The Resurrection Of The Crucified Christ
1. At the dawning of the first day of the week, the message from the Lord directed to the women who were visiting the tomb where Jesus was buried was as follows: "Do not be afraid. Are you looking for Jesus who was crucified? He is not here. As he previously said he would, he has risen from the dead. Now, look where his corpse was placed. After that, hurry and announce to the disciples, 'He has risen from the dead. And he is going ahead of you to Galilee. There he will meet you.' I have certainly passed it on to you," (Matthew 28:5-7). The message that was passed on was passed on even more, it has eventually reached even us [Japanese]. While in the words of this message, I would like for us to celebrate the Lord's resurrection particularly as we keep three things in remembrance today.
Don't Be Afraid
2. The first thing is that the beginning of the words from the message is "Don't be afraid." That the scripture says, "Don't be afraid," means quite plainly that these women were afraid. As a matter of fact, just before this, the text has it about some men so scared they were as dead men. "The guards were shaking with terror and were like dead men," (verse four). Here we are celebrating Easter with joy, but it wasn't a very joyous thing for the people initially, it was terrifying.
3. What does terror like that mean? In the scriptures it is written that "An angel of the Lord came down from heaven and came right up [to them]. [The angel] rolled the rock to the side, and sat on it," (verse two). Of course, any time something like that would happen right before your eyes, that would be terrifying no doubt. But, it's not just some weird occurrence of a dreadful thing that the Bible is trying to inform us of. An angel is found in the scene here. In scripture, the presence of angels bespeaks of a visitation from God. In other words, it is saying God was actually there. By saying that the angel moved the rock it is not just saying [an angel] opened the entrance to the grave. Had he wanted to move the rock from the grave by means of humans, he could move it. What the text is saying here is more than that, which is, that death's grip as symbolized by the grave is broken. Therefore, the terror, of which this text speaks, is ultimately the terror of having been touched by the visitation of the living God, and it is the terror of having been touched by the awesome power of God who overturned the blunt reality of the death of Christ.
4. So, here we have the worst of dilemmas for humankind. Whenever a person seeks for salvation, he or she needs to seek for "the true and the living God," who is able to save in the truest sense, (First Thessalonians 1:9). No one can find salvation unless it comes by an encounter with [the true and the living] God. But, as we see here, to meet the true and the living God is truly terrifying.
5. Why is it so terrifying? It's because persons have turned their backs on God in rebellion. The Old Testament has a story that illustrates this truth quite poetically. It is the story of the Garden of Eden. In the garden of Eden, Adam and Even rebelled against God and ate the forbidden fruit from the tree. What were the effects of that? The scripture states that "Adam and his wife avoided the face of the Lord God and hid among the garden trees ...," (Genesis 3:8). They "avoided the face of the Lord God." -- This is the world of humankind. A god prepared by human hands any old how -- the Bible calls it "an idol" -- but humans do not fear that kind of god. Yet though, when a sinful human being encounters the truly powerful God, the true and the living God, he or she is afraid and helplessly becomes as if dead.
6. But, all because of God, he addresses these [two] people with the message of "Don't be afraid." After the resurrection of Christ, those are the first words to humankind [again] like [he spoke in the garden].
The Cross And The Resurrection
7. Then the second thing I would like for us to remember is the point that [he] gave a message particularly about the resurrection of "the crucified Jesus." "Are you looking for Jesus who was crucified? He is not here. As he previously said he would, he has risen from the dead. Now, look where his corpse was placed," (verses five and six). So, there is huge significance in that the cross and the resurrection are being linked up together like that.
8. Jesus had repeatedly spoken on forgiveness of sin, this Jesus who had spoken on forgiveness of sin made his way to the cross so that he himself would become the sacrifice to pay for sin. Seated at dinner with his disciples just before Jesus was arrested, the Lord spoke to them with these words: "All of you, drink from this cup. This is my blood, the blood of the covenant, which is being shed for many people, that their sins may be forgiven," (26:27-28). Then, just as he said it would, the Lord shed his blood on the cross and went on to die. Christ had certainly offered up his own body as an atonement sacrifice to pay for sin.
9. But, we need to stop here and think about this. There is no meaning in a sacrifice offered up just in itself. The sacrifice starts to have meaning after it is accepted by God. Did God the Father really accept the sacrifice to pay for sin? Will God truly save the sinful because of Christ's sacrifice? Will God accept those who have rebelled against him?
