Rev. Dick is pastor of Grace Protestant Reformed Church in Standale, Michigan
Some thing has just happened.
A great storm.
Some destructive thing.
Did you hear about it?
And awful wreckage.
Do you see it?
Jesus died! Jesus dead!
The thing, the storm and the wreckage, is recorded in John 19 and the other gospel accounts.
There it is: the great wrath wind from God Himself; then the still, lifeless body of the Lord. And His being buried.
That truth—that killing, and that death—is a real test of faith.
I believe in other storms. And it is impossible to deny their wreckage.
But this? Who can believe such a Good God Father so casting off and casting down His God Son? Who can believe the death of the Son of God? And that, after His death, He will live again?
What kind of a God is this anyway? What kind of a religion is being demanded of us anyway?!
The man who appeared to be the Savior of Israel, the Life-Giver, is dead, and is buried. Thus, to all appearances, according to EKG’s, stethoscopes, and medical examiners, according to everything observable and measurable of life and death, the cross was the end of Jesus. The storm of Calvary seems to have carried away our Lord and deposited His soul forever in hell. It appears to have broken His body beyond hope that there was anything for Him now besides corruption and becoming dust.
How will faith look past this? How will the first disciples be able to see anything more in the cross than defeat, and anything more in Jesus than a failure? How will they be able to think anything better of Jesus than that He was either just another deluded visionary or a flimflam man?
Think how little their faith was to begin with! They were constantly missing the point of our Savior’s teaching. They remained so carnal in their expectations of the kingdom. And though they had boasted of their loyalty, yet, when the going got really rough, they had all run away from their Master. How little the faith of the disciples seems compared, for example, to the Old Testament worthies of faith who, not having received the promise, nevertheless believed. Just how would these weak disciples believe, who, having received the Promise, just saw Him die!
Revelation, I say.
The only way. Revelation.
Revelation is God above making Truth known here below.
Revelation is absolutely necessary for faith.
God speaking. God unveiling. And the masterpiece, the Wisdom and Salvation of God being known then. That is revelation. Then, something having been revealed, will be faith—if ever there is to be faith.
But what, in this wreckage, in this death of Jesus, after this impossible thing has occurred, is to be revealed? What, I say, can even God say?!
Here is what. Hear: Resurrection!
Friday. Saturday. Dead. Sunday. Risen! Hell could not hold Him. Men might not exterminate Him. His own stopped heart, collapsed lungs, and bloodless and cold body could not keep the life out of Him. On the first day of the week, having been dead and in Joseph’s tomb for parts of three days, Jesus our Savior lives again!
And now this resurrection will be revealed. No one will and may see the resurrection itself. But there will be appearances, appearances of Jesus for forty days before His ascension to heaven. No ordinary appearances, these. But revelation! Indeed, infallible proofs of the Truth of God and of the death of death and of the Living One and our living too. Things for faith to see. Appearances which work the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Appearances. Revealing ones. Special ones indeed! That the disciples might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing they might have life through His name!
And … the wonder continues!
Across the ages, across the miles, across culture, from eternity to time, from infinity to our little place, from Good to sinners…there is still this revelation!
What? Yes. Even in our wreckage! Lives devastated by sin. Marriages destroyed by lust. Disease wracking bodies. Death on every side. And we and ours dying in the midst. Life. Wreckage!
And world wanting us to believe in it. Their counselors offering to peel away the hurts, to lift us up, to put us back on our feet, to get us a quick and all-for-the-better divorce. Their heroes tempting us to trust in them, to believe in them. Their things, their pleasures dulling us to things unseen, and exciting us more than pleasures of the heavenly kingdom.
Revelation. Even in our wreckage. Louder, more mighty than the whole world.
But how can we believe?! Disciples, we, as the first ones: of such little faith!
Here is how.
Now to us the risen One comes. He does not appear. We do not see. But there it is the same: revelation! Special, gospel revelation. God speaking to His own of God with us in and through the crucified and risen One, Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus of God, Jesus Son of God.
