "blepi" is the word that is used in verses 1 and 5 of our text in chapter 9 of John. In verse one, Mary Magdalene came early to the tomb and "saw the stone taken away." The word "saw" is this word for a "curious gaze." She was very much interested in what she observed, but as yet she did not understand it. The same word is used for John's first look into the tomb in verse 5. "He stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying..." He, too, was puzzled, but did not yet understand.
Many people "experience" the resurrection today in this same shallow, superficial, powerless way. Their interest is casual, curious and kind. In fact, if they happen to attend church on Easter Sunday, they hear the music and are stirred. They listen to the sermon and "see" the Easter tokens with approval and appreciation, and may even join in with the rest when they give a hearty, Amen! But these sights and sounds make little if any difference in their spiritually dead hearts and absolutely no difference in their decent lifestyle. They don't get a "good look" at the reality and response the resurrection requires. Their "seeing" is only casual and curious and leaves them with no objection to the resurrection and no life-transforming experience of it either.
Without a good look" – a clear resurrection perspective, we are a lot like the little girl in Sunday school The Sunday school teacher asked her class of four year olds, "Does anyone know what today is?" One little girl said, "It's Palm Sunday!" "Very good," said the teacher. "And does anyone know what next Sunday is?" The same little girl lifted her hand again. "Yes, next Sunday is Easter," she announced. The teacher was very pleased with this little girl, and she complimented her effusively before asking a third question. "Now, does anyone know what makes Easter so special " The same little girl again raised her hand and offered this answer: "Yes, next Sunday is Easter because Jesus rose from the dead. Before the teacher could compliment her, she kept on talking: "but if he sees his shadow, he has to go back in for seven weeks?"
B. A Critical Look at the Empty Tomb -- 20:6
When Peter went into the empty tomb, he began to investigate every important detail, but he was baffled by what he saw at this point. The word, in verse 6, for his seeing, "theorei," is the word from which we get our word "theory", and it gives us an insight as to its meaning. Peter examined the situation inside the tomb carefully, critically, questioningly, like a good detective would, trying to make sense out of what he was looking at. He began to develop a theory as to what the absence of the body of Jesus could mean. He looked critically and carefully, but he only had logical deductions and psychological sight. At this point, he could draw no real spiritual conclusions. He saw only with critical sight.
A critical look can be used to find the truth or only to prove what one has already precluded about the event. Some cases in point: Controversial, extremely liberal Bishop John Shelby Spong, Episcopal Bishop of Newark, New Jersey, in his book "Resurrection -- Myth or Reality?" presents the Easter story as "late developing, pious legends." He writes "There was no visit of the women to the empty tomb at dawn on the first day of the week because there was no tomb. The body of Jesus was in all probability placed in an unmarked common grave used for criminals, covered and forgotten. Other elements of the story like angels who descend in earthquakes to speak, to cause soldiers to faint, and to roll back stones covering the tomb; ... thieves who converse from their crosses of pain these are legends all, sacred legends, but legends, nonetheless."
John Dominic Crossan, co-chairman of the Jesus Seminar, claims that after the crucifixion the body of Jesus was throw in a shallow grave and eaten by wild dogs! He claims His burial in a tomb was "wishful thinking." What evidence does he have from any source at all? He has none! He states it is merely his "hunch". He does not even consider the evidence of other scholars.
Barbara Thiering, in "Jesus The Man" says Jesus was poisoned, did not die upon the cross, but was buried in a tomb which was actually a latrine. It was so cold he recovered with help from Simon Magus and Judas, who also had been crucified, their legs broken, and who were buried with Him. Jesus drank some aloe juice, which purged out the poison. The guard was really the latrine attendant. A second latrine attendant removed the stone, helped Simon Magus (who had both his legs broken) carry Jesus out. Mary Magdalene, who was pregnant to Jesus, was there but did not recognize Jesus standing there until He said "Mary". He said, "Do not touch me," because he was dirty from the diarrhea which expelled the poison. He and Mary traveled to Rome where he lived for thirty years. Imagination run riot! Where is the evidence to support these imaginings? There is none. These are speculative imaginings based on a false reading of the New Testament rejected by the vast majority of scholars.
Why do Spong, Crossan and Thiering make these claims that the Resurrection of Christ is myth, not reality? Because myth not reality, is the inevitable consequence of their presuppositions. They work from a basic assumption of prejudice against anything that is supernatural. They believe only those things for which they can find a naturalistic explanation.
Yet there are many who love Jesus, like Peter and John, but still don't have a "good look" at the implications of His resurrection.
Luke 24:12, "Then arose Peter, and ran unto the sepulcher; and stooping down, he beheld the linen clothes laid by themselves, and departed, wondering in himself at that which was come to pass."
Peter was marveling to himself at what had happened. He knew something spectacular had happened because of the condition of the grave clothes, but because he had forgotten the words of Jesus, he did not yet understand.
