The resurrection of Christ Jesus speaks both about His victory over sin and its death penalty on our behalf. We have been given a new birth by the Spirit. We also look for our own resurrection in Christ. Paul, not wanting the church at Thessalonica to be ignorant concerning those who have died in the Lord, that we “sorrow not,” states our hope in Christ’s resurrection, writing, “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. …For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first; then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:13–17).
When we received Christ as our Savior, we witnessed the glory of being resurrected from the darkness of sin and its consequences. Now we look forward to the resurrection of our bodies that we might live with our Savior for all of eternity. “Christ is risen; therefore, the bodies of the saints must rise. Christ did not rise from the dead as a private person, but as the public head of the church; and the head being raised, the rest of the body shall not always lie in the grave. Christ’s rising is a pledge of our resurrection. ‘Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus, shall raise up us also by Jesus’ 2 Cor iv 14. Christ is called the first-fruits of them that sleep 1 Cor xv 20. As the first-fruits are a sure evidence that the harvest is coming, so the resurrection of Christ is a sure evidence of the rising of our bodies from the grave” (Thomas Watson).
“As it began to dawn toward the first day of the week,” Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to 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.” Heaven testifies to the resurrection of Christ by sending a divine Messenger. The body of Jesus was put to rest on the sixth day of the week and it was raised new on the first day of the next week. The Son of God had commended Himself to the Father after making atonement for the sins of His people. On that third day, Christ claimed His body, a new and resurrected body.
The glory of God is revealed in the divine Messenger. “His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow.” The earth itself shook as it gave up the body. The guards also shook for fear, “and became as dead men.” The wicked shake at the sign of the glory of the Lord: Thus “the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing” (Psa. 2:1). When the Gospel is clearly preached and the presence of the Lord is shown, the wicked shake and cry “keep your religion in the pew.” Why such a fear? The Lord declares that He has set His King “upon the holy hill of Zion.” The banner of the Church of our Savior declares Him to be the King of kings. Our victory resides in the resurrected Lord. For the Savior testifies, “I will declare the decree; the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession” (Psa. 2:6–8). Christ, having accomplished His redemptive work on the Cross of Calvary, spoke out to the Father, “into Thy hands I commit my spirit.” He now sits at the right hand of God the Father. His resurrection reveals that the words of the Psalmist are true.
The angel of the Lord spoke to the women, “Fear not ye; for I know that ye seek Jesus, who was crucified.” The presence of the Lord is always comforting in the midst of our trials and tribulations. The angel points to the open tomb, saying, “Come, see the place where the Lord lay.” The women, having seen the tomb empty, were told to 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.”
The apostle John began his first epistle with these words, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the word of life; …That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.” We witness to the death and resurrection of our Savior through eyes of faith and the teaching of God’s Scriptures. Our witness must be of that which we have seen and heard by the Spirit through His Scriptures. Our joy is that in Christ, we not only testify to His saving grace, but also that because He is our Redeemer, we have fellowship with our heavenly Father. We rejoice also that this fellowship is with one another. To this fellowship we share the Gospel of Christ to others.
The women departed quickly from the tomb “with fear and great joy.” The women had hearts filled with the combination of fear and joy. Mark records that the women fled quickly from the tomb “for they trembled and were amazed” (16:8). They had witnessed the glory of heaven as they saw the angel and heard that Christ was alive. They were beyond themselves, unable to fathom all that they had seen and heard, their hearts filled with awe and joy. Truly their Lord was their resurrection and life.
As they went to see the disciples, “Jesus met them, saying, All hail.” A quiet word of greeting brought the women to bow down before Him: holding Him by the feet, they worshiped Him. Jesus took the fear from their hearts and gave them the message that when His disciples would go to Galilee, there they would see Him. “Christ is nearer to his people than they imagine. They needed not descend into the deep, to fetch Christ thence; he was not there, he was risen; nor go up to heaven, for he was not yet ascended: but Christ was nigh them, and still in the word is nigh us” (Henry).
Because Christ is present with us today, we can look upon Him by faith. We acknowledge His presence through the written Word of God. The Holy Spirit witnesses to our spirit that, in Christ, we cry out in prayer, “Abba, Father!” Our faith is not a religious experience, but an actual means of fellowship with God. This presence of Christ in the life of every true believer is expressed rightly in these words of Thomas Watson, who wrote that “Faith is a Christ-prizing grace, it puts a high valuation upon Christ. ‘To you that believe he is precious’ I Pet ii 7. Paul best knew Christ. ‘Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord?’ I Cor ix i. He saw Christ with his bodily eyes in a vision, when he was caught up into the third heaven; and with the eye of his faith in the Holy Supper; therefore he best knew Christ. And see how he styles all things in comparison of him. ‘I count all things but dung, that I may win Christ’ Phil iii 8.. Do we set a high estimate upon Christ? Could we be willing to part with the wedge of gold for the pearl of price?”
Faith not only acknowledges the presence of the risen Lord, but expresses the truth that, with eyes of faith, we see Christ. We obey Christ and His Word because He is truly with us. By faith we are made more and more like Christ, and so declare His presence as we grow in His righteousness, truth, and justice. “As a Chameleon is changed into the colour of that which it looks upon , so faith, looking on Christ, changes the Christian into the similitude of Christ” (Watson). If our worship and praise do not glorify Christ, do not reveal who He is and what He has accomplished in His death and resurrection, then there is not real worship and praise. If our prayers and Bible studies do not reveal the presence of Christ, then we have not rightly prayed and studied. The resurrected Lord has called us to witness, telling us to go and teach the nations, “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matt. 28:20). We teach because the Teacher is present. He is not only risen, He is with us!
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