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Daniel 2:1-16 The Wisdom of God and the Foolishness of Man

05/30_Daniel 02:1-16 The Wisdom of God and the Foolishness of Man; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210530_dan02_1-16.mp3

Daniel chapter 1 tells the story of God’s grace even in the midst of trauma, oppression, exile. Daniel and his friends were ripped from their homes, taken hundreds of miles away to a pagan city, a city opposed to God, but we learn that God was still in control; that it was God who gave the king of Judah and the treasures of his own temple into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. We learn that in the face of pressures to conform, to assimilate, God gave Daniel and his friends grace and mercy, favor and compassion in the sight of Ashpenaz, chief of the eunuchs. And God gave these four youths learning and skill in all literature and wisdom. They resolved not to allow their hearts to become ensnared by the pleasures of Babylon, and their God-given wisdom proved ten times better than all their teachers.

Dream Interpretation and Dream Manuals

Chapter 2 moves the story forward with a demonstration of God’s wisdom in action, when the gifts of Daniel and his friends are put to the test in contrast to the wisdom of Babylon.

Daniel 2:1 In the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; his spirit was troubled, and his sleep left him. 2 Then the king commanded that the magicians, the enchanters, the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans be summoned to tell the king his dreams. So they came in and stood before the king. 3 And the king said to them, “I had a dream, and my spirit is troubled to know the dream.”

Dreams were considered significant, meaningful, communication from the gods. Not to be able to interpret a dream was considered a worse omen than even a dream which predicted unfavorable events.

We have discovered ancient dream manuals; the extensive Royal Library of Ashurbanipal, (668-627 BC) was discovered in Mosul, or Nineveh, the ancient capital of Assyria. This library contains over 1,000 Babylonian divination texts, including the 11 tablets of the Iskar Zaqiqu, a manual on interpreting dreams. These manuals catalog various dream symbolism and potential outcomes based on the records of the experiences of others with similar dreams in similar circumstances. The library pre-dates Daniel by 50 -100 years, and is representative of what would have been available to the various groups of Babylonian dream interpreters. This would have been part of the training of Daniel and his friends in the language and literature of the Chaldeans.

Aramaic

Daniel 2:4 Then the Chaldeans said to the king in Aramaic…

This is a language cue. The text from this point to the end of chapter 7 was written in Aramaic, the common language of the world in that day. Up to this point Daniel wrote in Hebrew, and chapters 8 to the end are again in Hebrew, the language of the people of God. Chapters 1 and 8-12 address the concerns of Israel more specifically, while chapters 2-7 have a more universal scope.

The Confidence of the Chaldeans

Daniel 2:4 Then the Chaldeans said to the king in Aramaic, “O king, live forever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will show the interpretation.”

The magicians, the enchanters, the sorcerers, the Chaldeans are confident in their ability to interpret dreams. They had studied the dream manuals and case histories of dreams, they were experts in the art of dream interpretation. They could look up any dream scenario and give an interpretation.

Daniel is so relevant to today. A simple internet search to find information on these ancient dream interpretation manuals, and the majority of things that come up are modern day versions. You can enroll in a course to teach you how to unlock your dreams, an online dictionary with ‘over thousands of skillfully interpreted dream symbols for people who want to access the deeper parts of their minds’, a dream interpretation manual ‘written by a scientist who has decades of experience and great expertise in dream interpretation.’ And of course, there are principles of Christian dream interpretation, a biblical dream dictionary, and prophetic training to unlock your dreams. We are still captivated today, even Christians, by the hope of accessing hidden wisdom.

The King’s Demand for Proof

The Chaldeans address the king with the appropriate formalities and respect, and ask to be given the contents of the dream so they can offer an interpretation. They are confident there is no dream they cannot interpret. But king Nebuchadnezzar throws them a curve ball.

Daniel 2:5 The king answered and said to the Chaldeans, “The word from me is firm: if you do not make known to me the dream and its interpretation, you shall be torn limb from limb, and your houses shall be laid in ruins. 6 But if you show the dream and its interpretation, you shall receive from me gifts and rewards and great honor. Therefore show me the dream and its interpretation.”

King Nebuchadnezzar is asking for more than the interpretation of his dream. He demands that they give him both the dream and the interpretation. The consequences for failure are severe, the rewards are great, and the demand is resolute. Make known to me the dream and its interpretation.

Skeptical Demand for Evidence

There must be some misunderstanding. That’s not how this works. You tell us the dream and we tell you the interpretation.

Daniel 2:7 They answered a second time and said, “Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will show its interpretation.” 8 The king answered and said, “I know with certainty that you are trying to gain time, because you see that the word from me is firm— 9 if you do not make the dream known to me, there is but one sentence for you. You have agreed to speak lying and corrupt words before me till the times change. Therefore tell me the dream, and I shall know that you can show me its interpretation.”

Here we learn that Nebuchadnezzar is a skeptic. He wants proof. This is the second year of Nebuchadnezzar, probably not counting the year of his accession to the throne after the death of his father in 605 BC. These would have been the counselors to his father, likely older than him, and for whatever reason, he was suspicious of them, of their loyalties, of their abilities. He is going to test them. If they really are magicians, enchanters, sorcerers, in touch with the gods, then they ought to be able to tell him his dream. If they can accurately describe to him what he alone knows, then he can have confidence that their interpretation of the dream would also have a supernatural source.

Nebuchadnezzar is the opposite of the evil king Ahab of Israel, who preferred 400 prophets who told him pleasant lies over one prophet of YHWH who told him the hard truth; ‘I hate him, for he never prophesies good concerning me, but always evil’ (2Chr.18:7). Nebuchadnezzar cared about truth.

The Admission of Incompetence

Listen to how the Chaldeans respond to this skeptic’s demand for proof.

