St. Peter and St. John Run to the Sepulchre

“Raised According to the Scriptures”

“Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

Scripture Readings: Isaiah 53:10-12; Hosea 6:2; Mark 16:1-8; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11
Text: 1 Corinthians 15:3-4

Songs (sing along):
When in the Night I Meditate (Psa 16)
Christ the Lord is Risen Today
O Lord, By Thee Delivered (Psa 30)
The Day of Resurrection
O Day of Rest and Gladness

April 8, 2010 (at United Evangelical Church in Vigan)

St. Peter and St. John Run to the Sepulchre by James Tissot, 1886-94 (click to enlarge)
"St. Peter and St. John Run to the Sepulchre" by James Tissot, 1886-94 (click to enlarge)

During a recent evangelistic crusade, there was an informal survey of attendees, and one of the questions asked was: “What is the best summary of the Christian gospel?” Thirty-six percent said the gospel is “living for God” (which probably means doing good works) while only 35 percent said the gospel is “Christ’s life, death and resurrection.” Only 1/3 of evangelicals know what the gospel is all about!

On this Lord’s Day, we joyfully remember his resurrection. All of Christianity knows the Biblical resurrection story of the women, Peter and John going to the tomb of Jesus early in the morning of the third day and finding no one, except an angel who announced the good news, “He is not here. He is risen!”

Unbelievers, however, beginning with the Jews, have always concocted myths to disprove the resurrection of Christ. In danger of being executed for dereliction of duty, the guards cooperated with the chief priests to save themselves. The chief priests, who were also in an untenable dilemma after Jesus’ body disappeared from the tomb, told the guards to spread the rumor that the disciples stole the body during the night (Matt 28:11-15). Considering that several men would have had to roll back the huge stone unnoticed by the sleeping Roman guards, this story is unbelievable at best.

The latest hoax is a documentary on Discovery Channel called “The Lost Tomb of Jesus” where the writers and producers claim that the family of Jesus had a family tomb. In the tomb, they claim, are ossuaries labeled “Mariamne,” “Jesus,” “James” and seven other members of the family. How does one know that these bodies are actually members of Jesus’ family? Are these names, very common among Jews, used exclusively by one family?

The foremost chapter in the Bible where the doctrine of Christ’s resurrection is taught is 1 Corinthians 15. Paul begins the chapter with a creedal summary of the gospel that 2/3 of evangelicals today miss:

“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved… For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Cor 15:1-4).

Paul then points out the historicity of the resurrection, saying that all of the apostles saw the resurrected Jesus, and on one occasion, 500 disciples saw him. I was raised in an evangelical church where one of our favorite songs was a sentimental 1933 composition entitled “He Lives!” In the last two lines of the refrain, we heartily sung in a louder voice:

You ask me how I know He lives:
He lives within my heart.

Is it not surprising that even with all the objective historical and biblical data on Christ’s resurrection, many Christians answer the question on how they can know that Jesus is risen with a subjective “He lives within my heart”? To be sure, Jesus “lives” in us because the Holy Spirit indwells us in our union with Christ (Rom 8:9-11), and “the Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Rom 8:16). But the idea that Jesus lives within a believer’s heart is not found anywhere in Scriptures.

Paul next argues that if there is no resurrection, our faith is in vain, we are liars, we are still in our sins, and because of these, we are the most pitiable of all people  (1 Cor 15:14-19).

One of the things commonly asked in Paul’s creedal statement is his statement that the death and resurrection of Christ are both “in accordance with the Scriptures.” What Scriptures was he referring to? It was, of course, the canonical Old Testament. While there are only a few references to the resurrection in the Old Testament, the writers of the New Testament clearly use them in their discussion of the resurrection.

Today, we also have the New Testament, which completes the Word of God. In it, the writers develop our doctrine of the resurrection of Christ. These writers also explain why Christ’s resurrection is of utmost importance to the Christian faith, and to the doctrine of the future bodily resurrection of all those who believe in Christ.

Paul’s creed says that the death and resurrection of Christ was “according to the Scriptures.” Where do we find the doctrine of Christ’s resurrection in the Old Testament? We will first survey the Old Testament landscape before going to the New Testament.

On that resurrection morning, Luke tells us about two disciples walking from Jerusalem to the town of Emmaus, a distance of about seven miles. They were talking about the events concerning Jesus’ last few days, especially his crucifixion and of the empty tomb that morning.

Jesus then joined them on the road, but the two disciples did not recognize him. After asking what they were talking about, he explained to them, “Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory.” Luke goes on to say that Jesus, “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets,” “interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:24-27). Again, Jesus appeared to the 11 apostles in Jerusalem and told them, “everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled… Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead” (Luke 24:44-46).

What does the Old Testament actually say? This afternoon, we will dwell on the theme, “Raised According to the Scriptures.”

1. In “the Law of Moses”
2. In “the Psalms”
3. In “the Prophets”
4. In the New Testament

In “the Law of Moses”
One of the earliest figures we find in the OT who believed in the resurrection is Abraham. God commanded him to sacrifice his covenant son Isaac on the altar. How would he have children as numerous as the stars in heaven when his only son Isaac would be killed as a child? Hebrews 11:19 has the answer, “He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.” He trusted in God’s promises completely, that even if his only son Isaac was sacrificed, God is so mighty that he could raise Isaac from the dead!

Abraham also believed in life after death, since he considered his earthly life only as a temporary pilgrimage on the way to heaven, “For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (Heb 11:10).

In “the Psalms”
Job, even in his terrible sufferings, believed in the resurrection, declaring to his friends, “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another” (Job 19:25-27). His description of his “Redeemer” as one who “lives,” and later his belief that he shall see God in his flesh can only mean that the one he calls his Redeemer is God himself. Because he believed in a bodily resurrection, he will see God even after he dies and his body is corrupted.

In Psalm 16:9-11, David praises God because God “will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.” Even in the grave, God will not abandon his people, or let their bodies decay, implying that they will not stay in the grave, causing them to rejoice fully and enjoy “pleasures forevermore.” In Acts 2:25-28, Peter cites this psalm of David in his Pentecost sermon, saying that David as prophet “foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ” (Acts 2:31). In Acts 13:35, Paul applies the words of David in Psalm 16:10 to a risen Jesus when he preached to Jews in a synagogue in Pisidian Antioch.

In “the Prophets”
Possibly, Hosea 6:1-2 is the Old Testament text most directly used in the New Testament references to Christ’s resurrection “on the third day, ”After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up.” Verse 1 says that Israel will be healed and restored after it is struck down. Thus, Israel’s destruction, and then its revival on the third day is used by New Testament writers as a foreshadow of Christ’s resurrection on the third day after his death.

But the greatest prophecy of Jesus’ humiliation and exaltation in the Old Testament can be found in Isaiah 53, a description of the person and work of the Suffering Servant. Isaiah describes the substitutionary death and the vindication, after death, of God’s Servant.

After he makes an offering for guilt in his death, Christ will be raised from the dead and accomplish several things. After his death, he will oversee the preaching of the gospel to all the nations by his appointed apostles and ministers. He shall see his offspring,”  those who believe in him, because he “shall prolong his days” forever. God’s eternal will and plan for his people “shall prosper in his hand” as he accomplishes all that the Father had commanded him (Isa 53:10). As the number of his people continues to be completed, “he shall see and be satisfied” (Isa 53:11) that “a great multitude that no one could number” (Rev. 7:9), will be “accounted righteous” because of his death and resurrection (Isa 53:11; Rom 4:11–12). After his victory over sin and death, “he shall divide the spoil with the strong,” giving his offspring an inheritance of eternal blessings in heaven, where he now “makes intercession” for them before God’s throne (Isa 53:12).

On various occasions, Jesus himself predicted his death and resurrection from the grave after three days (Matt 16:21; 20:18-19; Luke 24:46; John 2:19). At one point, Jesus used Jonah’s three days “in the belly of the fish” as a type of his burial for three days “in the heart of the earth” before his resurrection (Jonah 1:17; Matt 12:40).

In the New Testament
The New Testament writers interpreted the Old Testament texts about the resurrection as being fulfilled in the resurrection of Christ and of his people “in accordance with Scriptures.” But their emphasis was not only on the facts about the resurrection, but also on the benefits that believers in Christ derive from his resurrection.

The first benefit is that by his resurrection, Christ was able to make believers partakers of his own righteousness, justifying unholy believers before a holy God, ““[Jesus] was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification” (Rom 4:25). Paul speaks of salvation and justification as a resurrection from death unto life, already inaugurated in his own resurrection (Rom 6:13; Eph 2:5).

Secondly, Christ’s bodily resurrection is a pledge of the believer’s own bodily resurrection, “Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.” (Rom 6:8). Paul says that our resurrected, glorified bodies will be incorruptible and imperishable (1 Cor 15:50-53). John is also confident that when Christ returns, we will receive a glorious, immortal body just like Christ’s, “We know that when he appears  we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).

The third benefit of Christ’s resurrection is that it guarantees new life for us here and now until our own resurrection, “Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Rom 6:4). This means that there is no such thing as a “carnal” Christian. When we are united to Christ, we are dead to sin, regenerated, new creatures, resurrected and born again. How can such a person continue to live in sin?

How is it possible for a Christian to be transformed by the resurrection of Christ? God’s life-giving Spirit raised Christ from the dead. In the new covenant, the Holy Spirit gives us a new heart, and he writes his law on our hearts, as he says in Ezekiel 36:27, “And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” Jesus promised that when he went back to heaven, he will pour out his Spirit on all his people, and the Spirit will indwell them. As the Spirit indwells them, he enables them to live a life of obedience to God.

Dear friends, as you remember our Lord’s death and resurrection 2,000 years ago, think on these things:

In accordance with the Old Testament Scriptures, Christ was crucified for your sins and was raised from the grave. This only shows that God’s plan of salvation is from before the creation of the world and is a unified plan. In the New Testament, the emphasis is on the benefits that you receive from the resurrection of Christ: your justification, a promise of your own resurrection, and a guarantee of a new life for you.

Just as Christ rose from the dead to conquer death, we too are raised to a new life of holiness and good works. This is only possible because Christ poured out his Holy Spirit on us, and the Spirit gave us new hearts and wrote God’s law on our new hearts. Live therefore as resurrected people indwelt by the Spirit of holiness! Amen.

Also preached at Pasig Covenant Reformed Church on April 4, 2010.