Proof of the Resurrection – Where’s the Body?

I know Easter is over, but I’m still reflecting on Sunday’s theme of the Resurrection and what it means to us as Christians.  The following is a blog from a few years back which I posted on www.faithapostolic.us about infallible proofs of His Resurrection:

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is a cornerstone of our Faith.  The apostle Paul said if Christ is not risen from the dead, then our faith is vain and we are still in our sins.

ResurrectionJesus showed Himself alive after His passion by many infallible proofs – proofs of His resurrection!  There is not sufficient space in this short blog to discuss the enormous amount of evidence of Christ’s resurrection.  If you’re interested in a thorough discussion of the subject, I recommend Josh McDowell’s book, “The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict.” http://www.josh.org/.  I would, however, like to discuss just one fact that points to the Risen Savior: His enemies never found a body!

The Jewish religious leaders viciously opposed Jesus throughout His ministry.  After His death they reminded Pilate that Jesus had spoken of a resurrection. They asked Pilate to place a guard at the tomb and seal the entrance so His disciples couldn’t come and steal His body then say He had resurrected.  Pilate agreed to their request.

The Jewish leaders knew where the tomb was.  Their watchful temple guard knew exactly where Jesus was laid.  They were prepared to go to any lengths to suppress Christianity.  All they had to do was produce a body!  All they had to do to put an end to the Jesus movement was produce His body.  All they had to do was put Jesus’ corpse on a cart and parade it through the streets of Jerusalem and Christianity would have died with its Christ.

But there was no body.  The tomb was empty. He arose on the third day!

The Romans persecuted the Christians.  They tried to rid them from their society.  All the Romans had to do was show Jesus’ body in a tomb and that would have ended it.  Are you telling me that the Emperors of Rome did not have the means to produce the corpse of Jesus if there was a corpse?  Augustus? Tiberius? Claudius? Nero? The only thing these Caesars had to do to expunge Christianity was produce a body.  Find His resting place.  Find His body.  Display His corpse in the public square with this inscription:

“Here lies Jesus of Nazareth – impostor who claimed to be God – who said He would RISE again.  Here lies His body!”

That would have sealed the fate of Christianity.

But the Jews and Romans – enemies of the Church –  are throughout all history strangely silent!  They never claim a body.  Why is that? There was no body. He got up!  Jesus resurrected on the third day just as He had said.

Some skeptics say, “The disciples stole His body!”  But what of the Roman guard?  What of the watchful Jewish leaders and the temple guard?  History makes it plain – an official Roman guard would number between ten and thirty trained soldiers.  Due to the circumstances surrounding Jesus’ death, the number of the guard assigned to this tomb was undoubtedly larger!

The greatest proof of the Resurrection is that the greatest enemies of Christ could never find His body.

The tomb was sealed with the imperial seal of Rome, which would have been a high crime to deface.  Roman history is clear that the punishment for quitting a post was death!  Fear of punishment produced faultless attention to duty – especially in the night watches.

And what about the stone?  The stone was so enormous that it would require up to twenty men to move it.  How could the disciples have stolen His body?

The greatest proof of the Resurrection is that the greatest enemies of Christ could never find His body.  If Jesus had not risen, the Jews or the Romans would have found His body, paraded it through the streets and sealed the fate of Christianity.  But they never found a body.  The reason is simple.  On the third day Jesus came out of the grave, victorious over death and hell, and is alive forevermore!

-Pastor Ball

Philippians on Friday: Remember the Cross

Thanks for joining me for our Philippians on Friday devotion.  We’ve been studying chapter two and our verse for today couldn’t be more fitting for this Good Friday:

Philippians 2:8 (KJV) And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

PhilippiansPhilippians 2:8, beautifully depicts the greatest story every told – the incarnation. God laid aside His splendor, humbled Himself, and became a man. He was obedient unto death – not just any death – but the death of the Cross. And He did it to pay the price for our sins so we could be reconciled to Him!

William Newell, in the hymn, At Calvary, tells the great story in unforgettable fashion:

Oh, the love that drew salvation’s plan!

Oh, the grace that brought it down to man!