Daniel 2:10 The Chaldeans answered the king and said, “There is not a man on earth who can meet the king’s demand, for no great and powerful king has asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or Chaldean. 11 The thing that the king asks is difficult, and no one can show it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh.”

They admit their own incompetence. They can’t bluff their way out of this one. In the face of this demand for evidence, they are empty handed. They resort to say that the thing is too hard, it is humanly impossible. They even appeal to his pride – no great and powerful king has asked such a thing. You need to fall in line with all the other great and powerful kings and not ask such things. You ask too much of us; only the gods could grant your request, and we don’t have access to them. All the magicians, the sorcerers, the enchanters; the wise men of Babylon admit their lack of the required wisdom.

The wisdom of Babylon is ultimately bankrupt. Sorcery is bankrupt. Magic is bankrupt. Divination is bankrupt. Astrology is bankrupt. Over and over again we are shown the bankruptcy of this world’s wisdom, and yet we still run to it time and again as if we don’t know the one who is sovereign over all.

The Very Furious King

Daniel 2:12 Because of this the king was angry and very furious, and commanded that all the wise men of Babylon be destroyed. 13 So the decree went out, and the wise men were about to be killed; and they sought Daniel and his companions, to kill them.

The king was furious with his deceiving wise men. But he was not just furious. He was very furious. He was not just very furious, he was angry and very furious. He had proved them all frauds. They failed to give evidence of ultimate supernatural access. He may have been thinking back on all the times they offered interpretations and counsel to his father Nabopolassar, and how they tried to explain their way out of circumstances not going exactly according to their predictions. He may have based his own decisions on their so-called wisdom in the past, and he was angry at being conned. He had entrusted them with the education of the best and brightest of his conquered peoples, and they had wasted three years worth of his lavish resources. “You have agreed to speak lying and corrupt words before me till the times change…there is but one sentence for you… You shall be torn limb from limb, and your houses shall be made a dunghill.”

These were the experts, the Chaldean teachers. If the teachers are corrupt, their students likewise would be corrupted. All the wise men of Babylon, teacher and student alike, were to be destroyed.

God’s Favor and Daniel’s Wisdom

Daniel 2:14 Then Daniel replied with prudence and discretion to Arioch, the captain of the king’s guard, who had gone out to kill the wise men of Babylon. 15 He declared to Arioch, the king’s captain, “Why is the decree of the king so urgent?” Then Arioch made the matter known to Daniel. 16 And Daniel went in and requested the king to appoint him a time, that he might show the interpretation to the king.

Daniel showed great wisdom to his executioner. In chapter 1 we were told that ‘God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs’ (1:9). Here it is not stated, but something happened behind the scenes to give Daniel favor and compassion now in the sight of Arioch the king’s captain. Arioch didn’t owe Daniel an explanation. He didn’t have to make the matter known to Daniel. In fact, he had every reason not to waste his time answering questions of the trainees. He had been given a huge task, and the king was in no mood to put up with delays in carrying out his orders. In fact this would entail personal risk. If he fails to carry out the king’s edict, he could expect the kind of punishment that he was commanded to carry out on others. Although God is not mentioned, he is evidently at work behind the scenes.

Where the Chaldeans approached the king with confidence in their own ability, Daniel approached the king with confidence in his God. Where the Chaldeans were treated with suspicion, ‘accused of trying to gain time,’ Daniel is treated with respect, granted the time he requests. Where the Chaldeans were helpless in the face of the king’s impossible demand, Daniel knew exactly where real help was to be found.

God Who Dwells With Man

Look back at the confession of the Chaldeans:

Daniel 2:10 …“There is not a man on earth who can meet the king’s demand… 11 The thing that the king asks is difficult, and no one can show it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh.”

The Babylonian gods may not dwell with flesh, they may be aloof and inaccessible, distant and devising, but the God of Israel is different. He is a God who dwells in the midst of his people (Ex.25:8; 29:45-46); who ‘will walk among you and be your God’ (Lev.26:11-12). The Chaldeans only knew their false gods. They didn’t know the one true God of Israel. Daniel is set to show them what God is really like.

The God of Israel is not only a God who will dwell with flesh, he will dwell in flesh. The divine Word who was with God and who was God, himself became flesh and dwelt among us (Jn.1:1, 14). He is God with us, Immanuel (Mt.1:23; 28:20).

God Who Knows Our Thoughts

The Chaldeans were right. There is not a man on earth who can tell you the secrets of your heart. Paul asks ‘who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? (1Cor.2:11). But in John 4, a man was at a well looking for a drink of water from a Samaritan woman. She went away and told everyone

John 4:29 “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” …39 Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” …41 And many more believed because of his word. 42 They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”

Multiple times in the gospels we read:

Matthew 9:4 But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? (cf. Mt.12:25; Lk. 6:8; 9:47; 11:17)

Not even Satan knows our thoughts. No doubt, he has learned to guess well, but Jesus knows the thoughts of our hearts. And Jesus said:

John 13:19 I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he.

Jesus controls the future. He can tell what will happen before it happens so we know that he is the I AM, the one who writes history. The Old Testament test for genuineness of a prophet was 100% accuracy (Deut.18:22).

Christ In You

The God of Israel is a God who dwells with his people. Daniel and his friends had the Spirit of God with them to help them. But Jesus promises something even better for us. Jesus promised that the Spirit who dwells with you will be in you (Jn.14:17). Jesus said I and the Father, ‘we will come to him and make our home with him.’ (Jn.14:23). Jesus said ‘I am with you always’ (Mt.28:20). The riches of the glory of God’s mystery is ‘Christ in you’ (Col.1:27).

