Jesus was dead and buried, with a big stone rolled against the tomb, and the Pharisees came to Pilate to ask for permission to seal the stone and guard the tomb. Pilate responded, “You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can” (Matthew 27:65). So they did.
They gave it their best shot — in vain.
It was hopeless then, it is hopeless today, and it will always be hopeless. Try as they may, people can’t keep Jesus down. They can’t keep him buried. They may use physical force or academic scorn or media blackout or political harassment or religious caricature. For a season, they will think the tomb is finally sealed. But it never works. He breaks out.
No One Takes His Life
It’s not hard to figure out: He can break out because he wasn’t forced in. He lets himself be libeled and harassed and black-balled and scorned and shoved around and killed.
I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. (John 10:17–18)
No one can keep him down because no one ever knocked him down. He lay down when he was ready.
China may have been “closed” for forty years to Western missionaries, and it’s not because Jesus slipped and fell into the tomb. He stepped in. And when it was sealed over, he saved fifty million Chinese from inside — without Western missionaries. And when it was time, he pushed the stone away so we could see what he had done.
At Work in the Dark
When it looks like he is buried for good, Jesus is doing something awesome in the dark. “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how” (Mark 4:26–27).
The world thinks Jesus is done for — out of the way. They think his word is buried for good in the dust of irrelevant antiquity.
But Jesus is at work in the dark places: “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24). He let himself be buried — “no one takes my life from me” — and he will come out in power when and where he pleases — “I have authority to take it up again.” And his hands will be full of fruit made in the dark.
“God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it” (Acts 2:24). Jesus has his priesthood today “by the power of an indestructible life” (Hebrews 7:16).
For twenty centuries, the world has given it their best shot — in vain. They can’t bury him. They can’t hold him in. They can’t silence him or limit him.
Jesus is alive and utterly free to go and come wherever he pleases. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18). All things were made through him and for him, and he is absolutely supreme over all other powers (Colossians 1:16–17).
Trust him and go with him, no matter what. You cannot lose in the end.
Ten Gifts of the Resurrection
So, here on Resurrection Sunday, as an aid to Easter worship, celebrate with me these ten things we owe to the resurrection of Jesus. Each has an accompanying text.
1) A Savior who can never die again
We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again. (Romans 6:9)
“The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.” (Acts 5:30–31)
3) New birth
According to his great mercy, [God the Father] has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. (1 Peter 1:3)
4) Forgiveness of sin
If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. (1 Corinthians 15:17)
5) The Holy Spirit
“This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.” (Acts 2:32–33)
6) No condemnation for the elect
Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died — more than that, who was raised — who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. (Romans 8:34)
7) The Lord’s personal fellowship and protection
“Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)
8) Proof of coming judgment
“[God] has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” (Acts 17:31)
9) Salvation from the future wrath of God
[We] wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come. (1 Thessalonians 1:10; also Romans 5:10)
10) Our own resurrection from the dead
[We know] that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. (2 Corinthians 4:14; also Romans 6:4; 8:11; 1 Corinthians 6:14; 15:20)
The Lord is risen indeed!