The Paradox of Death

For those who love Jesus Christ as their Risen Lord and Savior, death is no longer a threat to our humanity. Since we are physical and spiritual beings, neither one nor the other, but whole beings who inwardly know there is more, we long to escape what is taking away our lives. But we can’t overrule our own death. This is why Jesus did. Jesus overruled the threat to humanity by defeating the sentence of death for everyone who knows their need of him.

In Christ, it is not death to die. It is the door to eternal life.

The sorrowful “I Can’t Believe it?!” comes before the rejoicing “I Can’t Believe it?!”

Have you ever experienced great sorrow over something only to rejoice sometime later with even more astonishment? It’s the experience that David had when he said, “weeping may tarry for the night but joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5). It’s the experience that all those in Christ will have when we are made new like Christ. Scripture promises that the level of joy that awaits us will make our present sufferings seem light and momentary (2 Cor. 4:17-18).

For those who followed closely to Christ, this day, the second day of his burial must have evoked a sorrowful expression of disbelief: “I can’t believe it.” Luke records that the disciples, his mother, and several other women were huddled together, “troubled” and filled with “doubts” as they faced a future with seemingly no hope (Luke 24:38). But on the third day Jesus appeared to them and showed them his hands and feet. Their response? “. . . they disbelieved for joy . . . ” (vs. 41). They went from one kind of disbelief to another kind. The first was filled with despair – the second with exhilaration.

Point: If you are crushed and despairing over a lost hope, and it stuns you into the common feeling of disbelief because of shattered expectations, hang on . . . joy comes in the morning! Either in this life and most definitely in the next, whatever unbelief of sorrow you are experiencing for now, there will come a day where a joyful disbelief will sweep you up in gladness of heart. It will be like going through years of financial hardship due to medical procedures that caused you to lose your home, then . . . one day you open your door and there stands the reps for Publishers Clearing House – and a huge placard looking check written to you in bold print: $10,000,000.

Tomorrow we laugh out-loud, cry tears of joy, run around in circles, pinch ourselves, hug one another, take a deep breath, put our hands over our mouths, then over our heads – and say, “I Can’t Believe it?!” This is the promise for now and for the future for all those who love Jesus more than life itself.

 

Why Do I Believe in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ?

1. Because I want to live somewhere better, forever, and so do you.

“If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.” ― C.S. LewisMere Christianity

Like you, I want to live in a place of perfect justice.

Like you, I want to live in a place where there is peace and rest and nothing harmful.

Like you, I want to live in a place where there is endless discovery and stimulation of all of my senses.

Like you, I want to live in a place of endless love and joy.

But I will not trust my future with anyone else other than Jesus – he is risen and reigns over all of heaven and earth – he is not bound by death and gravity and sin like we are – he rose victorious from the grave and will return to give to all who turn to him in faith, repenting of their sins – a better place, forever – with him.

2. Because I can’t explain the fame of Jesus without his Resurrection.

There is no reasonable explanation for Jesus’ popularity except for the resurrection. Every famous person has a reason for their popularity. And regardless of the reason whether good or bad, the reason must be true in order for the world to accept it. Jesus is not famous because he was crucified. The Romans crucified tens of thousands of men all over the known world and scripture records that Jesus was crucified as a common criminal.

Jesus is famous because his followers spread the news that he was alive though they saw him crucified and buried (Acts 1:1-11). His followers did not spread the news that he was a good teacher, or that he was “on a mission from God” in the super-hero sense, but that he rose from the dead as Lord who is fully God in flesh and is coming again.

3. Because I can’t explain the life of Saul/Paul apart from the Resurrection of Jesus.

Acts 9:1 says that Saul was breathing out murder against followers of Jesus Christ, but after seeing the risen Lord on the road to Damascus, 9:22 says that Saul was proving to others that Jesus really was the risen Christ. It makes no sense that Saul would do an about-face like this except for undeniable, “beyond a shadow of a doubt” proof that Jesus was alive.

Paul, as his renaming from Christ would take place, then lived his life in such a way that would be insane and nonsensical if Jesus was still dead. No one in their right mind would suffer so much for preaching a lie – but “Jesus is Alive” was no lie! In Paul’s own words, this is what he was willing to suffer to proclaim that Christ is Risen:

“ . . . with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.”       2 Cor. 11:23-27

If Christ was not raised from the dead, Paul would never have subjected himself to such hardship – no one would. There would be nothing to gain if Christ was still dead.