The fact is that you can know that Jesus rose from the dead, but unless you know something of His words as found in the Bible, it won't make sense. Unless you know the basics of the life and teachings of Jesus, you don't know that the resurrection means that the God has been glorified, propitiated and satisfied with the payment that Jesus made for our sins on the cross, and as verification of this, He raised Him from the dead. You don't know that the cross was the payment and the empty tomb is the receipt. You don't know that the resurrection proved that Jesus was who he claimed to be — God manifest in the flesh. You don't know that death's grip has been broken and it's sting detoxified, and that it no longer has a hold on God's redeemed people. You don't know that when God's love and man's hate battled at the cross, God's love won. You don't know that because Jesus was raised from the dead, we can be resurrected in Him and that resurrection power can fill you this hour!
C. A Comprehending Look -- 20:8
"Then went in also that other disciple, who came first to the tomb, and he saw, and believed." The Greek word for "saw" is "eiden". It describes the Holy Spirit illuminating, eye-opening, heart-reaching, life-transforming insight of a true believer in Jesus Christ. From this word we get our English word "idea". John got the idea! He looked a second time looked through the trappings and trimmings on the inside of the tomb and saw the truth of the resurrection. He very well may have said, "Wow! Now I get it! I see!!!" Mary and Peter had sight, but John had insight.
Peter "entered" (aorist tense) and "went on beholding" (present tense). What they were examining was the cocoon-like wrappings that were the customary coverings for a dead body in that time. Along with the mummy-like body wrappings, which extended up across the shoulders, there was a "napkin," or a head covering. In a Jewish burial of that day, the head was wrapped in a separate covering which had the neck-space between it and the body-wrapping. The body of Jesus had "vaporized," in effect; it had vanished, dematerialized, disappeared. Nothing had happened to the burial clothes at all. They had not been touched or manually rearranged. They were simply there but without the body.
When John saw this, he "believed."
John Newton, in his famous hymn, said it this way: "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I'm found, was blind, but now I see."
II. The Biblical Way of Looking at Jesus' Resurrection
The resurrection of the Lord Jesus is the central fact of human history, the greatest evidence of Christianity, the greatest assurance of coming glory, the whole alphabet of human hope. In the resurrection conflict is turned into conquest. When our Lord said "It is finished," the apparent victim became the Victor.
A. The resurrection of Christ was the demonstration of the virtue of His life.
How? Because when He entered those dark cavernous jaws of death, the only claims or authority that death had, the guilt produced by sin, had been rendered invalid in that the penalty for sin had been paid. Thus, with the sins of His covenant people no longer upon Him, death no longer had any claims upon Him. When He was raised from the grave the third day, Almighty God was attesting to the fact that there was absolute virtue in His life, absolute sinlessness in His being, or else he would have never been raised from the grave.
B. The resurrection demonstrated the value of His death.
It proved that Jesus Christ was for real. That He was not a myth, nor a mirage, but the miraculous God-man - that He was everything He claimed to be. When asked for credentials to prove His identity, He gave only one. He said as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the fish, even so must the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the earth and then come forth. The resurrection was His one credential. Everything else hinged upon the fact that if He were not raised from the dead, then His credentials were false and He was a counterfeit.
When He was raised from the grave, it was not as a good man, but as the God-man; not as a martyr but as the Messiah; not as a revolutionary, but as a Redeemer; not a Truth-bringer but a Sin-Bearing, Salvation-bringing Messiah.
C. The resurrection was the demonstration of the victory of Christ over sin, Satan and the grave.
"Therefore will I divide Him a portion with the great. He shall divide the spoil with the strong." The penalty for sin has been paid. That which was premeditated murder on the part of the Romans was predestined salvation for God's ruined people. At Calvary, Divine justice laid hold of and arrested and exacted the penalty upon the Son of God for the crimes of becoming the surety, substitute, and sin-bearer for His people. The cords of eternal retribution bound Him in the prison house of death and the pangs of hell got hold of Him. His incarceration in the prison of skulls and skeletons filled angels with alarm, demons with delight and the disciples of Jesus with despair. However, three days later, the Judge of the Supreme Court of the Universe ratified the redemptive work of the Lord Jesus Christ by issuing a universal decree and deputizing an angel to go down and open the seal, defying the strongest government in the world. Then having flung aside the stone, he must have said something like this to Jesus: "The Father has sent this word - it is finished!"
Yes, He arose in His own power. Yet what He did was not like a prison escape. He did not break out of the prison of skulls and skeletons only to have to go into hiding like an escaped felon. The law was satisfied and the Supreme Court of this universe verified the fact by sending and angel to throw aside the stone and say, as a designated officer of the Law of God - "Arise my Love, no more suffering, death no longer has a hold on you, Arise, Arise!”
Take a good look! Christ's Resurrection has reclaimed the glory of His Father's name, resolved the debt of sin, removed the devil's hold over the world, and reconfigured death. Prior to the resurrection of Christ, the place where the dead were buried was called a "necropolis" --city of the dead"; after the stone was rolled away from Jesus' tomb, death's name for the believer and death's place was reconfigured. Death became known as falling asleep. The Necropolis -- city of the dead - became a cemetery -- a koimeterion -- which comes from the Greek word koimao, koy¬mah'-o -- to put to sleep. Our word dormitory, a place to sleep comes from this word. Death becomes a dormitory -- a changing room, where this mortal puts on immortality.
