The cross of Christ is central to our Christian faith. Our Lord Jesus Christ came to earth to show God’s love and to give His life on Calvary’s cross for a sinful people (Jn. 3: 16). Though our Saviour died, he did not remain in the tomb. On “the third day” He rose from the grave just as He had predicted (Matt. 20: 18-19).
Jesus’ resurrection from death unto life is clearly recorded in I Corinthians 15: 3-8: “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: 5 And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: 6 After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. 7 After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. 8 And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time”.
The doctrine of the risen Christ distinguishes Christianity from all other religions. Without this vital tenet of our faith, the Gospel is a cruel hoax. Truly, “if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain” (I Cor. 15: 14). If Christ be not raised, “ye are yet in your sins” and “are of all men most miserable” (I Cor. 15: 17, 19); we have also proclaimed a false Gospel: “Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not” (I Cor. 15: 15).
“And does not this make us the vainest men in the world, and our office and ministry the vainest and most useless thing in the world? What end could we propose to ourselves in undertaking this hard and hazardous service, if we knew our religion stood on no better foundation, nay, if we were not well assured of the contrary? What should we preach for? Would not our labour be wholly in vain? We can have no very favourable expectations in this life; and we could have none beyond it” (Matthew Henry).
The Bible tells us that after His resurrection, Jesus appeared to His disciples. These appearances – which are recorded in the four Gospels as well as in Acts and I Corinthians – provide irrefutable proof that our Lord rose from the dead.
Let us consider some of these appearances as highlighted by the evangelist Luke:
o The devoted women who went early to the tomb “upon the first day of the week” with embalming spices were greeted by an open sepulchre door and an empty tomb. We are told that they “found not the body of the Lord Jesus” (24: 1-3). This was confirmed by the angels’ testimony to the perplexed women: “Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen: remember how He spake unto you when He was yet in Galilee, Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again” (24: 5-7).
As the women ran excitedly to bear this good news to the disciples, the Lord Himself met them on the way: “And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him (Matt. 28: 9). Note that the risen Saviour physically presented Himself and even accepted their worship. Furthermore, Jesus gave them specific instructions – “go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me” (Matt. 28: 10) – a confirmation that He was indeed alive and waiting to meet with His disciples.
o The apostle Peter who ran to the sepulchre, found not the body but “the linen clothes laid by themselves” (24: 12), “showing with what grand tranquility ‘the Living One’ had walked forth from the dead” (J F Brown Commentary).
o The two despondent disciples on the road to Emmaus were reasoning and debating along the way when the risen Lord joined them, “but their eyes were holden that they should not know him” (24: 16). As He walked with them, Jesus explained the Scriptures, “the things concerning himself” (v. 27). When the pair finally realised that it was the Lord Who had ministered to them, “they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?” (v. 32). When Jesus took bread and blessed it, “their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight” (vv. 30-31).
o Jesus appeared to His dejected disciples while the doors were shut (Jn. 20: 26). In His glorified resurrected body, the risen Saviour passed through closed doors. He showed His hands and feet and asked His disciples to “handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have” (Lk. 24: 39b). Defying physical laws, He also ate “a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb” (v. 42).
As we celebrate Resurrection Sunday today, we thank God for our Saviour’s victory over death and the grave. Christ is risen, hallelujah! We join the apostle Paul in his triumphant cry: “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Cor. 15: 55-57).
Our Saviour’s resurrection is the guarantee that at the appointed time, we, His redeemed ones, shall also be raised to eternal glory. The apostle John reiterated this hope in his epistle: “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (I Jn 3: 2).
May these thoughts of our risen Saviour encourage us to be “stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (I Cor. 15: 58). Christ’s return draweth nigh. May the Lord find us faithful. Amen.