4. Because of the hostility that Jesus stirs up in the world.

Jesus is the most polarizing subject in the world. The identity of Jesus and his claims are attacked at every level of society. He is more vilified in the public square, in movies, books, music, education, art, and religion – than any other religious figure in human history. Why? Because Jesus stands in the way of what mankind wants. Mankind wants to earn and work his way to eternal life. Man wants to believe that he is good enough to achieve god-like existence on his own terms. Man wants to make the rules and determine what is right and wrong in his own eyes. Man wants to make the way to Nirvana – broad and easy – protecting all of his sinful appetites and deny himself nothing. Man wants to keep his life to himself as the highest aim and goal. Man wants to be wealthy, healthy, and famous in his own strength so that he gets all the praise and glory.

But Jesus stands in the way of all of that. He alone is the way, the truth, and the life – so that no one comes to the Father except through him (John 14:6). His way is hard and narrow – and few find it (Matt. 7:13-14), and he calls you to lose your life for his sake so that you may keep it (Matt. 10:34-38). He calls all men everywhere to turn away from your sin with repentance, trusting only in his sinless life and death for your sins and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead – and that he alone is Lord. This is why the Rulers in Jesus’ day hated him so much: Jesus was calling everyone to abandon all allegiance to man and turn to him alone.

5. Because the Bible is honest about our doubts, our questions, and skepticism of Jesus.

I find it more than curious that Scripture is so honest about our doubts regarding what it claims as truth, and for that honesty, I believe in the Resurrection of Jesus. We have doubts and questions and are skeptical to propositions and will not entrust ourselves until there is proof. Though we are liars and fabricate truth and delete facts to shape people’s opinion, we do not want to be lied to, and we do not want misrepresentation. God is aware of this.

Acts 1:3 records that Jesus gave many “proofs” of his resurrection. Throughout Luke’s gospel and his sequel, Acts, he cites dates, names of people, and roads and gates and cities and passage ways, and islands and people groups, quotations that can be verified, names and dates of kings and rulers and court documents, and first-hand eye witnesses, so as no perjury or fraud can be found anywhere in what Luke is saying.

Scripture records that Jesus’ life and his resurrection did not take place in a corner (Acts 26:24-29), hidden out-of-sight. But so that when truth claims are made about Jesus, people’s questions, doubts, and skepticism will be answered. Doubting Thomas does not believe the report of Jesus’ resurrection – he must see for himself: “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe” (John 20:25). What does Jesus do? He accommodates Thomas’ inquiry (vs. 27).

Some of Jesus’ half-brothers did not believe in him – they doubted his claims and his resurrection (Matthew 28:10, 16) even though he’s standing right in front of them days after he was crucified and buried.

Truth is: We want proof – or we will not believe. The bible does not show Christians as mind-numbed zombies following Jesus. We follow Jesus out of well-reasoned consideration of the facts. But what ultimately persuades the heart is the Holy Spirit, testifying to you, awakening you out of your dark and rebellious dungeon that Jesus is Alive (1 John 5:6-12). Therefore, Jesus himself does not mince his words:

Confess Christ as Savior and Lord or perish. (John 3:16)

“If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” – John 10:37-38.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Ragman, The Ragman, The Christ

Several years ago, a professor read this poem in class just before Easter. I never forgot about it. Set aside a few minutes to read this poem set in modern street-wise prose and pray and weep with joyful tears for what Christ has done for you. By faith and repentance of sins, he has taken all your sorrows upon himself and has beautifully dressed you for all eternity, clothed in his righteousness.

The Ragman, the Ragman, the Christ!
by Walter Wangerin, Jr.

I saw a strange sight. I stumbled upon a story most strange like nothing my life,
my street sense, my sly tongue had even prepared me for. Hush, child. Hush now and I will tell it to you.

Even before the dawn one Friday morning I noticed a young man,
handsome and strong, walking the alleys of our city.
He was pulling an old cart filled with clothes both bright and new,
and he was calling in a clear, tenor voice: “Rags!”
Ah, the air was foul and the first light filthy to be crossed by such sweet music.
“Rags! New rags for old! I take your tired rags! Rags!”
“Now, this is a wonder,” I thought to myself,
for the man stood six- feet-four,
and his arms were like tree limbs, hard and muscular,
and his eyes flashed intelligence.
Could he find no better job than this, to be a ragman in the inner city?
So I followed him. My curiosity drove me. And I wasn’t disappointed.
Soon the Ragman saw a woman sitting on her back porch.
She was sobbing into a handkerchief,
sighing, and shedding a thousand tears.
Her knees and elbows made a sad X.
Her shoulders shook. Her heart was breaking.
The Ragman stopped his cart.
Quietly, he walked to the woman,
stepping round tin cans, dead toys and Pampers.
“Give me your rag,” he said so gently,
“and I’ll give you another.”
He slipped the handkerchief from her eyes.
She looked up and he laid across her palm
a linen cloth so clean and new that it shined.
She blinked from the gift to the giver.
Then, as he began to pull his cart again,
the Ragman did a strange thing:
he put her stained handkerchief to his own face;
and then he began to weep,
to sob as grievously as she had done,
he shoulders shaking.
Yet she was left without a tear.

