Death could not hold the sinless Son of God, who on the third day was raised from the dead and later ascended to the Father.
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When all circumstances appeared to indicate defeat, the victory of Jesus' kingdom was poised to be expressed in a manner impossible apart from God's supernatural power. Throughout His life and ministry Jesus had sought to explain that what He came to bring was contradictory to the modus operandi of the entire world-system of mankind and the religion engendered therein. Jesus' kingdom was "not of this world" (Jn. 18:36). His kingdom would not operate on the principle that "might is right," but by the empowering of God's Spirit (Zech. 4:6), in accord with His divine character. In the kingdom of God in Christ the last shall be first (Matt. 19:30; 20:16), the poor will be rich (Lk. 6:20); leadership will come through servanthood (Mk. 10:43; Lk. 22:26), exaltation through humility (Lk. 14:11; 18:14), gaining out of losing (Lk. 9:24: 17:23), and life out of death (Matt. 10:30; Jn. 12:25). Such is obviously contradictory to the world's principles of power and success which the religions of the world employ.
"The new thing that Jesus brought into the world was Himself," remarked Marcion, despite his theological deficiencies. Jesus came to reveal the kingdom which was inherent in Himself. Contrary to the religious expectations of a material and militaristic Messianic kingdom prevalent in the first century, Jesus came to functionally reign as Lord and King in the lives of spiritually receptive believers. In order to thus reign spiritually and ontologically in the lives of receptive humanity, Jesus had to take the death consequences of sin for mankind and then make His divine life available by resurrection and ascension. This dynamic resurrection reality of Christ's life was progressively realized by the first observers of the resurrection of Jesus as they began to participate in and express His life from Pentecost onwards.
(251) Dealing with Death - Matt. 28:1; Mk. 16:1
Early Saturday evening, after the Sabbath observance concluded at sunset, several faithful women purchased spices to anoint the corpse of Jesus. They did so in accord with the Jewish religious customs pertaining to dead bodies. Either they were not aware of the abundant applications of perfumed ointment made by Joseph and Nicodemus, or wanted to do so as a supplement to the hurried work of Joseph and Nicodemus late Friday afternoon.
There does not appear to be any anticipation of resurrection among these ladies, despite Jesus' clear statements of such (Matt. 16:21; 17:23; 20:19; 26:32). To fulfill their religious duties, they approach with a funerial mind-set. Religion often has a necromaniacal emphasis which focuses on death and specializes in the funeral details of corpse preparation and disposal.
(252) Disrupted Guards - Matt. 28:2-4
Prior to sunrise on Sunday, another earthquake (cf. Matt. 27:54) occurred, apparently at the same time as an angelic messenger rolled away the stone from the tomb. The only ones present to observe these events were the Roman soldiers guarding the tomb. They must have told early the early Christians that the angel appeared like lightning with glowing white garments, and admitted that they fell over like dead men at the supernatural phenomenon (cf. Jn. 18:6).
(253) "He is Risen" - Matt. 28:5-8; Mk. 16:2-8; Lk. 24:1-8; Jn. 20:1
Mary Magdalene and some other women arrived at the tomb at sunrise on the first day of week, Sunday. They were prepared to administer additional perfumed spices on the corpse, and had wondered how they would be able to remove the entrance stone. When they arrived they noticed that the large stone had been rolled back. They were quite frightened when they observed one or two angelic messengers, one of whom chided them for seeking the "living" among the dead. There are many today who are likewise seeking the "living" among the dead tombs of religion, unaware that Jesus is "risen" to become the life of the Christian and the Church.
It is the natural propensity of man and his religion to establish an act of violence and a victim of violence as the focal point of their belief system, and to use such to control the collective social unit formed thereby.1 The religious perversion of Christianity, therefore, prefers to focus on the event of the crucifixion, rather than on the ramifications of the resurrection. The cross was the prerequisite remedial action required for the restorative action of God effected in the resurrection. In the resurrection the risen Lord Jesus becomes the unique dynamic of God as the ontological essence of Christianity. Jesus had earlier declared, "I AM the resurrection and the life" (John 11:25), His resurrection-life is the dynamic reality of all that Christianity is, as He indwells those who receive His Spirit and allow Him to be the basis of their identity and activity. Religion often perceives of the resurrection as but an historical event or a theological tenet without recognizing that the ontological dynamic of the very resurrection-life of the risen Lord Jesus is the reality of Christianity.
