Resurrection and the life
The Rev. Kathy Brumbaugh, Special Writer
Background text: 1 Corinthians 15
Devotional text: John 11:25
This Sunday is Easter! It’s the day we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus. It’s the day we celebrate in our hearts once again that morning when the women arrived at the grave of Jesus to anoint his dead body and found that he wasn’t there!
The scripture, found in all four gospels (John, Matthew, Mark and Luke) tells the story of Resurrection Day. We read and re-read the story of the stone having been rolled away, the appearance of the angels saying that Jesus was not there and about the appearance of Jesus himself to Mary Magdalene.
Can you imagine that morning? The surprise, the shock, even the disbelief of an empty tomb? Jesus had been with his followers for three years. He had told his disciples, as well as others close to him, about that coming day. And, yet, it wasn’t until the fulfillment of his resurrection that at last they would understand.
We go back to John 11:25-26, as we remember the words Jesus spoke to Martha at the death of Lazarus: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.”
The scene that unfolded after Jesus said these words to Martha would lead to an unforeseen climax that would also become the beginning of the plot to kill Jesus.
Following his words to Martha that morning, Jesus asked her to call her sister, Mary. Together, they went to the tomb where their dead brother lay, followed by a number of Jewish mourners who had been with Mary.
Do you remember the story? Jesus called Lazarus from the tomb, and he came walking out, alive, with his burial clothes hanging from him. When the Jewish mourners saw Lazarus arise from the tomb, many became believers while others ran to tell the Pharisees about what happened.
The Pharisees, in turn, called a meeting with the Sanhedrin. These religious leaders were not happy with the signs and miracles performed by Jesus. Mostly, they were fearful that all the people would start believing in Jesus.
Why? What was the problem anyway?
Just like today, many are fearful of the unknown. They question their future and what may happen next. Panic and anxiety lead to beliefs in disastrous outcomes.
The religious leaders at the time of Jesus were fearful of the Roman Empire, those who currently ruled over the Jewish nation. At that time, as long as all was peaceful between the Jews and Romans, the Jewish people were allowed to roam freely around the Roman world. When there was peace, there was less conflict between the two nations.
The religious leaders were fearful because each time Jesus performed a miracle, the crowds would fill the streets and follow him. They were starting to believe in him more and more. Some were even referring to Jesus as the Messiah.
John 11:51-53 tells us that the religious leaders feared that the disruptions caused by Jesus would upset the Romans. Caiaphas, the high priest, proclaimed that the Romans would make life harder on the Jewish peoples because of Jesus. He proclaimed the Romans would bring home to Israel all the Jewish people scattered around the known world and “bring the children of God together to make them one.”
When Caiaphas spoke these words, they were the belief of the high priest. They were also prophetic words for the future, as they would become true when Jesus died on the cross and then was resurrected to new life. From that time on, the believers in Christ have multiplied many millions of times, and the followers of Jesus have become one.
Not only that, but we must go further, to John 12:50, where Caiaphas is recorded as saying, “It is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”
Again, Caiaphas falls into God’s great plan of salvation without knowing what he was truly saying. Jesus, the one man, died for the whole world, to free us from our sins, enabling those who would believe to be saved for eternity.
The religious leaders wanted to kill Jesus. Jesus knew that he must die so he could be resurrected by God as the Savior for all. He gave his life for us. He brought us together under his name, the name of Jesus Christ. He has given us eternal life, Jesus the Christ, who was the first of the resurrection, after whom all believers will one day follow.
At this point, some people will raise the question about Jesus being the first to be resurrected. What about Jairus’ daughter, who was brought back to life by Jesus? What about the raising of Lazarus?
The answer is that, yes, they were raised back to life. However, their rising again to life was not the resurrection that we all hope for and believe in. Those raised to life by Jesus were raised to the same lives they were living previous to their deaths. They would live again, and they would die again.
You see, the resurrection comes with a transformed body. They did not overcome death forever. They were not in the resurrected state. Only Jesus, the first resurrection, was transformed, overcoming death forever. And, as we read in scripture, all believers will follow him in that resurrection.
The Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15 a great description of the resurrected body. In verse 54, he stated it this way: “the perishable will be clothed with the imperishable … ”
On that day so long ago, when Mary Magdalene lingered in the garden crying, she pleaded with the gardener concerning where Jesus had been taken. It was not until he called her by name that Mary recognized the supposed gardener as Jesus, and she ran to him.
In John 20:17, Jesus asked Mary not to hold onto him because he had yet to ascend to the Father. He told her instead to go and tell the disciples that she had seen him.
The next time we see Jesus is when he appeared to his disciples who were behind locked doors, fearful of the Jewish leaders coming to arrest them. This time, he could be touched — he had come from the Father — and, in verse 22, he gave them the gift of the Holy Spirit by breathing on them.
Jesus remained on earth for 40 days teaching his disciples and showing them many signs and miracles that were not recorded. All that John wrote was recorded (verse 31) to help our belief and that “by believing you may have life in his name.”
That first day of resurrection, and that first week, when Jesus came to his disciples, were the days of reconciliation between the disciples and Jesus, who at last understood the prophecies of his death and the glorious day of resurrection for all humankind.
Because he lives, so will we, in eternal life in bodies that will never die.