Alive In Christ - Easter 2020
I would like to begin this morning with the account in Matthew of the Resurrection of Jesus. Let us consider Matthew 28:1-10,
Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”
Do you remember these words from the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 1:16-20,
I do not cease to give thanks to the for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which He has called you, what are the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of His power towards who believe, according to the working of His great might that He worked in Christ when he raised Him from the dead...
Matthew describes many powerful events surrounding Jesus’ resurrection.
The women experienced a great earthquake on their way to see the tomb.
A powerful angel had descended from heaven and moved the large stone that sealed the grave.
For fear of this angel the mighty Roman guards trembled in fear and became like dead men.
And yet, the most powerful event had already taken place and had gone unseen by everyone.
We read in Matthew 28:5-6, “But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.”
The apostle Paul describes this moment in Ephesians 1 by saying, “...according to the working of His great might that the Father worked in Christ when he raised Him from the dead...”
In that moment, behind all of these other visible events Christ had been raised from the dead by the working of the Father’s great might.
Just beyond the perception of all of the people:
a condemned man’s blasphemous words had been vindicated and His words were found to be true
a man who had been crucified now walks
a dead man now has been given an indestructible life
Consider the response of these women as they are told that Jesus was alive and that they would see Him in Galilee.
We read in Matthew 28:8, “So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell His disciples.”
Having just witnessed the power of an earthquake, a mighty angel, the removal of a large stone from the entrance of the tomb, and these Roman soldiers cowering in fear; these women now departed in haste because there was a promise that they would see something greater than all of these things. They ran in hope that the might see the resurrected Christ.
Confronted with the news that Jesus was alive, all of these other things lost their fascination. All of these things lost their appeal.
They did not need to stare at an angel who was as lightening and whose clothes were white as snow.
They did not marvel at the angels strength in removing such a large stone which had sealed the tomb.
Nor did these women desire to to bask in this moment when these Roman soldiers, who had oppressed them and their Lord for so long, now trembled at these events and became like dead men. They said nothing to them. They did not take this moment to scoff, jeer, mock at them.
They left in haste to see Jesus!
We all come here this morning in the midst of so many distractions.
Concerned about a worldwide pandemic.
Worried about our financial situation.
Dismayed about our nations ability to recover.
Yet, in comparison to the LIFE that we see in the resurrected Christ we ought to find ourselves leaving these things with haste at the promise of seeing Jesus Christ.
Not all of these distractions are bad. I long to see all of the “new life” that begins to appear in the Spring time. Throughout the winter months, when I am tired of the snow, of the cold and the harsh conditions; even the thought of Spring can make my heart experience great joy.
Over the last several weeks during all of these things that are going on I have often been so thankful that this has happened at the beginning of Spring. It would have been much worse if we were confined to our homes during the winter months when we would not have had so many of the blessings that we have to look upon right now.
Have you noticed the new buds that are on the branches of the trees?
Have you enjoyed watching the snow receding from your yards and then watched the grass begin to turn green?
Have you looked upon the plants and flowers which are beginning to sprout up from the recently frozen ground?
Have you looked up into the sky and seen the birds beginning to return? Have you enjoyed listening to the beautiful songs as they sing?
Have you taken time to enjoy the noise of all the frogs that sing out as the sun begins to set each evening?
When all of this begins to happen it is not uncommon for us to hear it said that we are seeing the ‘new life’ that is all around us. And yet, all of these things are really not ‘new life’ at all.
The frogs have simply come out of their winter hibernation.
The birds that are singing are all returning from their Southern migration.
The grass that is turning green was there last year
The flowers that are beginning to sprout are perennials that can survive our winters.
The trees that we are seeing the buds on are many years old.
It is right for us to love Spring and to celebrate all of these things. And yet, it is on Easter Sunday that we have an opportunity to remember and to celebrate what can genuinely be said to be - ‘New Life’. We have an opportunity to be like these ladies who quickly went off to see Jesus forsaking any other distraction or fascination.