When the angelic messenger informed the women that Jesus was "risen" from the dead, he also reminded them that Jesus had said he would be crucified and would raise the third day (Lk. 9:22,44; 18:31,32), and then would meet them back in Galilee (Matt. 26:32). The women fled from the tomb in silence, trembling with both fear and joy at the same time.
(254) Closer Investigation - Lk. 24:9-12;Jn. 20:2-10
The women who had seen the angels at the tomb ran to file a "missing person's report" with the disciples. Jumping to a false, naturalistic conclusion, Mary Magdalene reported, "They have taken the Lord's body from the tomb, and we do not know where they took it," trying to blame either the Jewish religionists or the Roman governmentalists at the perpetrators of the theft of the corpse.
The male disciples, retaining the social attitudes toward women that existed in Jewish religion and culture, dismissed the women's report as female emotional hysteria; unbelievable idle talk, without substance.
Peter and John were prompted, though, to do their own investigation. John, probably being the younger of the two, outran Peter to the tomb, but was skittish about entering into the place of death, as there were many religious regulations about dead bodies and the impurity of defilement by contact with such. Peter, true to his character of direct action, barged right into the tomb. He saw the cloth strips in which Jesus' body was wrapped, and the cloth which was wrapped around His head carefully placed in a position separated from the other cloths. Quickly he realized that what he was observing was not the work of grave-robbers. Apparently the body had disappeared out of the cloth wrappings, perhaps forming somewhat of a cocoon. Since the cloth wrappings with their layers of perfumed ointments would have adhered like glue, there was no conceivable way that grave-robbers could have removed the wrappings and carted away a naked body.
John cautiously observed the evidence in the tomb also, recognizing and believing that something supernatural had occurred. He admits in the writing of his gospel record (Jn. 20:9) that he was not at that time cognizant of all of the Old Testament Scriptures with their types and prophecies pointing to, and finding their fulfillment in, the resurrection of the Messiah.
(255) A Woman is the First to See the Resurrected Jesus - Matt. 28:9,10; Mk. 16:9-11; Jn. 20:11-18
Mary Magdalene, from whom Jesus had cast seven demons, was the first to see the resurrected Jesus, when she returned to the sepulcher and was weeping outside of it. Man-made, male-dominated religion would have projected a strong male figure to be first to see and believe in the resurrected Messiah, but Christianity commenced with an event that posited the equality of men and women.
Two angels inquired why Mary was weeping. Still holding to her false conclusion, she repeated, "Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they laid Him." The resurrected Jesus was also standing outside the tomb, and said, "Woman, why do you weep?" Mary thought it was the gardener, and being preoccupied with recovering the corpse, replied, "Sir, if you took Him, tell me where you put Him." Jesus spoke her name, "Mary!" whereupon she recognized the accent or the tone of His voice, and exclaimed in Hebrew, "Rabboni!" meaning, "Teacher!"
Perhaps because she sought to embrace and enclasp Him, Jesus exhorted her not to cling to or grasp onto His physical and visible presence, for He had not yet ascended unto the Father. It was as if He were saying, "Do not be satisfied simply with physical re-embodiment, for I must ascend to God the Father in order to be poured out at Pentecost in Spirit form in a completely new kind of relationship." The ascension is the completion of the resurrection. Jesus told Mary to go back to the brethren and tell them He would ascend to God.
When Jesus vanished from visibility, Mary went to tell the disciples, as instructed, and found them mourning. They did not believe the report of the empty tomb from the other women, nor did they believe her report of having met the resurrected Lord.
(256) False Report of Religion - Matt. 28:11-15
Meanwhile, some of Roman guardsmen went into the city of Jerusalem and informed the religious officers of Jews what they had observed when the angel came and the tomb was opened. The religious officials of the Jewish Sanhedrin bribed the soldiers with a large sum of money to make a false report of Jesus' disciples having come to steal the body, even though such a report would incriminate themselves for a failure to fulfill their duty. The religious authorities indicated that they would make sure that no personal recrimination would come upon them.
Religion and its unbelief have often been guilty of fabricating falsehoods, and engaging in historical revisionism to suit its own purposes. The payment of large sums of money to propagate such falsehoods is regarded as justifiable, for the end justifies the means.
(257) Travelers on the Road to Emmaus - Mk. 16:12,13; Lk. 24:13-32
Many people were leaving Jerusalem after the Passover holiday. Two followers of Jesus, Cleophas and another unnamed person, were walking on the road to the village of Emmaus. The resurrected Jesus joined them incognito. Failing to recognize Him, Jesus allows the travelers to tell Him the news of what has happened in Jerusalem in the past three days. They still believed that Jesus of Nazareth was a prophet who was murdered by Jewish leaders; but explained that they had hoped that He was the Messiah who would redeem Israel. Their religious misconceptions of how the Messiah would function had undermined their faith. It has already been three days, they explained, so there was little hope that anything would come of this. They were telling the living Lord Jesus about how the dead Jesus meant the death of their Messianic expectations. Jesus seems to have rebuked them for not understanding how the Old Testament scriptures anticipated the death and vindication of the Messiah, proceeding then to recite the Scriptures of Moses and the prophets which spoke of Him, and to interpret them.
When they arrived in the village where they intended to lodge, they invited Jesus to join them (Heb. 13:2). Accepting their hospitality, Jesus then plays host. In the midst of their table fellowship they recognized Jesus, perhaps as His pierced hands broke the bread. He then vanished. Together they remembered the intensity of that time when Jesus was interpreting the Scriptures to them and showing how they pointed to Himself.
(258) Returning to Report - Lk. 24:33-35
The two disciples who had been on the road to Emmaus returned to Jerusalem to report their experience to the ten disciples who were gathered there. It was approximately a seven mile return journey. Apparently they knew where the disciples were located, cowering in fear that the religious authorities would arrest them and perhaps put them to death also. The disciples had barricaded the doors, and were refusing to admit any strangers, but they must have been acquainted with these two gentlemen, for they admitted them, and they all shared reports of the alleged appearances of Jesus that day.
(259) Jesus Appears to the Disciples - Mk. 16:14; Lk. 24:36-43; Jn. 20:19-25
It was still Sunday evening and ten of the disciples were huddled together in Jerusalem behind closed doors, fearful of the temple police. After hearing the report from the two who had been on their way to Emmaus, Jesus appeared to the ten disciples in the room without entering through the door. Though Jesus gave them a greeting of "peace," they were quite "spooked" by what they thought might be an apparition or a ghost, and they were not disposed toward peacefulness.
The disciples of Jesus were obviously not anticipating the resurrection of Jesus, even though He had told them that he would raise from the dead. Despite the reports they had heard that day, they were hard to convince! Jesus rebuked the eight disciples who had not believed Peter and John's report of the empty tomb. He then proceeded to convince the disciples that He had returned from the dead by inviting them to see and touch the crucifixion wounds on His physical body. What they were seeing was not an apparition, but a tangible "flesh and blood" body. Additional attestation of such was given when He joined them in eating some fish. The question of whether Jesus' physical resurrection body was prototypical of the resurrection body of Christians has long been debated, but it appears that other Scriptures indicate that the resurrection body of Christians will not be physical (cf. Rom. 8:21; I Cor. 15:39-54; II Cor. 5:1-8).
To the ten disciples present that evening, Jesus said, "Receive the Holy Spirit." Although some have interpreted this to be a full impartation of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples, and thus the commencement of the Church2,it is more likely that Jesus was exhorting and admonishing the disciples to be receptive to the Holy Spirit when He was made available in a full indwelling manner at Pentecost. Only at Pentecost would the "promise of the Father" (Lk. 24:49; Jn. 14:26; Acts 1:4) imbue them with divine power (Lk. 24:49; Acts 1:8) by the indwelling presence of the Spirit of Christ in order to live out and declare the resurrection reality of Christianity, and form the beginning of the Church (Acts 11:15).
Jesus also explained that in the context of having received the power of the Holy Spirit, the disciples would be commissioned to announce the terms of God's forgiveness. Only God can forgive sins (cf. Mk. 2:7), but He has done so in the redemptive work of Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:14), and on the basis of the resurrected and ascended Lord Jesus the disciples would proclaim such forgiveness to mankind (cf. Acts 13:38).
Despite the recitation of the events of the evening to the pessimistic Thomas, who had not been present, he was unconvinced by reports of the other disciples. He wanted to conduct his own sensory and empirical observation of touching and feeling the crucifixion wounds in order to be convinced that Jesus had indeed been raised from the dead.
(260) Thomas is Convinced - Jn. 20:26-31
Eight days later, the disciples were gathered again, probably in the same room in Jerusalem. Thomas was with the other ten on this occasion. The resurrected Jesus again appeared in their midst without coming through the closed door. He invited Thomas specifically to touch and feel His crucifixion wounds, and to thus cease from his unbelief. Thomas was convinced, exclaiming, "My Lord, and my God."
Jesus went on to explain that the highest form of faith is not based on empirical, sensory evidence. By the receptivity of the Spirit of Christ, Christians through the ages have expressed faith and received Jesus as their Lord without visible evidence observable with physical eyesight.
(261) Breakfast on the Shore - Jn. 21:1-14
Sometime in the thirty-two day period of time between the eighth day and fortieth day after His resurrection, Jesus appeared again to seven of the disciples at the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. Simon, the natural-born leader of the group had indicated that he was going fishing, and the other six disciples who were with him decided to join him. Returning from the night of fishing with no catch, they saw a figure standing on the beach. They did not recognize that it was Jesus. Jesus inquired, "Hey fellows, do you have any fish?" They might have thought that He was a fish merchant, and they answered concisely, "No." Jesus advised them to cast the net on the starboard side in order to catch some fish. When they did so in the obedience of faith, they could not pull in the net because it was full of fish.
John, perhaps remembering a prior fishing venture (Lk. 5:4-10), told Peter that the figure on the beach was the Lord, Jesus, and impulsive Peter jumped into the water to swim to shore. When the other disciples made shore in the boat, they all found Jesus, who had already set a charcoal fire and prepared fish and bread. Cooking some of the 153 fish they had caught, they had breakfast with Jesus on the shore.
(262) Peter's Love Affirmed - John 21:15-23
After breakfast Jesus asked Peter, "Simon, do you love Me more than these?" Peter must have been dreading this humiliating confrontation. He had arrogantly boasted that in comparison with the other disciples, "they might fall away, but I will always defend You" (Matt. 26:33; Mk. 14:29). Peter responded, "Yes, Lord; You know I have great affection for You," changing the Greek word for "love" in the response. Again Jesus asks, "Simon, do you love Me?" leaving off the comparison. Peter answered, "Yes, Lord: You know I have great affection for You." Peter is subdued and not willing to over-speak in false confidence. A third time Jesus asks, "Do you have great affection for Me? Peter was grieved that Jesus should question such, and said, "Lord, You know all things; You know that I have great affection for You." The purpose of this triple questioning after the triple denial of Peter would seem to be Jesus' reinstating and recommissioning of Peter in light of his failures and denials, so that none would think that he had forfeited his right to be a disciple and an apostle.
Jesus continued to explain that Peter's commissioning to be a "fisher of men" and a "shepherd of the sheep" would not be an easy task. Contrary to the unrestraint of his younger years, Peter would find himself constrained and stretched out on a cross in death. Just as He had initially invited Peter to follow Him in discipleship (cf. Matt. 4:18,19), Jesus was now calling Peter to follow Him even to the ignominious death of crucifixion (cf. Jn. 13:36,37). Tradition reports that Peter was martyred by crucifixion and requested that he be hung upside down rather than in the same position as his Lord.
Seeing his friend and fellow-disciple, John, Peter asked Jesus, "Lord, what about this man? What is his destiny?" Jesus politely explained that such was none of Peter's business; Peter's responsibility was only to be and do what Jesus demanded of him in following the Lord. If Jesus wanted John to remain alive until He returned to earth, such an hypothetical possibility would not be impossible, though Jesus was not inferring that such would be the case as was later rumored in the early Christian community.
(263) The Authority of an Invested Commission - Matt. 28:16-20; Mk. 16:15-18
Having previously designated a particular mountain on which He would meet them, the disciples kept the appointment and met Jesus there. They continued to revere Him as the resurrected Messiah, but there was still some skepticism.
Knowing that He would soon be physically departing in the ascension, Jesus commissioned the disciples to "make disciples" of all nations of people on earth. The authoritative basis for such a commissioning was inherent in His own deity, but also in the investiture of power (Rom. 1:4) that came by His mediatorial work (I Tim. 2:5) in the crucifixion and resurrection. Religion wants to invest authority in ecclesiastical leaders or in the propositional statements of an inspired book, but Jesus said that "All authority has been given unto Me." Authority (Greek word exousia) is derived "out of the being" of the Person of the Lord Jesus, not out of positional placement of persons or propositional pronouncement. By the contingency of His authoritative Being the original disciples, and all disciples henceforth, are charged to "make disciples" who are Christians, "Christ-ones." This is only possible as the "I AM" of the ontological presence of the Spirit of Christ functions with us and in us as the dynamic provision of God unto the consummation of the age. Religion has mistakenly warped Christ's commission into a mandate of evangelistic involvement that proceduralizes the "going" and the "baptizing" and the "teaching" into proselytizing and propagandizing.
The questionable ending of Mark's gospel record indicates that supernatural authentication in the form of exorcisms, utterances, healings, etc. will accompany the spiritual transformation of men in Jesus Christ. Religion has often sought to counterfeit such as self-authentication of their endeavors.
(264) The Promise of the Father - Lk. 24:44-49; cf. Acts 1:3-8
Meeting again in Jerusalem, Jesus taught the disciples how all things that had been written in the writings of Moses and the prophets and the psalms concerning Him had been fulfilled. All the promises of God in the old covenant have been fulfilled, realized and affirmed in the person and work of Jesus Christ (cf. II Cor. 1:20), including reference to His suffering (Isa. 53) and His being raised on the third day (cf. Hosea 6:2). Religion has often posited unfulfilled old covenant promises that have yet to be fulfilled in their variant schemes of futuristic expectation.
Jesus also sought to clarify to the disciples the meaning of the "kingdom of God" (Acts 1:4), since the disciples seemed to retain some of their traditional religious concepts of the kingdom as invested in physical Israel. There would still be a progressive realization by the disciples of the dynamic implications of the reign of Jesus Christ as King and Lord in His spiritual people.
Fuller understanding would come, though, when the "promise of the Father" in the provision of the Holy Spirit would bring all things to their remembrance (Jn. 14:26). The indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit from Pentecost onwards would provide the divine empowering (Lk. 24:49; Acts 1:8) required to allow for the restoration of mankind in Jesus Christ. Declared to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection (Rom. 1:4), Jesus would by the power of the Spirit (cf. Rom. 15:19) cause men to be "born again to a living hope" (I Pet. 1:3) by His resurrection-life.
(265) Ascension - Mk. 16:19-20; Lk. 24:50-53; Acts 1:9-12
Jesus led His disciples up the Mount of Olives to a location near Bethany, and there He spoke words of blessing. Perhaps He was expressing His desire that they might be "blessed with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Him" (Eph. 1:3), as would be made possible at Pentecost. The ascension departure of Jesus allowed for the Pentecostal dynamic of the Spirit of Christ to become operative in all Christians.
While speaking to His disciples, Jesus was taken up into heaven in the ascension. The disciples were still looking at the atmospheric void which was His physical departure point, when two angelic messengers appeared and explained that Jesus would someday return to earth in a second physical advent, in like manner as He had departed.
Still with limited apprehension of the spiritual realities that Jesus came to bring in Himself, the disciples worshipped Him on the mountain, and then returned joyously to Jerusalem. They made themselves available as witnesses of Christ, whereby He by the Spirit might empower them and work through them to restore mankind in Himself.
The gospel records of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are not exhaustive biographical accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ on earth. Jesus did and said many other things which are not recorded (Jn. 20:30), and if written out in detail the world could not contain the books pertaining thereto (Jn. 21:25). What is recorded in the gospel narratives was written that mankind might "believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing they might have life in His name" (Jn. 20:31).
It is not religion that man needs, but the life of Jesus Christ. He came that we might have life (Jn 10:10). He is that life (Jn. 11:25; 14:6; Col. 3:4). Jesus confronted and exposed the illegitimacy of all religion by the revealing of Himself as the only ontological reality that restores man to function as God intended man to function. Christianity is Christ!
1 This thesis
is explored in the following sources: