The Wonder of the Resurrection

Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulcher, and he saw, and believed.

John 20:8

The Lord is risen! 

Wondrous work of God, a recreation which brought life out of death, far more marvelous than the creation of the heavens and the earth. 

The Son of GOD came in the likeness of sinful flesh, in the form of a servant, to surrender Himself throughout all His life to the wrath of God, in order to atone for the sins of His people. 

The Son of MAN came as the Shepherd to lay down His life for His sheep, even when this involved separation from God in anguish of hellish torments, crying out in the amazement of His complete isolation under the righteous judgment of the God of heaven and earth. 

Jesus, the Man of Sorrows, willfully submitted to the power of death; first dying our spiritual death during the three hours of darkness on the cross, and then entering into our physical death by surrendering His spirit into His Father’s hand and commanding death to take His body as its prey. He took His place among the dead of all ages. He set the stage, so that He could march triumphantly before the eyes of the whole world through death into heavenly life. 

As a reward on His accomplished work of the cross God raised Him up in the early hours of the third day. As the mighty Conqueror the Son of God arose from the shades of death and entered into a new, heavenly, spiritual, immortal life in His resurrection body. 

He lives. We know He lives, for we have the testimony of God’s infallible Word informing us of His resurrection, and we have the seal of the Holy Spirit by faith in our hearts.

I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten Son, our Lord, Who . . . suffered . . . was crucified, dead and buried, descended into hell. The third day He arose again from the dead. Glorious resurrection! 

Total confusion. 

When we follow the movements of the followers of Jesus on the morning of the resurrection we are impressed by the total confusion that reigned among them. 

A group of women, their arms laden with spices and ointments to perform their last acts of love upon Him to Whom they still clung in faith, come at the break of day to the now vacated sepulcher. They find the stone rolled away, and, looking into the tomb, they see two men clothed in white garments as guardians of the grave, who inform the women that Jesus is not here, for He is risen from the dead. 

Mary Magdalene was with the women as they approached the tomb, but seeing that the stone was rolled away from the grave, she hastily concluded that someone had been here before them and had stolen the body of Jesus and buried it elsewhere. Without investigating any further she only adds to the confusion by returning to the city and informing Peter and John that the body of their Lord had been stolen. Only later would she learn about the resurrection when she met Jesus in person at the tomb. 

Entirely misinformed, John and Peter rush to the grave to ascertain what might have happened to the earthly remains of Him Whom they loved. In their excitement they do not stay together, but each hastens as fast as he can, so that John is the first one to arrive at the tomb. John sees the stone rolled away, but does not enter in as yet. Looking in, John notices the linen clothes in which the Lord’s body had been wrapped. Impetuous Peter arrives just a bit later, ignores his fellow disciple who is standing looking into the grave and rushes past him to investigate for himself what has happened. 

God methodically works out His plan and purpose even through our disorder and confusion. He was preparing His own eye witnesses to learn about the wonder of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. God directed each one in his or her own time and manner to come to the tomb to behold that which eye has never seen, human ear has never heard, and far exceeds our fondest imagination. One thing stands out very clearly, and that is that none of the early visitors to Jesus’ grave expected to find a risen Savior. God leads each one step by step, preparing each of them for the moment when Jesus would appear to them personally and their faith could embrace a living, risen Savior and Lord. 

Holy wonder. 

John tells us in his own unique way how he learned about the resurrection. All the emphasis falls on what John saw. Three times he uses that word in this connection, yet each time with a different connotation, which is lost in our translation. Let us try to picture before our minds the entire scene as John describes it. After standing at the opening of the tomb andperceiving that the grave clothes are still lying in the very place where the body of Jesus had lain, John follows Peter into the sepulcher. Together they stand staring at the grave clothes in deep study. It was obvious to both of the disciples that Jesus’ body had been embalmed in the usual manner, just as Lazarus’ body had been prepared for burial. Strips of linen cloth with spices and ointments had been wrapped about the torso and about each limb separately. His head had also been wrapped in a special napkin, or covering. Peter stands gazing at the linen clothes, probably rubbing his chin and beard in rapt amazement. Along with John he notices that the linen clothes lie in the same position as when the body of Jesus was wrapped in them, but now the body is no longer there. Even the head piece lies separately, exactly as it had been wrapped about the head of the Lord. And then, as John tells us, the light dawned. John saw, that is, he knew. And he believed. 

Marvelous revelation. 

