Because He Lives
The crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ are the twin pinnacles of the Christian faith. No other religion or cult in the world has a foundation as sturdy, authentic, gracious, and redeeming as the Christian faith. All other faiths are based on works, guilt, or are completely self-centered, and the religious leaders of these groups and cults are all dead (or will be) and are still in their graves. Only Christianity has a God who became one of us in order to be sacrificed for us, so that we could be forgiven (mercy at the crucifixion) and given eternal life (grace at the resurrection).
All four Gospel accounts speak clearly of the resurrection of Christ, but we chose to focus on Matthew’s version. In this version the angel of the Lord shows up Sunday morning, bringing with him an earthquake, and a rolling away of the stone to show that Jesus has risen from the dead. The soldiers/guards are eyewitnesses and are shocked into a state of apparent death, and were later bribed by the religious leaders to spread the rumor that the disciples stole the body of Jesus. Mary Magdalene and Mary, the wife of Clopas, are at the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body, and after being told to ‘not be afraid’ they are instructed by the angel to go tell the disciples.
In these verse we learn the following lessons:
1. Angels are mentioned in all four Gospel accounts to verify that it wasn’t the disciples who stole the body
2. The appearance of angels frightens the guards, but the women are told not to be afraid. The unbelieving world are ‘frightened’, not so much of death, but of facing judgment, whether they want to admit it or not. Believers need not fear judgment because we have been judged at the cross, and since Christ paid for our sins and for the guilt of our sins, our deserved judgment is placed upon Christ. Now we are able to receive mercy since Christ took upon Himself the just wrath of God.
3. The women are ‘looking for Jesus’: since they were believers – called by the Lord God - they are ‘looking and yearning for Jesus’, but the world would never do that.
4. The women are told that “He is not here”, which can be interpreted as saying, ‘The tomb represents death and defeat, but Christ is not here because He defeated death and is victorious!”
5. The angels realize that the ladies are looking for “Jesus, who was crucified”, which is another way of saying, “We know that you aren’t looking for just any man – or a philosophy of Jesus – or man named Jesus who you have made to your own liking – but you are looking for the crucified Jesus – the redeeming, divine Jesus who died for your sins and who calls you to live an obedient life”. That’s the Jesus that the believer is looking for!
6. The women are told to ‘come see the place where He lay’ – in other words, here’s the ‘proof’ that the tomb is empty! We are blessed because we believe – by God’s grace and Spirit within us – without having ‘seen’ the resurrected Jesus.
7. The women are told to tell the disciples, just as we are told to spread the good news – the Gospel – that we worship the resurrected Jesus!
All of this took us to the song we’ve been singing for the past few weeks by Bill and Gloria Gaither, “Because He Lives”. In that song we learn that “Because He lives we can face tomorrow; all fear is gone; that He holds the future; and that life is worth the living.
We don’t have to live an anxious and worrisome life because our risen Lord, who lives within us, is a sovereign Lord. He has everything (our future) under control. We don’t have to have our whole life planned out – He holds the future – He is already in the future – we can rest in Him; and our life now has meaning and purpose, so our life is worth the living – all because our God provided the means (His Son Jesus) to pay for our sins, and then defeated death so that we – by His grace – could come to a saving faith – a loving relationship – always able to sit at the Lord’s Table as one of His children – because He lives (within us!).