THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JONAH (6) “CHRIST IS RISEN!”
During the Sunday service Pastor (Mrs) Silvia Lia Leigh preached a sermon titled ‘The Gospel according to Jonah’ (6); “Christ is risen!”. Her main text was taken from the Books of Jonah 1:17, 2:10, 3:1-5 and Luke 24:1-53.
THE SIGN OF JONAH
The story of Jonah is a sign prophetic pointing to the death and the resurrection of our Lord. God provided the great fish that swallowed Jonah. The belly of the fish is a form of a grave for him. As God provided the fish to swallow Jonah, so it was God’s will for His Son to die and to be buried for three days. On the third day, God commanded the fish to vomit Jonah on the dry land. Jesus too resurrected on the third day, thru the glory of the Father. Jonah now preaches the Word to the Ninevites. God blesses the ministry, and it becomes fruitful. Jonah gives all glory to God saying that “Salvation is of the Lord!” (Jonah 2:9). Our Lord resurrected from the grave and thru the Holy Spirit His Word becomes fruitful to the glory of God the Father! You see now why Jesus said that the story of Jonah is a sign for all unbelievers! “Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered, saying, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.” But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed, a greater than Jonah is here” (Mt 12:38-41). Our Lord used the story of Jonah as a sign to confront the religious unbelievers. He reminded them that Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights. In other words, Jonah died in ‘the heart of the earth’. The fish’s belly represents the grave of Jonah. On the third day, The Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land, near the city of Nineveh. This ‘vomiting’ of the fish is a symbol of the resurrection of Christ. God is totally in charge of all events: the fish swallows Jonah and the same fish vomits Jonah. Once the fish vomited Jonah, he immediately does the work of an evangelist. His words are anointed because they were backed up by His miracle of death and resurrection. In the same way, God the Father sent God the Son to die for sinful men. On the third day, Christ rose from the dead thru the glory of God the Father! This is the Gospel we preach: Christ Crucified and resurrected! It has the power of eternal life, to save all who believe the Word! The power of resurrection is the true source of revival and fruitfulness in ministry. Glory to God!
THE DOCTRINE OF CHRIST’ RESURRECTION
The doctrine of Christ resurrection is fundamental to Christianity. It is based on the belief that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead on the third day after his death on the Cross. Resurrection means victory! When Jesus rose from the dead, He confirmed His identity as the Son of God and His work of atonement, redemption, reconciliation, and salvation. The resurrection was a real, literal, physical raising of Jesus’ body from the dead. Through His conquering of death all believers will subsequently share in His victory over “sin, death, and the Devil.” Together with Christmas, the celebration of this event, called Easter, or the Festival of the Resurrection, are the two major feast days in the church. Because of Christ’ resurrection, the believers who fall asleep shall resurrect at the second coming of Christ. They shall have new spiritual bodies like the Lord’s. They shall retain their personhood and their individuality, and they shall have an expanded memory and understanding. Many have tried to destroy this doctrine. It cannot be destroyed because the resurrection of Christ is a fact. There are some theories trying to deny the resurrection of Jesus. Some say that His followers stole His Body from the tomb. Some say that Jesus did not die, that He only fainted and later He came out from the tomb. Others say that all the believers who testified that they saw the resurrected Christ had a nervous breakdown and they were hallucinating. All these theories are all wrong and are even harder to believe than the simple fact of Christ’ resurrection.
The resurrection of Jesus was not some poetic way to express the victory of goodness over evil. Rather, the resurrection was something many of the earliest followers of Jesus experienced as a real, historical event. To be precise, they did not witness the resurrection itself, but the resurrected Jesus who, much to their surprise, had conquered death. This same power of God that raised Jesus from the dead is available to us, the believers. Apostle Paul prays that you ‘may know… the exceeding greatness of His power towards us who believe, according of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead” (Eph 1:18-20). This power is greater than all our expectations. It dwells and works in us thru the Holy Spirit. It manifests especially as strength to obey God’s Word, to become godly and in doing ministry.