“This is a wonder,” I breathed to myself,
and I followed the sobbing Ragman
like a child who cannot turn away a mystery.

“Rags! Rags! New rags for old!”
In a little while,
when the sky showed grey behind the rooftops
and I could see the shredded curtains hanging out black windows,
the Ragman came upon a girl whose head was wrapped in a bandage, eyes were empty.
Blood soaked her bandage.
A single line of blood ran down her cheek.
Now the tall Ragman looked upon this child with pity,
and he drew a lovely yellow bonnet from his cart.
“Give me your rag,” he said,
tracing his own line on her cheek,
“and I’ll give you mine.”

The child could only gaze at him while he loosened the bandage,
removed it, and tied it to his own head.
The bonnet he set on hers. And I gasped at what I saw:
for with bandage went the wound!
Against his brow it ran a darker,
more substantial blood-his own!
“Rags! Rags! I take old rags!” cried the sobbing,
bleeding, strong, intelligent Ragman.
The sun hurt both the sky, now, and my eyes;
the Ragman seemed more and more to hurry.
“Are you going to work?” he asked a man leaned against a telephone pole.
The man shook his head.
The Ragman pressed him: “Do you have a job?”
“Are you crazy?” sneered the other.
He pulled away from the pole, revealing the right sleeve of his jacket – flat, the cuff stuffed into the pocket.
He had no arm.
“So,” said the Ragman. “Give me your jacket,
and I’ll give you mine.”
Such quiet authority in his voice!
The one-armed man took off his jacket.
So did the Ragman –
and I trembled at what I saw:
for the Ragman’s arm stayed in its sleeve,
and when the other put it on he had two good arms,
thick as tree limbs: but the Ragman had only one.
“Go to work,” he said.
After that he found a drunk,
lying unconscious beneath an army blanket,
an old man hunched, wizened, and sick.
He took that blanket and wrapped it round himself,
but for the drunk he left new clothes.

And now I had to run to keep up with the Ragman.
Though he was weeping uncontrollably,
and bleeding freely at the forehead,
pulling his cart with one arm,
stumbling for drunkenness, falling again and again,
exhausted, old, old, and sick,
yet he went with terrible speed.
On spider’s legs he skittered through the alleys of the City,
this mile and the next, until he came to its limits,
and then he rushed beyond.
I wept to see the changes in this man.
I hurt to see his sorrow.
And yet I needed to see where he was going in such haste,
perhaps to know what drove him so.
The little old Ragman – he came to a landfill.
He came to the garbage pits.
And then I wanted to help him in what he did,
but I hung back, hiding.
He climbed a hill.
With tormented labour he cleared a little space on that hill.
Then he sighed.
He lay down.
He pillowed his head on a handkerchief and a jacket.
He covered his bones with an army blanket. And he died.
Oh, how I cried to witness that death!

I slumped in a junked car and wailed and mourned as one who has no hope –
because I had come to love the Ragman.
Every other face had faded in the wonder of this man,
and I cherished him;
but he died.
I sobbed myself to sleep.
I did not know – how could I know? —
that I slept through Friday night and Saturday and its night, too.
But then, on Sunday morning,
I was awakened by a violence.
Light – pure, hard, demanding light –
slammed against my sour face,
and I blinked, and I looked,
and I saw the last and the first wonder of all.
There was the Ragman,
folding the blanket most carefully,
a scar on his forehead,
but alive!
And, beside that, healthy!
There was no sign of sorrow nor of age,
and all the rags that he had gathered shined for cleanliness.

Well, then I lowered my head and,
trembling for all that I had seen,
I myself walked up to the Ragman.
I told him my name with shame,
for I was a sorry figure next to him.
Then I took off all my clothes in that place,
and I said to him with dear yearning in my voice:
“Dress me.”
He dressed me. My Lord,
he put new rags on me, and I am a wonder beside him.
The Ragman, the Ragman, the Christ!