THE 89 DAY GOSPEL CHALLENGE
DAY EIGHTY-EIGHT JOHN TWENTY
Pastor and author John Ortberg said, “At the heart of Christian faith is the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection.” Jesus’ death alone would have made Him a martyr. But combined with the resurrection He became the victor. He defeated the last and greatest enemy of mankind – death. Take away the resurrection and you destroy the foundation of Christianity.
Those who try to discredit the resurrection of Jesus will use two strategies. Either they question that He really died or they suggest some variations of the story of the bribed guards (Matthew 28:11-15) who said they were overpowered by Jesus’ disciples who stole His body and then fabricated the story of a risen Jesus.
There can be no doubt that Jesus was dead. The beatings and the torture of the cross alone declare He was dead. The soldier who thrust the spear into Jesus’ side could testify to His death. The apostle John was at the cross and bore witness of what he saw (John 19:35). Joseph and Nicodemus would not have entombed a living – man. As they wrapped Him in the linen strips, they were close enough to know they were ministering to a lifeless corpse.
The stolen body theory is also amazingly unbelievable. After the crucifixion, the disciples were in hiding, fearing they too would be arrested and executed. There was a detachment of soldiers dispatched by Pilate to guard the tomb and it had been secured by the seal of Rome. Anyone who would break the seal would be put to death. They fled in the garden when Jesus was arrested. Are we to believe they returned to do battle with the soldiers over the body of Jesus?
Arrogant atheist Rickard Dawkins said, “The same thing happened to Jesus that happens to all of us. He decomposed.” Then show me the body! Find the DNA! For over two thousand years the skeptics have unsuccessfully tried to find the remains of Jesus. But Paul tells us in I Corinthians15:6 that the resurrected Jesus was seen by over five hundred witnesses at the same time.
So, it all boils down to faith. You either believe, by faith, that Jesus did not rise from the dead or you believe, by faith, that Jesus did rise from the dead.
It should be noted that there was a radical change in the disciples who saw the witnessed the risen Jesus. They turned from a group of cowards to men who willingly gave their lives for the cause of Christ. Only James, who was murdered by Herod, died in Judea. The other disciples died taking the gospel to other countries. Matthew was impaled by spears in Ethiopia. Bartholomew was flayed by a whip in Asia Minor. Peter was crucified upside down in Rome. Andrew was crucified on an X-shaped cross in Greece. Thomas was stabbed with a spear in India. John died in exile on Patmos. They all died fulfilling the Great Commission that Jesus gave them. They did it all energized by the reality they had personally seen their risen Savior.
1. The Tomb is Empty (v. 1-10)
The sun had not yet risen when Mary Magdalene and other women made their way to the tomb on Sunday morning. When they arrived, she saw the stone had been rolled away and the tomb was empty. She ran and told Peter and John that the body of Jesus was gone.
Peter and John, with Mary Magdalene following, ran to investigate Mary’s story. They found it just as Mary had said. The grave clothes and the linen napkin that covered His face were there but Jesus was gone. John believed immediately. We are not told how long they lingered, but the disciples returned home while Mary stayed.
2. Mary Magdalene and Jesus (v. 11-18)
Mary’s life was a mess when Jesus found her. She had been possessed by seven demons (Mark 16:9). Jesus cast them out. We can only imagine the love and loyalty Mary had for Jesus. He had saved her life and redeemed her soul.
Mary was in great distress wondering what they may have done with her Lord’s body. Had they desecrated it? Had they burned it? Had they taken it and thrown it into a pit to rot with bodies of other crucified men?
She looked into the tomb and saw two angels, one sitting at the foot and the other at the feet where Jesus had lain. They asked her, “Woman, why are you weeping.” She replied, “Because they have taken away my Lord and I do not know where they have laid Him.”
She turned to see a man whom she assumed to be the gardener. He spoke to her and asked, “Woman, why are you weeping? Who are seeking?” She did not recognize it was Jesus.
Her heart was breaking. She spoke to Him and said, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, please tell me where you have laid Him and I will take Him away.”
Then He spoke her name, “Mary!” And she knew. She turned to Him and replied, “Rabboni!” She fell to His feet and held Him close.
“Mary, do not cling to Me. I must ascend to My Father. Go tell My disciples that I will see them soon.” She did just as He had told her. She found the disciples and told them that she had seen the Lord.
3. The Commissioning (v. 19-23)
That evening the disciples were assembled, presumably to discuss the reports of Jesus’ resurrection. The doors were locked for fear of the Jews but Jesus came and stood before them. He greeted them with, “Peace be with you.” Then He showed them His hands and His side. The rumor was confirmed. Jesus was alive and they rejoiced.
He breathed on them and infused them with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit would come in power on the day of Pentecost but Jesus had promised not to leave them without comfort. There would be a ten-day gap between the ascension of Jesus and the day of Pentecost. When Jesus left, the Holy Spirit was there to lead them and prepare them for the “empowering.”
Jesus said, “This is your mission. As the Father sent me, so send I you.” They were to be His witnesses and take the Gospel to the world. Mark 10:45 says that the Son of Man did not come to be ministered to but to minister to others and give His life as a ransom for sin. That’s what Jesus sent us to do. We are to minister to others and to give our lives for Him.
4. Here’s the Proof (v. 24-29)
It’s not a good thing to miss Sunday night service. Thomas did and when he showed up late, the others were rejoicing and telling Thomas they had seen the Lord.
“Show me the proof!” demanded Thomas. “I will not believe until I put my hands into His side and I see the wounds in His hands.” For the next eight days, Thomas was miserable. The others rejoiced while he remained in unbelief. He wanted to believe, but it just did not make sense.
And then Jesus came. “Here are the wounds Thomas. Now, will you believe?” And Thomas did and he confessed Jesus as His Living Lord.
“Thomas, you are blessed because you have seen me and believed. But others, who will not see me in the flesh, will believe even though they have not seen. They will truly be blessed.” And we are. Though we have not seen Him, we believe and rejoice with inexpressible joy.
5. John’s Purpose Statement (v. 30, 31)
We can’t imagine how many wonderful things Jesus did in His three-and-a-half-year public ministry. We have only seen a glimpse of power. The Bible only reports a small number of His days. But John wrote down his memories of walking with Jesus. The Holy Spirit led him to chose what events to record. But those He recorded with a specific purpose. “That you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God and that, believing you may have life through His name.”
One more day! Listen for the Spirit and follow!
Love to all,