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Lowell Brueckner

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Four Questions Concerning the Resurrection


The writer of Hebrews declared “so great a salvation” and the reason it is so great is because it is a masterpiece of the omnipotent and omniscient God. The resurrection of Christ was the final proof that the work of salvation on the cross was fulfilled, that it originated in God, it was perfectly carried out by the triune God, and that it is powerfully able to save from sin and death.

My dad used to talk about an old saint, who one day asked a younger believer if he was saved. “Oh yes,” the man replied, “Three times already!” The old fellow replied, “Two times too many.” It is a very extreme doctrine that has man gaining and losing his salvation repeatedly. He is not only born again - but again and again. That mentality cheapens “so great salvation”, and spiritual shipwreck is too often the result.

If this is a day of  “greasy grace” and “easy believism”  (I believe it is), we had better not forget that it is also a day of huge dependence upon man’s abilities and responsibilities. The world’s arrogant concept of super men and superhuman ability comes sweeping into the church. We can do anything and everything depends on us! Religion teaches what man can do for God to gain his salvation.  True Christianity teaches what God 
has done for man, so that salvation can be a free gift… and I still believe it.

Four Questions Concerning the Resurrection

Why do you seek the living One among the dead? He is not here, but He has risen. Remember how He spoke to you .. saying that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again. And they remembered His words.”   Luke 24:5-8

  In the following lesson, I will ask you to consider four questions in relation to Christ’s resurrection, beginning with the following:

1. How many of the disciples believed that Jesus would rise from the dead?

  Of course, the answer is – not one! In our text, women came to an empty grave, seeking the living among the dead. They had no clue to what awaited them and go forward with their plans, totally ignorant of the momentous event, the unfolding of God’s eternal plan, occuring that very morning. Vital history has taken place and they are in the dark.

  The angels commanded them to deliver the happy news to the eleven and the other disciples, waiting in Jerusalem, but when they obeyed, “these words appeared to them as nonsense, and they would not believe them.” Jesus met with two men on the road to Emmaus, who were “slow of heart to believe”. Thomas, absent when the Lord appeared first to the other disciples, responded, “Unless I shall see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” Finally, Jesus “reproached them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed.”

2. What then did they believe?

  The answer is found in Luke 23:54. The women “saw the tomb and how His body was laid.” They believed what their five senses and natural mind told them. Based on that information, they acted, preparing spices and perfumes for His dead body. On Easter Sunday, they faithfully and quite courageously made their way to the empty tomb. It was a useless, vain effort. No body was there to receive the fruit of their labors.

  The Holy Spirit inspired Solomon to teach in Proverbs 14:12, “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” The axiom must be of supreme importance, because it is repeated word-for-word in Proverbs 16:25. The very best of human understanding and intentions take no one beyond the grave.

  Not only is human understanding insufficient, it is also in opposition to the work of God. Paul teaches that the letter kills, unless the Spirit gives it life (2 Co 3:6). He knew that from personal experience. His learning at the feet of Gamaliel, Jerusalem’s respected rabbi, and his careful study and memorization of holy scripture, only led him to observe the martyrdom of Stephen. The Holy Spirit reveals the awful intent of his heart: “He consented unto his death.”

  This is the best that the natural mind can do. It cannot get us beyond the grave and it leads us to oppose the eternal plans of God. Only scriptural, Holy Spirit-breathed truth can lead us on to the resurrection and eternal life. Does this fact tell us anything about modern Christian efforts? Does it tell us where trained and professional, but entirely earth-bound intellect will lead us? 

3. Why did they not believe what He had told them?

  Jesus began teaching His disciples “that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again” in Mark 8:31. Starting with this occasion, He informed them of the resurrection no less than four times.

  The second occasion came as He descended from the Mount of Transfiguration with Peter, James and John. The NAS translates that they “seized upon that statement” and began to discuss among themselves what it could mean. On the third occasion, He took special care to be alone with His disciples, as He taught them of His death and resurrection. Again, they are perplexed, as to the meaning and Mark adds that they were afraid to ask Him for a clarification. In Mark 10 He taught them on the road to Jerusalem, the disciples fearful and amazed that He should take that direction (In the same night, in which He was taken to trial, for the last time He gave them the same information - Mk.14:27-28).   . 

  In His first lesson, Mark tells us that Jesus spoke plainly. He spoke parables to the multitudes, but the disciples were His friends, “for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15), clearly and literally. He explained the parables to them. He assured them, when He spoke of heaven, “If it were not so, I would have told you.” Paul, too, said, “I show you a mystery.” He revealed secret things.

  Yet, it is recorded on three of the four occasions that the disciples had trouble with the meaning in what Jesus said. He gave them simple statements with many details, including who would judge and condemn him (the elders and chief priests), that they would then hand him over to the non-Jewish authorities, he would be mocked, spit upon, whipped, and killed.  I suspect that they were no longer listening, by the time he spoke of the resurrection. Which of the details were too spiritually deep to understand? Which of the words were mysterious? Chief priests? Gentiles? Mocked? Spit upon? Whipped? Killed? Resurrected?

  The first time Jesus taught this, Peter didn’t want to rebuke Him before the others, so he called Him aside for some personal counsel (imagine that). Peter had a revelation already of exactly who Jesus was (8:29) and yet he dares to confront Him. Jesus, however, made sure the other disciples heard, as he called Peter “Satan”! He gives us the bulk of the answer to our question: “You are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.” In other words, he was on man’s side with man’s thinking, opposing God. Frightful, isn’t it?

  There is a reason for an inability to grasp scriptural truth. Pride and rebellion breed an unwillingness to accept the simple, direct teaching of Jesus. If it doesn’t fit into  a  man’s  way  of  thinking,   then  he comes up with “profound spiritual interpretations”, which can be very complicated and confusing. 

4. If no one believed, why did Jesus rise anyway?

  There is some amazingly errant teaching by charismatic leaders today, who have gone overboard in teaching human responsibility. They claim that God gave Adam authority and on this planet, God Himself submits to man’s decisions and faith.

  I thank God from the depths of my heart, that it is not so. I sometimes get into trouble and feel the weight of my human limitations. My feelings go into revolt and doubts and confusion may even come. I have found stability, comfort and assurance in one great, eternal truth – God is sovereign!

  Paul tells me that there is a greater way to measure  my  relationship  with  God  than by my ability to judge the state of my personal knowledge of Him: “Now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God...” (Galatians 4:9. See also 1 Co.8:3)! After discovering this truth, I then saw that the fact, which condemned those who were rejected by God, was not “You never knew me!”, but rather “I never knew you!”

  I cannot confide in my feelings, decisions or conclusions. John gives me wonderful help: “We..shall assure our hearts before Him, in whatever our heart condemns us; for God is greater than our heart, and knows all things” (1 John 3:19, 20). I cannot trust my human ability to love God: “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

  Jesus rose from the dead, in spite of the unbelief of His closest disciples. The sovereign plan of God fell into place, it continues today and will continue to the end of time.                   ■


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