In Him is True Life Found!

Holy Week 2021  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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O Sovereign Lord. We are gathered in your presence this morning because you raised up your Son, Jesus Christ. Now we are assembled together to worship you, and to celebrate the triumph of true life over death. For death could not hold our savior Jesus Christ. On the first day of the week he emerged from the grave conquering death and hell, as our victorious king. Who is this king of Glory? The Lord Strong and mighty. The Lord mighty in Battle. The Lord our risen savior. And so be present here today as we lift our hearts up to you, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, and the Holy Spirit, World without end, and amen!


The fastest-growing section in the bookstore is the got-to be the how-to section, the self-help manuals, and the pop psychology latest life hack, guaranteed to lead to your best life now. Whether it’s ten steps to a happier life or 12 rules for living, our appetite for this kind of stuff is insatiable. Sadly, the fact that this section keeps on growing should teach us to be a little skeptical about the effectiveness of this material. It’s not that it’s all bad or that some of it doesn’t work. These authors and gurus often live enviable lives that seem to embody what we think of as “the good life.”
But how good can life really be if everything is swallowed up in death? If everything we are doing is just fitting us for death, then what’s the point? Many in our moment have said there is no point. Life is meaningless, and we should just embrace that fact and then do whatever we want. But because we are creatures made in the image of God, we are hard-wired with eternity in our hearts. Even if we don’t know for sure, we long for there to be more to life than this. Especially because so much of life is filled with pain, sickness, and sorrow. There has got to be more than this!
The problem is we look for answers in the wrong place. We are like a computer that is not plugged in. Apart from the power source, a computer is little better than a giant paperweight. But connected to the power source, computers are amazingly useful; they come alive. So it is with us, not just as individuals, but as the mass of humanity—apart from Jesus Christ, we are dead. The story we are going to read today, as told by one eyewitness to the event, is really the denouement to history, the resolution of the complications that have come before.
Today we are going to look at the gospel of John. John was one of Jesus’ disciples, who Jesus handpicked to accompany him throughout his earthly ministry. Unlike other disciples, John was not martyred—but lived to old age. He wrote his gospel for the churches in Asia Minor, churches that had largely a Greco-Roman influence. Unlike the other Gospel writers, John is very explicit on why he wrote his Gospel. He said that “these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (Jn.20:31).
Today is resurrection Sunday, and really all Sundays are commemorating this Sunday. For on this first day of the week, Jesus rose from the dead. As John recounts the story of Jesus’ resurrection, I want us to keep this question in mind What does Jesus’ resurrection do? On a surface reading of this story, it seems like John is just telling us what he saw, and that’s true. But actually, we find that John is weaving together and bringing to a resolution themes from his whole gospel, and indeed themes from all of redemptive history up to this point.
John 19:38-20:18

Jesus’ resurrection conquers death.

What does Jesus’ resurrection do? We notice that death cannot hold on to him, but he conquers death. Three days go by from good Friday to the first day of the week, and John does not comment on those dark days. But we know for us to arrive at v. 1 and have Mary come and find an empty tomb, Jesus had to overcome the greatest enemy of mankind since the beginning of time—death. And Jesus was dead. His body could not be removed from the bloody cross until the Romans (and the Jews) were sure that he was, in fact, dead. As the Roman soldier takes his lance and pierces his side, rupturing the pericardial sac containing watery fluid that surrounded and protected the heart, blood and water flowed mingled down. Joseph and Nicodemus had no trouble recognizing him as dead as they go through the elaborate procedures of anointing him for burial—Jesus was dead.
And death is the great unknown right, everyone goes, but no one comes back, or at least very few have. And the sad fact of all those who did come back, such as Lazarus, is that they would die again. But Jesus is different. Paul reflecting on His resurrection, calls Him “the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor. 15:20). Death may be the most natural thing because we all experience it, but those who have buried friends or loved ones know how unnatural it really is. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. But what is death?
Suppose death is just physical, the disintegration of our bodies because of natural processes that breakdown over time, which we call aging. Well, then it stands to reason we might just be able to reverse those natural processes and live forever. I will never forget the cover of a Time magazine in 2013, which read “Can Google Solve Death?” In that article, they were describing Googles newest venture was the founding of a subsidiary called Calico, whose mission is to:
“better understand the biology that controls aging and lifespan…and to use the knowledge we gain to discover and develop interventions that enable people to live longer and healthier lives.”
Now wanting to help people live a long and healthy life is not a bad goal, but it is completely misguided if death is more than physical. Death is also spiritual. How is it that Adam, our first parent, who was promised in the garden that the day that he ate of the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil he would die; how is it that he continues to live for hundreds of years physically. What kind of death is God referring to? It’s a spiritual death, a relational death. That means that when Adam ate the fruit, he was cut off from communion and fellowship with God. Those of you who have lost a spouse, or child, someone you were very close with, felt something of this. It’s like part of you died with them, and no matter what you do, you feel something is missing from you—you participated in each other, and when they are gone, that relational death is the hole you feel.
But Jesus’ death is different—he is innocent, without sin. When he suffered and died, he did so not for his sake but for the sake of His people. He died as a substitute, paying the penalty for your sin. He willingly offers himself up as a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice. But how do we know that His sacrifice was accepted? How do we know that he has turned away the wrath of God? We know because he rose again from the dead. His resurrection is the vindication that Jesus’ sacrifice has been accepted, that He has turned away the wrath of God. One famous puritan pastor wrote a book called The Death of Death in the Death of Jesus Christ, because as Peter in his sermon from Acts 2 said, “God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it” (Ac 2:24).
Through the power of the Holy Spirit, God raised Jesus from the dead. And as he did, Jesus emerges from the grave with the power of death and hell. There is now no need for a division of Google to solve the problem of death, the curse of death has already been reversed. And that means that if you have trusted Jesus for your salvation, then you, although you may die physically you will never die spiritually. As Paul asks that marvelous rhetorical question:
Romans 8:35–39 ESV
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The question then is, do you believe? To overcome death, We must believe that Jesus rose from the dead because only in Him can we have true life. True life that overcomes death.

Jesus’ resurrection begins the new creation.

Now on the first day of the week, John draws our attention to it being a Sunday when Mary visits the tomb of Jesus. And this has a deeper significance for John than just noting the day. Mary sees that the stone was rolled away, then runs and tells Jesus closest disciples, Peter and John. And John recounts almost humorously that they raced each other to the tomb, and he won. But he stopped as soon as he reached the tomb, only looking in and noticing that the linen cloths were lying there. But true to Character, Peter may be slow, but he is ever the bold one. He finally arrives and goes straight in. Besides the tomb being empty, Peter notices the linen grave cloths lying there, but in particular, the head cloth was folded neatly, separately from the others. That’s a curious fact. If body snatchers have come and stolen him, would they have taken his grave clothes off? Would they have taken the time to fold the headcloth neatly? It seems doubtful. Then John proceeds to come in after Peter. Seeing the tomb empty and the linen cloths lying there, John believes. Then as he likes to do, he interjects into the story his current perspective, telling us that up until that point, the disciples did not understand the scriptures that he must rise from the dead.
So believing but scratching their heads in misunderstanding, they make their way back to their homes. One scholar called the gospels “passion narratives with extended introductions” (Martin Kohler). That is all of John’s gospel is really leading us to the account of Jesus’ death and resurrection. John himself devotes seven chapters to the time between Maundy Thursday and his resurrection here on the first day of the week. And he begins his gospel with a nod to Gen 1:1, saying, In the beginning was the word…That’s the first day of creation. On the sixth day, God made man, so on the sixth day,
The Resurrection of the Son of God 2. John 20 within the Gospel as a Whole

John has Pilate declare, ‘Behold the man!’ The seventh day is the day of rest for the creator; in John, it is the day when Jesus rests in the tomb. Easter is the start of the new creation.

And this is why John reiterates twice that these things took place on the first day of the week.
Jesus’ resurrection begins the new creation. Just as “All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made” (Jn. 1:3), in his resurrection, it is true again that Jesus is the integration of the new creation. As John continues in 1:4, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men.” This is why Paul can say, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17).
But what is the new creation? And if that is true, why is the world such a mess? The new creation is creation, the world and all in it, restored through the redemptive work of Christ. You see, because of the sin of our representative, Adam, the whole of creation, including all of us, was alienated from God and dominated by sin. But God promised to the serpent in the garden that one day a seed would come who would crush his head. He would do what the first Adam failed to do. Then as the scriptures unfold, through his prophets, the Lord gave many great and precious promises of what the world would look like when this dragon killer came. These were described as the new heavens and the new earth. It’s a place for sure, but scripture speaks of it as an age calling it the latter days. One of my favorite texts that describes this period is Isaiah 25:6-9:
Isaiah 25:6–8 ESV
6 On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. 7 And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. 8 He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken.
So instead of a place and time dominated by sin, it would a place of peace. When God would dwell with us, where there is no pain, no sorrow, no COVID, and no sin, it is that age that the resurrection of Christ and his ascension to the Father ushered in. If that is so, then why is the world such a mess. In fact, things seem to be going just like they were before Jesus’ resurrection?
The world is indeed a mess. And it is true that if you only watch the news, things seem dire. But in Jesus’ resurrection, we have the beginning of the new creation because, in him, we have the reordering of everything that was disorder. He is the perfect human being, no sin, perfect love, complete obedience, and the perfect union of God and man. When God calls you to salvation and delivers you from the old man, he does so by His Spirit, which is the down payment of the new creation. And now at work in you, and the church as a corporate body of believers united to Christ, is the reordering, renovating work of the Holy Spirit. That sanctification process, which is us becoming more and more like Christ, and less and less of that old sinful Adam. So while the new creation is only a complete reality in Christ, it will one day be complete in us also, when Christ comes again.
But unless you believe that Jesus of Nazareth was crucified, dead, and buried, unless you believe that he was the Son of God, and unless you believe that he rose from the dead—then you have no part in His new creation, you have no share in true life. But if you believe in Him and trust in him alone for salvation, then you have true life, and He will give you His Spirit as the down payment, a guarantee that what he promised will be yours. We must believe that Jesus rose from the dead because only in Him can we have true life.

Jesus’ resurrection reconciles us to the father.

Mary wasn’t quite ready to leave the tomb. She lingers weeping in v. 11. But stooping in to see the empty tomb, she finds two angels, asking her why she is crying. She tells them she is perplexed because someone has come and taken away her Lord. Then turning around, she saw Jesus standing there, but she didn’t know it was him. He asks again, why are you weeping? Supposing he is a gardener, she repeats her dilemma. Someone took Jesus’ body. But then Jesus calls her. Mary. And immediately, she recognizes that it is Jesus. For he calls to his own sheep, and his own sheep know his voice, for his is the voice of the good shepherd.
John 20:17 ESV
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.’ ”
At first, it’s a puzzling statement. Perhaps out of fear of losings him again, she is unwilling to let Jesus go. But Jesus’ next statement is a stunning bit of theology, which takes the rest of the New Testament to flesh out. Jesus says, “Go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my father and your Father, my God, and your God.’” Jesus is teaching Mary that because of his resurrection, the promise that all those who look to Jesus for salvation would be adopted into his family, with God as their father and Jesus as the older brother. Jesus has not spoken to the disciples in this way before, calling them my brothers. It is worth quoting the catechism here.
Adoption is one of the benefits that those who have been united to Christ receive. For Jesus’ death paid the penalty for our sin. So that God could be both just and the justifier through Christ. Jesus has reconciled us to the father, restoring the relationship so that he is not set against us because of sin but is for us because of Christ.
That means that if by faith you have been united to Christ, you are adopted, brought into the family of God, and have the privileged of all the benefit that that affords. You are made co-heirs with Christ and allotted a share in his inheritance. Well, what is his inheritance—everything, literally the entire cosmos, is His, and you get a share in that. Now God is your father, and you are now entitled to his fatherly care. That means that he is working all things together for your good.
It also means that if you don’t believe in Jesus, if you don’t believe that he was the son of God and that he died and on the third day rose again, then you have none of these benefits. It means that God does not regard you favorably because of his son. It means you are not marked by his name and included in his family. It means you do not have the dispensation of his fatherly care. Rather you are still in your sins, and God towards you as an enemy. For as long as you remain outside of Christ, his benefits remain outside of you. That is a dangerous place to be.


In this world that is so uncertain, why would you court disaster by rejecting the only source of true life? For trust me, true life cannot be found in wealth or health; nor can it be found in beauty or fame. True life is not living longer than others or doing great and noble things to be remembered by history. True life is that which conquerors death and becomes new creatures who are adopted into the family of God. True life is found only in Christ. He is the source of life, and His resurrection proves it.
He is risen!
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