Where? Where this revelation, that I might find it! O, that I knew where I might find it, and find Him through it!
It is in a book, my friend. Look. Listen. Read. It appears there, this revelation. Not now in human form, but in written. It appears there, in the Holy Bible. In the sacred Spirit Word. It is the book about Jesus who died for our sins, and is risen for our justification. It is the book of the Justice and Love in the Storm Calvary. Love of Father for the Son. Love for the many sons and daughters He will call His own. Love for His own glory. It is the revelation so wonderful that to know it, to believe it, is to know God, and believe God!
Listen. “These things are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God” (John 20:31).
Blessed is he that has not seen, and believes the revelation of God.
Blessed is he that reads, and hears the word, this revelation.
Revelation in the wreckage.
And hope for the day when, as revealed, as written, the wreckage will be no more.
For Study, Meditation, & Discussion
1. The Resurrection of Jesus
What evidences does Scripture give that Jesus rose from the dead? What texts, Old Testament and New Testament, prophesy and prove that Jesus rose from the dead? What does the resurrection of Jesus declare about Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and our salvation?
Study the great creeds of the church and discuss what these say about Christ’s resurrection.
How does the truth of Christ’s resurrection influence our life? How do we show that ours is resurrection life? Resurrection hope?
2. The Appearances of Jesus
List in order the appearances of Jesus to His disciples.
What does Acts 1:3 say was the purpose of Jesus’ appearing to His disciples for the forty days after His resurrection?
What kind of body did Jesus have when He appeared on earth? How was it the same/different from the body of His humiliation?
3. Jesus’ appearance to Mary Magdalene (John 20:1-18)
From the various gospel accounts be able to tell the order of events that resurrection Sunday.
What does the Bible say about Mary Magdalene?
Why does Jesus appear to Mary first?
What does this appearance reveal of Jesus?
Why may not Mary touch Jesus (v. 17)?
4. Jesus’ appearance to the disciples that first day (John 20:19-23)
How did Jesus appear to them?
What is the “peace” Jesus conveys to the disciples at this time (vv. 19,21; cf. other references in Scripture to the “peace” of Jesus)?
At this time Jesus reminds the disciples that He has sent and is sending them (v. 21). The Greek word for “send” means “send officially” as ambassadors of Christ, to commission one for a special work. What does Matthew 28:18-20, Acts 1:8, and other passages have to say about the commission of the disciples of our Lord?
What great gift are the disciples given at this time in order to discharge their office? How does this gift compare with that given on Pentecost?
Jesus speaks in verse 23 of the disciples “remitting sins,” and “retaining sins.” How do we explain this in light of the fact that the Bible teaches elsewhere (where?) that only God forgives sins or holds people to account for their sins?
5. Jesus’ appearance to Thomas (John 20:24-29)
Doubting Thomas! What was the problem Thomas had which prevented him from believing the resurrection of Jesus?
When Jesus appears to the disciples with Thomas present He again preaches, “Peace be unto you” (v. 26). Why did Jesus speak this again?
Upon seeing Jesus and hearing Jesus’ words, Thomas believes! What is the significance of Thomas’ confession at this time (v. 28)?
After Thomas’ confession, Jesus says, “Blessed are they that have not seen and yet have believed” (v. 29b). What is Jesus saying by this?
6. Perspective (John 20:31)
Appearances of Jesus recorded in Scripture. Important! What several virtues do they show of Jesus, Son of God?
Appearances of Jesus. How do these confirm our faith?
Appearances of Jesus—today? To us? By vision? By voice? In us?
Appearances. How do these compare to revelation? What is revelation? Is it special? Natural? (Cf. Belgic Confession, Art. 2.)
Blessed are those who, having not seen, believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God! Blessed are those who, believing, have life through His name! What is a blessing you receive through this revelation of the appearances of Jesus? Do you experience this blessing in the midst of the sufferings, even the wreckage of this present age?