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The Risen Lord and the Gathered Church

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This article was previously published in the April 15, 2009 issue of the Standard Bearer, being the text of a radio message Rev. Carl Haak delivered on the Reformed Witness Hour.

The Risen Lord and the Gathered Church

What a day that had been—the day in which Jesus rose from the dead—a day of wonder and joy, and a day also of perplexity and doubt! There had never been a day like that before, nor will there ever be a day like it again—until the end, when Jesus appears yet once more, in the clouds of glory. 

Immortal life in the body stood upon this present earth of sin and death. For the Lord Jesus Christ, who arose from the dead on this day, had not simply made a journey to the grave and back again. He had gone beyond the grave. He destroyed the grave. He brought to the church on this day everlasting life, complete and perfect victory. He stood upon the earth in a greater splendor than Adam did when he was created on the day that God made him out of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and Adam stood forth as a man without sin in Paradise. When Jesus arose from the dead on the first day of the week, He was far greater and more glorious than that. For He stood in the human body in everlasting life, in a body that cannot be corrupted, in a body that is not subject to death, in a body that will live forever before the face of God. What a day it was when Jesus arose from the dead! 

On that day, one wonder after another happened, as slowly the cloud of doubt and unbelief was rolled away from the disciples. The day began with a great earthquake in the early morning hours. After this, angels came down from heaven to roll the stone away. And those who were watching His grave fainted and became as dead men. When the guards who had been appointed to watch His grave regained their senses, they ran back into the city and blurted out what had happened—that angels had come down and rolled away the stone from Jesus' grave. 

Then there were the repeated testimonies, brought to the disciples throughout the day, of the empty tomb and of appearances of the risen Lord. Mary Magdalene burst in upon the disciples that day, first saying, "They have taken away His body and I don't know where they have laid Him." Then, later in the day, later that very morning in fact, Jesus appears to her by the tomb and she worships Him. 

Then there was the well-known race of Peter and John to the tomb. They entered into the tomb...and saw the undisturbed grave clothes. Throughout the day the Savior appeared to His followers to confirm to them that He was risen from the dead. 

That is a very wonderful thing, is it not? That is the thing that we must see on this day on which we remember the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. What we must remember is that it was the great concern of the risen Lord on His resurrection day that His church know that He is risen. He appeared to them, and through these appearances He brought them to see the wonder of the resurrection gospel. It came to something of a climax when He appeared to His disciples who were gathered on the resurrection night in the upper room. That is the passage that we find in Luke 24:36-46. 

But remember the thought. The thought is this: that the Lord's great concern was for His church. His church must have no doubt, no uncertainty, no misconception concerning the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the truth that you absolutely must know. And you must know what it means, that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. If you do not know that, your life is vain. If you do not know that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead, you are yet in your sin. You are dead. If you do not know that Jesus Christ is risen, and if you do not know it in your heart, then in reality you are living your life only inches from the brink of hell. 

This is the gospel: Christ is risen from the dead! And the call of the gospel is: Repent and believe. You as a teenager, you as a college student, you as an expectant mother, a husband or wife, a child—you need to know that Jesus Christ is risen. You must lay hold of that truth by faith. 

I said, What a day that was when Jesus arose from the dead. But what a night it was, too, when Jesus' disciples were gathered in the upper room, behind locked doors. They were discussing the events of the day. And what a discussion it was. There must have been great amazement. And there must have been also great misconception. For it is very plain that the disciples in the upper room that night were thinking in terms of the resurrection of Lazarus. The Lord had raised Lazarus from the dead and Lazarus had come back to this life. The disciples were convinced at this point that Jesus was not dead, that He was indeed risen. But they did not understand the resurrection. They thought that perhaps the Lord had cheated death, and that He had robbed the grave. They had all kinds of questions. Was He now some kind of spirit? Was it truly the Lord? Somehow He was raised. Somehow, perhaps, He was going to come back to them, and things would be like they were before that terrible weekend of the cross. 

And we read in the Scriptures that "as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you." Suddenly the Lord Jesus Christ stood in their midst, the doors being locked. And there was a response of terror among them. 

But before we go to that response of terror, I want to point out to you again this fact that Jesus stood in the midst of them. The Lord is concerned about His church. He has come—where? Well, He has come into the midst of His church. He has come into the midst of those who loved Him and were talking about Him—those who believed, by the grace of God, that He was the Messiah, those whose faith was all wrapped up in Him. The Lord does not come to the disinterested. The Lord does not come to the indifferent one, who sits in church and does not really care today about this gospel. The Lord does not come to them. But He comes to those in whom grace has provoked a profound living interest in Him, to those who on this day desire that the light of the resurrection shine upon their souls. The Lord comes into His church. 

But the disciples were terrified that night. They supposed, we read, that they had seen a spirit. So the Lord says to them, "Peace be unto you. Don't be afraid. It is I." They could recognize His voice, the voice that they had heard so often before. 

And the Lord now, in the going midst of His church, proclaims to them the resurrection—that death has been swallowed up in victory, that though He stands before them in the body, He has not returned to this physical life, He has not returned to this earth, but now He stands before them in immortal life, a life of the body that is not subject to death. 

First of all, we are told, He confirms to them that He is not a spirit. He says, "Do you have something to eat?" And He eats in front of them a piece of fish and a honeycomb. He says to them, "Touch me. Handle me. A spirit does not have flesh and bones as ye see that I have." 

So the disciples came to see that it was the Lord. But yet, no one had let Him into the room. His body was real. It was a true human body. It was the body that was born of the virgin Mary, the body that had suffered and died upon the cross. But it was a body that was no longer subject to the physical limitations of life on this earth. 

We read that they believed not for joy. There was a joy among them, but they just could not take it all in.

So the Lord began to explain to them the real victory that He had attained. He began to explain to them from all of the Old Testament Scriptures, and from the words that He had before spoken to them, that His resurrection was not simply a blow dealt against the enemy. But now He had won the victory. The battle was over. The foes of sin and death have been vanquished. He does indeed stand before them in the same body that had been born and crucified, but now this body is glori fied. It is not subject to death. It is no longer hindered by locked doors. He shall live in this body forever in the presence of God. 

Jesus proclaimed to them that He had not come simply to fix up the mess that Adam had made, but that He had come to bring us to the eternal Paradise of God, to implant into our bodies by His power immortal life; that He had established peace between us and God; and that He had established everlasting life through His death and through His resurrection. 

The Lord did this by speaking to the disciples from the Scriptures. He said to them, "These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me." He showed them from the same source that we have today—the holy Scriptures. The resurrection and all the truth of the Bible is revealed to us in Scripture. It is not something that you cannot understand. It is not a riddle book. It is the truth of our salvation by grace. And Jesus gave to His church a glorious explanation of the Scriptures. He opened their understanding that they might believe the Scriptures. 

Do you have that same wonder performed upon your heart today—the risen Christ, by His Holy Spirit, opening your heart before the Scriptures, declaring to you that He is risen from the dead? Do you understand what the resurrection means? It means this: We are justified. It means that our sins are indeed pardoned. That first of all. For, you see, if the Lord had been left in the grave, that would testify that His work upon the cross had been a failure. But when God raises His Son on the third day, when God takes His Son out of the grave, God is declaring that the work that His Son performed on the cross was, in all points, perfect! 

What was that work? That work was to obtain the pardon for all the sins of God's chosen. That work was to grant unto us, through His obedience, a perfect and spotless righteousness. That work was, in one word, justification! The resurrection declares that we are justified. The work of Jesus was successful. Our sins are forgiven on the basis of the cross of Jesus Christ. The risen Savior stands in His church and He declares that to us today. You, who are burdened in your sins—is the resurrection gospel heard in your ears? You are pardoned. 

But there is more. The resurrection gospel declares that we now are alive. We, too, are raised in newness of life. He is risen as Head of the church. By His Holy Spirit He implants into us His own resurrection, so that we too are born from above. We are given the principle of life eternal in our hearts. 

The resurrection of Jesus Christ, therefore, in the second place, declares that by the power of His own grace He will come to us who are dead in our sins, who cannot believe in Him, who will not believe in Him, and He will implant His own life in us, so that, with Himself in us, we might believe unto life eternal.

Still more. On this day He stands before us in His body and He declares that His salvation is full and complete, that it extends not only to our soul but also to our body, and that our bodies also shall be made like unto His glorious body. We shall someday be raised with Christ in the body, and we shall stand forever before God in immortal life. 

Does this wonder fill your heart and soul: Jesus Christ is risen from the dead! I know He is risen! I know it the same way that the disciples knew it. The Lord opened their understanding and showed it all from the Scriptures. So also we today, on the basis of the Scriptures and on the basis of the Spirit's work in our hearts—we know that He is risen. He is our Lord. Our sins are forgiven. We shall live, body and soul, forever in Him. Ours is the victory. Then, let us rejoice. He is risen. There is no condemnation for us. Heaven's doors are open. The victory is sure and complete. 

To Him who hath loved us and washed us in His blood, to Him be glory and praise in the church today, and forever and ever. To Him who was dead and is alive, and behold He lives forevermore, to Him be glory in the church, world without end, now and ever.

Haak, Carl

Rev. Carl Haak: (Wife: Mary)

Ordained: September 1979

Pastorates: Southeast, Grand Rapids, MI - 1979; Lynden, WA - 1986; Bethel, Roselle, IL - 1994; Georgetown, Hudsonville, MI - 2004

Website: georgetownprc.org/

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    United States
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    616-662-0257

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