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Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

June 5, 2021 Posted by | Daniel, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 15:12-19; Objective Truth

04/19 1 Corinthians 15:12-19 Objective Truth; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150419_1cor15_12-19.mp3

1 Corinthians 15 [SBLGNT]

12 Εἰ δὲ Χριστὸς κηρύσσεται ὅτι ἐκ νεκρῶν ἐγήγερται, πῶς λέγουσιν ἐν ὑμῖν τινες ὅτι ἀνάστασις νεκρῶν οὐκ ἔστιν; 13 εἰ δὲ ἀνάστασις νεκρῶν οὐκ ἔστιν, οὐδὲ Χριστὸς ἐγήγερται· 14 εἰ δὲ Χριστὸς οὐκ ἐγήγερται, κενὸν ἄρα τὸ κήρυγμα ἡμῶν, κενὴ καὶ ἡ πίστις ὑμῶν, 15 εὑρισκόμεθα δὲ καὶ ψευδομάρτυρες τοῦ θεοῦ, ὅτι ἐμαρτυρήσαμεν κατὰ τοῦ θεοῦ ὅτι ἤγειρεν τὸν Χριστόν, ὃν οὐκ ἤγειρεν εἴπερ ἄρα νεκροὶ οὐκ ἐγείρονται. 16 εἰ γὰρ νεκροὶ οὐκ ἐγείρονται, οὐδὲ Χριστὸς ἐγήγερται· 17 εἰ δὲ Χριστὸς οὐκ ἐγήγερται, ματαία ἡ πίστις ὑμῶν, ἔτι ἐστὲ ἐν ταῖς ἁμαρτίαις ὑμῶν. 18 ἄρα καὶ οἱ κοιμηθέντες ἐν Χριστῷ ἀπώλοντο. 19 εἰ ἐν τῇ ζωῇ ταύτῃ ἐν Χριστῷ ἠλπικότες ἐσμὲν μόνον, ἐλεεινότεροι πάντων ἀνθρώπων ἐσμέν.

1 Corinthians 15 [ESV2011]

1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

I have recently talked to two different people who said very nearly the same thing. What they said went something like this. It doesn’t really matter what you believe or what faith you belong to, as long as you believe it and live by it and you are a better person for it. If everybody would really live and truly follow what they believe, we all would be better for it, and the world would be a better place. It doesn’t really matter what you believe, as long as whatever you believe makes you a better person.

This is appealing, this sounds inclusive, and there is even an element of truth to it. If the common denominator of all belief systems were love and being nice, that would make for a much more pleasant and peaceful coexistence on the planet. A major problem with this way of thinking is that this is simply not true. Many belief systems are openly hostile and hateful toward others who do not embrace their teachings. But even if it were true, this is a view that is limited to this life only. If life on this planet is all there is, and whatever you believe helps you to be a better world citizen, then this makes some sense. But if there is a God, and if there is existence beyond death, then it matters a great deal if what you believe is right or wrong, true or false. What if God has a dearly loved Son, whom he sent to die in my place for my sins, and he raised him from the dead as proof that he was who he claimed to be and accomplished what he set out to do, and what if I live a life that is good and I treat others with kindness, but give no regard to God or his Son? It matters not only that what I believe makes me a better person, but that what I believe is true. Really, objectively true.

This is what Paul deals with in our text today. He has built the historical case for the gospel – the good news that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was really and truly dead, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures and that he was really and truly alive, as attested to by many trustworthy eye-witnesses. These are the historical facts with theological meaning. Paul has given us himself as an example of a life radically transformed by the power of God’s resurrecting grace. And now he gives us some logic. He challenges us to use our brains. He reasons with us. He invites us to think clearly and carefully. Ideas have consequences. Some truth claims lead us to conclusions that are contrary to the evidence, so they must not be true. In verse 12, Paul states the problem. In verses 13-15 and in verses 16-18 he lays out two parallel lines of logical reasoning demonstrating by the necessary conclusions that their belief in verse 12 must be false. Then in verse 19, he gives a concluding logical argument.

Problem Stated

1 Corinthians 15:12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?

Paul has just declared the united preaching of all the apostolic witnesses of the resurrection. So we preached and so you believed. All the eye-witness agree and proclaim Christ as raised from the dead. That is the gospel message that was preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to it, unless you believed in vain. Some in Corinth were questioning the resurrection. It appears they were not specifically doubting the resurrection of Jesus, but rather questioning any kind of physical resurrection at all. Some were saying ‘the dead are not raised’ and ‘there is no resurrection of the dead.’ What happens when a person dies? We know physiologically, that the body decays, decomposes, is eaten by worms, and returns to dust. But is that all? We know that the Sadducees believed that there is no resurrection, and they came to Jesus with their own logical argument to try to prove the absurdity of the idea of resurrection (Mt.22:23; Mk.12:18; Lk.20:27). There was much in Greek and Roman thought that also doubted the idea of a resurrection. When Paul proclaimed the good news of the resurrection in the Areopagus at Athens, some mocked, but others were curious (Acts17:32). It seems some at Corinth had begun to question and doubt that resurrection was possible. Their issue was not what happens to your soul or spirit or consciousness after you die; their question had to do with what happens to your body. What happens to your person, to all of you? Does your decomposing rotting worm eaten flesh actually come back to life? That sounds impossible, that sounds creepy and gross. Paul challenges the logic of their thinking. If Christ is preached as raised from the dead, then how can you say there is no resurrection of the dead? You can’t have one without the other. Christ died for our sins. He was buried. Christ was one individual who died. If none of the dead are ever raised, then it follows that Christ was not raised, and Paul will now point out the tragic consequences of this idea.

Round One

1 Corinthians 15:13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised.

Paul starts with their premise, that he will restate in verse 16, that ‘there is no resurrection of the dead.’ If this premise is absolutely true, then it follows that not even Christ has been raised. This leads to three unacceptable consequences.