To appreciate the resurrection of our Lord, you must first understand what happened at the Cross. By His death, Jesus defeated at once and forever man’s five enemies: Satan, sin, death, the law, and the wrath of God. Man cannot be saved if any of these enemies are still standing against him. Jesus perfectly obeyed and fulfilled the law of God in two ways: actively, by living a life of total obedience to the Father; and passively, on the Cross, when He accepted to become a substitute and to die for man’s sin. The Cross was the greatest warfare field in the universe. At the Cross, Christ won the victory! By His death, Christ did three things relating to the devil: He cast out the devil from his position as the ruler of this world; Christ destroyed the works (the lies, the fears, the bondages) of the devil; and Christ made a public spectacle of the devil and his demons, openly displaying their defeat.
“Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.” This He said, signifying by what death He would die” (Jn 12:31-33)
“For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil” (1 Jn 3:8)
“Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it” (Col 2:15)
The Cross proved to men and angels that Christ is the eternal victor! The resurrection of Christ sealed His victory! Anytime you think of His resurrection, you should think of victory and triumph leading to eternal praise!!!
How did our Lord defeat and publicly disgrace the devil? The devil tried to kill baby Jesus thru King Herod. He failed. Later, the devil attacked Jesus thru his temptations in the wilderness. Christ defeated him thru the sword of the Word of God. Adam failed when the devil tempted him. Christ, the second Adam, conquered the devil by resisting all temptations and remaining obedient to God the Father. After the temptations, the devil left Christ for a season (Lk 4:13). He attacked Him again in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the Cross. What was the devil’s strategy and weapon? It was the physical and emotional weakness of the human body. The devil hoped that Christ will draw back from the Cross because of the physical sufferings involved. He thought that Christ’ strength and faith will fail. The Cross meant more than physical sufferings. Because Christ accepted the sins of humanity on His body, for the remaining hours of His life, Christ will be separated from God the Father. In other words, Christ must live and die alone, without God. For the first and last time in the universe, sin separated the members of the Trinity. Father and Son must pass thru this road alone. The devil hoped that Christ will break down in fear at the idea to be Fatherless when dying alone. But the devil failed. Alone, rejected by God and man, Christ accepted the will of the Father and with our sins on His body, He went to the Cross. With His last breath, He cried a cry of victory, “It is finished!’ In other words, He said: “I have obeyed the will of My Father unto the end. I have finished His work. I passed thru this pain and shame, from death to life! My life and death shall bring eternal honor and glory to My Father! Many people shall be saved! I will be the first among many brethren! Life has conquered death! Glory to God forever!”
The devil’s hope that Christ will withdraw from the Cross failed that day! He has deceived Adam that God does not love him enough. His lies have influenced humanity since then. But on the Cross, as Christ died for our sins, God’s Love can never be hidden again. Light shines and makes this Love visible to all who believe! “Love is as strong as death” (SS 8:6). Glory to God!
What are some proofs of the resurrection of Christ?
*The empty tomb. The religious rulers had a great interest to deny the resurrection. They needed to find His body. But none could find it anywhere. Even today, people go to Jerusalem to see the empty tomb.
*The witness of the believers. Christ revealed Himself to many believers. He did not reveal Himself to Pilate, King Herod, to the High Priest or to the religious rulers. He only revealed Himself to the ones who believed in Him before He died. Later, He revealed Himself to the Apostle Paul!
*The changed behavior of the believers. There is no other explanation why all the disciples of Jesus changed from sorrow to joy once they saw Him. Their mourning ended once they saw their Lord in His resurrection body. They became bold and confident preaching the Gospel of Christ crucified and resurrected. They were ready to become martyrs and die for Christ’ sake! The fact of Christ’ resurrection is the only explanation!
*The existence of the Church cannot be explained outside the power of the Gospel and of the Holy Spirit. The Jews celebrate the Sabbath on Saturday. The Christians celebrated the Sabbath on Sunday. This is because Jesus resurrected on Sunday morning! Halleluiah!
*Faith in the Word of God is the ultimate proof that Christ is risen indeed! The true believers do not need to see Christ resurrected to believe in Him. They trust the Word of God! The resurrection power works in their faith! The unbelievers reject it! It will be so to the end of times!
CHRIST IS RISEN!
We shall revisit the story of the first Easter Day described in Luke 24. It is the first day of the week; it is Sunday morning. The women disciples who have been following Jesus, Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James and other women came ‘very early’ in the morning to the tomb. They carried burial spices to place on the body of their Lord. They saw where Jesus was buried on Friday evening. His body was wrapped with white linen. But there was no time then to add all the burial spices according to the Jewish custom. The next day it was the Sabbath day (Saturday), and nobody could work. Because the women did not finish their work concerning the burial of their Lord that is why they were coming very early on Sunday morning. See God’s providence: God did not allow the work of burial to be completed so that the women will come again to the tomb to witness that it was empty. Throughout the Book of Luke, the Person was Jesus Christ was the center of every action. Now, reading Chapter 24, we feel strange. Jesus is absent. At least initially. The women were shocked to find that the Body of Christ was missing. The tomb was empty! Or almost empty! They saw the linen clothes on the ground, but the Body of Jesus was not there. They were ‘greatly perplexed’. In their confusion, behold, they saw two men in shining garments. They were angels who rebuked them mildly saying: “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again” (Lk 24:5-7). Please observe the kindness of God the Father. He knew that these sisters could not sleep the whole night because of their sorrow. Now, the empty tomb created more pain. He sent the angels to help these women. They spoke the truth to them. They were seeking Jesus but in the wrong place. They re-directed the women to the Word of God, to the Gospel of Christ crucified and resurrected. Like the rest of the disciples, the women did not believe the words of Jesus who told them that He will die and rise to life again. This is a great lesson: doubt in God’s Word will lead you astray, to search for the truth in the wrong places. Always go back to the Bible! Find Christ in His Word! Praise God for His mercy in re-directing us!
Immediately the women ‘remembered His Word’ (Lk 24:8) they returned to tell the other disciples about the empty tomb and the words of the angels. When the apostles heard their story, their words seem foolish, like ‘idle tales’. They thought that the women’ sorrow made them to talk nonsense. That is why they did not believe them. But Peter did the right thing. He went to check things for himself. This is a good lesson: We should never reject the words of others. This is another good lesson: Search for yourself in the Bible and find the truth. You can see that because the story of Resurrection is a miracle, most people reject it, including many Christians. Peter saw the linen clothes on the floor of the tomb. He did not see the body of Jesus. He also did not see the angels. He must now humble himself, forced to listen to the women who became ‘the first preachers of the resurrection’ (St. Augustine). This is another great lesson: to see the empty tomb is not enough to make you believe in the Gospel. These people were still ‘perplexed’ with what they have ‘seen’. Faith comes thru believing the Word of God and not thru ‘seeing’! Even faith in miracles comes thru faith in the Word of God!
This is the Word the women remembered. This sanctified remembrance helped them to seek Christ, not among the dead, but in the Living Word of God. “And He (Jesus) began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He spoke this word openly. Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. But when He had turned around and looked at His disciples, He rebuked Peter, saying, “Get behind Me, Satan! For you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men” (Mk 8:31-33). Long before the Cross, our Lord clearly predicted His death and Resurrection. He told His disciples that the religious leaders will reject and betray Him, and that He will be killed. He also said that on the third day, He will rise again. Peter rebuked Christ for this word. Our Lord then rebuked Peter saying that Satan spoke thru him. Our Lord said that Peter in ‘mindful’ of the things of men and not the things of God. Satan did not want Jesus to die on the Cross and rise again! He knew that will be the end of his authority over men. This is another great lesson: anytime your emotions or your human wisdom control your speech, you will reject the Gospel.
THE ROAD TO EMMAUS
Two disciples were walking that same day from Jerusalem to Emmaus, a village located 7 miles north of Jerusalem. One is named Cleopas. His name means ‘The Glory of the Father’. The second one is not named. He can be me or you. Both disciples were deeply sorrowful. They felt disappointed by the death of their Master. They were talking about the Cross and the empty tomb. Then Jesus ‘drew near and went with them’. Their eyes were ‘restrained’ supernaturally. That is why they did not recognize their Lord. They called Him ‘a stranger’ who is ignorant about the things that happened for the past three days in Jerusalem.
Why were their eyes ‘restrained’? Why did they not recognize the Lord after the resurrection? In His spiritual body Christ looks like a man. But His body is not the same. All the wounds He received during the beating before the crucifixion have now disappeared. The only scars He kept were the nail scars on His hands and the spear wound on His side (Jn 20:20). His body has the power to pass thru material things, to vanish or appear at will. After His resurrection Christ decides who can recognize Him and who cannot. Mary Magdalene thought He was the Gardner until He opened her eyes (Jn 20:15, 16). Peter and the other disciples recognized Him only later, when He told them how to catch fish (Jn 21:1-14). In the same way, we cannot ‘see’ the resurrected Christ with our natural sight. We cannot believe the doctrine of His resurrection using our human wisdom. Christ reveals Himself as He wishes and to whom He wishes. He has already said that only ‘the pure in heart will see the Lord’ (Mt 5:8). The believer must humble himself, must have faith, and come to a place of worship so that Christ will grant him ‘open eyes’ to see Him! Apostle Paul prayed that ‘the eyes of your understanding may be enlightened’ to see Christ in His resurrection power and in His glory (Eph 1:15-23). Holy pacemakers are promised to see the Lord. Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb 12:14). Any spirit of unforgiveness, envy, bitterness, and division blind the eyes to the revelation of Christ resurrected.
The Lord asked the two disciples about the things they were talking about. It was Cleopas who spoke. He preached what some called ‘the gospel according to Cleopas’. He declares all the facts, about Christ, His ministry and death. He also says that the tomb is empty. He expresses his sadness and disappointment that his hopes were dashed at the Cross. He was looking for the Redeemer, but the Redeemer was dead. What is missing from this gospel? It is the faith in Christ’ resurrection! Cleopas was mourning his lost dreams and broken hopes. He was complaining about his pain to the very One who rose from the dead! Face to face with Jesus, his Redeemer, he was weeping for the loss of all hope. That is when Christ rebukes them mildly saying, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” (Lk 24:25-27). Christ’ word of rebuke is this: you are foolish and slow of heart because you allowed doubts to enter your heart! You are trying to understand spiritual things using your natural minds’.
It is the same word of rebuke when Apostle Paul addressed the Galatians: “O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? Have you suffered so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain?” (Gal 3:1-4). The Galatians believed the Gospel, which is Christ crucified and resurrected. But something happened to them. They allowed the devil to make them foolish, to ‘bewitch’ them. It manifested as doubt. They listened to religious lies and started to backslide in their hearts Foolishness damages the faith in the God of Resurrection and of miracles and it grieves the Holy Spirit! Foolishness is a sin to be repented of!
What is the solution? Christ directs them to the Bible! Observe that He does not reveal Himself to them at this point. The Living Word directs them to the written Word. The resurrected Christ preaches to them about Himself in the Old Testament. I would have loved to be there too, to listen to Christ preaching and teaching to the sorrowful and foolish disciples. This is a great lesson of how a sermon should be preached: It must be based on the Word of God, both Old and New Testament and it must be Christ centered. Christ helped His disciples to see the Grief and the Glory, the Cross and the Resurrection, the sufferings, and the victory of the Redeemer. The application of any Christ centered sermon should lead to burning hearts and open eyes to see Christ in His glory!
Christ and the two disciples arrived at their home at Emmaus. The Lord indicated that He wants to go further. But the two disciples insisted that He should stay with them for the night. Maybe they told Him that He will not be safe in the night, or they wanted to listen more to His words. But one thing is sure, they ‘constrained’ Him to stay for the night and share their home. I feel the joy of the Lord. When He was born, there was no room for Him. But now, after the resurrection, His disciples gladly welcome Him in their homes. They set the table offering the food they have. Bread was there and maybe some fruits. It was the tradition that the host of the home prays over the meal. But Cleopas submitted to his ‘Guest’, sensing that He is holier than him. Christ took the role of the head of the home. He took the bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to them. At that moment the eyes of the disciples were opened, and they saw that the stranger they invited in was really the Christ, their Lord! Immediately they recognized Him, Christ vanished from their sight. They now had the word explained, their hearts burning with passion, and their eyes opened to see His glory. They now know that Jesus is not dead, but alive. In their excitement, they could not even relax to eat the food. They left the dinner on the table, and they went back to Jerusalem to tell the other brethren their whole experience. It was the same night. It was the same road. But oh, what a difference. Earlier on, they trekked that road in sadness and despair. But now, filled with the revelation of God’s Word and the Holy Spirit, sure that Christ is risen from the dead, they now became ministers of the Word to others! This is the resurrection power at work in those who believe!
PRACTICAL APPLICATION OF DEATH AND RESURRECTION – PAUL’S GREATEST AMBITION
“That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Phil 3:10, 11)
The Great Apostle Paul had one great ambition: To know Jesus Christ better. Paul, who saw the resurrected Lord on the road to Damascus, Paul who had visions of the Lord, Paul who went to the third heaven, Paul who wrote three quarters of the Epistles in the New Testament, was not satisfied. He wanted to know Christ better. He is not saying just to study the Word of God more. He wanted to know the Person, the Presence of Christ better. He is talking of an increased intimate knowledge of the Person of Jesus Christ. He wanted a deeper experience than his initial experience he had on the road to Damascus. Secondly, Paul wanted to be more and more like Jesus! There are three aspects in his desire: To know the power of His resurrection, to have fellowship with Christ’ sufferings, and to be conformed to Christ death.
*To know the power of resurrection! Paul describes the doctrine of the union of the believer with Christ! In Christ, we have died with Him, we were buried with Him, we resurrected with Him, and we are now seated in heavenly places with Christ (Rom 6:3-11; Eph 2:6). These are spiritual facts. Paul knows them. But he wants that these facts become more and more spiritual experiential realities to him, to walk in the newness of life. Christ was raised by the glory of the Father. Paul wanted to experience this glory more and more in his life. The Lord told him that His ‘power is made perfect in Paul’s weakness’. “Christ said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Cor 12:9). Paul wanted to trust God more in his weaknesses so that the power of resurrection will manifest in his life, to experience Christ’ all-sufficient Grace.
*The fellowship of Christ’ sufferings. Christ suffered as a Man on earth. All His sufferings were because of sin. “He was despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and pain and acquainted with grief” (Is 53:3). Christ was rejected, misunderstood, betrayed, and killed by ‘His own’. He was grieved to see the damage sin has done to His Father’s creation. Christ suffered because He was holy and all the people around Him were sinners. That is why they hated Him. Because of that the Son of Man was lonely. Paul knew that the holier he becomes, the more the world will reject him too. But amid that rejection, he will understand Christ’ pain better. He wanted to identify with His Savior’s pain to know Him more.
*Being conformed to His death! Paul made up his mind, that for the sake of Christ and His Gospel, he is ready to die. Paul knew that ‘to die is gain’. Paul was in prison in Rome waiting to be killed. He has already suffered much, hated, stoned, beaten, and shipwrecked. But he discovered that Christ was always with him. He turned all his afflictions into opportunities for ministry. He now desires to be totally free from shame and fear of troubles. His ambition is to live and die in such a way that Christ will be ‘magnified’ in his body. He wanted to have the testimony of a servant of God not only in life, but also in death. He wanted to die as a Man of God. “For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil 1:19-21). Paul’s ultimate desire to is to go to heaven and be with his Lord forever! Is that your desire? Then you are truly a blessed child of God! Worship the Lord!