To John it was perfectly evident that Jesus could not have risen in His earthly body and returned to this life, as was the case with Lazarus. When Lazarus was raised he came forth still wearing the grave clothing. Jesus left the grave clothes behind. Moreover, it was also evident that no one could have desecrated the grave by carrying off the body of the Lord. How could anyone take the body and leave the grave clothing undisturbed? There was but one explanation, and that was that God had performed the greatest resurrection wonder here that this world can ever know. Like a tulip bulb growing out into a plant and flower, or like a moth coming forth out of its cocoon and leaving the vacated shell behind as evidence of its departure, so the Lord came forth out of His grave clothing in a new, heavenly, spiritual body. He no longer needed earthly coverings. Nor would these coverings fit that heavenly body. He entered the tomb in an earthly body, He came forth from the tomb, as it were, on the other side, the heavenly side, with a resurrection body fit for heavenly perfection and glory. No human eye could see Him in this new body. He could enter the room unseen, and He could make His presence known by taking on an appearance. He would fade away, as it were, and no one saw Him go. The only time His disciples perceived His going was when He remained visible to them as He ascended to heaven and entered the cloud of glory. 

We cannot help but ask, why were the disciples so slow in understanding the resurrection of their Lord? We must bear in mind two things. First, the disciples were of the earth earthy, so that they could not understand the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven except these mysteries were revealed to them and they could perceive them by faith. Secondly, the disciples were still in the dispensation of shadows, lacking the full revelation of salvation as we have it today. They had to be taught by signs and wonders that accompanied the preaching of the Word. And therefore God in infinite mercy and divine understanding of our human frailties led them step by step into the unfolding of the glorious wonder of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

Not as if the full light of this wonder flooded their souls at once. John and Peter still needed a personal appearance of the Lord to instruct them more fully in the marvelous victory over death and the grave. Jesus had to assure them that He was not a spirit, but had a real body, even though now this body was heavenly and immortal. He also had to convince them that it was the same body, as He demonstrated with the marks of the nail holes in His hands and feet. Repeatedly Jesus appeared in various forms to unfold the mystery of the new life of the risen Lord. It was weeks later that John was still wondering about this mystery, for He knew that it was Jesus that appeared to them, yet as risen Lord they had difficulty knowing Him. Therefore John tells us, “And none of the disciples durst ask him, Who art thou? knowing that it was the Lord.”‘ John 21:12. It took the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost to make them fully understand. 

Wonder of wonders. 

Never before had anyone risen from the dead in a new, heavenly body. Enoch and Elijah had gone into heaven without passing through the anguish of death. Others had been raised from the dead to return to this life, only to be faced with that last enemy for a second time. All of these served to foreshadow the resurrection of our Lord. But the Lord Himself passed through death into everlasting life. Christ’s body was sown in corruption and was raised in incorruption; it was sown in dishonor and was raised in glory; it was sown in weakness and was raised in power; it was sown a natural body and was raised a spiritual body. 

The mighty Conqueror entered into the stronghold of Satan and took Satan and his whole host captive. He marched triumphantly through our physical death and the grave, arose on the third day, paused on His way for forty days, just long enough to show us the wonder of His triumph over death, and then ascended before the eyes of His disciples into the cloud of glory, where He was greeted by millions of angels who accompanied Him as the Victor to the throne of the Ancient of Days, the Eternal God, where He was given all power in heaven and on earth with a Name above all names. Daniel 7:13-14

We now see much more than John saw in the vacated tomb, and we know far more than he knew when he saw and believed. For with an eye of faith we see Jesus crowned with glory and honor at the right hand of God in the highest heavens. Heb. 2:9

How can the human tongue ever fully declare all that this victory over death means to us? We have a Highpriest in the heavens, Jesus Christ, the Righteous, Who intercedes for us day and night. The Father hears Him and bestows on Him every spiritual blessing, which our Lord, in turn, bestows upon us according to all our needs. 

We are born again as new creatures in Christ by “a supernatural work, most powerful, and at the same time most delightful, astonishing, mysterious, and ineffable; not inferior in efficacy to creation, or the resurrection from the dead.” Canons III, IV, 12. With the apostle Paul we confess, I live, yet no more I, Christ lives in me. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 

Even as Christ is risen as the Firstfruits from the dead, so also we will be raised in His likeness when He returns with the clouds to take us to Himself. “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump; for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” I Cor. 15:51-52. “Thanks be to God who giveth us the victory in our Lord Jesus Christ!”