Consequence one: our preaching is in vain. In verses 8-11, Paul used himself as an example of God’s resurrecting grace at work in someone who was once vehemently opposed to the gospel. If Christ has not been raised, all my missionary labors, all my hardships, all my pain and heartache and sacrifice, all the abuse and persecution I have suffered has been for nothing. It is empty, fruitless, worthless. There was no point. And not only Paul. Stephen had been stoned to death. James had been beheaded. All the preaching of all the eye-witness was empty, vain, useless, for nothing. A complete waste of time and energy and resources. Because if Christ has not been raised then there is no good news to bring, which leads to the second tragic consequence.

Consequence two: your faith is in vain. Paul had cautioned in verse 2 that they not believe in a way that is empty, fruitless, worthless, pointless. He encourages them to receive the gospel, to stand firm in the gospel, to hold fast to the gospel, to be transformed by the gospel. He will encourage them in verse 58 that their labor is not in vain in the Lord. But if Christ has not been raised from the dead, then all their believing, all their standing firm, all their holding fast is in vain. It accomplishes nothing. It is worthless, futile, empty. If Christ is not raised, your belief gets you nothing. Nothing. Zero.

Consequence three: We are shown to be false witnesses.

1 Corinthians 15:14 And if Christ has not been raised, …15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised.

Not only did we who proclaimed the gospel of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus waste our time and accomplish nothing, but worse, we misrepresented God, we bore false testimony about God. We broke the ninth commandment, and probably also the third, to not take the name of the Lord in vain. We bore witness that God the Father raised Jesus Christ from the dead. If it is true, as you say that the dead are not raised, then God did not raise Christ from the dead, and we all, Peter and the twelve, the five hundred, James the Lord’s brother, and all the apostles together are demonstrated to be false witnesses. This is a grave accusation. They apparently did not think through the consequences of their assertions very carefully. Paul challenges them to think.

Round Two

1 Corinthians 15:16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.

Paul again revisits their premise, that ‘the dead are not raised,’ and again points them to the necessary logical conclusion that if that is true, not even Christ has been raised, and points them to three more devastating consequences of their truth claim.

Consequence one: Your faith is futile. He is picking up the middle of his first three consequences and fleshing it out. Their believing in vain was sandwiched between the vain preaching and false testimony of the eye-witnesses. Here he uses a synonym to the word ‘vain’ that he used there in verse 14. Worthless, empty, devoid of truth, bringing no results. Your belief in the gospel is futile.

Consequence two: you are still in your sins. This gets to the root of the gospel and the reason for the vain futility of their faith if the resurrection didn’t happen. The good news proclaims that Christ died for our sins. If Jesus claimed to die for our sins, and then he stayed dead, his claim is empty. He didn’t accomplish what he set out to do. Romans 1 tells us that the resurrection validated that Jesus was who he claimed to be.

Romans 1:4 and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, (cf. Acts 17:31)

And Romans 4 tells us:

Romans 4:25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.

If Jesus stayed dead, then he was a fraud and his death accomplished nothing for us. This highlights the absolute centrality and necessity of Jesus. If Jesus wasn’t who he claimed to be, as evidenced by the resurrection, then you are still in your sins. There is no other way for sins to be dealt with. Jesus claimed to be the way; the only way to God (Jn. 14:6). If Jesus’ sacrifice was not accepted by the Father, there is no way to be delivered from our sins. We are finally and forever lost. Our salvation, our justification, our forgiveness is contingent on the resurrection.

Consequence three: those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. To fall asleep is a gentle euphemism for the death of a believer. To die is merely to fall asleep, with the confidence that you will wake refreshed. But if the dead are not raised, and the resurrection of Jesus did not happen, then those who put their confidence in Christ, those who were depending on Jesus, holding fast to the gospel, they have perished. He is not saying that they simply died and ceased to exist. That is not how Paul uses the word ‘perish’. In chapter 1:18-19, he uses this word to contrast those who are being saved with those who are perishing, who are being completely destroyed, whom God is opposing, shaming, bringing to nothing. God’s justice demands that if our sins are not paid for by another, we will pay for them through eternity.

Conclusion

Paul now brings this part of his argument to a conclusion. If the dead are not raised, then Christ is not raised. If Christ is not raised, the gospel is false, preaching is worthless, believing the gospel will profit nothing, you are still in your sins. All we have left then is whatever benefit we have in this life.

1 Corinthians 15:19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

What if it’s not true? What if there is no resurrection? What if the gospel we believed turns out to be a lie? At least we were sincere and it gave us hope and we were better citizens, right? It doesn’t matter what you believe, as long as you are sincere and it makes you a better person, right? Paul’s answer is No! If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. Pathetic. Miserable. Pitiable. How can Paul say this? Isn’t the Christian lifestyle better, even if it is not true? Doesn’t it make you a better person, a better citizen?

Paul does say in 1 Timothy 4:8 that

1 Timothy 4:8 godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come

He exhorts us to be good fathers, husbands, citizens, good employees and employers. But if what we believe is not true, we are pitiable, miserable. Why?

As followers of Jesus, we are to be good citizens and live in submission to the authorities, but we are citizens of a different country and submit first to a higher authority. We are to be good husbands and parents, but we are to be devoted to our first love that takes precedence over all earthly loves. We are to serve our employers well, but all our service answers ultimately to the supreme Master.

Look at Paul, for example. It seems that in almost every city Paul visited a riot broke out. The authorities had to work overtime to try to keep the peace. He often required a military escort and protection. He moved around a lot, sometimes picking up jobs, sometimes taking donations to cover his expenses. He spent a lot of time in prison. Whenever he opened his mouth he was offending someone. Sometimes what he said hurt local businesses and they ran him out of town. He got himself beat up and almost killed on multiple occasions. He was successful in persuading many people to leave their long held religious beliefs and follow his teaching. He stirred things up so much that people were taking vows to assassinate him. Paul the model citizen!

Paul was passionate about one thing; making Jesus known. If the resurrection was not an historical reality, Paul wasted his life. We should feel sorry for him.