Oh, the mighty gulf that God did span

  At Calvary!

Good Friday is a day we commemorate the death of Jesus on the Cross. The Cross of Calvary is the focal point of God’s salvation plan. It was on the Cross:

  • That Jesus died for each of us.
  • That He, as the spotless lamb of God, was offered as a sacrifice to pay the penalty for my sin and your sin.
  • That the Body of Jesus was broken and bruised to provide for our healing.

His death gave us hope of life. His sorrow gave us hope of joy. His struggle gave us hope of victory. When He was on the cross, we were on His mind. He died for you and me.  He died in our stead and in our place.

The Cross was a necessity.  It was the only way of salvation for us.  That’s why Jesus was “obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”  The two thieves who were crucified with Jesus – one on the right and one on the left – had two very different ideas about the Cross. One wanted salvation but did not want a cross. He wanted Jesus to come down from the Cross.  He said,

“If thou be Christ, save thyself and us!” (Luke 23)

Come down from the Cross and save us!  But there is no salvation without the Cross.  That’s why Jesus went all the way to the end – until He could say, “It is finished.”

His death gave us hope of life. His sorrow gave us hope of joy. His struggle gave us hope of victory.

The other thief knew there would be no coming down from the Cross. He acknowledged that, although Jesus was innocent, he and other thief deserved to be there.  He knew any hope of salvation was by way of the Cross.  He knew there would be no escaping the cross. He simply said,

“Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.” (Luke 23:42)

He wanted to be saved, but he knew it was by way of the cross.

Jesus was crucified atop the hill called Golgotha, which means in the Hebrew, “the Philippiansplace of a skull.” It was so named because the rock formation on the hill resembled a skull.  The Cross was planted into the hill of Golgotha. It was planted into the place of the skull. May the cross be planted into our minds – firmly and permanently fixed in our memory and thinking. May we always remember that there is no salvation without the Cross of Christ.

We mustn’t forget the Old Rugged Cross. It stands as a reminder of our own sin, of how far we were from God, and how unable we were to save ourselves. It stands as a reminder of the great love and grace of God.

“In that old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine, 
a wondrous beauty I see, 
for ’twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died, 
to pardon and sanctify me. 

So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross, 
till my trophies at last I lay down; 
I will cling to the old rugged cross, 
and exchange it some day for a crown.”

~Matthew Ball

Philippians on Friday: Relinquishing our Rights

Thanks for joining me for our Philippians on Friday devotion.  Today we’re continuing on in Chapter 2:

Philippians 2:5–8 (KJV) – Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

In the first four verses of Chapter 2, Paul, who knew firsthand the importance of unity, gave the Philippians practical steps on securing and protecting unity in the church. In our last devotion we discovered some practical steps in these verses about how to keep disunity and strife at bay:

  • Keep motives in check (avoiding rivalry and self-promotion)
  • Think more about others than self (preferring one another)
  • Show interest in the affairs of others

Beginning in verse 5, Paul offers some more practical advice on nurturing unity. In fact what Paul writes in this amazing passage may be the single greatest key to unity in the Body of Christ:

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:

PhilippiansThese verses are rich with deep theological truths! They remind us of the glorious incarnation – God robing Himself in flesh and becoming a man to save us from our sins! It reminds me of the words of the song, “Down from His Glory:”

What condescension, bringing us redemption,
That in the dead of night, not one faint hope in sight,
God, gracious, tender, laid aside His splendor
Stooping to reach, to win, to save my soul!

______

Without reluctance,
Flesh and blood His substance
He took the form of man,
Revealed the hidden plan.
O glorious myst’ry,
Sacrifice of Calv’ry,
And now I know Thou art the great “I AM.”

_____

O how I love Him! How I adore Him!
My breath, my sunshine, my all in all!
The great Creator became my Savior,
And all God’s fullness dwelleth in Him.

While these verses in Philippians depict the masterpiece of redemption, keep in mind, Paul is still on the subject of unity.  Jesus had the attitude of a servant. He was God manifest in the flesh, yet He willingly took on the role of servant. He was God and should have been served by others, but He was the One doing the serving. He was God and should have been ministered unto, but He said in Mark 10:45:

45 For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

philippiansThis is a key to unity! Selfless attitudes and serving one another promote unity. How can there be division and strife among us when we are selflessly serving one another? How can we be divisive and critical when we are busy washing one another’s feet?

The enemies of unity are usually the ones who are serving themselves! The culprits of division and strife in the church are usually the ones who desire to be ministered unto, not the ones interested in ministering to others.

The New American Standard Version (as well as most other translations) explain verse 6, like this:

…who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,

He was God, but didn’t retain His rights as God. He willingly laid down His rights as the creator and became my Savior!

What does that mean? Jesus was God! The Man, Christ Jesus, was God manifest in the flesh. It would not have been “robbery” for Him to be considered “equal” with God, because He was God. It would not have been wrong of Him to accept the praise and worship of men because He was God. Contrary to the Jew’s accusation, He was not blaspheming by forgiving sins because He was God. And it wouldn’t have been wrong to “grasp” at those rights!

But He relinquished what was rightfully His and took upon Himself the form of a servant. He let go of what was due Him. He was God, but didn’t retain His rights as God. He willingly laid down His rights as the creator and became my Savior!

Not only is this a stirring depiction of God’s grace and love, it is a key to unity! Paul is telling the Philippians how to have unity:

“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus…”

In other words, Christ was willing to relinquish His “rights” for the good of the church.  Unity grows when we have this same mindset of Christ.  Think about it. Most disunity and strife in a church come from people grasping their “rights” in some matter.

  • “I’ve been unjustly treated, I have a right to retaliate.”
  • “I’ve been overlooked, I have a right to be heard.”
  • “My feelings were hurt, someone owes me an apology.”
  • “If I don’t stand up for myself, no one will stand up for me.”
  • “I have a right to feel this way.”

Perhaps you are justified in being offended. Maybe you do have the right to demand something. You may be the victim of genuine mistreatment. But nothing fosters unity like willingly and joyfully relinquishing what may actually be our rights so that unity prevails.

There’s never been a man who was more justified in demanding what was rightfully His than Jesus. Yet he willingly:

“Made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men…he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”

And He did that for you and me. He did that for the good of the church! What a great example He left us to follow – an example of how to nurture unity in the Body of Christ!

~Matthew Ball

Higher Vision: What Do You See?

Isaiah’s vision in the Presence of God is nothing short of incredible.

In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. (Isaiah 6:1)

visionHe sees the Lord seated on His throne – high and exalted. The train of the Lord’s enormous robe filled the temple. Massive, six-winged angles hovering over the throne, crying one to another….

“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.”

The Glory of God was so concentrated, Isaiah could see it – the temple was filled with smoke. The power of God and the thundering angels’ anthem shook the doorposts of the temple. Isaiah’s reaction to being in the presence of a Holy God was to cry:

“Woe is me, I am undone!”

Isaiah confesses his sin, and in an act revealing the loving Grace of God, an angel takes a coal of fire from the altar and touches Isaiah and declares, “Your iniquity is taken away and your sin purged”

Then Isaiah hears the voice of God saying, “Whom shall I send and who will go?” Isaiah’s well-known response has been source of inspiration ever since:

“Here am I, send me”

There is so much that could be said about this remarkable story, but today I want to focus on a phrase in the first verse:

“In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw also the Lord.”

A king’s death always has significant repercussions. It’s a time of sorrow as people mourn the passing of their leader. It can be a time of uncertainty. Who will be the next king? How will he reign?  It can be a time ripe for disunity as would-be leaders jockey for power and position.

When Uzziah died, it was surely a time of fear and trouble. Would their enemies – the Philistines or the Amorites – take advantage of Judah’s unrest and launch an attack? Without a king, Judah was an easy target. Troubles and problems always seem to intensify in the absence of leadership.

Yet in the midst of all the chaos, trouble, and fear, Isaiah saw the Lord! Isaiah could have just been focused on the problems, but he saw the Lord!

At a time when the enemies of Judah were clanging their swords – anxious to seize their opportunity – Isaiah saw the Lord. The people of Judah were sad and mournful at the loss of their king, but Isaiah saw the Lord. Problems, troubles, and chaos were all around, but Isaiah saw the Lord!

What Do you See? What are your eyes fixated upon? What are you focused on? Who are you looking at?

There are a lot of similarities between the time of Isaiah’s vision and hour we are in! The world around us is growing increasingly chaotic and uncertain. Global economic worries, terrorism, immigration crises and threats of war are all producing a world filled with fear and anxiety.

Even in the United States we have our share of woes. We are experiencing ever-increasing division and racism. Politics are uglier and more divisive then ever. Homegrown terror is a real concern. School and workplace shootings are on the rise. Biblical morality is being eroded from the fabric of our nation and our religious freedoms are being undermined.

Do you know how easy it would be to become fixated on all that is wrong around us? Just remember the story of Isaiah. In a time of turmoil and upheaval Isaiah saw the Lord! He saw Him high and lifted up and sitting upon His thrown.

There may be trouble all around you – but there is more going on above you! Lift visionup your eyes. Look up. The Lord is still on His Throne! It’s a trick of the enemy to get our eyes so fixed on what is wrong that we never look up and see the Lord!

There are times in life when you face uncertainty, troubles and fear. When you’re in those times of life it’s so important to see the Lord! If you’re not careful all you’ll see is the trouble in your life and the world around you.

See Him High and Lifted Up! Isaiah said I saw Him high and lifted up. He was awesome, mighty and powerful. He was higher than everything else. God is higher than all the problems and troubles in your life or world. When you’re surrounded by trouble, it’s easy to forget that God is higher than all your troubles.

See Him Seated Upon His Throne! Remember – God is still on the Throne! God didn’t die and leave the devil in charge. God hasn’t surrendered His throne to anyone! This world may be in a mess, but let me remind you – God is still in charge and in control. We may be in a whirlwind of trouble, but remember what Nahum said:

“The Lord hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of His feet.” (Nahum 1:3)

 The message of Isaiah’s vision was: “Uzziah may have died, but God didn’t die! The throne in Jerusalem may be vacant, but Heaven’s throne is still occupied!”

See the Angels! Isaiah saw huge seraphim. Some believe seraphim to be massive angels standing over 100 feet tall with wings so large that one wing would cover an average sized home. Some people see devils behind every bush. They are fixated on what the devil is doing.

I’m not naïve to the fact that the devil is working – he’s a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. I’m not ignorant of his devices, but neither am I fixated on what he is doing.

It’s a trick of the enemy to get our eyes so fixed on what is wrong that we never look up and see the Lord!

I’m focused on what Heaven is doing. My eyes are upon what the angels of God are doing! I’m not interested in seeing demons – I want a vision of angels. I’m interested in seeing the Lord, because what God is doing is always greater than what hell is doing! Need I remind you that only one-third of the angels were cast out of heaven with Lucifer? That means for every demon, there are two angels! I’m more interested in focusing on Heaven’s plans than hell’s plans!

See Him in the Church. Even in the Church, you’ve got to be careful what you focus upon! If you’re not careful the enemy will get you focused on what’s wrong with the church. This is the tactic of the spirit of discouragement – to get you so focused on what is wrong that you don’t see what is right.

You can get so focused on the problems that you don’t even see the blessings! You can get so fixated on what’s wrong with church, the people, or the pastor that you don’t see the Lord! I know the church isn’t perfect – but if you’re not careful the enemy will get you so focused on what’s wrong in the church that you don’t have a vision of the great things that God is doing in the church! Yes, there are problems in any church. But you’ve got to lift up your eyes and see the Lord or you will live in constant frustration.

See the Lord working in your own life! The enemy would love to get you so focused on what’s wrong in your own life that you don’t even see the good the Lord is doing in you. God isn’t finished with you yet! Don’t get so drawn to what is still unfinished in you that you fail to praise God for the transformation that has already taken place!

How is your vision? What are you focused on? What do you see? There may be trouble around you, but look up! The Lord is high and lifted up and still on His throne!

~Matthew Ball

Philippians on Friday: The Recipe for Unity

Thanks for joining me for our Philippians on Friday devotion.  I’m sorry I’ve missed posting for the last two Fridays – I was out of the country doing missions work.  I’m excited to get back into our weekly study.   Today we’re continuing on in Chapter 2:

Philippians 2:3-4: 3Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.

If you remember from our last devotion, Paul opened chapter two with an appeal for unity among the Philippians. Paul knew all too well the negative impact that disunity and strife has upon the body of Christ. He admonished them to be likeminded, to love one another and to be of one accord and one mind.

UnityNow, starting in verse 3, Paul shows how to have unity in the body. He gives practical steps for how to be likeminded, show love one another and be in one accord. His recipe for unity is so needed in this day where division, strife and disunity are not only rampant in our world, but ever encroaching in the church.

Step One:     Check Your Motives

“Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory…”

The word “strife” here means “rivalry.” Paul said, “Let nothing be done through rivalry.” He’s addressing our motives. Why are we doing what we do in the local church or in the Body of Christ? Are we trying to be better than someone else in the congregation? Are we trying to outdo someone else for the purpose of self-edification? Is our motive to build up self or build up the Kingdom of God? Rivalry is all about promoting self and it has no place among those seeking unity. Rivalry and unity are like oil and water – they don’t mix!

How do you know if you are doing things out of rivalry? Ask yourself these questions:

  • Am I more interested in me doing well than I am all of us doing well?
  • Am I overly concerned that I get the credit for something that’s done or am I more interested in the outcome than who gets the credit?
  • Do I get any satisfaction out of someone else doing poorly at something?
  • I am truly happy when someone else in the church is successful, blessed or effective in his or her ministry?

Honest answers to these questions will help reveal how well we’re doing at keeping rivalry at bay. It’s a constant battle to keep our motives pure.  Our flesh always craves self-promotion.

philippiansPaul identified another improper motive that works against unity – vain glory.  Doing something out of “vain glory” means doing something for the purpose of bringing glory to self, rather than glory to God. This is another great hindrance to unity in the church. Here’s another motive check: Do we want people to be impressed with us or impressed with Christ? Are our actions bringing glory to Him or are they subtly and strategically designed to bring glory to self?

The first step in achieving the unity Paul is writing about in this passage is to check our motives and make sure what we do in the Body of Christ does not stem from rivalry or is done for the purpose of exalting self.

Step 2:          Think More About Others than Yourself

“…but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.”

Paul is giving us incredible insight into what creates unity: a genuinely selfless attitude! Unity thrives in an environment of selflessness! Think about it. At the root of most all disunity in the body of Christ is selfishness. When people are thinking more about their own needs, wants, rights, preferences, tastes and desires more than the needs of others, unity suffers greatly.

Unity is so needed in this day where division, strife and disunity are not only rampant in our world, but ever encroaching in the church.

Lowliness of mind and esteeming others better than ourselves does not mean putting ourselves down or feeling poorly about ourselves. It’s simply referring to preferring our brothers and sisters. It means placing our own well being second to the well being of others. Paul is simply encouraging the Philippians to be more concerned with others than with self.

No one likes being around a person whose entire world revolves around self. And few things hinder unity more than that kind of self-centered attitude.

Step 3:          Be Concerned about the Things of Others

Paul goes on to say:

“Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.”

The previous verse refers to our thoughts being upon other people more so than upon ourselves. This verse is similar, but deals more with the things of others.

I like the Living Bible’s rendering:

“Don’t just think about your own affairs, but be interested in others, too, and in what they are doing.” Philippians 2:4

philippiansBe interested in the affairs of others! Show genuine concern and care for what others are interested in. Some people think their own affairs are the only things that are important. What a hindrance to unity. With one trifling exception, the whole world is made up of others. Ask how others are doing. Show genuine interest in their response. Be interested in others. The most refreshing people to be around are those who are genuinely interested in other people!

Unity is indispensable to any growing and thriving congregation. Let’s adhere to Paul’s advice to the Philippians on how to protect and promote unity within the local church!

Until next week!

~Matthew Ball