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The Dawning of a New Day

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The Dawning of a New Day

John 20

May 24, 2009

In John, chapter nineteen and verse 30, we read,When Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” Then bowing His head, He gave up His spiritHenry Blackaby then says, God always finishes what He begins (Phil. 1:6). God never speaks a word without ensuring that it comes to pass (Isa. 55:11). Christ is both the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end (Rev. 1:8, 17). Christ is as much at the end of His work as He is at its beginning.Jesus was given an enormous mandate. He was to live a sinless life, remaining absolutely obedient to His Father. Even the manner of His death was to fulfill numerous prophecies that had been foretold in Scripture (Matt. 26:24, 31, 54, 56; 27:9, 35, 46; John 19:28, 36–37). Yet, despite the extremely complex assignment Jesus received from His Father, He could shout triumphantly from the cross, “It is finished!”Christ now resides within each believer. His assignment today is to complete God's will in each Christian. He is just as determined to do this in us as He was to complete God's will for Himself. You will have to resist Christ in order to remain out of the will of God. What is it God wants to do in you? Have you allowed Him to complete what He has begun? He will not force you to receive all that He has for your life. If God's work has not been brought to fruition in you, it is not that Christ has not been diligently working toward that end. Rather, you may need to release areas of your life to Him and be as determined to see God's work in you completed as Christ is. Review the things God has said to you over this last year. Are there promises God has made to you that you have refused to allow Him to complete? If so, commit to yield your will to God today.If the Gospel of John were an ordinary biography, there would be no chapter 20. I am an incurable reader of biographies, and I notice that almost all of them conclude with the death and burial of the subject. I have yet to read one that describes the subject’s resurrection from the dead! The fact that John continued his account and shared the excitement of the Resurrection miracle is proof that Jesus Christ is not like any other man. He is, indeed, the Son of God. The Resurrection is an essential part of the Gospel message (1 Cor. 15:1-8) and a key doctrine in the Christian faith. It proves that Jesus Christ is the Son of God (Acts 2:32-36; Rom. 1:4) and that His atoning work on the cross has been completed and is effective (Rom. 4:24-25). The empty cross and the empty tomb are God’s “receipts” telling us that the debt has been paid. Jesus Christ is not only the Savior, but He is also the Sanctifier (Rom. 6:4-10) and the Intercessor (Rom. 8:34). One day He shall return as Judge (Acts 17:30-31). From the very beginning, the enemies of the Lord tried to deny the historic fact of the Resurrection. The Jewish leaders claimed that the Lord’s body had been stolen from the tomb. This statement is absurd, for if the body was stolen by His followers, how did they do it? The tomb was guarded by Roman soldiers and the stone sealed by an official Roman seal. Furthermore, His disciples did not believe that He was to be raised from the dead; it was His enemies who remembered His words (Matt. 27:62-66). They certainly would not have taken the body! The last thing they wanted was anyone believing that Jesus had indeed risen from the dead. If His friends could not steal the body, and His enemies would not, then who took it? Perhaps the disciples had “visions” of the risen Lord and interpreted them as evidences for the Resurrection. But they did not expect to see Him, and that is not the kind of psychological preparation from which hallucinations are made. And how could more than 500 people have the same hallucination at the same time? (1 Cor. 15:6) Did the followers of our Lord perhaps go to the wrong tomb? Not likely. They carefully watched where He was buried (Matt. 27:61; Mark 15:47; Luke 23:55). They loved the Master and were not likely to get confused about His resting place. In fact, as the women approached the tomb, they were worried about who would roll back the heavy stone (Mark 16:1-3); so they were acquainted with the situation. As to the foolish argument that Jesus did not die, but only swooned and was later revived, little need be said. It was proved by many witnesses that Jesus was dead when His body was taken from the cross. Later, He was seen alive by dependable witnesses. The only logical conclusion is that He kept His promise and arose from the dead. But the glorious truth of the Resurrection was not understood immediately by even His closest followers. It gradually dawned on these grieving people that their Master was not dead, but alive! And what a difference it made when the full realization of His resurrection took hold of them! For Mary Magdalene it meant moving from tears to joy (John 20:1-18); for the ten disciples it meant going from fear to courage (John 20:19-23); and for Thomas it meant moving from doubt to assurance (John 20:24-31). With Mary, the emphasis is on love; with the ten, the emphasis is on hope; and with Thomas, the emphasis is on faith. As we consider Mary Magdalene’s experience that Lord’s Day morning, we can see three stages in her comprehension of the truth of the Resurrection. Peter and John are also a part of this experience. Mary Magdalene and several other women agreed to go to the tomb early on the first day of the week, so that they might show their love for Christ in completing the burial preparations. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus had been forced by circumstances to prepare His body hastily, and the women wanted to finish the task. Their great concern was how to get into the tomb. Perhaps the Roman soldiers would take pity on them and give them a hand. What they did not know was that an earthquake had occurred and the stone had been rolled back by an angel! It seems that Mary Magdalene went ahead of the other women and got to the tomb first. When she saw the stone rolled away from the door of the tomb, she concluded that somebody had broken into the tomb and stolen the body of her Lord. We may criticize Mary for jumping to conclusions; but when you consider the circumstances, it is difficult to see how she would have reached any other conclusion. It was still dark, she was alone, and, like the other followers of Jesus, she did not believe that He would return from the dead. She ran to give the news to Peter and John, who must have been living together at a place known to the other believers. Perhaps it was the Upper Room where they had met with Jesus. Mary’s use of the pronoun “we” is interesting, for it included the other women who at that moment were discovering that Jesus was alive! (see Mark 16:1-8 and Luke 24:1-8) The women left the tomb and carried the angels’ message to the other disciples. These Christian women had a greater message than that of the Law, for they knew that their Savior was alive. Mary’s faith was not extinguished; it was only eclipsed. The light was still there, but it was covered. Peter and John were in the same spiritual condition, but soon all three of them would move out of the shadows and into the light. John 20:3 suggests that Peter started off first to run to the tomb, but John 20:4 reports that John got there first. Perhaps John was a younger man in better physical condition, or perhaps John was just a better runner. It is tempting to “spiritualize” this footrace and relate it to Isaiah 40:31 and Hebrews 12:1-2. When a believer is out of fellowship with the Lord, it is difficult to run the race of faith. However, both men deserve credit for having the courage to run into enemy territory, not knowing what lay before them. The whole thing could have been a clever trap to catch the disciples. When John arrived at the tomb, he cautiously remained outside and looked in. Perhaps he wanted Peter to be with him when he went into the burial chamber. What did John see? The graveclothes lying on the stone shelf without any evidence of violence or crime. But the graveclothes were empty! They lay there like an empty cocoon, still retaining the shape of Jesus’ body. Peter arrived and impulsively went into the tomb, just as we would expect him to do. He also saw the linen clothes lying there empty and the cloth for the head carefully rolled and lying by itself. Grave robbers do not carefully unwrap the corpse and then leave the graveclothes neatly behind. In fact, with the presence of the spices in the folds of the clothes, it would be almost impossible to unwrap a corpse without damaging the wrappings. The only way those linen clothes could be left in that condition would be if Jesus passed through them as He arose from the dead. John then entered the tomb and looked at the evidence. “He saw, and believed.” When John wrote this account, he used three different Greek words for seeing. In John 20:5, the verb simply means “to glance in, to look in.” In John 20:6, the word means “to look carefully, to observe.” The word “saw” in John 20:8 means “to perceive with intelligent comprehension.” Their Resurrection faith was now dawning! It seems incredible that the followers of Jesus did not expect Him to come out of the tomb alive. After all, He had told them many times that He would be raised from the dead. Early in His ministry He had said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19). After His resurrection, the disciples remembered that He had said this (John 2:22); however, His enemies remembered it too (Matt. 27:40, 63-64). He compared Himself to Jonah (Matt. 12:40), and on two occasions clearly announced His resurrection after three days (Matt. 16:21; 20:19). On Thursday of His last week of ministry He again promised to be raised up and meet them in Galilee (Matt. 26:32, and see Luke 24:6-7). What kind of faith did Peter and John have at that stage in their spiritual experience? They had faith based on evidence. They could see the graveclothes; they knew that the body of Jesus was not