What about you? What about me? Do we live this life in such a way that if the resurrection were not true, if Jesus were not who he claimed to be, our lives would be viewed as a colossal waste? Have you sacrificed? Have you suffered for the sake of Christ? Is it true of you that if you have hope in Christ in this life only, you would be of all people most to be pitied? Or is your best life now? Is life comfortable and safe and happy and not too much is risked for the gospel? Do people view you as a good person, a respectable citizen, a responsible neighbor, or do they see a life so transformed by God’s resurrecting grace, so centered on Jesus, that there is tangible evidence that Jesus is really alive today?

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

April 19, 2015 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

John 11-12; Resurrection Belief

04/20/14 Resurrection Sunday Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140420_resurrection-belief.mp3

Resurrection Sunday

Today is Resurrection Sunday, the day we celebrate our Lord and King triumphing over death. Experiencing deep emotional distress, betrayal by a friend, run through multiple courts that made a mockery of justice, having been whipped, beaten, mocked, spit at, nailed to a cross, a spear thrust into his heart to verify he was dead, taken down, quickly embalmed, and placed in a tomb. And those are merely the physical things he endured. The scriptures tell us that he died ‘for our sins’. He endured the wrath of God toward every sin I have ever committed. And after all that, Jesus didn’t stay dead! Some of his followers showed up after the Sabbath was over, on the morning of the first day of the week, and found the stone had been removed from the entrance to the tomb, and the body was missing. Jesus began to appear to his followers, and over the next 40 days, he presented himself alive, walked, talked, cooked, ate, and taught his disciples, sometimes with one or two, sometimes with the 11 disciples, sometimes in large groups, even appearing to more than 500 at once. At the end of the 40 days, he went out with his disciples to Bethany, commissioned them to make disciples of all nations, and then ascended into the sky while they were all watching and disappeared from sight. This is amazing!

What do you think of this story? Different people respond differently to news like this. There are several possible responses to a supernatural event like this.

Aurora, Texas

Let me tell you another story. Early morning April 17, 1897 something crash landed near the north Texas town of Aurora. A newspaper described a mysterious cigar shaped airship that ran into a windmill, spreading debris across several acres. Among the wreckage, there was a small humanoid body discovered, which an eye-witness described as “not an inhabitant of this world.” That body was buried at the local cemetery in Aurora. Is there an alien buried in Aurora, Texas? Is it a hoax? What do you think of this story? I tell that story, not because I think there is any truth to it, or any similarity between it and the resurrection of our Lord, but only to demonstrate that there are several different responses we can have to unbelievable supernatural news.

Resurrection of Lazarus

Turn with me in your bibles to John chapter 11. I want to look at the resurrection of Lazarus, and some of the different responses people had to that supernatural manifestation of Jesus’ divine power. I think as we look at this, each of us will be able to identify what our response is to Jesus’ resurrection. What you think really happened in Aurora, Texas in 1897 doesn’t make much difference at all in your life today. What you believe about the resurrection of Jesus makes all the difference, and the way you live life will be radically different depending on what your response is to this amazing news.

In John 11, we read that Jesus purposely waited two days after he had received news that Lazarus was ill, then he told his disciples that Lazarus had died and that he intended to go raise him from the dead so that his disciples would believe. When Jesus arrives near Bethany, Lazarus had been dead four days. Jesus talks with Lazarus’ sister Martha outside the village, and then sends her to get Mary. There was a group of Jews who were there mourning the death of Lazarus. They followed Mary and Jesus to the tomb, and Jesus ordered that the stone be removed from the opening of the tomb. Jesus prayed to his Father out loud for the benefit of the people that were present. Then he commanded Lazarus to come out. Lazarus, who had been dead four days, came out of the tomb, bound hand and foot with the linen burial strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Then Jesus ordered the bystanders to set him free from the burial cloths. That would have been an amazing event to witness!

John 11:45 Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him, 46 but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”

Here we see some of the responses to the supernatural. Many of the eye-witnesses believed in Jesus. They saw what Jesus did. They drew conclusions based on the evidence they had seen, and they believed him to be the life-giver, the Messiah.

Predisposed to Disbelieve

But some went and told on him to the religious leaders. They gave their eye-witness accounts to the chief priests and the Pharisees. The religious leaders had a problem. There was no denying the evidence. Jesus had done many supernatural signs, identifying himself as the King who comes in the name of the Lord. They were worried that if they let him go on doing miraculous signs, everyone would believe in him. We begin to see another response to resurrection. These religious leaders were predisposed to disbelieve. They were so hardened in their own opinion that they refused to consider the possibility that they were wrong. Don’t confuse me with the facts, my mind is already made up. They were presented with the evidence, but the implication of that evidence was a threat to them. They had a place and a people. They had power, authority, control. Because so many were believing in Jesus, they were in danger of losing their privileges and their position. These men were not interested in the truth. They knew the evidence. But they personally had a lot to lose, and they considered what they would lose as more important than the truth.

Verse 53 gives their shocking conclusion:

John 11:53 So from that day on they made plans to put him to death.

They are so threatened, that they want to discount and demolish and destroy the evidence. The evidence poses a threat to them that they must dispose of the evidence. Jesus must be stopped. He must be killed.

Let’s keep reading.

John 11:57 Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where he was, he should let them know, so that they might arrest him.

John 12:1 Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table.

This was quite the dinner party. Both Jesus, the miracle worker who raised his friend from the dead, and Lazarus, the one who had been in the tomb four days, who is now alive, were having dinner together. Then down in verse 9:

John 12:9 When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, 11 because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.

There were pharisees who actually wanted to take Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead, and put him to death. Lazarus was incontestable evidence that Jesus was who he claimed to be, but rather than reconsider their conclusions in light of the evidence, they simply wanted to do away with the evidence. These religious leaders were willing to bear false witness and even commit murder, in order to get rid of the evidence. If your leaders are willing to break the commandments in order to protect their position, it is time to stop following those wicked men.

John 12:17 The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. 18 The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign. 19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.”

This tells us that the Palm Sunday crowd that welcomed Jesus as ‘the King of Israel, who comes in the name of the Lord’ came because they had heard about the resurrection of Lazarus. The crowd that had witnessed that supernatural event had continued to testify to the truth of the identity of Jesus, and they were gaining momentum.

The Rich Man and Lazarus

Many say that if they are only presented with enough evidence, they will be convinced. But that is simply not true. Some are so content with their pride power, privilege and position that there is no evidence that would persuade them, in fact they will seek to destroy the evidence. Jesus told a story about a rich man and a poor beggar named Lazarus. Both died, Lazarus was carried to the side of Abraham, and the rich man to a place of torment, where he was in anguish in the flame. When he could get no relief, he asked for Lazarus to be sent back to warn his brothers, so that they would not also end up in the place of torment.

Luke 16:29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”

The rich man believes that if his brothers just have enough evidence, supernatural evidence, then they will believe. He is wrong. Abraham points them back to Moses and the Prophets, back to the written word of God, the Old Testament Scriptures. That is enough. Supernatural experiences do not save. This is a heart problem. Some of you today might be in this position, your heart is hardened to the possibility that the Bible is true and Jesus is who he claimed to be. Some of you might be so comfortable and content with what you believe about God that even if what you believe is contradicted by all the evidence and the clear teaching of the word of God, you will stay where you are because you feel threatened, you feel you have too much to lose. It’s hard to be wrong. It’s harder to admit you were wrong. Some people are so proud that they will go to hell before they admit they were wrong. Even if Jesus really is who he claims to be, and all the evidence points in that direction, some will refuse to believe.

Curious Onlookers

What can we say about those who saw Lazarus raised from the dead and did not believe, but instead went and reported to the religious leaders what had happened? They believed, in a sense. They saw what they saw. The dead man came out of the tomb. They may have even helped to unwrap him. They believed that the event happened. But they did not believe what that supernatural event meant. They did not believe in Jesus. They didn’t follow Jesus. They went and reported what they had seen. They were curious onlookers. They were fascinated, amazed, excited, they didn’t want to miss out on anything, They came to see. There were some who came to the dinner, who were not so interested in Jesus as they were in seeing the man who was in the tomb four days and now was alive. They were intrigued.

Did you ever notice, driving along the freeway, traffic slows to a crawl for what seems hours, and you finally get to the accident scene, and there is a crunched car and a few emergency vehicles with lights flashing, they are not even on your side of the freeway, and there are no lanes blocked? Why is it that everyone slows down when passing an accident scene? They don’t intend to stop and get out and help, they just want to see, they want to know what’s going on. They might want to snap a picture and post it on facebook to tell their friends how long they sat in traffic. They don’t really care about the people involved, and wouldn’t think of inconveniencing themselves to get involved. They just want to be in the know. And they want to have the information to pass on to others.

Do you think these people who told the chief priests and Pharisees what Jesus had done intended to play a part in getting him killed? Do you think they cared? They believed that the event really happened. But they went on with life as if it was just one more wreck on the side of the road that they got to see.

Some of you today might believe that Jesus was really crucified, and that he really rose from the dead, but that information doesn’t change the way you live. Friends, Jesus is alive, and one day you will stand before him and answer to him. If you knew that I died for you and rose from the dead, why didn’t you follow me?

The Fact of the Resurrection

The resurrection of Jesus is a historical fact. There was a man named Jesus, who lived in Nazareth, who was executed by Rome on a cross, who was buried in a tomb, that tomb was secured by a Roman guard, and the body went missing. His enemies could not produce the body. Literally hundreds of eye witnesses claimed to see the risen Lord with their own eyes over the next 40 days, many in groups. Many of them were skeptical and had to be convinced. They witnessed him eating and drinking, some even having the opportunity to touch his physical body and physically authenticate the wounds from crucifixion. A large group saw his body ascend into the sky and disappear. Many of his followers suffered execution because they continued to testify to the identity and resurrection of Jesus.

The only viable explanation of the evidence is that Jesus really did supernaturally rise from the dead. If that is true, then we must look carefully at who Jesus claimed to be and what he taught. Jesus claimed to be the way, the truth, the life, the only way to the Father. He claimed to be one with his Father. He calls us to come to him and to follow him. We must take seriously what he said. The only religious leader who claimed to be God and then rose from the dead deserves not just to be talked about. He deserves to be followed.

Skeptics

I imagine that very few of those who were present when Lazarus was raised from the dead doubted that the event really happened. But I imagine that many who weren’t there but heard their story were very skeptical. That may be why they showed up at dinner in Bethany. There is nothing wrong with being skeptical. Most of the disciples were skeptics about Jesus’ resurrection. The disciples didn’t believe the women who first went to the tomb when they claimed to have seen Jesus (Lk.24:11). Peter went back to fishing (Jn.21:3). Thomas refused to believe unless he could touch the evidence with his own hands (Jn.20:25). Jesus gladly presented him with the evidence he desired. Thomas is not rebuked for being a skeptic. But after presenting him with evidence, he does tell him to stop doubting and believe.

Some of you today might be skeptics. To you I want to say ‘welcome!’ Ask questions. Investigate. Scrutinize the evidence. Passionately pursue the truth. But make sure that you are willing to follow the truth, whatever it costs.

Some Believed

Some who saw the supernatural sign, or heard about it, listened to Jesus and believed in him. They became his followers. Some gave up their business, their livelihood, their families to follow Jesus. Some gave up everything. Many of them suffered horrific deaths that they could have escaped if only they would renounce Jesus as a fraud. Jesus’ followers experienced and taught that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead was at work in his followers. That same resurrection power began to clothe the timid with boldness, it transformed fishermen, tax collectors and zealots into heralds of the truth, transformed sinners into forgiven warriors willing to lay down their lives for the sake of their Master, willing to let go of everything and go to the ends of the earth to make him known.

So I ask you again, where do you see yourself? Are you so set in what you believe that you are not even interested in what is true? Are you a curious onlooker, intrigued by the supernatural, even believing that Jesus is who he claimed to be, but it makes no difference in your life? Are you skeptical, but you really want to know the truth? Or are you convinced that Jesus is God in the flesh come to die for your sins, you have come to him to be forgiven of all your sins, and you are willing to follow him wherever he leads?

It is my prayer that wherever you are, God would so work in your heart that you would become a believer, a follower of Jesus and experience his resurrection power transforming you. Experience life!

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

April 20, 2014 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Resurrection and the Gospel; 1 Corinthians 15:1-8

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20120408_1corinthians15_1-8.mp3

04/08 Resurrection and the Gospel; 1 Corinthians 15:1-8

Today is Resurrection Sunday. We celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The resurrection of Jesus is an essential part of the gospel message.

1 Corinthians 15:1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you–unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.

The gospel, or ‘good news’, is the good news message of salvation. Paul says we are being saved by it if we receive it, stand in it, and cling only to it. This is central. This is important. This is the focal point of the whole bible. Let’s look at this message.

Christ the Messiah

First, the good news message is a proclamation of good news about a person. The person is Christ. This is a message about Christ. But Christ is not a name, it’s a title. ‘Christ’ is a Greek word that means ‘anointed one’. It is a translation of the Hebrew word ‘Messiah’, the anointed one. What does it mean to be the anointed one?

In the Old Testament, anointing with oil was used as a way to set a person or thing apart for a particular role, office or use. Kings were anointed (1Sam.10:1), and priests were anointed (Ex.30:30). Even the tabernacle was anointed to set it apart as holy (Ex.40:9). The prophet Samuel was sent by the Lord to anoint Saul and then David to be king over Israel. God promised David an heir who would sit on his throne, who would rule forever (2Sam.7:12-17). Isaiah expands on this promise, explaining that this coming king will be Immanuel, God with us, born of a virgin (Is.7:14); that he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighy God, Father of Eternity, Prince of Peace, and he will rule on the throne of David forever (Is.9:6-7). The Jews of Jesus’ day were looking for this coming king who would free them from Roman oppression and restore Israel as a nation to her former glory. They were looking for a king, a political and military leader who would lead them in victory over their enemies and give them peace. That is what God’s anointed king would do. When Jesus provided food for the multitudes, they wanted to make him a king by force, but he avoided it (Jn.6:15). When Jesus asked his disciples privately who they believed him to be:

Matthew 16:16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

After Jesus commended Peter for having divine insight into his true identity,

Matthew 16:20 Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.

Christ Died

Then Jesus began to expand their view of what God’s Messiah must do.

Matthew 16:21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.

They had no category for this kind of Messiah. The Christ doesn’t hide his true identity; he comes with fanfare in glory. The Christ doesn’t suffer; he alleviates the suffering of his people. The Christ doesn’t die, he wins.

Matthew 16:22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.”

This is not what Peter or any of the other apostles had signed up for. They were his select men, appointed to rule with him when he ascended the throne and began to rule. They had already been jockeying among themselves for the chief positions. So Peter takes it upon himself to give campaign advice to his Lord. ‘Don’t talk like that Jesus! It’s bad for publicity.’ You see, Peter, and the rest of the apostles didn’t yet get it. They didn’t understand the full role of the coming Christ. This is probably a key reason why Judas defected. During the trial and after the crucifixion the disciples seem lost. This wasn’t part of the plan. This wasn’t supposed to happen. The Messiah wins. We thought it was Jesus. But now he’s dead.

What Jesus was beginning to teach his disciples, what they wouldn’t get until after his resurrection, was that there was another vein of prophecy that the Messiah must fulfill. True, the Christ would be the Conquering King who reigns forever, the divine Son who would sit on his Father’s throne. But the Christ must also be the suffering servant. Look back to Isaiah, chapters 52-53. In 52:7, we are pointed to the good news, good news of peace, of happiness, of salvation, good news of God reigning over his people. Messiah, the divine conquering king. In verse 13, he shall act wisely, he shall be high and lifted up, exalted. The Christ, ascending his throne. But as he goes on, we begin to wonder what kind of ‘lifted up’ this might be.

Isaiah 52:13 Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted. 14 As many were astonished at you– his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind– 15 so shall he sprinkle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which has not been told them they see, and that which they have not heard they understand.

Isaiah 53:1 Who has believed what they heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? 2 For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. 3 He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Christ Died For Our Sins

The shock of a disfigured Messiah, marred beyond human semblance, a sight so horrific that men hide their faces. A despised and rejected Messiah, a man of sorrows? Why? How? He goes on:

Isaiah 53:4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. 8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? 9 And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.

The Messiah, stricken, smitten by God, afflicted, wounded, crushed, chastised, scarred, oppressed, led to the slaughter, taken away in judgment, cut off out of the land of the living. Why? What has he done to deserve this? And the answer resounds ‘Nothing!’ He has borne our griefs, carried our sorrows, wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities, chastised to bring us peace, scarred to bring us healing. It’s our fault. We like sheep have gone astray. We insist on rebelling against him and doing life our own way. But the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Isaiah 53:10 Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. 11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.

You see, for the conquering King to bring in his reign of righteousness and everlasting peace, he must make peace between God and sinful man. The first thing he must conquer is not the Romans, but our hard, rebellious hearts. He must make us, sinners, righteous! He bears our iniquities. He is the final offering for sin. He satisfies the justice of a holy God, being crushed for our sins. He, the righteous one, made intercession for us, and makes us to be accounted righteous.

So the gospel message begins: “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures.” Christ, the conquering King, the Divine Son of God, the One who will reign forever, died. He died, not of old age, not of natural causes, not for anything he had done, but ‘for our sins’; to pay the price our sins deserve. He substituted himself for us in order to make peace between God and us. Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures. The Messiah came as suffering servant to fulfill the the prophecies. He came to give his own life a ransom for many. He came as the seed of the woman to crush the head of the serpent. He came to be the sacrificial Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures.

That He Was Buried

The second point of the gospel message is ‘that he was buried.’ What is the significance of the Roman soldiers hastening the crucifixion by breaking the legs of their victims, but finding Jesus already dead and running him through with a spear? What is the significance of Joseph’s request to bury the body and Pilate’s demand to verify that he was indeed dead, the hurried wrapping in burial cloths and spices, the placing in a new tomb and rolling a huge stone to seal the entrance? What is the significance of the Jewish leaders’ fears that the disciples might steal the body and securing a guard of soldiers and an official edict to seal the tomb and verify that it was undisturbed? The significance of ‘that he was buried’ is to certify that he was indeed dead. The Christ was dead and buried.

That He Was Raised On The Third Day In Accordance With the Scriptures

The third point of the good news is that Jesus did not stay dead. He is alive! Jesus was raised from the dead on Sunday morning! The significance of the resurrection is that Jesus accomplished what he set out to do. He was perfectly obedient to his Father. He took the cup of God’s wrath against us, and drank every dark drop. He carried our sins to the cross, paid for them in full, and cried out ‘it is finished’. Jesus voluntarily gave his life as a ransom for us. The Father was pleased with his sacrifice, and showed his approval by raising him from the dead.

The resurrection of Jesus is also said to be ‘in accordance with the scriptures’. The passage we read in Isaiah 53 requires a resurrection. God promises, because of his obedience to death, to divide him a portion with the many.

The New Testament writers point to Psalm 16, a Psalm of David, that says ‘you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption’ (Ps.16:10), and they make the point that this was not fulfilled in David, because he died and stayed dead. It must be pointing to Jesus, David’s greater Son. Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 tells us that Jesus is the firstfruits of the resurrection – pointing to our future physical resurrection that will be like Jesus’ resurrection. Leviticus 23:10-11 describes the offering of firstfruits, which was to be presented on the day after the Sabbath; the Sunday after the Passover.

And That He Appeared

The final point in the proclamation of the gospel is that the resurrected Jesus appeared.

5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.

The apostle here lays out the incontrovertible evidence of the authenticity of the resurrection. The resurrection of Jesus was no hallucination, no trick of the active imagination, no wishful thinking on the part of his disciples. Jesus appeared numerous times to different groups of people, many of whom were skeptical and certainly not expecting it. On one occasion the resurrected Jesus appeared to more than five hundred brothers, and Paul invites his original readers to go interview them to verify the claim.

In our culture, faith is often defined as believing something that has no evidence to back it up. We hear things like ‘it takes a lot of faith to believe that,’ indicating that the less evidence there is to support a claim, the more faith it takes to believe it, and the greatest amount of faith is required to believe something that is contradicted by the facts. This is not biblical faith, and God does not expect us to believe things for which there is no evidence. Biblical faith is placing trust or confidence in God and his word because he has proven himself trustworthy.

God is not opposed to giving us a foundation of solid evidence on which our faith can rest. In the Old Testament, God pointed to his ability to declare things that had not yet happened, so that when they happened, it would prove that he is who he claims to be. Consider the disciple Thomas. In God’s providence, he was not in the room when Jesus first presented himself alive to his disciples.

John 20:24 Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

Thomas was a committed follower of Jesus. He believed that Jesus was the promised Messiah, the coming King. On one occasion, he declared his readiness to follow Jesus to the death if that was what he required (Jn.11:16). Thomas believed, but now the evidence was pointing in a different direction. Jesus was dead. This didn’t fit what he knew of the scriptures, so he must have been wrong about Jesus. He had been deceived. He had given three years of his life to following a lie. He would not be duped again. He demanded hard evidence. It would take more than a vision to convince him. He demanded proof that the one who was claiming to be Jesus resurrected was really the same Jesus he had known. He needed to know that this was not an identical twin or a look-alike. He wanted to see the unmistakable evidence of continuity that this was the same Jesus who had been nailed to a cross, who had a spear thrust into his side penetrating his heart.

John 20:26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.”

Jesus appears, and he does not rebuke Thomas for his lack of faith. He invites him to test the evidence for himself He does not condemn him for doubting, but he tells him that the time for doubting is over now that the evidence is here. Thomas, who up to this point was resolved in his skepticism, is persuaded by the evidence.

John 20:28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Thomas believes. He believes that this crucified Messiah is indeed the Lord of the universe, God in the flesh. Thomas trusts him personally as his own Lord and God. Thomas is persuaded by the evidence, a converted skeptic. The statement of Jesus is often misunderstood as scolding Thomas for his demand for proof. In the context this cannot be. Jesus did not deride Thomas for being skeptical. He gladly offered himself as evidence. Jesus doesn’t say that it would have been better if Thomas had believed something he thought was not true. God never asks us to believe something that is not true. Thomas was called by Jesus to be a witness. Thomas, like the other Apostles, was called to bear witness to Jesus, to his life, death and resurrection. He saw, and he testified, so that we who have not seen, who could not be there, can read his eye-witness account and believe. Jesus was looking beyond Thomas to those skeptics today who would be persuaded by the historical evidence of Thomas’ testimony and believe. And he calls us blessed. This is the context of Thomas’ statement in John’s gospel.

John 20:28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” 30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

This is the good news message of salvation. That the Messiah died for our sins according to the scriptures, that he was indeed dead and buried, that he was raised back to life by his Father as proof that he is who he claimed to be, and that this proof was documented by multiple eyewitnesses, including skeptics, so that we, today, reading the historical record, can be convinced to place our trust in the sin bearing work of God’s Messiah. 

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

April 8, 2012 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment