The most important events in human history were the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul once said, “If Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. … If Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!” (1 Corinthians 15:14, 17).
In reading about the early church, we find that the central theme of the early Christians’ witness to the world was the fact that Jesus Christ, who was crucified, has been raised from the dead. We usually hear a sermon on the resurrection every Easter, but in many churches that is about all. However, in the preaching of the early apostles, the cross and the resurrection were constant themes. The cross, the resurrection and Pentecost are all linked together. Without the resurrection, the cross is a tragedy and a defeat. Without Pentecost, the disciples would have been powerless to spread the Good News of the Gospel.
If Christ’s bones lie decayed in a grave, then there’s no Good News; the darkness of the world is indeed black, and life has no meaning. And the headlines of the world would indicate that the world is coming to an end soon—with no hope for the future in eternity, if Jesus Christ has not risen. However, the New Testament teaches that Christ indeed is risen from the dead! The greatest and most thrilling fact of human history is the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Just before Easter, we normally concentrate our thinking on Christ and the cross. We remember the words He spoke as He met His bitter death for our salvation. The “seven words from the cross” have been in our minds, and preachers preach about them. I do not know who first gathered those seven words from the different Gospels and put them together for our meditation, but they have been a blessing to us down through the years.
But what astonishes me is that few seem to have made a similar collection of the words the Lord spoke to His followers from this side of the empty tomb. What a great thing it would be if after our Good Friday meditations on what the crucified Lord said, we would turn to what the risen Lord said! And I believe these are the things He would say to us today. I would like for you to hear three things that Jesus said after His resurrection.
Remember, after His resurrection He came into all kinds of ordinary places, to all kinds of ordinary people. He came to some in the garden, to two on the road to Emmaus; He came to others at the lakeside; He met a group in the Upper Room or on the hilltop. He shared their meals and their walks. He came to them when they were working and when they were waiting. He came to them when they were afraid and when they were hopeful, when they were doubtful and when they were certain. He came to ordinary people like you and me. What did He say? These three things:
First, He said, “Fear not.” Our world needs to hear that message from the resurrected Christ today! He came to all the disciples, meeting them between the garden with its empty tomb and the city with its mob still ready to persecute His disciples. He said to them, “Don’t be afraid; go and meet me in Galilee; I’ll meet you there” (Cf. Matthew 28:10).
He came to the 11 and said, “Peace to you” (Luke 24:36). “Don’t be afraid” was more than the conventional salute of those days. It was the assurance of a deep peace that He had promised them in the Upper Room on the night before He was crucified (see John 14:27).
His repeated word to them over and over again was, “Do not be afraid” (Matthew 28:5, 10). Why not fear? Because He lives! They need no longer fear death and disaster. They can be assured that just as He triumphed, they too will triumph. They can be confident that God’s purposes have not been thwarted and that He Himself is with them always, unto the end of the world (see Matthew 28:20).
In the midst of our world filled with its dangers, hate and war, the words of our Lord Jesus Christ are even more relevant today than they were then. Once more He comes to those who love Him and says, “Fear not.” He comes to you in the hospital room. He comes to you in the midst of a family tragedy. He comes to you in the midst of a business or physical tragedy. And He says, “Fear not. I’m with you. I’ve been raised from the dead. I am alive! I’m here to help you.”
The second word that Jesus said to His disciples was, “Bear witness” (see Acts 1:8). He came to the disciples as they cowered behind the locked doors of the Upper Room. And when He had quieted their fears, He said, “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you” (John 20:21). He came to them again on the hilltop in Galilee and said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations” (Matthew 28:19). And His final words before He parted from them, as Luke records them in The Acts of the Apostles, were, “You shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
There should never be any doubt in the mind of any Christian, anywhere in the world, that our Commander in Chief has given an order. To fail to hear this command is deliberate disobedience. The command in Acts 1:8 is that you shall be witnesses throughout the world. This command is all-inclusive and embraces evangelism in all possible circumstances. “The end of the earth” represents every conceivable situation—taking account of every possible language, race, color and even religious belief.
There’s an exclusiveness about the Gospel that can never be surrendered by the church. People are lost outside of Christ. They need Jesus Christ in order to be saved. If there were no other reason for going to the ends of the earth proclaiming the Gospel and winning souls, the command of Christ would be enough.
That’s why we use every possible means of getting the Gospel out. We do it because Christ has commanded it. It’s not optional. We have no choice. We’re ambassadors under authority. Our only limitation is physical strength and finances.
I’m convinced that if we really believed that people were lost apart from Jesus Christ, it would become a burning incentive to evangelize with a zeal and a passion that we’re in danger of losing. And those of you that cannot go with us and be members of our Team in preaching, you can stay home and pray, and you can send your help. And we become a team, a worldwide team, to reach millions of people for Christ.
The third word that Jesus used was, “Receive power” (Acts 1:8). The Apostle John tells how He came to them saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22). In the first chapter of Acts, the disciples had been asking Jesus what the prospects were of future success and of the coming of the Kingdom. And, refusing to let their minds dwell on what might happen, He replied, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (Acts 1:8). That was enough, and more than enough, for any contingency, for every emergency. The power that flowed into His followers is an outstanding feature in the story that unfolds in The Acts of the Apostles.
The church today desperately needs a spiritual awakening. We’re in danger of trying to do the work of the Kingdom of God in our own strength. We’re often using the wrong kind of weapons. The revival that the church so desperately needs today cannot be organized and promoted by human means. It cannot be created by machinery. The meaning of the word revival in the Old Testament is “to recover,” “to restore,” “to return.” The word for revival in the New Testament means “to stir up or rekindle a fire which is slowly dying.”
And this is what happened to those disciples because they knew that Jesus Christ had been raised from the dead. It can happen to you today. If you put your trust and your faith in Him, you can be born again. What does it mean to be born again? To repent of your sins, to receive Christ as Savior by faith, and then to follow Him in obedience. And the Holy Spirit will come to live in your heart to give you a brand-new life. It could happen right now.
Let us pray. Our Father, we pray that the Holy Spirit will drive this message of the resurrection into our hearts, and we will be able to say “He is Risen!” in our own hearts and lives. We ask it in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. ©2009 BGEA
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version.
Photo: BGEA Archives