Consider what Paul says about this new life in Romans 6:9-10. He says, “We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.”
What else could we possibly look upon to find such life?
The irony of that scene at the tomb is that those mighty Roman soldiers were like dead men; and the dead man in the grave that they were guarding rose again to life in great power. He will never die again, death no longer had dominion over Him.
Why are we so preoccupied with these things which pass away?
Isaiah 40:6-8 says, “A voice says, ‘Cry!’ And I said, ‘What shall I cry?’ All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the LORD blows on it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.”
This morning, God’s Word is calling out to us to seek the Risen Christ.
So many find their comfort apart from God and His enduring Word.
They trust in the things that will wither and fade when the LORD blows upon them.
So many people will not pause on this special day to consider the resurrection of Jesus.
Instead their souls will be distracted by any number of things which compete for their attention.
John Flavel, the old puritan preacher once wrote, “...mourn after the Lord till you have found Him; if you seek Him, He will be found. It may be that you shall have a thousand comforters come about your soul, in such a time: they will seek to comfort you instead of finding your comfort in God, these comforters will seek to repair your loss of Christ. Despise them all, and say, I am resolved to sit at a widow until Christ return; he, or none, shall have my love.”
On your journey to see the risen Christ this morning consider a few things so that your faith might grow and so that your heart may not be discouraged along the way. Consider these things so that upon seeing Christ you might fall at His feet and worship Him as these women did. That is what we read in Matthew 28:9, “And behold, Jesus met them and said, ‘Greetings!’ And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him.”
Consider what John Flavel says, “Certain is it that out of Christ’s condemnation flows our justification; and had not sentence been given against Him, it must have been given against us. O what a melting consideration is this! That out of His agony comes our victory; out of His condemnation, our justification; out of His pain, our ease; out of His stripes, our healing; out of His gall and vinegar, our honey; our of His curse, our blessing; out of His crown of thorns, our crown of glory; out of His death our life: if He could not be released it was that you might. If Pilate gave sentence against Him, it was that the great God might never give sentence against you.”
As we come to Jesus we are welcomed by Him with all the mercy, love, grace and kindness that is contained in His boundless nature. Consider these words by Richard Sibbs, “God emptieth Himself into Christ, as mediator. In Him are the fulness of all riches, the treasures of all wisdom and knowledge. We are completed in Him, and in Him we are full.” Then Sibbs adds these beautiful words, “His is not only a fulness of the vessel, as ours is, but a fulness of the fountain. And it is for our comfort that it is so, that God’s love is to Christ first. There is a firm foundation when God loveth us in His Son, and we are children in his natural Son, in whom we are adopted.”
Our text in Ephesians 2:4-10 makes it clear that when we come to Christ we find our new life in Him. In Christ we find a bountiful supply of grace, mercy, love and kindness. We read, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
Paul speaks in Romans 6:4 of the ‘New Life’ that we can have in Christ when he says, “We were buried 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.”
Every Christian who has come to Christ, who has looked upon Him and fallen at His feet in worship, is given New Life. It is a life that will one day lead to their resurrection and glorification. Jesus says in John 11:25-26, “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.”
Today we have been reminded that to look upon Christ is to see ‘New Life’. To look upon Jesus is to see a life that cannot be found anywhere else. To look upon Christ is to see the One in Whom it can be said, “He will never die again, death no longer has dominion over Him. To see the resurrected Christ is to see a life that is lived to God.” (Romans 6:9-10)
Those who have looked upon Christ and believed in Him are New Creations and given New Life. As such, we are producing new fruit. We are producing uncommon fruit of righteousness. We are producing the fruit that testifies to the work of the Holy Spirit within us. Every act of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control is a testimony to the work of the Holy Spirit and the New Life we have in Christ.
May the world around us that is so distracted by a great many things see this New Life and glorify the Son for all that He has done.