What Does "He Is Risen" Mean for Us Today?
April 17, 2022
Pastor Peder Kling
Sermon Passage: Matthew 28:1–10
The sermon begins at minute 35:57. Unmute to listen.
Audio Only (with the Old Testament Scripture Reading)
Jesus Rose: A Reality of Overwhelming Implications
Every year around Easter Sunday, Christians all around the world flex their imaginations to consider the glorious morning which changed the world. Jesus rose from the dead—think of that moment. The empty tomb. The earthquake. The angel sitting on the stone that had been rolled back, as his white clothes shine like lightning. The soldiers trembling with fear as though they were dead. Peter and the apostles running back and forth from the tomb. How can you not picture yourself in that moment?! This is an awesome, crowning moment in the history of the world! Perhaps, you have imagined yourself standing next to Mary Magdalene, as she heard the first gospel proclamation through lips of the angel,
Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.
Don’t you love that? “Do not be afraid”, the angel says as he proclaims the resurrection of Jesus Christ to Mary Magdalene. She have all sorts of reasons to fear. Her Lord, whom she believed to be the Messiah was dead. She was left without the promises of the kingdom. She and all of those who followed Jesus were likely embarrassed, hopeless, confused and still under Roman oppression after their king was killed, and was buried for three days. “Do not be afraid”, the angel says to Mary, “he is not here, for he is risen as he said. Come, see [for yourself], then go”. What a moment that must have been for Mary.
It’s good to picture this moment, to place ourselves in it. It’s good to imagine that moment in Mary heart, when she instantly moved from fear, shame, and confusion to inexpressible joy and hope. Although, what’s truly amazing about the resurrection of Christ is that the its implications go far beyond simple joy and excitement that somebody rose from the dead.
Christ’s Resurrection: Its Comparisons and Its Consequences
So, what we’re going to do first, this morning, is compare Jesus’s resurrection to the other resurrections in the Bible. Just that little game of comparison will help us see a lot, I think. Then, we’ll consider four consequences of Jesus’s resurrection that demand our attention today.
Seeing Jesus’s Resurrection Through Comparison
Let’s take a moment to compare and contrast Jesus’s resurrection with other resurrection stories in the Bible. The Bible claims that other people rose from the dead—I count three examples in the Old Testament, and six in the New Testament. In the Old Testament, for example, Elijah rose a widow’s son from the dead, and Elisha rose the Shunnamite’s son from the dead. You might also recall that Jesus rose Lazarus and Jairus’s daughter from the dead. And there was great joy and celebration at all of these resurrections. Fear and sadness was turned to joy and wonder—just as we see in the story of Jesus’s resurrection.
However, did any of these other resurrection stories change the world like Jesus’s resurrection changed the world? Not really. Nobody is claiming to follow Lazarus. There was no worshipping the two children whom Elijah and Elisha brought back from the dead. But when Jesus rose from the dead, the world would never be the same. The reason is quite simple. Jesus rose on his own power, in his own merit. He claimed he’d do it, and then he did it! The others didn’t—God raised them from the dead, to make a point to Israel at the time.
Take yourself back to Israel at Elijah and Elisha’s time, for example. At the time, Baal worship had infested Israel like a plague, and God’s glory and power were being challenged. Baal was a false god whom Israel erected and worshipped as the God of life and fertility. If you worship Baal, the rains come and you get crops, and therefore life-giving food and water. That’s who Israel turned to. Yahweh’s singular claim to life was on full frontal assault in the hearts of his people. So, God sends two prophets to correct this misunderstanding and make a mockery out of Baal worship.
Elijah comes onto the scene in 1 Kings 17, and Israel is a Baal-worshipping country. Israel is going to Baal for the blessings of life—for water, rain, food, and other life-giving resources, not Yahweh. So, through Elijah’s ministry, God removes all these blessings of life from Israel with a devastating famine, and he begins to shower his blessings of life through Elijah’s hands. So at this point in Israel’s story, we find the prophets of Baal in Israel wasting away with all the other people. Meanwhile, Elijah was multiplying life-giving food and oil in a famished widow’s home who received him. He literally raised her son from the dead. Here, you see that where Elijah goes, there is a little garden of Eden when the rest of the Baal-worshipping region is plagued by death and curse.
