“He is risen!”
“He is risen indeed!”
So begins the Easter liturgy for the Greek Orthodox church.
It was also the practice of a church Sharon and I used to go to.
On Easter Sunday morning, the pastor would announce from the pulpit, “He is risen,” and we in the congregation would respond, “He is risen indeed!”
But it isn’t just tradition; it’s truth.
Unbelievers and skeptics tell us that the Resurrection is a fiction, that it was something cooked up by priests or other religionists to keep the people under their thumb.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
The folks involved in the story didn’t believe it either – at first.
Matthew 28:1 says, Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. Mark 16:1 tells us that, as they came toward the garden where the tomb was, they said among themselves [for Mark tells us that a woman named Salome was with them], ‘Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?”
These women were prepared the anoint the body of Jesus – to do for Him what there had not been time, because of the onset of the Passover Sabbath, to do when He died. Just in passing – the Passover Sabbath could be any day of the week, not just Friday. And Matthew, in the original, says, after the Sabbaths, plural, the women were on their way. “Sabbaths” – there were two Sabbaths that week. As we said in our last post, Jesus didn’t die on Friday.
And the woman were coming to the tomb to “anoint” the body of Jesus, to do the burial practices there hadn’t been time to do earlier. They thought He was dead.
Peter – he was going to go fishing, John 21:2-4. Actually, he was going to return to his old business, the business he had left when Jesus called him to be a disciple, Matthew 4:19; Mark 1:17. John tells us that six other disciples joined him. They all thought He was dead.
When Mary Magdalene came to those who had been with him, as they mourned and wept, Mark 16:10, emphasis added, and told them that she had seen the risen Lord, they did not believe her, v. 11. Luke 24:11 tells us that “them” included the eleven and…all the rest. They thought He was dead.
When the Lord Himself appeared to two men on the road to Emmaus, and He asked them why they were so sad, Luke 24:17, Cleopas, one of the men, expressed surprise that Jesus, whom he didn’t recognize, didn’t know of all that had happened the past few days. He mentioned the idea that the people had hoped that “it was He who was going to redeem Israel,” v. 21, but that hope had been dashed by the Crucifixion. Cleopas thought He was dead.
When the eleven, finally convinced of the Resurrection of the Lord, told Thomas, who had been absent when the Lord had appeared to the eleven, when they told him that the Lord had risen, he didn’t believe them. He thought Jesus was dead.
Nobody, at first, on hearing of the Resurrection, believed it. They all thought He was dead, every one of them!
So much for some “Passover Plot,” where the disciples got together and fabricated the story that Jesus had risen from the dead!
No, my friends, no one can suffer what the disciples and the others suffered – and continue to suffer – for a known or deliberate falsehood. Now we grant that people can be fooled about the truth of something, believe that it’s true even if it’s not, and suffer for that. But no one can continue to suffer for something they know is not true, especially if that something came from them.
Years later, the Apostle Paul addressed this same idea. In 1 Corinthians 15, he wrote,
Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up – if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied, vs. 12-19 NKJV (last four words – ESV).
But he goes on to declare triumphantly that Christ has risen from the dead. Then he goes on in some detail to describe the ramifications and results of the Lord’s resurrection.
In v. 53-57, he concludes,
For this corruptible [body of flesh and blood] must put on incorruption, and this mortal [body which can and will die] must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O Death, where is your sting?
O Hades, where is your victory?”
The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Those last five words, “through our Lord Jesus Christ,” are the key. Only through the Lord Jesus is there victory over death. The grave is not our final resting place.
In these days of disease and discouragement, let us rest in the understanding that what we can see isn’t all that exists. Through the Lord Jesus, we can have the victory even over something like COVID-19. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t take the appropriate precautions or be careful. It just means that the disease isn’t the final victor.
The Lord Jesus is.
It doesn’t have the final say.
The Lord Jesus does.
Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, Acts 16:31.
He Is Risen!
He Is Risen Indeed!