there. However, as good as evidence is to convince the mind, it can never change the life. Those of us who live centuries later cannot examine the evidence, for the material evidence (the tomb, the graveclothes) is no longer there for us to inspect. But we have the record in the Word of God (John 20:9) and that record is true (John 19:35; 21:24). In fact, it is faith in the Word that the Lord really wanted to cultivate in His disciples (see John 2:22; 12:16; 14:26). Peter made it clear that the Word of God, not personal experiences, should be the basis for our faith (1 Peter 1:12-21). The disciples had only the Old Testament Scriptures, so that is what is referred to in John 20:9. The early church used the Old Testament to prove to both Jews and Gentiles that Jesus is the Christ, that He died for sinners, and that He arose again (Acts 9:22; 13:16ff; 17:1-4; etc.). The Gospel includes “and that He arose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:4). What Scriptures did Paul and John have in mind? Paul saw the Resurrection in Psalm 2:7 (Acts 13:33). Peter saw it in Psalm 16:8-11 (Acts 2:23-36 and note 13:35). Peter also referred to Psalm 110:1 (Acts 2:34-35). The statement “He shall prolong His days” in Isaiah 53:10 is also interpreted as a prediction of Christ’s resurrection. Jesus Himself used the Prophet Jonah to illustrate His own death, burial, and resurrection (Matt. 12:38-40); and this would include the “three days” part of the message. Paul saw in the Feast of Firstfruits a picture of the Resurrection (Lev. 23:9-14; 1 Cor. 15:20-23), and again, this would include “the third day.” Some students see the Resurrection and “the third day” in Hosea 6:2. After His resurrection, our Lord did not reveal Himself to everyone, but only to selected witnesses who would share the good news with others (Acts 10:39-43). This witness is now found in Scripture, the New Testament; and both the Old Testament and the New Testament agree in their witness. The Law, the Psalms, the Prophets, and the Apostles together bear witness that Jesus Christ is alive! Peter and John saw the evidence and believed. Later, the Holy Spirit confirmed their faith through the Old Testament Scriptures. That evening, they would meet the Master personally! Faith that was eclipsed has now started to dawn, and the light will get brighter. When I think of Mary Magdalene lingering alone in the garden, I recall Proverbs 8:17—“I love them that love Me; and those that seek Me early shall find Me.” Mary loved her Lord and came early to the garden to express that love. Peter and John had gone home by the time Mary got back to the tomb, so they did not convey to her what conclusion they had reached from the evidence they had examined. Mary still thought that Jesus was dead. Another verse comes to mind—Psalm 30:5, “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” Mary’s weeping was the loud lamentation so characteristic of Jewish people when they express their sorrow (John 11:31, 33). There is certainly nothing wrong with sincere sorrow, because God made us to shed tears; and weeping is good therapy for broken hearts. The sorrow of the Christian, however, must be different from the hopeless sorrow of the world (1 Thes. 4:13-18), because we have been born again “unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3, nasb). We weep—not because our believing loved ones have gone to heaven—but because they have left us and we miss them. When Mary looked into the sepulcher, she saw two men in white. Their position at either end of the shelf where the body had been lying makes us think of the cherubim on the mercy seat (Ex. 25:17-19). It is as though God is saying, “There is now a new mercy seat! My Son has paid the price for sin, and the way is open into the presence of God!” Mary apparently was not disturbed at seeing these men, and there is no evidence that she knew they were angels. The brief conversation neither dried her tears nor quieted her mind. She was determined to find the body of Jesus. Why did Mary turn back and not continue her conversation with the two strangers? Did she hear a sound behind her? Or did the angels stand and recognize the presence of their Lord? Perhaps both of these speculations are true or neither is true. She was certain that the Lord’s body was not in the tomb, so why linger there any longer? Why did she not recognize the One for whom she was so earnestly searching? Jesus may have deliberately concealed Himself from her, as He would later do when He walked with the Emmaus disciples (Luke 24:13-32). It was still early and perhaps dark in that part of the garden. Her eyes were probably blinded by her tears as well. Jesus asked her the same question that the angels had asked, “Why are you weeping?” How tragic that she was weeping when she could have been praising, had she realized that her Lord was alive! Then He added, “Whom are you seeking?” (He had asked the mob the same question in the Garden—John 18:4.) It is encouraging to us to know that “Jesus knows all about our sorrows.” The Savior knew that Mary’s heart was broken and that her mind