Monday, March 24, 2014

Easter Imperatives

For the April church newsletter, I have submitted the following article. Much of the content is drawn from James Montgomery Boice's message, "Four Words for Easter Sunday," found in The Christ of the Empty Tomb (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing, 2010), 187-196).

As we turn our thoughts toward Holy Week (Palm Sunday, Good Friday, Resurrection Day), I would like for us to consider what we might call "the first Easter sermon" ever preached. In Matthew 28, when the women came to the tomb to complete the preparations of Jesus' body for burial, they were met by an angel who said these words: "Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying. Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going ahead of you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you" (Matt 28:5-7). The great announcement of Easter is that Jesus is not "here" (in the tomb), "for He has risen." Flowing out from that announcement are four imperatives that are as relevant for us as they were for the women at the tomb.

I. Come! Throughout the earthly ministry of the Lord Jesus, He was calling men and women to come to Him. For instance, in Matthew 11:28, He says, "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest." The invitation to come to Jesus has gone out in all the earth, and many of us are among those who have responded by coming to believe upon Him. Have you? You can do nothing else of any significance in life until you come to Him.

II. See! The angel said, "See the place where the Lord lay." Some might consider it morbid to enter into a tomb and look upon the place where a corpse had been laid to rest. There are, however, five reasons that we should "see" with the eye of our mind that place: A) It reminds us of Christ's condescension. Jesus is the God who became a man, and who subjected Himself to all of the experiences of humanity, including death. He fully identified with us in His incarnation, and became obedient, even unto death (Philippians 2:8). B) It reminds us of the horror of sin. The Bible says that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). When we consider the horrific death of Jesus, we must remember that these were not the "wages" due for His sin, for He was sinless. These were the wages due to each of us. If we want to consider how God views our sin, we need look no further than the cross of Jesus Christ. C) It reminds us of our future. As we look upon the place where the Lord lay, we are reminded that someone will lay us to rest in a grave at some point in the future. Unless the Lord returns first, all of us have a grave in our future. D) It proclaims to us that death has been defeated in Jesus' resurrection. As we look at the place where He lay, we find that He is not there. He is risen! He has defeated sin, death, and hell by His almighty power in His triumphant resurrection. E) It reminds us that those who belong to Christ will rise as He did. When death has delivered its final blow to us, we who are in Christ shall rise in victory with Him, "Christ the firstfruits, after that those who are Christ's at His coming" (1 Corinthians 15:23).

III. Go! There is work to be done, and those who come to the Lord Jesus by faith and considered the significance of His empty tomb must labor for the Master until He calls us home. In a sense, every Sunday is Easter for the Christian. We worship on Sunday to commemorate His resurrection. But the holiest moment of our weekly worship service is not the call to worship, the choral anthem, or even the sermon. The holiest moment is the benediction, for then we are commissioned to out into the world and labor for the Lord Jesus as His body in the earth. As important as it is for us to "come" to worship on Sunday morning, it is as important for us to "go" out into the world to serve Him "between Sundays." There is no limit on what we can do for Him. Anything we do can be done for Him if our perspective is right in the doing of it. The best thing we can do for Him as we go is that fourth and final imperative in the angelic message ...

IV. Tell! The Gospel of Christ crucified and risen is good news, and good news must be shared. The world around is literally dying to hear this good news. But what shall we tell them? Tell them that Jesus died for their sins. Tell them that He is risen. Tell them that death has been defeated. Tell them that God has made this Jesus who was crucified both Lord and Christ, and that by believing, they might have life in His name (Acts 2:36; John 20:31). The empty tomb is the evidence that Jesus is risen and that He is able to save them forevermore.

We find these same imperatives throughout the Gospels. As Philip sought to introduce Nathanael to Jesus, his simple message was "Come and see." Jesus final words to the church, the Great Commission" were, "Go and tell" (Matthew 28:18-20). These are the imperatives that should define our Christian lives. Have you come? Have you seen? Have you gone? Have you told? As we move toward the celebration of Jesus' death and resurrection this month, commit yourself to carrying out these imperatives daily.

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