The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the central event of our faith. Everything we believe rests on that singular event. If Jesus did not rise from death, our faith would be pointless. If our Savior is dead and buried, then we are still spiritually dead, chained to our sins, and destined to spend our eternities as rebels who are banished from the presence of God.
But Jesus is not dead. The tomb is empty. He rose from the grave just as He assured His followers He would. Because of His resurrection, we can be assured that we who believe in Him will also rise from death. As we trust in Jesus, He lives within us. The grip sin had on our lives has been broken. The command Satan had over us has been nullified. The sting of death has been replaced with the assurance of everlasting life.
I bring this up today to encourage our hearts with the truth that Jesus took the time to explain to His early followers. We don't need to be troubled, because everything is going to work out. Jesus has secured the ultimate victory, on our behalf, over everything that was torturing and defeating us. This is the kind of confidence Jesus was seeking to instill in His followers after His resurrection. As we look at this passage, and attempt to foster the same kind of confidence in Christ that His early followers were developing, there are several questions, based on this passage, that are worth asking.
I. Why do you wrestle with doubt?
It was a clearly established fact that Jesus had been crucified and killed. Crowds witnessed it. Soldiers facilitated it. A spear jammed through His lungs and heart confirmed it. His corpse had been placed in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea after Pilate confirmed with a centurion that Jesus had been executed. On top of that, a large stone had been rolled in front of the tomb where Jesus was placed, and that tomb was sealed, made secure, and guarded by Roman soldiers.
Yet, just as He promised, Jesus rose from death on the third day and began appearing to His followers who had been deeply shaken, discouraged, and disturbed by the harsh torture and execution He received. He appeared to the women at the tomb, He appeared to His disciples, He walked with others on the road to Emmaus, and the people were startled at His appearing. Even in this passage, Jesus needs to calm the startled people down because they were so frightened at His appearing and thought they were seeing a spirit.
I like the question Jesus asks this group as He appears to them. He asked them, "Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?" That's a question that's worth wrestling with. In their context, Jesus had already told them multiple times that He was going to be executed, then rise from the grave. I don't know if these people thought these were allegorical statements or what, but when these events began playing out right in front of them, they were perplexed and terrified. Interestingly, they were also joyful, so in some respects, it seems like these believers were experiencing emotional overload. They were seeing things they had never seen before and it was taking time to process it all.
Doubt is a natural thing for us to experience. From time to time, we have all experienced doubt. It's not uncommon for us to doubt God's goodness, provisions, protection, or promises for the future because to believe these things, we have to trust that we are going to one day witness things with our eyes that we have never seen before. It's difficult to trust what we have not seen, but that's what the Lord joyfully invites us to do.
We wrestle with doubt because our hearts prefer to walk by sight. But here's a secret worth remembering... walking by sight fosters fear, not trust. If you want to live a fearful life, trust only what the limited and isolated experiences of your life have allowed your eyes to see. If, on the other hand, you want to experience joy, trust Jesus who invites us to become confident in Him, and rest in the knowledge that our lives and futures are safe in His hands.
II. Do you understand the message the Scriptures have been trying to reveal to you?
The more I read the Bible, the more interesting it becomes to me. I honestly feel like every time I start to become familiar with it's content, deeper forms of information and application start to become apparent to me as the Holy Spirit applies the teaching of the Scriptures to my heart.
One of the most fascinating aspects of the Bible is that the Holy Spirit inspired it to be progressively written over the course of about 1,500 years.
And when you read through the pages of the Bible, you begin to see that the content of each book is trying to point your heart toward trusting in Jesus.
Following His resurrection, Jesus attempted to clarify this for His followers. He explained to them that the entire Old Testament, whether you're reading the books of Law, Poetry, or Prophesy, all points to Him. Time and time again, God's people were told that the Savior was coming. They were told where He would be born, the family line He would be born into, some of the words He would say, the way He would die, when He would die, why He would experience death, along with the fact that He would rise from death to offer salvation to the nations. It's all there.
But it's also true that unless the Lord opens our minds to understand these things, it will seem like foolishness to us and we won't understand what we're reading. The simple fact that the Creator of mankind would take on flesh like His creation, and allow Himself to be humiliated, tortured, and killed by the people He made, seems foolish to those who don't believe, but that's exactly what Jesus came to do.
Still, just as Jesus promised, He suffered for our sin, then rose to secure victory over sin while proving to us that He is indeed God in the flesh.
And as Jesus states in this passage, the story of what He is accomplishing continues even beyond His resurrection. He tells us that His will for this era of human history is that His gospel, the message of "repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations." That's the part of His redemptive story that's still being written. That's the part that we have the joyful privilege to participate in with Him. As He has opened up our eyes to see our need for Him, He also gives us His words to speak to others in His efforts to open their eyes as well.
Do we understand this? Is this message and this mission ringing loud and clear in our minds?
III. Do you appreciate the nature of the power you've been blessed with?
I'm glad it's starting to feel like Spring. I didn't despise Winter as much as I usually do this year, but warmer temperatures and less shoveling are always welcomed by me. One of the least enjoyable aspects of the recent storms was losing power to our home. It amazes me to observe how much of our routine changed when we were forced to huddle together in a cold, dark house waiting for our electricity to return. We definitely missed it while it was gone.
Jesus also speaks of power in the closing verse of the passage we're looking at today. He recognizes that power is something we desperately need, particularly as we seek to live as His faithful followers in this fallen world. At the time, Jesus told His disciples to stay in Jerusalem for a little while until they were clothed with power. He said He would be sending the promise of His Father to them, and at that point, they would have the power they needed to fulfill the work He had called them to do. What was Jesus referring to in this conversation?
Jesus was speaking to His disciples about the Holy Spirit. Scripture reveals to us that God exists in three co-equal and co-eternal persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Jesus was now returning to the Father, and as He did so, He would send the Holy Spirit who would live within and work through all those who trusted in Jesus. Do you realize that if your faith is in Christ, the Holy Spirit likewise lives within you and He grants you divine power, counsel, and wisdom?
It can be easy at times to feel powerless in this world. I remember when I was growing up, I would watch a lot of wrestling. One of the moves that was frequently used by the wrestlers was the "sleeper hold." It was a move that if properly applied, could cause someone to lose consciousness. The person in the hold would grow weaker and weaker until they fell asleep. Sometimes, I wonder if the concerns and worries of this world have us feeling like we're in a perpetual sleeper hold. How much of our time is spent dwelling on the concerns that are choking us compared to the amount of time we spend recognizing and appreciating the power we've been given through the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives?
Consider this, the presence of the Holy Spirit within you also guarantees that just as death couldn't defeat Jesus, death won't be able to defeat you either. Christ's victory is now your victory.
You haven't been left powerless in this world. If you believe in Jesus, that means that living within you, right now, is the third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. Sin can't crush you any longer. Satan's intentions to destroy your life won't be victorious. Death has lost it's grip of fear over you because the Holy Spirit lives within you and has granted you His divine power.
As we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, let's also remember what this means for us. We don't need to wander in doubt. We don't need to be confused about the message the Lord is seeking to communicate in His word. We don't need to live like we're powerless in this world. We don't need to be troubled. In Christ, everything is going to work out. Our resurrected Savior will one day raise us up to be with Him, and we'll experience an eternal joy that will not fade with time and can never be taken away from us.
© John Stange, 2018