Resurrection Sunday (audio)

Here is a little bonus post today, as it’s Easter Sunday! A Resurrection Sunday message I gave several years ago. It is still relevant today, and I hope you enjoy it. Thanks for listening.

Have a blessed Resurrection Sunday! Hallelujah! He is risen!

You can hear a selection of my other talks and sermons on the Audio page

Thanks for supporting the blog – it really means so much to me! God bless you all this Easter!

Folded Grave Clothes

Happy Easter! Christ is risen! Praying you will have an extremely blessed Resurrection Sunday today!

This is the day that we celebrate an empty tomb. On the first day of the week, which was a Sunday, some women went to the tomb of Jesus Christ expecting to anoint His body with spices.

As they walked together, they discussed among themselves who might move the heavy stone which had been placed over the entrance. They had probably expected the Roman guards to help them.

When they arrived, the stone had already been moved…

Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. 2 Behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from the sky and came and rolled away the stone from the door and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4 For fear of him, the guards shook, and became like dead men. 5 The angel answered the women, “Don’t be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus, who has been crucified. 6 He is not here, for he has risen, just like he said. Come, see the place where the Lord was lying.

Matthew 28:1-6 (NIVUK)

Many have asked over the years, “Who moved the stone?” But Matthew makes it clear – the angel did. But why?

Jesus did not need the stone to be moved to escape the tomb. We read the following in John’s Gospel:

When therefore it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were locked where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the middle, and said to them, “Peace be to you.”

John 2:19 (NIVUK)

It seems that Jesus’ resurrected body can do things that our mortal bodies cannot. He seemingly went into them, despite a locked door, and so it would be no feat for Him to escape the tomb with the entrance still sealed.

The answer is simple. The angel moved the stone not for Jesus’ benefit, but for the women. He wanted them to see into the tomb and see that Christ was indeed gone. Dead bodies cannot get up and walk away, and so Jesus must have returned to life. We can easily dispute the claim that the disciples stole the body, not least because of the armed guards, but mainly because those same disciples went on to die for their cause. Fraudsters don’t generally do that.

There is another “mystery” I want to touch on before I finish today. Why fold the grave clothes?

Stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths lying, yet he didn’t enter in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and entered into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying, 7 and the cloth that had been on his head, not lying with the linen cloths, but rolled up in a place by itself.

John 2:5-7 (NIVUK)

We were studying this passage at a home group once. I asked about the linen which had been folded up, wondering if this was significant. We discussed a few ideas, including the tidiness of Christ! Years later, I heard another idea which seems plausible to me.

When at a nice meal with several courses, you will more than likely have a linen napkin to use. Between courses, you might keep the napkin nicely folded to the side of your setting so that the waiting staff know you are still using it. When you finish the meal, you might just put it down untidily to signal you no longer need it.

I understand that in the Jewish culture of the time, there was some similar custom in place. Folded linen suggested that Jesus was not quite done yet, and would be returning.

I am not certain how true this is, but it is interesting nonetheless. Jesus may have been signalling to the disciples that they would see Him soon, or perhaps He was pointing out that He would one day return to the Earth.

The point to take away today though is this: the grave clothes were empty – like the tomb. Jesus was no longer dead, but alive! He had risen!

This truth gives us all hope, and that if we put our trust in Jesus, we too will defeat death and rise to new life.

Let this Easter be a celebration of life and hope. He is risen indeed!

Three Days

For us, Easter Saturday sits between the devastating day of the cross on Good Friday, and the joy of the resurrection to come on Easter Day. I prefer the name “Resurrection Sunday” but perhaps that’s a discussion for another time!

For the friends of Jesus two thousand years ago, many of them were not ready or waiting for the resurrection at all. This day would have been a day of loss and grief for them. All of their hopes and dreams had been smashed. They had expected Jesus to evict the Romans and set Himself up as King. Quite the opposite had happened! Their Messiah had been lost. 

Would they have started to doubt themselves? Would they have been asking one another – was this really the Christ after all? They had seen so many miracles and wonder works, yet they had not expected Him to die like a common criminal. 

It may seem somewhat baffling to us that the disciples had not heard the words Jesus had spoken. In advance of these things, He had told them that it would happen. And even beyond His words, the Scriptures foretold it all. But I think we can forgive them for not seeing that in the prophecies of the Old Testament. 

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, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.

Matthew 16:21 (NIVUK)


For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance[a]: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas,[b] and then to the Twelve.

1 Corinthians 15:3-5 (NIVUK)

The verse above from the Gospel of Matthew shows that Jesus taught His disciples that He would die, and three days later rise to new life. Likewise, Paul (in hindsight of course) shares the same thing. Paul says however “according to the Scripture.” So the Old Testament must have predicted this in advance.

But where?

When reading Old Testament prophecies, we must understand that often they do not merely say “The Son of God will come, and His name will be Jesus, and after dying He will come back to life after three days…” That would be convenient for Bible scholars of course, but we must not forget the Old Testament was written by many people over hundreds of years. Despite this, it really is astonishingly coherent, and clearly shows the hand of the divine behind it. 