10. This is an extremely important question for us and we find the answer to this question in today's passage of scripture. In fact, the scripture here says, "he rose from the dead," but more accurately it would be "he was raised from the dead." Christ did not raise himself from the dead. The expression is that Christ was raised from the dead by God the Father. Why is that? Because this is a response from God the Father. "The resurrection of the crucified Christ" is God's very own response indeed. God the Father has accepted the sacrifice of Christ -- That's what he was saying by it! Because of this very fact that Christ was accepted as a sacrifice for the payment of sin, Christ was not left deserted in death but he was raised up out of it instead.
11. Later the man Paul wrote to the church at Corinth the following [letter]. "If Christ did not rise from the dead, your faith is vain, you are still right now in your sin. If that is the case then, those who have believed in Christ and are asleep [in the grave] have also perished," (First Corinthians 15:17-18). That's exactly right what he said. If there is no resurrection of Christ, there is no foundation anywhere for the church to believe in the forgiveness of sin and to speak of forgiveness of sin. And if there were no forgiveness of sin, since we would then still be separated from God, humanity is only to die and perish. There would not be any hope anywhere any more.
12. However, that morning, the women who had come to the grave heard, "Are you looking for Jesus who was crucified? He is not here. As he previously said he would, he has risen from the dead." On this earth, a perfect sacrifice for the payment of sin was offered and accepted by God. As a result of that, humans do not need to die as persons forsaken of God any more. They do not need to perish without hope. So, this is the very foundation for the words from the angel of "Don't be afraid." That dreadful dilemma has been totally taken away. That's because the God upon whom we call is the same God who raised the crucified Christ from the dead. Therefore, we can fearlessly pray to the true and the living God.
Go To Galilee
13. Then the third thing I would like for us to remember is that the message instructed [them] to go to the disciples and tell them that "He has been raised from the dead. And he is going ahead of you to Galilee. He will meet you there." These instructions were repeated even by the risen Christ's own mouth. [He said,] "Do not be afraid. Go and tell my disciples to go to Galilee. There they will meet me," (verse ten).
14. The Bible says about the disciples that at the scene where Jesus was arrested "at that time, all of the disciples deserted Jesus and escaped," (26:56). That's how the disciples were. The way they were is drawn in direct contrast to the way the women were who had been keeping watch over Jesus [since] he was crucified. It even gives the detail about Peter when he denied Jesus three times. But, now a message of the resurrection of Christ was being communicated to these [deserting] disciples. The message is given to them to "Go to Galilee. The risen Christ awaits you there. There you will meet the Lord." Galilee is the place where the disciples had first met Jesus. It was the place where they heard the words from the Lord to "Come follow me. I will make you fishers of people." It was what you might call their initialization point, where with hearts aflame they first followed Jesus. Jesus was waiting for them there. From there they would be enabled to once again follow Jesus and live with him.
15. What does this mean I wonder? It doesn't mean they were going back on the time line as if these three or so years hadn't passed. It's not saying they are "returning to their starting point." The one waiting in Galilee for them is the Christ who had been risen from the dead. They would begin to follow anew and afresh the risen Christ. In other words, something totally new was afoot and starting there. If I may put it like this, the disciples who had deserted Jesus were once dead. But, they started to follow the Christ of the resurrection as men given new life. Christ doesn't call them "my disciples" any more. He calls them "my brothers."
16. How is such a thing possible? -- Because the crucified Christ was made to raise from the dead. Because the payment for sins was accomplished. Because forgiveness of sin was given. Because a new hour has already begun through Christ's cross and resurrection. That's why the disciples could partake of [being] pardoned for their sins and were able to begin following the Christ of the resurrection anew and afresh. This is the meaning of what he said in "Go to Galilee. There you will meet me."
17. So, today we are celebrating Resurrection Sunday in church, but the reason the church today is even here on this earth is because of that day [when he said], "Go to Galilee. There you will meet me." The church is the fruit of Christ's cross and resurrection. We are granted life through its blessings. As a result of that, we can still partake of being forgiven of our sin right now and can live as new born persons with Christ. While we ponder these points, let's rejoice in our hearts and celebrate with our minds our Lord's resurrection.