Breaking through the gloom of death and hovering over the seeming finality of the grave is the certainty of the resurrection morning—of a morning centuries ago when two men in dazzling robes stood in an empty tomb and exclaimed, “Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen,” and of a future morning when “the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first … and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”

The true significance of the Cross is inexorably linked with the empty tomb, for while the Cross is the central event of all history, man’s redemption is validated by the resurrection.

Without the resurrection, our Lord’s death on the Cross would have been the symbol of a lost cause. But because he arose from the dead, the Christian faith and eternal life combine into one glorious hope.

Without the resurrection there is no Gospel to preach. Because of Christ’s victory over death and the grave, the Gospel is a message of life and victory for everyone who believes.

As the plan of God’s redemptive work for sinful man unfolds, the resurrection emerges as an absolute necessity. Prior to any resurrection there must have been death, and we know that death came into this world because of sin. If Christ’s work of redemption was to be effective, then he had to triumph over all the results of sin. The resurrection therefore becomes living proof of his power as Saviour.

Not only has the curse of sin passed from man to man and from generation to generation; the ground itself was a partaker of the curse: “Thorns and thistles shall it cause to bud.” The crown of thorns Christ wore at Calvary was not merely a symbol of the derision of his tormentors. It was a divinely ordained symbol of his bearing in his body the penalty of sin—in man and in nature.

Isaiah, writing of the ultimate triumph of the Gospel, tells of a day when “instead of the thorn shall come up the myrtle tree: and it shall be to the Lord for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”

That our Lord arose physically and visibly from the dead is one of the best attested facts of history. Remove the resurrection story from the historical records—in the Gospels, in the Acts of the Apostles, in the Pauline and other letters, and in the book of the Revelation—and the crowning proof of Christ as Saviour, and the immortality of the soul, vanishes from sight.

The evidence is so overwhelming, and the effect so transforming, that a study of the records brings with it the certainty of the resurrection. It was first ignored, then disbelieved, and finally accepted as the crowning proof of the Christian faith.

The scriptural record is one of internal evidence beyond the realm of collusion. The disciples never understood our Lord’s frequent references to his death and resurrection. After he had risen from the dead, they still doubted. Only as they were confronted with “many infallible proofs” was their unbelief and hopelessness transformed into a burning assurance.

They knew this same Jesus was alive. They saw him. They heard him speak. They touched him. They ate with him. They were aware of the amazing fact that while in some way he was changed, he had the same body, for they saw scars in his hands and feet, and at least one of them was invited to end his persistent doubts by thrusting his hand into the wound in Christ’s side.

In the succeeding days they frequently enjoyed the fellowship of the risen Lord. His miraculous powers were still in evidence, and his command to them to go out, after they had received the power of the Holy Spirit, and make disciples of all nations, was an impelling commission that turned timid and ignorant men into flaming evangels who, it was said, turned the world upside down.

The Jews made provision to seal and guard the tomb against the Lord’s disciples; they little realized that they could not guard it against Christ himself. No man had anything to do with the resurrection of the crucified Saviour. This was a demonstration of supernatural power; God raised him from the dead. The power of resurrection was also inherent in our Lord, who declared to his disciples: “I lay down my life.… I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.” Man may entomb a dead body, but no man can stay the resurrection power of the Son of God.

The Sabbath day was deeply rooted in the law in the practices of the Jewish religion. Only a cataclysmic event could have changed the old Jewish Sabbath, the seventh day of the week, to the Christian Sabbath, the first day of the week. In fact, the first day of the week is not mentioned until after the resurrection; from that time, as an obvious commemoration of that glorious event, the Sabbath was observed on the first day.

A final impelling truth: His disciples were confused and dull of understanding when he referred to his coming death and resurrection; they frankly admitted they did not at first believe the resurrection story. Collusion for the removal of the body would have been impossible. Then they saw and touched and heard and lived with the risen Lord—and it transformed their lives!

These disciples, who had fled before the torch-lit mob headed by Judas, and one of whom had cursed and sworn that he did not know the Christ—these same disciples stood unafraid and unabashed before the murderers of Jesus and said: “Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole.” And, when ordered not to preach in his Name and threatened with dire punishment should they do so, they prayed not for protection but for courage: “And now Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant to thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word.…” Weak in faith and turning again to their fishing nets in their disillusionment, these disciples were suddenly transformed by the blinding light of a new faith, a knowledge that the Lord they thought to be decaying in a tomb was alive—that he had triumphed over death and the grave. Instead of returning to a quest for the fish of Galilee, they went out to preach the Gospel of redemption and a new life in their risen Lord.

Nothing less than the visible, bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, nothing less than the infallible proofs that they themselves had seen and experienced, could account for the transformation of these men.

That which God did through his disciples nineteen hundred years ago he wants to do through you and me today. Paul saw this same risen Lord and was transformed. Later he was able to make this profound affirmation: “I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”

That is living!

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