Now, the widow’s response makes the point of all this very clear. In 1 Kings 17:24, Elijah says “See, your son lives”, and the widow responds, “Now I know that you are a man of God, and that your word concerning Yahweh is true”. Until that moment, that woman worshipped Baal. But God corrected her error—Baal worship brought her famine, Yahweh’s prophet brought her life. “Now I know”, she says.
You see, all the resurrection stories in our Bibles which lead up to Christ’s resurrection are designed to show us that God is the author and giver of life. We, sinful creatures seem to forget this all the time. Today, we don’t resort to Baal worship. We resort to worshipping ourselves—we claim that we ourselves can lay hold of life through adventure, a good job, nutrition and working out. And, there are results. The life expectancy of people who live this way is often a lot longer than the impoverished lifestyle of a third world agrarian lifestyle. But, then again, there’s cancer that can take a perfectly healthy person’s life in an instant. There’s car crashes, mental health issues that lead to suicide and an existence that feels like death despite all our healthy lifestyles. And of course, no healthy lifestyle is going to prevent aging, or bring someone back from the dead. Who is the giver of life?
Then there’s Jesus’s resurrection stories. Here’s where the comparison between resurrection stories really begins to shine a unique light on Jesus. During his ministry on earth, Jesus rose Jairus’s son, and Lazarus. However, there was something drastically different about the way Jesus did it, from the way Elijah and Elisha did it. Elijah and Elisha did it while claiming to be messengers of God—mere servants who spoke his words as prophets. The power did not come from them—they never claimed to have that sort of power.
Jesus came, however, with a much bolder approach. When word came to Jesus concerning Lazarus’s death, Jesus makes his way over to Lazarus’s tomb. Just before he brings Lazarus from the dead, we
find this dialogue between Jesus and Lazarus’s sister Martha (John 11:24)—
Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again." Martha said to him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day". Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”.
You see Elijah and Elisha came into dire situations, raising the dead, through God’s power. They were saying “Bale doesn’t give life—Yahweh gives life”. But now Jesus comes in and says “I am the resurrection and the life. I have power over life.” Why? Because “I and the Father are one. I’m God. I rose the Shunnamites son to life in the Old Testament, and now I’m here.” It’s amazing.
He said just before raising Lazarus (John 10:18), “No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again.” Jesus rose from the dead on his own merit, according to his own power—and this changes everything. This is why Jesus’s resurrection changed the world, and why it’s implications penetrate through history to today, for us.
What does the Resurrection Require?
Let me ask you—what would it take for a human person like Jesus of Nazareth to have power over his own death? Biblically speaking, death is the most painful part of the curse that God placed upon humanity for our sin and rebellion against him. It’s not simply the “natural process of the world”. It’s the most ugly and painful experience of the curse we are under for our sin and rebellion against God. For a man to have power over death means that he has power over the curse because he is not fundamentally a sinner under the curse. He is not in sin and rebellion against God—God is pleased with him rather than angry with him. So, for Jesus to have power over death does not simply mean that he’s fully God with all of God’s power, but that he, as fully man, never sinned against God. Death never had rights to him.
Hebrews says that Jesus became a priest who lives and intercedes forever in heaven. How? “By the power of an indestructible life”. Not the power of God, necessarily (although that’s true), but the power of an indestructible life. What’s the power of an indestructible life? Perfect righteousness before God—a life that God is completely pleased with, and will reward with everlasting blessing; a life that death cannot claim. In his perfect righteousness, Jesus could confidently say “I am the resurrection and the life—death and the curse has not ultimate hold on me”.
But did you hear what he said in John? “I lay my life down [to death, under the curse] on my own accord”. Why would he do that? You see, he didn’t simply come to destroy death and the curse for himself, but for us. You know, that famous verse, 2 Corinthians 5:21—“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” That is, so that we might have “the power of an indestructible life”. Do you believe that?
According to the Father’s plan, he became cursed and died for us, in our place, taking our sin upon himself so that our sin might be dealt with, God’s wrath satisfied, and that he might extend his righteousness to us, that we might literally become the righteousness of God wherein there is no death. By faith, brothers and sisters, you are the very righteousness of God. Does that not make your mind want to explode?
So, unlike other resurrections in the Bible, Jesus’s resurrection changes everything. He did it on his own accord, with his own power and righteousness. He did it for us, according to the Father’s plan, so that we might have life. You know, John 3:16? “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish [under the curse of death—whoever believes in me will never die], but have everlasting life [in him, in his righteousness, and in his heavenly kingdom].”
Four Life-Changing Consequences of Christ’s Resurrection
So in comparing Jesus’s resurrection to, say when Elijah and Elisha prayed to see the dead raised, we see a peculiar power and salvation at work in Jesus. Now, I want to take the rest of our time today and think more about some of the incredible implications of Jesus’s resurrection. Many of us think about the resurrection simply as something Jesus did, and we struggle to understand how it’s consequences bear down upon us today.
So, let’s consider four different ways Jesus’s resurrection applies to us today. When we do, I trust we’ll see our own empty tombs in the Easter story—we’ll see how immediately applicable the resurrection is for us this morning.
The first consequence pertains to the matter of identity. We need to learn more and more what it means to identify with Christ in his resurrection. We can discover this matter in Paul’s letter to the Romans—Romans 6:1–5. Look there with me for a moment. Starting in verse 3, Paul says this about us who believe in Jesus for salvation—
3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
Those are some amazing words, right there. “We were buried … with him … into death”. The next verse, verse 5 talks about being “united” with him in his death. What that means is that our old sin nature, our guilt, our citizenship with this broken world—it all went to the grave with Jesus. It’s all gone. The person you were when you were born into this world is done away with, and that’s good, because that person was cursed, under a heavy weight of God’s wrath. That person was subject to a painful death, unto hell. When Jesus went to the cross—and you with him—all of God’s wrath against you was satisfied, and your citizenship with this cursed world was rescinded.
What’s the logical next step, then? Jesus came out, bearing an authority to a new kingdom, promise for a new heaven and a new earth. He came out victorious over the curse, over the grave. And so, you with him, as you’re united with him. Verse 5 takes the logical step to glory—“we were united in a death like his, so we certainly will be united with him in a resurrection like his”. That’s future hope, right there. But—before we go there this morning, I want to focus on what this means for us right now, today. Do you see reference to that in this passage, here in Romans 6? Verse 4—“we were buried with him… in order that, just as Christ was raised…. we too might walk in the newness of life. Just as Christ was raised, we too might walk, today, in the newness of life. Why? Because, while we will be united with him in the future, God already reckons us as united to his new life, today. We’ve already died, our citizenship with this cosmos is gone—that means we’re citizens of heaven. We have the Spirit working life into our souls.
Does that not give more meaning to John 3:16? Many of us believe that the “everlasting life” begins after death. “Whoever believes in him will not perish, but have everlasting life”. But the wonder of the gospel, of Jesus’s work its application to us is that it is applied to us today. You will not perish—even when you die, because you have everlasting life, today! Remember, Jesus said “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet he shall live.” Then the next verse he might be found contradicting himself. He says “whoever lives and believes in me shall never die”. So, “though he dies, yet he shall live…. [and really, by the way] he shall never die”. Why? Because you’ve been walking in the newness of life—dead to the curse—since you believed.
So the question is—do you regard yourself as one who has died with Christ to this world, and therefore risen with Christ to new and everlasting life? No doubt, this should help you in any identity crisis you might have. Perhaps you are frustrated with work, and you don’t want to be associated with “those people”, or “that work”. Perhaps you are frustrated with parts of your life that necessarily identify you as “a poor person”, a “needy person”, a “drug addict”, a “divorced person”, a “bad parent”, or something of that sort. What this is all telling you is that you, with those worldly associations, have died with Christ, and that your identity is now in the new life of the resurrection. You are free to serve the king, joyfully, anywhere he places you—and, his smile upon you is infinitely better than “that other job”, or any other identity you think might make you happy in this world.
So, the first consequence of Christ’s resurrection that immediately bears down upon us this morning is the matter of identity. We “have been raised” and “seated” with Christ (Eph 2:6), and we’re citizens of his kingdom. Now, this doesn’t mean that you can just claim that identity and walk contrary to it. Verse 4, there, did say we were buried with him so that we might, really and truly, “walk” in the newness of life. That newness of life defines us, but so does the walk—and, that’s not a burden. It’s a freedom.
2) Freedom to Righteousness
Look with me at Romans 6 again, and see how Paul takes our union with Christ and applies it to our new calling to righteousness. Again, verse 5—
5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his….
Now, jumping ahead to verse 11,
11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do not let not sin reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
So, this is the resurrection applied to you, today, in your struggle against sin and temptation. This is walking in the newness of life. Verse 14 is an astonishing verse for us, this morning—“sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace”. You are a slave to grace, not the law. More identity language, but this is taking us directly into the freedom of the Christian’s walk, the Christian’s righteousness
How many of you, at certain times, feel completely under the rule and bondage of sin? Perhaps there’s one sin you simply can’t kick. Perhaps there’s a number of them. In those circumstances, I commend you to consider the power of the new life, the resurrection, that is offered to you by faith today. This does take work—a true discipline of faith. Living the new life by faith is not always easy, especially when temptation is crouching at the door. But the beauty in all this is that the power of the new life is not your own power. The life is not your own life—it’s God’s. You receive strength, joy, affections, and help through faith. Go to God by faith, plead to him if you have to. Read his word, fellowship with the saints, pursue his grace.
What did Jesus say to his weak and weary disciples in the garden? “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Watch and pray to the end that you might not even enter into temptation, for the spirit is willing and able to change you, that you might walk in the newness of life.
So, this is saying that the resurrection does not merely apply to your identity. You are not merely positionally rendered at God’s right hand in glory, as a citizen of heaven. You are actually given new life to enjoy, today. By faith and the power of the Spirit, you are given freedom to righteousness.
3) Freedom to Suffer, and Die to this World
But the New Testament reminds us that Christ’s resurrection, with the new life he secures for us, also gives us freedom to suffer and die to this world. That’s the third immediate consequence of Christ’s resurrection for us, this morning. We’re free to suffer.
The New Testament church was built upon men and women who suffered and died joyfully because they had confidence that they were united to Christ in his death and resurrection. Perhaps you remember Hebrews 10:34. There, the early Christians were commended for “joyfully accepting the plundering of [their] property, because [they] knew they had a better possession, and an abiding one” (Hebrews 10:34).
In other words, when the early Christians had their things taken from them, they rejoiced because they had died to this world and they had new life and hope in Jesus. They were freed from this world, and therefore freed to suffer.
This really is a powerful thing—dying to this world so that you might live to Christ. It’s not always a garden of roses. Dying to yourself can be ugly. It may involve some men confessing an infidelity in their marriage, and so lose their wives. But beauty follows—they will know Christ and the power of his resurrection. It may involve confessing other sins like lying, cheating, stealing—confessions that have painful consequences. I know seminary students who confessed that they cheated through seminary, and they lost their degree. But, they died to themselves to gain Christ. This can be painful—but, even as you experience those momentary consequences, you will find surpassing joy of knowing Christ and the power of his resurrection.
Dying to yourself and to this world is a lifestyle—those were some more weighty examples of this. But, its usually more mundane. It involves the humility of asking forgiveness when you sinned against your wife. It involves strategic thinking so that you can submit your time, energy, and resources to Christ. And in all this, you will experience the joy of knowing Christ and the power of his resurrection—his peace, comfort, fellowship, strength, love, and care. “This is eternal life, to know you and Jesus Christ whom you sent”, is what Jesus said in his last prayer. That’s eternal life—good fellowship with God.
Now, we’ve seen how Christ’s resurrection gives us (1) identity—and in that identity, we have (2) freedom to righteousness and (3) freedom to suffer and die to this world. Now, the underlining piece to all this is that Christ’s resurrection gives us hope.
The hope Christ offers through his resurrection is experienced in two ways. There is a hope we can expect and rely upon now or in the near future, but also a hope that involves eternity. And, both of these dimensions of hope are designed to motivate us in our service and worship.
So, what hope, or promise, does the resurrection give you for today to trust in?
Before Jesus went to the cross, he said to his disciples in John 14:16–18, “16 I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth… I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you… because I live, you also will live”. Or, you could think of the resurrected Christ who told his disciples in Matthew 28:20, “Go, make disciples of all the nations… and behold, I am with you to the end of the age”. Then, with that promise, he ascended to glory.
Jesus promises to be with us forever through his Spirit. He promises to help us, to guide us away from this world, toward him so that we might have life, and have it abundantly. He will not leave you in your sin—he will hound you until you confess it, die to yourself, and live to him. He will bestow upon you the fruit of his spirit so that you might grow to be more like him—content in all circumstances. And, that is our daily hope and expectation, rooted in the fact that Jesus is alive to hep us walk in his newness of life.
Then, of course, there is a much greater hope that we look forward to.
Christ is called our “hope of glory” in Colossians 1:27. We have hope after death—a hope of glory, not wrath. What are some ways we express our hope in eternity?
Perhaps one of the most beautiful-yet-morbid ways we express our eternal hope is in the concept of burial. Paul picks this up in 1 Corinthians 15 when he uses gardening imagery to refer to death. Christian don’t bury in despair, or as a way to grieve. They bury as an act of faith in the resurrection. Paul says, with reference to the buried,
42 What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.
Take a seed—there’s nothing special about it. But put it in the ground, and it will come out of the ground transformed into something far greater. God placed pictures of the resurrection all over creation for us to behold and marvel at, so that we need not fear death.
This hit me hardest when I saw a pastor once post a picture of young children digging their own father’s grave. He called it an “honor”. My mind had not yet begun to think of burying the dead as gardening yet, so this seemed like a way to torture children. Although, with a little “renewing of the mind” through Scriptures, I now see exactly what this pastor was referring to. These children were burying their father in faith—knowing that, like a seed, his body was sown in the ground so that it might rise again in glory.
When I first preached this point on burial last Easter in 2021, my father-in-law was in the pews listening to these very words. Little did we know that, only a few weeks later, he would experience a sudden and unexpected heart attack and die. Do you know what we got to do? Myself, my wife, my three boys, and Anna’s mom all took a shovel and planted grandpa in the ground because we trust that the Lord would one day bring him out in greater glory, as a seed comes out with the glory of a flower. God works in mysterious ways, doesn’t he?
George Herbert, a famous Christian poet, once said “death used to be an executioner, but the gospel [the resurrection] has made him just a gardener”.
So, there it is. When you picture yourself next to Mary or the disciple’s as they discovered the empty tomb on that glorious morning—or, when you picture them with the resurrected Jesus, know that God places you with the resurrected Jesus as well. Jesus’s empty tomb is simply the first of thousands that will be emptied one day. And until then, you can find comfort and strength in the Christ’s resurrection where you find identity, freedom to righteousness, freedom to suffer and die to this world, and an unshakable hope of glory. He accomplished all this on his own power, for our salvation.