Death is no longer a prison house. Instead it has become a passageway to glory for all of those that have fallen in faith at the feet of King Jesus. Death is no longer a potentate over the kingdom of skulls and skeletons, but instead it has been made the porter transporting all of those who die in Jesus safely into His presence.
"He breaks the power of canceled sin; He sets the prisoner free."
"Up from the grave He arose with a mighty triumph over His foes!"
All of the early church went forth as resurrection power-filled soldiers of the cross, confronting pagan darkness and depravity, powerful demons, and painful diseases, not with just a word of proclamation but with a demonstration of the power of God. They demonstrated that resurrection life infilling them in the now gave them Power over Disbelief; Power over Demons; Power over Disease; Power over Death
III. The Resurrection of Jesus Requests Your Personal Investigation
Just as the angel had a word for these ladies on resurrection morning, likewise, he has a word for us. Matt.28:6: "He is not here, for He is risen as He said. "Come see the place where the Lord lay." The first part of angels message was:
A. Investigate the Empty Tomb's Witness.
I want to challenge any unbeliever - investigate the tomb. Don't write Christianity off as a crutch for people who cannot help themselves. Do not write it off as just another religion. Investigate first the empty tomb. Many who were honest enough to do so found their lives forever changed.
Lew Wallace intended to write a book presenting Jesus as a mere man. The problem was that Lew Wallace had never even bothered to consider the evidence. He concluded that if he were going to write such a book, he should at least have the intellectual honesty to examine the evidence. As a result, he began to sift through the New Testament records. When he had concluded his research, he had come to the glorious conclusion that Jesus was not a mere man. He became convinced that He was none other than Almighty God Himself, manifested in human form. Lew Wallace's conversion to Christ compelled him to write that great classic,"Ben Hur", in which he declares without equivocation the deity of Jesus Christ.
Simon Greenleaf was an outstanding professor of law at Harvard University. He wrote a book, that is still used in many law schools today, on the basis for determining evidence in a court of law. Simon Greenleaf was an unbeliever who constantly ridiculed Christians. After listening to one of his harangues against Christianity, one of his students challenged him to employ the same procedure that he had developed to determine evidence in a court of law to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He accepted the challenge, and as a result was soundly converted to Christ. Investigate the empty for yourself!
B. Propagate the Evident Truth in Wonder.
The angels second command was "go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead." In other words, after you have come to know the Risen Lord, after you have been convicted of the truth of His person and work and converted to the faith, the next command is to propagate the evident truth.
Herb Hodges said, "Feet that once were as heavy as lead because of the dead weights of despondency, depression, despair, disappointment, and disillusionment, were now as light as feathers as each began to realize Christ's incredible victory over death. Each became like a world-class runner, oblivious to everything else, totally captured by the victory of the resurrection and the Person of the Risen Christ. It is no accident that all four Gospels show us bright-faced, breathless runners as the practical expression of the resurrection, because the resurrection gloriously brings a new impulse, a new vitality, a new vigor, a new movement, a new momentum, a new excitement, a new and unbelievable joy, a new exhilaration to life.
"Never lived a greater joy than that breathless moment when angels standing near the tomb whispered, 'lo! He lives again!' Spread the truth to every nation! Sing abroad in exaltation! Hail the God-sealed confirmation! Alleluia! Easter morn!"
What kind of witness are you giving to this glorious, liberating truth that Jesus Christ can "break the power of canceled sin and set the prisoners free"?
Are you living in the power of His resurrection? What difference does the resurrection make in your life? Are you thrilled at the thought and implications of what it means for Jesus Christ to be resurrected from the grave?
What will death and resurrection be for you? Will it be a resurrection unto life eternal or unto eternal damnation?
I closed with the words of John Piper: "Here is our Easter witness to the world: The risen Christ is your King and has absolute, unlimited authority over your life. If you do not bow and worship him and trust him and obey him you commit high treason against Christ the King, who is God over all. Easter is God's open declaration that he lays claim on every person and tribe and tongue and nation. Easter has to do with power and authority. Easter is the claim of the risen Christ on every life that breathes. "All authority on earth is mine. " Your sex life is his to rule; your business is his to rule; your career is his to rule; your home is his; your children are his; your vacation is his; your body is his; He is God! So if you resist his claim, feel no admiration for his infinite power and authority, and turn finally to seek satisfaction from thrills that allow you to be your own master, then you will be executed for treason in the last day. And it will appear so reasonable and so right that you should be executed for your disloyalty to your Maker and Redeemer that there will be no appeals and no objections. Your life of indifference to the risen Christ and of half-hearted attention now and then (perhaps on Easter) to a few of his commandments will appear on that day as supremely blameworthy and infinitely foolish, and you will remember this sermon and weep that you did not change."
Have you taken a good look at the resurrection? Have you encountered the Resurrected Christ through the Word of God by the Spirit of God, so that you have really seen, not just casually, nor critically, but comprehendingly, that Jesus is alive and is none other than your Lord and your God?