God's End Game - Part 31
Series: God's End Game
July 21, 2019
Last week, in our attempts to figure out God’s End Game — what he’s ultimately up to with us and the world — we set out to uncover as much as we could about the final part of God’s major play: the resurrection.
You may have seen the signs reading “It’s all about Jesus.” They are right, it is all about Jesus. But if you want to get really specific, it’s all about the resurrection of Jesus because that’s the part of God’s plan from which everything else comes. Just as the incarnation and crucifixion take us back to the beginning of the game, the resurrection carries us forward to the end.
Last week Paul taught us a critical truth about the resurrection of Jesus, one that intersects with our lives now and our future as Christ followers. It’s found in…
1 Corinthians 15:20 (ESV) — 20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
Paul says the resurrected Jesus was the firstfruits of the coming last day (AKA the resurrection) when everyone who put their trust in God will be raised. That word firstfruits is a BIG deal.
Firstfruits had to do with the harvest. One Bible scholar explained…
“Firstfruits is … drawn from Old Testament harvests. A small portion of the anticipated grain harvest was offered up symbolically, dedicating the whole future harvest to God. The “firstfruits” came first and contained in them the whole rest of the grain harvest to come…
Here’s the thing about firstfruits. Whatever is true of the firstfruits is true of the coming harvest.
If Jesus is the firstfruits of the resurrection, then whatever is true of his resurrection will be true of ours and our lives following!
This is huge, and it sets us up for everything ahead in our End Game series because God’s end game is about what’s going to happen when all is said and done. God’s End Game is not only about what he’s going to do when he sets us and the world back to rights but also what life in that new world will be like — what heaven will be like.
If whatever is true of Jesus’ resurrection is true of ours, then we need to go back and examine all the events surrounding it. And that is exactly what we’re going to do, just not all in one message. So today we begin our look at Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances, the times he was seen after being raised from the dead.
Jesus post-resurrection appearances can be categorized in a number of ways: by the individual gospel accounts, by the people who saw him, or by when he appeared.
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We are going with when he appeared. The occasions he appeared after the resurrection can be divided into Easter Day and after Easter. His Easter Day encounters with the disciples happened that morning, afternoon, and evening.
We’ll kick this off with Jesus’ Easter Day morning appearance, and we’ll use Luke’s gospel. His account is important because he wrote his gospel to validate the faith of his benefactor…
Luke 1:1–3 (ESV) — 1 Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, 2 just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, 3 it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus,
Luke records the resurrection and what follows beginning in chapter 24, but to understand what’s happening here you have to back up to the end of chapter 23…
Luke 23:50–56 (ESV) — 50 Now there was a man named Joseph, from the Jewish town of Arimathea. He was a member of the council, a good and righteous man, 51 who had not consented to their decision and action; and he was looking for the kingdom of God. 52 This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 53 Then he took it down and wrapped it in a linen shroud and laid him in a tomb cut in stone, where no one had ever yet been laid. 54 It was the day of Preparation, and the Sabbath was beginning. 55 The women who had come with him from Galilee followed and saw the tomb and how his body was laid. 56 Then they returned and prepared spices and ointments. On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.
You’ve heard me mention the burial practices of the Jews in Jesus’ day. The body was washed then wrapped in cloths and placed on a shelf in a tomb. The body stayed there one year to decay and leave nothing but bones. Those bones were then placed in an ossuary, a kind of stone box.
Often, as an act of honor and an attempt to cover the odor of a decaying body, spices were packed around the corpse. It wasn’t uncommon for men to do this for men, but I think it was probably more common for the women to do it since they could prepare both men and women for burial, plus women usually end up taking on these kinds of jobs, don’t they?
Back to Luke…
Luke 24:1–12 (ESV) — 1 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. 2 And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. 5 And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” 8 And they remembered his words, 9 and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles,
These women, especially Mary Magdalene, are very prominent in the gospels. They were faithful supporters of Jesus and his ministry, with their presence and even finances.
You’ve probably also heard me mention how incredibly surprising it is they are not only mentioned as much as they are, but they are the first to proclaim the good news Jesus is alive, evidence the gospel writers were trying to be accurate and truthful more than they were trying to make the Christian faith attractive.
The fact that women were proclaiming a risen Lord is probably the reason for the following response…
11 but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12 But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.
That’s Luke’s orderly account. But what I love about the Gospels is that if you do your homework you can line them up in such a way to get the same event from another perspective. Those who want to discredit the Bible say these accounts are conflicting. But those who know anything about eyewitness testimony know that if all the witnesses’ stories are identical, they are probably making it up. If you keep doing your homework, you realize the accounts aren’t contradictory at all (I won’t get into that today).
The apostle John shows us the same thing Luke did from another angle with added details…
John 20:1–18 (ESV) — 1 Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. 2 So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” 3 So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. 4 Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, 7 and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9 for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples went back to their homes.
Here comes that extra stuff…
11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her.
Now we’re about to get somewhere. Here is a hint about God’s End Game hidden in plain sight. Glance back at verse 15…
15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.”
Mary stood right in front of Jesus, who had returned as a man in bodily form, but she didn’t recognize him. Some say it was because of her emotional state, but we’ll see later on that disciples stand right beside the resurrected Jesus too and don’t know who he is.
Note that when Mary saw the resurrected Jesus she didn’t think she saw a ghost or an alien or an angel or a cosmic being or something completely foreign or supernatural. She thought she saw a gardener. A simple gardener.
Note also in verse 17 that once she realized it was Jesus she clung to him. Ever miss someone so much and for so long that when you see them you grab them and don’t want to let go?
Here’s a conclusion we can draw from this…
Jesus’ new resurrection body was the same yet different from his old body.
Now if Jesus is the firstfruits of the resurrection and whatever is true of his resurrection is true of ours, then that means our resurrection bodies will be the same yet different.
Which tells us our heavenly bodies won’t be that unfamiliar to us. They’ll be different for sure, but they’ll be much like what we knew of our old bodies.
This goes against what we probably thought or maybe even were taught. We don’t become angels with wings. We don’t become chubby babies wearing diapers. We don’t come back as puffs of ethereal energy. We come back in bodily form, the same yet different. More on exactly what kind of body this might be another day.
Along with what our heavenly bodies will be like, this text also gives us a taste of our future heavenly experience, what life in the new heavens and earth will be like. If our bodies are familiar to us then they must be made to exist in a familiar place as well, a place the same yet different. So no playing harps on clouds.
We’re not done yet. Go back to verse 16…
16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).
Mary did not recognize Jesus in his new resurrection body by sight, but what was it that made her realize it was him? He didn’t have to say, “Mary, it’s me”; He simply said, “Mary.” It was the way he said her name, something she had heard him do many times before. We’ll see this again when Jesus’ disciples don’t recognize him by sight but by what he does, how he acts, how he speaks.
This tells us in the new heavens and earth the essence of who we are(were) remains the same, something that may also go against what you thought or were taught.
What makes you you won’t be obliterated or wiped out on the last day.
Our personality, our uniqueness will be retained and possibly even amplified because in the new heavens and earth there is no fear, no shame, no baggage. We’ll see that as well at the end.
If what makes us familiar to others in this life carries over to the next life then our new life in the next life will be about relationships, relationships that are the same yet different too, unhindered by any hangups. It means, by the way, we will know each other. And we’ll know each other more deeply and fully and passionately than ever before.
Conclusion: If you feel a little under satisfied right now, like the meal was great but you were left wanting more. I’m with you. What we uncover from the Easter morning account of Jesus’ resurrection touches on our ultimate resurrection experience in the new heavens and earth but only enough to make us hungry for more. As we go further we’ll get more satisfied than we thought we could, circling back around to the things we’ve touched on today.
Jesus said, before he was crucified, buried, and rose again that…
John 10:10 (ESV) — 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
Certainly the abundant life life here is meant for this life. But the life Jesus gives is so powerful and eternal and true, it carries us over into the next life. A life both familiar and unimaginably unfamiliar at the same time.
NT Wrights says of Jesus after the resurrection, “He is the same. He is different. He is alive, with a new sort of life, the like of which we’d never seen before.”
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