But there is another River you can come to and truly be washed. It is the river of God’s grace.
The year was 1887. It was twenty two years after the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. With family members, politicians, and police standing around his grave, the President’s coffin was dug up, lifted out, and opened. The reason? Constant rumors that his body was not in the grave. What did they find? His body was there. Twenty-three people confirmed it was him after looking at his still un-decomposed face. But the rumors continued so 14 years later they had to dig it up again. Both times witnesses were present who testified that Lincoln was still in the grave.
Three days after the death of Jesus Christ, similar rumors began to spread throughout the land of Israel. Only this time there was no body. And there were no witnesses who could say that they had seen His body. In fact, to the contrary, many witnesses did claim they saw his body – that is alive! They claimed to have seen him out of His grave and even to have talked with Him! There was Mary in the Garden, the two guys on their way to Emmaus, the 10 disciples first, then later Thomas. The 11 disciples several more times. The rumors really were taking off as more than 500 people began to claim they saw Him alive (1 Cor. 15).
As great a man as Lincoln was there were witnesses to prove he was still in the grave. If one of our Presidents or another leader in our government were to cry out today to Lincoln for help, there would be no response. If a scientist were to cry out to Einstein for help today there would only be empty silence. If someone were to call out to Mohammed or Buddha or Gandhi today there would be no help. But if you and I call out to Jesus Christ there is help. Because He is alive.
But not only is there help, everyone would be wise to pay careful attention to what Jesus said while He was on the earth. Why? Because you do not have to take seriously a dead Jesus. But you do have to with a living One.
The tomb is empty. The angel declared “He is not here; He is risen!” The people who put Him to death fabricated a story about His disciples stealing His body. However, how would they explain that those disciples who once ran in fear, began to amaze all of Israel with their fearlessly preaching that the Most Wanted Man in Israel who had been put to death was in fact back from the grave?
The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the distinguishing feature of the Christian faith. It is what sets it apart from all religions and spiritual systems of this world. It authenticates our Lord Jesus Christ and all He said and did. Romans 1:4 says, “[Jesus Christ our Lord was] through the Spirit of holiness declared with power to be the Son of God.” His resurrection validates our faith in Him. First Corinthians 15 says that if Jesus was not raised from the dead then our faith is futile, meaning that because He was raised up our faith is meaningful and it is effective with God. Peter says we have been born again into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead” (1 Pet. 1). Furthermore, His resurrection means that He is able to give life – He is the One who has life. I want us to see today the Wonder of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. And I want us to see it in 3 ways.
#1: The Wonder of God’s Power
First we see the Wonder of God’s Power. We love a good contest.
Have you ever gone down a YouTube rabbit-hole? Yeah, it happened to me. Anyway, one night when I know I could have improved my life doing any other thing than watching YouTube I came across a championship wrestling match. You’re like “I didn’t know you followed arm-wrestling, Pastor.” I don’t, like I said, it was a rabbit-hole. Anyway, it was with two monsters. One guy was an American, Devin Larrat, nicknamed Superman because he’s huge and he dominates and he’s cool. The other guy was Russian, Denis Cyplenkov. What do you say about this guy? Well, he’s huge. To give you an idea you can watch a video – on YouTube of course – of him crushing walnuts with his enormous fingers. I couldn’t even crush peanut shells after that video. Anyway so there was lots of hype because these are two of the biggest names in arm-wrestling, I think. I don’t want to come across like I keep up with the world of armwrestling and would know that. So they meet at the table and in an instant the Russian giant crushes Devin. Two titans going at it. One crushes the other.
It’s the same thing with Jesus and Death. Two titans coming together. But it’s really no contest. The Lord of Life crushed Death. I love how Peter said it in Acts 2:24, “It was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him.” Our Lord submitted Himself to the clutches of death for a short while only to turnaround and destroy him. It is that Genesis 3 in the Garden where God spoke to Satan and cursed him, “You will bruise His heel, but He will crush your head.” This is the moment in history that finalizes the death of death. Jesus Christ, dead, buried, and then raised back to life in conquest over death. Life, the life of Jesus Christ, is greater than death. Against Christ, death is no match.
This is because of who Jesus is: He is life. He said in John 14:6, “I am the way the truth and the life”. Acts 3:15 says He is the author of life. John 1:4 says, “In Him was life and that life was the light of men”. He is indestructible. He is the eternal God, having no beginning and no end. He speaks of this in Revelation 1:18, “I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever!”