The first place I want to point to is the lie – or rather death – of Jonah the prophet. Sometimes called “The Reluctant Prophet,” because he ran in the total opposite direction to where God was sending him, Jonah is a fascinating character. 

You probably know his story from Sunday School, if you ever went, and may well be familiar with his being swallowed by a large fish or whale. 

Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

Jonah 1:17 (NIVUK)

We see here that Jonah spent three days and three nights in the belly of the fish. Reading on to Jonah 2, I think it is clear that Jonah actually died in the sea or sea creature. He talks about the abode of the dead, or “the pit” so it seems likely he did actually die. If not though, the point remains. 

Bible prophecy is often pattern and not prediction. that means it establishes a pattern of events which will occur again in the future. Jonah’s three days and three nights of “death” are a pointer towards Christ’s own experience of three days in the grave. 

Similarly, Abraham’s sacrificing of Isaac is another picture. I’ve spoken before about this passage from Genesis 22, and personally believe it is a prophecy acted out by Abraham of what God would one day do with His own Son Jesus. 

We read in Genesis 22 that from the time when God gave the command for Isaac to be sacrificed, to the time Abraham arrived at Mount Moriah was precisely three days. 

Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. 4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance.

Genesis 22:3-4 (NIVUK)

In the Jewish mind, and so in Abraham’s mind, Isaac was essentially dead from the moment God had given the command. It was a three day journey, as we read above, until the events unfolded and Issac was returned to Abraham. So another son lost to “death” for three days. 

There is more we could explore, but it would and should take an entire lifetime to examine the Old Testament and unveil the prophecies which spoke of Christ’s death and resurrection centuries in advance. 

Many will tell you that you can’t prove God exists, or there is no evidence that the Bible is true, it’s just a personal matter of faith. Not true. A comprehensive study of God’s Word will show you that there is incontrovertible evidence of biblical truth. The more you study it, the more you will realise it is not only true, but the only real truth we can rely upon. 

Jesus died for you. Three days later He rose from the dead. Many witnesses saw it. You don’t have the luxury to ignore it or deny it. So what will you do with this truth today? 

Compassion, Love, Eternity and Covenant

All the Benefits of Believing (ATBOB) #9

As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. 14 For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust. 15 As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; 16 for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more. 17 But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children, 18 to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments.

Psalm 103:13-18 (ESV)

We take a larger chunk of Psalm 103 today, not only to pick up the pace a little, but because these verses fit together so nicely. It would make little sense to split them up and cover them in separate posts, so I’ll try to cover them all here.

The section starts by thinking about God’s compassion. David uses the comparison of a father to his children, to illustrate God’s compassion for those who fear Him. This, in an ideal world, is the perfect comparison. God is our Father, and indeed loves us as dear children.

I understand however that for those who never had a father figure in their lives, or those who had one who did not treat them well, this comparison may not bring the impact it ought to. That’s not an easy thing to deal with. But let me assure you, any and every thing you missed out on with your earthly father, is more than made up by your Heavenly One.

God’s compassion (His love) is without end, and we will consider this more in a moment.

But who does He direct this compassion towards?

Those who fear Him.

The word “fear” here is yare’, and it means “reverent fear”. It is not about being frightened of God, and being scared to approach Him. Instead, it is about having a reverence for God. Reverence goes further than mere respect, and is that sense of presence of the Almighty that makes us bow the knee to Him.

God knows and recognises that we are “dust”. This means that we are physical, limited beings who dwell on the Earth for a little while. All of us will face death, and our bodies will return to the ground from which they came.

This is not a thought to pass over quickly. The psalmist compares the human life to grass or flowers, which fade after only a short time. Don’t misunderstand, this is not limiting us to a short life, but rather pointing out that life on this Earth is indeed short in comparison to eternity.

The older I get (and I’m not old by any stretch!), the more I realise that life truly is short. As the years move by, they seem to speed up in a way they never did when I was a child.

We must make the most of every single day, and live life to the full.

David does not say all of this just to get us down! His point is emphasised in verse 17. Human life is indeed short – in comparison to God’s everlasting love! Again, we find the phrase “steadfast love” – the idea that God’s love does not move or change with the wind, but is fixed, set and eternal.

There’s another little phrase here that I don’t want to skip over – “his righteousness to children’s children.” God’s love does not just extend to us who believe in Him, but also to the generations that follow. It is my belief that not only do I receive the blessings of God, but that they come to my children and theirs also.

 How might your actions affect not only you, but your children’s children also?

So far, so good. We’ve read about God’s great compassion and His unending, everlasting love – but again, who does it apply to? Verse 18 brings in a strong condition.

To:

  • Those who keep His covenant, and
  • Those who do His commands.

If your heart has sunk a little after reading these conditions, then please stick with me a while longer!

Perhaps you are not entirely sure if you have kept His covenant? Perhaps you are more sure that you have NOT done all of His commands? So does this exclude you from the compassion and love David has been praising God for?

Not at all!

David wrote these words while living under the Old Covenant (I think we touched on this in an earlier blog post). This Old Covenant required God’s people to keep His law and obey His commands in order to qualify. This led to very strict legalism (see the Pharisees in Jesus’ day) and even worse, those who saw themselves as “religiously righteous” looking down on those they considered “sinners”.

What many in Israel failed to realise was that they could not keep the Law. The Law was and is perfect, setting out God’s standards for humanity. The problem was not with the Law, but with us. We are not perfect, and so cannot keep God’s perfect Law. And so… we need a Saviour!

Jesus came and lived a perfect human life, fulfilling the entire Law in every respect. Despite never being tainted by sin, He was executed like a sinner deserves, and took on the punishment that you and I deserve. Death could not hold Him however, and He was raised to new life!

That is the Gospel of Jesus Christ – and it is the New Covenant, the covenant that you and I now live under.

We no longer need to fulfil the covenant, instead we put our trust in the One who did!

Does that mean we can do whatever we like, and break God’s laws whenever we feel like it? Certainly not! Sin is still sin, and even though dealt with, still has consequences. If you steal or murder, then you will likely face criminal charges. You could be forgiven, but still in prison!

Equally we have an enemy (the devil) who is looking for someone whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). Sin very much opens the door for the enemy to work in our lives.

Grace is not a licence to commit sin, but a safety net to catch you when you fall.

Even for the born again Christian, it would be impossible to never sin again or to obey every command of God. While we are new creatures in Christ, we are also subject to the whims of the flesh, the ways of the world and the temptation of the devil.

We qualify for all the benefits the psalmist sets out here not because we deserve it, but because Christ made it possible through His obedience. You need to put your trust and faith in Him.

For more details about the Gospel, read my Resurrection Sunday blog post here, or else listen to the accompanying sermon (mp3) here.

Resurrection Sunday

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.

1 Corinthians 15:1-8 (ESV)

May I wish you a very happy… Easter? I hesitate over the word because actually “Easter” doesn’t appear in the Bible. While I realise some translations include the term, it actually isn’t a biblical word at all. Easter probably comes from the pre-Christian celebration of the goddess “Eostre” which occurred at the beginning of spring. At some point in history, our celebration of the Resurrection of Christ took over the name of the festival.

I much prefer the term – Resurrection Sunday, rather than Easter Sunday therefore – but I digress…

Whatever you choose to call it, it’s the time of year when we remember and celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This was perhaps the most important moment in human history, alongside the Creation, as it marks the time when God dealt with sin once and for all. From that time on, whenever someone puts their trust in Jesus, they become “dead to sin but alive in Christ”. They receive eternal life and are born again into God’s family.

Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15 quoted above, gives us a concise and clear explanation of the Gospel – the good news about Jesus.

The Gospel is:

  • Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,
  • he was buried, and
  • he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared… to many
Christ died

Jesus lived a perfect life, fulfilling every aspect of the Law of Moses. He was never tainted by iniquity, and so was the perfect sacrifice for our sin. He died the death of a sinner on our behalf. He was tortured and crucified so that you and I might go free.

Christ was buried.

They put His body into a tomb carved from the rock. It was a tomb where no one had been laid before. According to the Scriptures, He would stay there for three whole days.

But which Scriptures? Where does it say that Christ would spend three days in the grave?

In Genesis 22, we read the account of Abraham being asked to sacrifice his only son – Isaac. If we’ve been paying attention, we’ll realise that Abraham had more than one son, and so something else must be going on here. In fact, the whole account is Abraham acting out a prophecy of what God the Father would one day do with His Only Son.

Nearer to Father’s Day, i’ll upload a sermon about this…

From the moment Abraham was given the command to sacrifice Isaac, until he arrived at the place God chose, was exactly three days. In Abraham’s mind, his son was dead from the moment the command was given and so, to Abraham, Isaac had been dead for three days when the stay of execution was granted.

Likewise, when Jonah was swallowed by the great fish/whale, he was in its belly for three days and nights before he was “vomited” onto the beach! No one said resurrection wouldn’t be messy!.

Christ was resurrected

Often when we share the gospel, we say something like… Jesus lived a perfect life and died for our sins on a cross. Therefore, if you put your trust in Him, your sins are forgiven.

What’s wrong with that, you may ask, and it’s pretty much what you’ve said above?

We somehow forget the Resurrection. The Gospel does not end with the cross.

We must never omit the resurrection from our Gospel preaching. If the cross enables God’s justice and our forgiveness, then the resurrection enables our new life in Christ. Without being born again, we are stuck forever with our sinful, fleshy nature and have no hope of changing our lives. The cross deals with our sin, but the resurrection enables us to be new creatures in Christ.

I conclude with these words from John’s Gospel. It includes perhaps the most famous verse of them all, “for God so loved the world…” It also includes Jesus’ teaching on being born again. We must, each one of us, be born into eternal life – new life in Christ.

I hope you enjoy this season celebrating the Resurrection!

Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again[b] he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.

John 3:3-5 (ESV)


16 “For God so loved the world,[i] that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

John 3:16-18 (ESV)