Friday, May 23, 2014


For the week beginning Sunday May 25, 2014

(How JESUS’ resurrection empowers us to live now)
John 20

In the Greek, the word New Testament writers use for “resurrection” is “anastasis” (an-as-tas-is), and it is “a moral recovery of spiritual truth”. It also means, in the physical sense, “to stand up again”. In John chapter 20, verses 1-18, Matthew 28:1-10, Mark 16:1-19, and Luke 24:1-12, these authors of GOD share their respective Gospel accounts of the Resurrection of our LORD and SAVIOR, JESUS CHRIST.
The Resurrection of CHRIST is the essence of the Christian faith, and the core of all of the Apostles teachings. All accounts tell us that it was early in the morning of the first day of the week, while it was still dark, when JESUS’ body was discovered missing. By combining all four Gospel accounts, we can see that Mary Magdalene, the woman from whom JESUS removed seven demons (Luke 8:2), Mary, the mother of James and Joseph, Salome, who was Zebedee’s wife and the mother of James and John, and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s business manager, all went to the tomb of JESUS to anoint HIS body for burial, with spices.
Perhaps no one had ever loved JESUS as much as Mary Magdalene did. HE had done something for her that no one else could ever do, and she never forgot it. It was the custom of the Jews to visit the tomb of a loved one for three days after the body had been laid to rest. They believed that, for three days, the spirit of the deceased person would hover around the tomb, and only departed when the decomposing body became unrecognizable.
The day following JESUS’ Crucifixion was the Sabbath, which is our Saturday, so to visit on that day would violate the Sabbath law. That is why their first visit had to occur on that early Sunday morning. The original Greek writings of the New Testament authors tell us that, it was during “proi” when they visited the tomb. The Jews divided their nights into four watches. The first night watch was from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., the second watch was from 9 p.m. to 12 a.m., the third watch was from 12 a.m. to 3 a.m., and the fourth and final watch was from 3 a.m. to 6 a.m. It was during this forth watch, called “proi”, that, the women came to the tomb.
Tombs, in those days, were “cave-like” compartments that had been carved into the side of a hill, or mountain, and then, covered by a circular shaped rock, which rested, in a slanted groove that had been carved out, along the front opening of these compartments. This extremely heavy rock had to be rolled uphill to open, and downhill to close. So we can envision that it was much harder to open than it was to close.
In addition, Matthew tells us that JESUS’ tomb was also sealed by Roman officials, at the request of the Jewish leaders (Matthew 27:62-66). They also placed guards out in front of the tomb. Matthew also records that there was a great earthquake associated with an angel of the LORD, who came down from Heaven and rolled away the stone from the entrance of the sepulcher, and then, sat on it. This apparently frightened the Roman guards so much, that they actually fainted (Matthew 28:2-4).
When the women arrived at the tomb, they were shocked and frightened by what they saw. However, the angel was able to allay their fears and invite them to look into the cave, so they could see that JESUS was no longer there. He then urged them to go and tell JESUS’ Disciples the good news, that, JESUS had arisen from the dead, just as HE had said that HE would.
The women then ran and found Peter and John, who were still somewhat puzzled, and were thinking someone had broken into the tomb and removed JESUS’ body (John 20:2). Peter and John then ran to the tomb, and with John arriving first, he looks in and sees JESUS’ body wrappings lying there in the tomb, however, he sees no body.
Peter then arrives and actually goes into the cave, where he too, only sees the cloth that had enwrapped JESUS’ body. When Peter saw this, he remembered and realized what Scripture had said, and, what JESUS had said about rising from the dead after three days, and he believed, and they went home.
John tells us in 20:11-18, that afterwards, Mary Magdalene was standing outside the tomb weeping, and as she wept, she peered inside the cave. She saw two white-robed angels, sitting at the head and foot of where JESUS’ body had lain. One of the angels asked her, why was she crying? Mary, still not understanding, replies, “Because they have taken away my LORD, and I don’t know where they have put HIM”.
Just then, she noticed someone standing behind her, that, she thought was the gardener (she didn’t recognize, at that time, that it was JESUS, probably because her eyes were filled with tears). “Sir”, she said, “If you have taken HIM away, tell me where you have put HIM”. JESUS then speaks to her, and she apparently recognizes HIS voice and runs to hug HIM. However, JESUS tells her not to cling to HIM, because HE had not yet ascended to HIS FATHER. Mary then ran to find the Disciples once again, but this time, to tell them that she had actually seen the risen LORD.
We see throughout these “Passion Narratives” of the Bible, that this lady, Mary Magdalene, was always there, in the vicinity, of our LORD and SAVIOR. She was there at the foot of the cross, when JESUS’ earthly life expired, on that infamous Friday in world history (John 19:25). She was there when JESUS’ body was wrapped and entombed, by Joseph of Arimathea (Matthew 27:61, Mark 15:47) and Nicodemus (John 19:39-40).
And she was also there when the empty tomb was discovered, early that Sunday morning. And so, it was only fitting, that she became the first person on earth, ever to see the “RISEN LORD”. It is a distinction that she would never have to share with anyone.
What a wonderful earthly reward she had received for her unparalleled love for, and faithfulness to, the SON of the ONLY WISE GOD. And her example of undying faith in GOD is one of the great Sunday school lessons of all times. It is a lesson that every Christian should learn, and then, keep in their hearts to use as fuel, to propel them through their Christian journey here on earth, and into an “Eternal Life” in Heaven with GOD the FATHER, and, CHRIST JESUS, our LORD.

John 20:19-31

The Christian Church should never endeavor to follow man-made policies, but rather, should always aspire to adhere to the will of CHRIST JESUS. The Church fails when it tries to solve problems within its own wisdom and strength, and omits the will and guidance of GOD, through the Holy Scriptures. When we take matters into our own hands, we show GOD and the world that we doubt the Christian belief structure already put in place by CHRIST, through the holy and divine instructions of GOD the FATHER. It also tends to exhibits that we have an inadequate faith, or, inadequate view of GOD, as far as us trusting in HIS superior wisdom.
In John chapter 20, verses 19-29, JESUS invites all doubters to accept and believe in HIM. We see chronicled in these verses, the first two times JESUS appeared to HIS disciples during the forty-day period following HIS Resurrection. The first occurred on the day of the resurrection, and the second occurred eight days later. On the evening of Resurrection Sunday, the chosen Disciples of CHRIST JESUS were meeting behind locked doors, because they were still afraid of the Jewish leaders. They feared that the Jewish leaders would be seeking to kill them, just as they had slain JESUS, three days earlier. They had not yet received the courage from the HOLY SPIRIT that they would need to carry out the commission charged to them by CHRIST.
Suddenly, JESUS was standing among them saying, “Peace be with you”, a phrase HE would repeat three times, twice in the first visit, and once more in the second visit. During these post-Resurrection visits, JESUS was seeking to strengthen and encourage HIS Disciples, and get them to finally believe in HIM. HE sought to instill in them, the “Divine Viewpoint” they would need in order to convince others to also believe. The phrase “HE breathed on them” is translated from the Aramaic idiom meaning, “HE gave them courage”. This encouragement came in the form of “the promise of the HOLY SPIRIT”.
JESUS tells HIS chosen men in verse 23 that, “If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven, and if you refuse to forgive them, they are unforgiven”. This statement has been the subject of much controversial debate over the centuries, and I doubt very seriously if I’m going to clear it up here, but here we go.
The Greek construction is quite literally this “if you forgive anyone his sins, his sins have been forgiven”. If you refuse to forgive the sins of others, then, that person’s sin will retain you in a spiritual prison. It is in the Gospel, that we proclaim forgiveness, and that forgiveness will set us free from the wrath of unforgiveness that we harbor within ourselves. And so, when we forgive, the sin of unforgiveness is automatically wiped away by the blood of JESUS.
Sharing the Gospel, places us in a role of forgiving, or not forgiving sins, depending on the response of the hearer. When we, as Christians, receive a person’s request for salvation, and we subsequently lead them to CHRIST, we are, quite literally, giving that person an opportunity to turn from their sins and turn to GOD, so that their sins can be forgiven. It is the same opportunity that JESUS gives all of us, by way of HIS vicarious sacrifice, and the HOLY SPIRIT in us, bears witness to that (Acts 5:31-32, Ephesians 1:6-8). And while we can only forgive those sins that are directly committed against us personally, it is still the great privilege of the Christian to convey the message of GOD’s forgiveness of sin, to mankind.
Eight days later, JESUS re-appears to HIS Disciples. During the first visit, Thomas, who was one of HIS original Disciples, was not present. JESUS, knowing of Thomas’ doubts, invites him to examine the wounds scars on HIS hands and in HIS side, so that he too, would finally believe. After Thomas had done this, he proclaimed definitively these words; “my LORD, my GOD! Then JESUS told him “You believe because you have seen ME. Blessed are those who haven’t seen ME, and believe anyway”. That statement depicts the very fiber of the Christian Faith.
Only those who walk by faith, and believe in CHRIST JESUS, can enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. Thomas never lacked courage, but he was a natural pessimist. There was never any doubt that he loved JESUS, but the cross was only what he humanly expected, just as all the rest did also. They saw death on that cross that Friday, as being the end. And, as a result of JESUS’ visits on that Sunday evening, Thomas began to clearly understand that this life was not the final act of the human drama. And so too, should we as Christians, also come to the same realization. JESUS truly is “the Resurrection and the Life, and HE offers that “Eternal Life”, to all those who believe in HIM.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

                                           LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website

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