was confused. He did not rebuke her; tenderly, He revealed Himself to her. All He had to do was to speak her name, and Mary immediately recognized Him. His sheep hear [recognize] His voice and He calls them by name (John 10:3). Apparently Mary had turned away from Jesus, for when He spoke her name, she had to turn back to look at Him again. What a blessed surprise it was to see the face of her beloved Master! All she could say was, “Rabboni—my Master, my Teacher.” The title Rabboni is used in only one other place in the Gospels, Mark 10:51 (in the Greek text “Lord” is “Rabboni”). “Rabbi” and “Rabboni” were equivalent terms of respect. In later years, the Jews recognized three levels of teachers: rab (the lowest), rabbi, and rabboni (the highest). Mary not only spoke to Him, but she grasped His feet and held on to Him. This was a natural gesture: now that she had found Him, she did not want to lose Him. She and the other believers still had a great deal to learn about His new state of glory; they still wanted to relate to Him as they had done during the years of His ministry before the cross. Jesus permitted the other women to hold His feet (Matt. 28:9), and He did not forbid them. Why did He say to Mary, “Do not cling to Me”? One reason was that she would see Him again because He had not yet ascended to the Father. He remained on earth for forty days after His resurrection and often appeared to the believers to teach them spiritual truth (Acts 1:1-9). Mary had no need to panic; this was not her last and final meeting with the Lord. A second reason is that she had a job to do—to go tell His brethren that He was alive and would ascend to the Father. “He is not ashamed to call them brethren” (Heb. 2:11). “I will declare Thy name unto My brethren” (Ps. 22:22). He had called His own servants (John 13:16) and friends (John 15:15), but now He called them brethren. This meant that they shared His resurrection power and glory. Some students feel that Jesus did return to the Father on that morning, and that was the ascension He was referring to; but no other New Testament passage corroborates this interpretation. To say that He was fulfilling the symbolism of the Day of Atonement and presenting the blood to the Father is, I think, stretching a type too far (Lev. 16). For that matter, He had no blood to present; He had presented that on the cross when He was made sin for us. In His resurrection glory, Jesus was “flesh and bones” (Luke 24:39), not “flesh and blood.” The Resurrection itself was proof that the work of redemption had been completed (“raised because of our justification”—Rom. 4:24-25, nasb). What more could He do? Our Lord never used the phrases “our Father” or “our God.” His relationship to the Father was different from that of the disciples, and He was careful to make that distinction. We say “our Father” and “our God” because all believers belong to the same family and have an equal standing before God. He reminded Mary and the other believers that God was their Father and that He would be with the Father in heaven after His ascension. In His Upper Room message, He had taught them that He would return to the Father so that the Spirit might come to them. Though it was the same Jesus, only in a glorified body, it was not quite the same relationship. We must be careful not to relate to Christ “after the flesh” (2 Cor. 5:16), that is, relate to Him as though He were still in His state of humiliation. He is today the exalted Son of God in glory, and we must honor Him as such. The juvenile familiarity that some people display in public when they testify, pray, or sing only reveals that they have little understanding of Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 5:16. When John was with Jesus at the table, he leaned against His bosom (John 13:23); but when John saw Jesus on the Isle of Patmos, he fell at His feet as dead! (Rev. 1:17) It would have been selfish and disobedient for Mary to have clung to Jesus and kept Him to herself. She arose and went to where the disciples were gathered and gave them the good news that she had seen Jesus alive. “I have seen the Lord!” (Note John 20:14, 18, 20, 25, 29.) Mark reports that these believers were mourning and weeping—and that they would not believe her! (Mark 16:9-11) Mary herself had been weeping, and Jesus had turned her sorrow into joy. If they had believed, their sorrow would also have turned to joy. Unbelief has a terribly deadening effect on a person. No wonder God warns us against “an evil heart of unbelief” (Heb. 3:12). Mary not only shared the fact of His resurrection and that she had seen Him personally, but she also reported the words that He had spoken to her. Again, we see the importance of the Word of God. Mary could not transfer her experience over to them, but she could share the Word; and it is the Word that generates faith (Rom. 10:17). The living Christ shared His living Word (1 Peter 1:23-25). It is good to have faith that is based on solid evidence, but the evidence should lead us to the Word, and the Word should lead us to the Savior. It is one thing to accept a doctrine and defend it; it is something else to have a personal relationship to the living Lord. Peter and John believed that Jesus was alive, but it was not until that evening that they met the risen Christ in person along with the other disciples. (Jesus appeared to Peter sometime during the afternoon, Luke 24:34; 1 Cor. 15:5.) Evidence that does not lead to experience is nothing but dead dogma. The key is faith in the Word of God. Dr. Robert W. Dale, one of Great Britain’s leading Congregational pastors and theologians, was one day preparing an Easter sermon when a realization of the risen Lord struck him with new power. “Christ is alive!” he said to himself. “Alive—alive—alive!” He paused, and then said, “Can that really be true? Living as really as I myself am?” He got up from his desk and began to walk about the study, repeating, “Christ is living! Christ is living!” Dr. Dale had known and believed this doctrine for years, but the reality of it overwhelmed him that day. From that time on, “the living Christ” was the theme of his preaching, and he had his congregation sing an Easter hymn every Sunday morning. “I want my people to get hold of the glorious fact that Christ is alive, and to rejoice over it; and Sunday, you know, is the day on which Christ left the dead.” Historical faith says, “Christ lives!”Saving faith says, “Christ lives in me!”The question each of us must ask ourselves is this: Do I have saving faith? Your eternity hangs on the answer o this question, so you need the right answer. But how can you be sure? Can you be sure? Let’s go back to the Roman Road:Romans 3:23  "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."We all have sin in our hearts. We all were born with sin.  We were born under the power of sin's control.- Admit that you are a sinner. Romans 6:23a  "...The wages of sin is death..." Sin has an ending.  It results in death.  We all face physical death, which is a result of sin.  But a worse death is spiritual death that alienates us from God, and will last for all eternity.  The Bible teaches that there is a place called the Lake of Fire where lost people will be in torment forever.   It is the place where people who are spiritually dead will remain.- Understand that you deserve death for your sin. Romans 6:23b  "...But the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." Salvation is a free gift from God to you!  You can't earn this gift, but you must reach out and receive it.- Ask God to forgive you and save you. Romans 5:8,  "God demonstrates His own love for us, in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us!"When Jesus died on the cross He paid sin's penalty. He paid the price for all sin, and when He took all the sins of the world on Himself on the cross, He bought us out of slavery to sin and death! The only condition is that we believe in Him and what He has done for us, understanding that  we are now joined with Him, and that He is our life.  He did all this because He loved us and gave Himself for us!- Give your life to God... His love poured out in Jesus on the cross is your only hope to have forgiveness and change.  His love bought you out of being a slave to sin.  His love is what saves you --  not religion, or church membership.  God loves you! Romans 10:13  "Whoever will call on the name of the Lord  will be saved!" - Call out to God in the name of Jesus! Romans 10:9,10  "...If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead, you shall be saved; for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting  in salvation."- If you know that God is knocking on your heart's door, ask Him to come into your heart.  Jesus said,Revelation 3:20a "Behold I stand at the door and knock, if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him..." - Is Jesus knocking on your heart's door?   Believe in Him.  Ask Him to come in to your heart  by faith, and ask Him to reveal Himself to you. Open the Bible to the Gospel of John and read what God says about Jesus, about you, and about being born again.   God will help you.  He loves you.  You need to look for a local church where God's word is preached.  The Bible says that we are to desireGod's word like a newborn baby desires mother's milk.Aren't you hungry to know the truth? Water baptism is one of the ways you first show that you have been joined to Jesus.  This is an action, and actions will not save you.  However, it is an act of obedience and a symbol of commitment.The symbolism is this:When you go down in the water you show thatYou have been crucified and buried with Him, And when you come up out of the water you show thatyou have been raised to walk with Him in newness of life. (See Romans chapter 6) You have been born again. (See John chapter 3) Your body has become God's temple.Your heart is where He lives. Forgiveness is yours in Jesus.And you belong to Him. You were sin's slave.But now...  You are a child of GOD! John 1:12"As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name!" You can be sure! You can know beyond all doubt! Hallelujah!  

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