The story of the resurrection of Jesus Christ has been told and retold for 2000 years and yet, like the sunrise, it is always new and fresh. It is a tragedy that our churches teach children the life of Christ as if He were only a historical character like Napoleon or Julius Caesar. Many of our Sunday schools teach that Jesus Christ was born, lived, and died. And then apparently as an afterthought they add, but He rose again, and they leave it there. For many people Good Friday is a much more important day than Easter Sunday. Instead of honoring the great fact of the resurrection that Jesus Christ is alive they are more concerned about who will be the grandest lady in the Easter Parade.
When we go back through the tomb to Christ's death, His life on earth takes on new significance. First the sting of death is removed. When I was a small boy in California, my father had some bees out among the fruit trees of our garden. One day I was badly stung by some of the bees. My mother heard me yell and came with a pair of tweezers. She pulled out the stingers and explained to me that when a honeybee stings someone, the stinger is lost and death follows for the bee. On reading 1 Corinthians 15:55, "O death where is your sting", I remembered that childhood incident. Just as the bee stung my hand and then lost its stinger and died, so death stung the Lord Jesus and left scars in His hands, but the sting of death was removed and death died.
The Lord Jesus Christ died, but He rose again, conqueror over death. Paul writes in 2 Timothy 1:10 that our Savior Christ Jesus "abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel." Imagine a soldier alone in a foxhole. He hears the whine of a bullet so he digs low and stays in his foxhole all day. As he seeks to dig a little deeper water seeps into the foxhole. He has nothing to eat but K-rations. And for four days and nights he stays in that foxhole. Fighting insects and living on K-rations. At the end of the fourth day someone comes in the darkness and says "Hey, are you private Smith, serial number 768-99-74? I'm here to relieve you. You are to go behind the lines, get cleaned up, put on a fresh uniform, you are getting a furlough state side where you will sit at your mother's table and eat everything you like best. Mashed potatoes and gravy fried chicken and ice cream on apple pie." Does the soldier whine "Must I leave this foxhole? Must I leave for home? Must I eat fried chicken instead of K-rations?" What an impossible reaction. And yet there are many Christians that seem to feel that way when death approaches. Since, however, the Bible says that to depart is to be with Christ which is far better, perhaps such fearful Christians are not sure that they are going to heaven and that is why they are afraid of death.
Since the Lord Jesus died and rose again death has no power over us, but there is something even better than contemplating our joy and our victory over death: the companionship of the risen Christ. That is better even than salvation. To know Him, to be with Him, to love Him, without any dragging back of our sinful nature. Years ago I had a conversation with a German lady. While discussing certain things in the Christian life she said "you know, I know the Lord so well we sometimes laugh together." I like that. Now she probably would not have said that in her mother tongue, and it's not usual to say in English. I know the Lord so well that we sometimes laugh together. If you do not know the companionship of the risen Christ then you have a low set of values. Very possibly it's more important for you to watch a television program than it is to go to the Word of God and have fellowship with Him. Paul wrote in Philippians 3:8-10, "For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order…that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death." When you know that Christ is alive or risen, life takes on an entirely different orientation.
When you believe in the resurrection, all life takes on an entirely different view. When you go back to the cross, everything is changed. Jesus Christ said, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." When you know Christ and the power of His resurrection to take up the cross is not a burden. Is the cross of Jesus Christ and companionship with Him and life with Him a burden? Of course not. "They who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint" (Isa. 40:31). God saved us. Not only to take us to heaven but even now to have fellowship with Himself.
If you read the Bible carefully, you will see that God is more interested in you, than you are in Him. God wants your companionship. God wants you close to Himself. Any father whose child has said "Daddy, I love you," has only a dim shadow of that joy that God the father feels when a believer says to Him, "Lord, you are more important than the job. You are greater than the disappointments and defeats, I love you. And I want to walk with you, Risen Lord Jesus." When He appears we shall be like Him. We shall see Him as He is. When we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, God begins to form Christ in us. This is the purpose of the resurrection. Paul describes that purpose in Galatians. "But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me." That's the great objective: to reveal His son in me. And God wants to reveal His son in you. This is why the apostle Paul again and again in his letters, calls to mind our position in the risen Lord Jesus. In Ephesians 4:1, "I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called." And again to the believers in Rome he writes, "I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect."
Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Have you ever stopped to think what that means? As I have said before we too often think of the Lord Jesus as a historical figure. And we think of Him as having risen from the grave some 2000 years ago, which of course is true. But have we recognized the fact that He is our contemporary, that He rose to be with us now that we can have real genuine fellowship with Him now. And that the place where we are to meet Him is the throne of Grace where He is seated with the Father. That throne of grace might well have been a throne of judgment to condemn us, instead of a throne of grace to commend us. And this is why Paul says "Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." (Heb. 4:16)
God wants you to be Christ incarnate: in your school, office, hospitals, store, factory, and most important in your family. You may say, "I am nothing but a rough block of stone. How can God reveal Christ in me? "Well here's a story. One of the greatest of American sculptors was Gutzon Borglum who died in 1941. No doubt some of you have seen his carvings of the heads of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt on Mount Rushmore in South Dakota. At one time he worked for many months in his studio on a six ton block of marble. A woman who cleaned his studio everyday wondered what that great block was for. Finally after much toil, the features began to emerge from the marble. And when the cleaning woman saw them she exclaimed, how did Mr. Borglum know that Abraham Lincoln was inside that stone. How did the Lord God Almighty know that Jesus Christ could be seen in you and me?! Rough blocks that we are that He dared, but believe me that block of marble would still be only a block were it not for the fact that Gutzon Borglum's mind and heart and chisel and artisanship had worked upon it to form the colossal head of Lincoln which is now in the capital building in Washington and so it is that God saw Christ in me. So we should be willing to say, "Lord, keep chiseling on me until someone recognizes that Christ lives in me," and to this end He constantly works in each believer.
He loved us, He died for us, and He rose from the dead in order to form the image of Himself in us. Thus when we understand God's purpose in saving us we shall gaze at the cross through the empty tomb and we shall raise our eyes to heaven where He sits at the right hand of God making intercession for us until that day when He will come forth. We should surrender our lives to Him. Realizing the awful cost of His death that we might enjoy the intercession of His risen life. If there is sin in our lives we should confess it because we love Him and want no cloud between ourselves and Him. On that great day when He will come forth King of kings and Lord of lords He will lay aside the garments of His mediation and will put on the glorious robe of the conqueror. He will gird himself with the sword of righteousness and the armies of heaven will follow Him. And even out of this world He will carve a place of peace and joy, of justice and purity when He accomplishes this we shall sing, "Hallelujah, the kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of our Lord and he shall reign forever and ever."
This message has been edited from its original length. To hear Donald Barnhouse preach the full message on CD, call us at 215-546-3696 to request your free copy of "The Glory of the Resurrection."
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