His return to life from the dead was foretold by the OT Prophets. Psalm 16:10 said, “You will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay.” Isaiah 53:11 predicted, “After the suffering of His soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied…” Jesus predicted numerous times in the Gospels that He would die and be raised to life afterwards. Matthew 16:21, “From that time on Jesus began to explain to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that He must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”
What all this means is that because Jesus is alive we too can have life. This power and glory of Christ’s life is available to us. At the grave of Lazarus, Jesus said these words in John 11:25, “I am the resurrection and the life, he who believes in Me will live even though he dies”. Since the very beginning Death has conquered the life of every single man. Until Jesus Christ. Now, in coming back from the dead Jesus Christ stripped death of its power forever. The enemy of life has been killed. The author of life has put an end to the enemy of life.
#2: The Wonder of God’s Love
Secondly in Christ’s Resurrection we see the power and the glory of God’s Love. Here we are talking about God’s great love. According to 1 John 4:16 “God is love”. Throughout the Bible God is famous for His love. Let us see two the two ways that the wonder of God’s love is at work in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
First is God’s love towards His Son. When Jesus was baptized God spoke from heaven, “This is my Son, whom I love, with Him I am well pleased.” Romans 1:4 says, “…” God raised His Son from the dead because He loved Him.
Second, there is God’s love for sinners seen in Christ’s Resurrection. Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” Romans 4:25 says, “He was given over to death for our sins but was raised to life for our justification.”
We often look to the cross of Jesus Christ as the great display of love. And it is. But let us not cut-off the full picture of God’s love by forgetting the Resurrection after the cross. In other words if we don’t see the Resurrection of Christ we miss the full picture of God’s love.
It’s like choosing to watch movies in either “widescreen” or in “full-screen”. If you chose “full-screen” you wouldn’t have the black bars on your screen, and your whole TV screen would be filled with picture. But to do that it would cut off much of the actual picture of the movie. You literally would not be able to see people or objects in the scene because to make the fullscreen work it gets cut out. The solution is widescreen, which enables the whole scene to be visible. Nothing gets left out on the TV screen.
Looking only at the cross to see God’s love is like looking at Jesus in full-screen. Part of the picture is being cut out. You’re missing the full picture of God’s love by not seeing His resurrection along with His crucifixion.
You see, Only the Resurrection confirms the cross and proves it. In other words, in the dying act of God’s Son was God’s greatest demonstration of God’s love for sinners. But by all appearances to men Christ’s death was like all others. In order to prove the atoning accomplishment of Christ’s death on the cross God raised Him up, and in raising Him up God proved everything Christ ever said. John 3:16“For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only son so that whoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life.”
The Resurrection is a cosmic statement of God’s love for His Son. And for sinners. And we wonder over that.
#3: The Wonder of our Liberation
Lastly we see in Jesus Christ’s resurrection the wonder of liberation. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the power and glory of our liberation. First He was liberated from death and the burden of our sins upon Him. It was an incalculable burden upon Him – one that brought Him down to the pit of death. However, after He suffered for our sins He was set free from the burden.
Since then, our liberation is also before us. Ours is liberation from sin and death. Jesus said in John 8, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free”.
How? Because when Jesus hung on the cross God took all your sins and laid them upon Jesus Christ. And when Jesus died and went down into the grave He took your sins away from you forever. His death was the full and final payment for all your sins so that you could be set free from your sin debt. Liberty.
The Ganges River in India is one of the most famous and largest rivers in the world. Beginning its 1600 mile long journey in the Himalayas it ultimately empties into the Bay of Bengel. For Hindus the river is sacred. It is believed that bathing in the Ganges river will wash away a person’s sins. Every day you can find thousands of people dipping in its waters with the hope their bad karma is rinsing away. Yet, ironically, the same river that is believed to cleanse it’s bathers is itself one of the most unclean and polluted rivers in the world. The large cities around dump untreated wastewater into the river 24/7. Adding to the contamination is the Hindu faithful that perform cremations on the river’s banks and throw the remains into the river. For many the wood for cremations are too expensive so they simply slip the dead bodies of loved ones into the current. The collecting of all these corpses has actually led the government to consider introducing flesh eating turtles into the river to clean up the problem.
That river can’t wash anyone’s sins away. It’s not clean itself; it can’t clean anyone else.
But there is another River you can come to and truly be washed. It is the river of God’s grace.
There is One who will rinse you clean,
He’s the One who washed the disciples’ feet.
Come to Him and no sin will remain.
He will wash away your every stain.