It seems to me to be a fairly obvious fact that one of the things that folks struggle with at this time of the year is how to go about trying to honor the resurrection of the Lord. You will see it on signs. There will be big performances, or there will be pageants of one kind or another, or there will be live animals, or there will be some other kind of an event like that to draw attention it seems to the Lord's being raised up. Of course, once an effort like that is made, and if that is the way that we remember something this important, then next year we have to figure out some more novel way or more impressive way to bring attention to the resurrection of the Lord. One of the things that concerns me about situations like that is that somehow the idea will develop that if we don't have some sort of a big event like that that we attach less importance or less value to the resurrection of Jesus.
I want to say that I believe that the Bible makes it abundantly clear that the resurrection of the Lord should be much on the minds of God's children at all times. It ought to be something that moves us and something that makes a huge difference in our approach to life and even to our view of ourselves. The resurrection of Jesus declared him to be the Son of God with power, Romans 1:4 says. It is through the resurrection of the Lord that we are born again to a living hope, I Peter 1:3 makes clear to us all. It is the resurrection of Jesus that makes us believe that our bodies are destined to something other than merely the dust for eternity. It is the resurrection of Jesus that makes us believe we have a Lord who is at the right hand of the Father on high ruling over his kingdom. One writer said, "The resurrection is not merely important to the historic Christian faith. Without it there would be no Christianity. It elevates Christianity above all other world religions. Through the resurrection Christ demonstrated that he does not stand in a line of peers with Abraham, Buddha, Confucius, or Mohammad. Jesus Christ is utterly unique. He had the power not only to lay down his life but also to take it up again. That makes Jesus different from anyone else there has ever been."
If the resurrection is to be remembered, though, it seems also obvious that it ought to be remembered the way the one who was raised up wants it to be remembered. About the only claim that I can find that Jesus made during his earthly appearances after his resurrection was the claim that all authority in heaven and on earth had been given to him. And that makes us desiring to honor and to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus want to look at his Word to see if we can find there anything about what he wants in this way. And when we look to the Lord's Word, we find there are some important things there. While there is no mention of any yearly celebration, there is no mention of any big performance, what Jesus called for by our remembering his resurrection is much more personal, much more practical, and much more profound. I would like to call your attention this morning to three ways in which the New Testament says that we all ought to honor the risen Lord.
First, we ought to embrace the story of his life for us and his death for our sins and his burial and his resurrection. In the current issue of a little magazine entitled Church and Family, which is produced by Harding University, Bro. Howard Norton tells a story that grabbed my attention and made me kind of grin. Bro. Norton worked for several years as a missionary in Brazil before moving back to this country to preach and to teach in university settings. Bro. Norton said one morning in his office he got a phone call from one of his fellow missionaries in Sao Paulo, Brazil. This fellow worker called to say, "Howard, I called to tell you the sad news." Then he said of Howard's dear friends, the last name was Oliveira, had died. Howard said that he was just heartbroken because this man had been not only a very dear friend but one of the most important leaders for congregations in Brazil who were trying to grow and to become strong. He could just sit and meditate about what a loss that was and what shocking and sad news it was for him. A few hours later, the phone rang again. It was that same fellow worker from Brazil and he said, "Howard, I have called to tell you that Bro. Oliveira is alive." He said he was just shocked, he didn't know what to think. So he said to him, "What's going on down there?" And so the story then was told. Well, when the hospital had called to say that their husband and their dad had died, this Brother's oldest son, Cornelius, with tears in his eyes had gotten in the car and left the rest of the family at the house, and driven to the hospital to take care of the sad chores that were to be done - the paper work and the claiming of their father's remains and making all of the arrangements, etc. When he got to the hospital, still in deep grief and tears in his eyes, he went to the desk and began to take care of the paperwork. He noticed a detail on the paper was wrong, the wrong middle initial, for example, for their father. And wondering about it, he ran up the stairs to check on his father and went timidly in the room just knowing what he was going to find. There was this old brother with his hands behind his head on his pillow staring up at the ceiling. And the young man said, "Father, you're alive," and just turned around and ran back down the stairs and jumped in his car and drove as quickly as he could back to his home where he found his mother and his brothers and his sisters, and he told them all, "Daddy is alive, Daddy is alive," and just left the old gentleman lying on the bed, wondering, I am sure, what was going on. That story was one which had to be embraced and had to be celebrated and had to be enjoyed by that man's whole family.
Now we believe in the story of one who not only was said to be dead but was dead. He gave his life on the cross and it was such an event that when his death was proclaimed, Pilate wanted to be sure that it actually happened. He asked the attending centurion if he was really dead, and the man said, "yes." He should have known - he was there when the spear was used to pierce his side and blood and water would come forth. And then the story is that Joseph and Nicodemus took that body and laid it in Joseph's own new tomb which had been carved out in the rock, and a great stone was rolled down across the front of that tomb and then, to satisfy suspicious Jewish leaders, a guard was stationed there and the tomb was sealed. Then, early on that morning of the first day of the week, it was like an earthquake. An angel rolled the stone away and sat upon it and that tomb was empty, and the Lord then appeared many times to those witnesses who could declare the truth of the resurrection.
You and I honor the Lord by embracing that story. You see, that story is called the gospel. The apostle Paul in I. Cor. 15 said, "Now I would remind you brothers of the gospel that I preach to you," verse 1. And then in verses 3 and 4 he says, "For I delivered to you as the first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures." He died and he was buried and he was raised again. That is the gospel story. And that story has a power to it which is enough to save any of us who will let ourselves be identified completely with that story. If we believe in it so strongly that we will clothe ourselves with it, that we will stand on it, and remain in it, it can save us. Paul said, "The gospel I preach to you which you received and in which you stand and by which you are being saved if you hold fast to the word I preach to you, unless you believed in vain."
Now how would one identify himself completely with that story? How would one embrace that gospel story? In Colossians 2:12 the apostle Paul is speaking of the means by which forgiveness and new life comes. He said, "Having been buried with him in baptism in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead, and you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our trespasses." When I hear the story of Christ and I am buried with him, when I am buried under the water, I am celebrating the death of my Lord for my sins. And when I am raised up, I am celebrating and honoring the resurrection of my Lord in which God makes possible my justification and forgiveness of sins.
This is not the only place Paul talks like this. You will remember even more in Romans 6: In Romans 6 Paul says, "Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ were baptized into his death. We were buried, therefore, with him by baptism into death in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his," Romans 6:3-5. In both cases, there is faith in the working of God which raised him up. It is not any human achievement or human work. It is saying that what Jesus did is enough to save me. It is embracing the story - the story of his death, the story of his burial, and the story of his resurrection.
Travis read to us as we observed the Lord's Supper today from I Peter 3:18. It is interesting that just two or three verses later, after that mention of the suffering of the Lord, Peter speaks of this again, having noted how Noah had saved his household by a faith which prepared an ark for the saving of his household. It says in I Peter 3:21-22 that "baptism which corresponds to this now saves you. Not a removal of dirt from the body, but an appeal to God for a good conscience through the resurrection of Jesus Christ who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God with angels and powers and authorities, having been subjected to him." An appeal through the resurrection for a good conscience.
How would I go about honoring the resurrection? The first way would be embracing that story through obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. A second way in which we may honor the resurrection is through living the life - living the life - that new life which we were raised up to walk in. In Colossians 3 it begins, "If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on the earth." Just as in gospel obedience we celebrate the death and the resurrection of Jesus, in Christian living we are to remember that he bore our sins in his body on the tree that we might die to sin and live to righteousness, I Peter 2:24. In the middle of Ephesians 4:17-24, Paul talks about learning Christ. He says that learning Christ means having done with all of these corruptible, evil desires and the moral corruption that comes through sin, and then living in the truth and the righteousness and goodness of Jesus. Here in Colossians 3, Paul is more specific in describing in concrete terms what it means to live this life. I would like to read a rather long section here and I want you to notice that living this life has to do with laying aside some things and with putting on some things. Let's begin in verse 5 of Colossians 3: "Put to death, therefore, what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed," (there's that resurrection) "in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all." One of the remarkable things about the morality of this new life is that gossip and slander, malice and anger, sexual immorality and impurity, evil desire and greed, are all dealt with for what they are. You are not allowed to choose one sin you think is the worst sin and then pat yourself on the back for not committing it. Gossip and slander are just as bad as the sexual immorality because both ignore the Lord.
On the other hand, look at the new life that Paul says we are to live here, verse 12. "Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other, as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." Do you notice the difference in the tone of those two ways of life? The one belongs to the past. To honor the resurrection we are to walk in newness of life -- to live that upright life that Paul describes here in Colossians 3.
And then the third way that we can celebrate and honor the resurrection of Jesus is to remember the Lord. All four of the gospel records emphasize that Jesus was raised up from that tomb on the first day of the week. That is why the New Testament begins to refer to the first day of the week as the Lord's Day. And we discover that the Lord's Day was a time when disciples came together. In I Cor. 11:18 it says you come together as a church on this occasion. I Cor. 16:2 indicates that these folks came together on the first day of every week. One of the things that they did in coming together on the first day of every week is to observe the Lord's Supper. Acts 20:7 says that the disciples came together on the first day of the week to break bread. Paul preached to them, he unlike what I will do today, continued his speech to midnight. Now hopefully they met a little later in the day then we have. But you see the point. Now put together the ideas that are there. To honor the risen Lord, the Lord's people should come together on the Lord's Day , which honors his life, to observe the Lord's Supper, which remembers his death.
Our remembering the resurrection of Jesus needs to occur in the circumstance where we are remembering the death of Jesus. The Lord's Supper on the Lord's Day with the Lord's people. In so doing, we remember that he gave himself for our sins and God raised him up accepting the gift that Jesus had given. It is interesting that Jesus never did ask his disciples to remember that he was raised up. It is implied, of course. What he asked his disciples to do was remember that he was offered. In I. Cor. 11 Paul said, "I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you. The Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said 'This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.' In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.' For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes." I Cor. 11:23-26.
But our remembering his death is to occur on the day when he was raised up. There is a connection between the Lord's Day and the living Lord. In Revelation 1, John says, "I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet." (v. 10) When he turned around, he saw the one like a Son of man in all his glory, and John fell at his feet like a dead man. "But," John said, "he laid his right hand on me, saying, "Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades." (v.17,18) We honor the resurrection by remembering the Lord's death, on the day he came to life forevermore, with people who belong to him.
There are three concrete ways in which the New Testament calls upon us to honor what Jesus has done - embrace the story, live the life, remember the Lord. The resurrection of Jesus means that some things we thought were irreversible are not. Death isn't because in Jesus we will all be raised up one day to answer to God. Failure isn't because of Jesus in Jesus we can come back home and start again. You remember the story of the prodigal in Luke 15? Having wasted himself off in the far country he finally came home and the father ran out to meet him and welcomed him and started the celebration and he said "my son was dead but he is alive." Things don't have to be irreversible. You and I can accept the gift that is offered us in Christ and we can be added to God's family by God himself. This morning if you are a person who needs to embrace the story of the gospel or if you are a person who hasn't been living that life and you want to correct that, if we can help you in some way or encourage you, then won't you come this morning.