Be Encouraged: A Resurrection Passage Not Often Mentioned
Not to long ago many of us observed Good Friday and celebrated Resurrection Sunday (most commonly referred to as Easter). Christian churches throughout the world celebrated with presentations such as dramatic plays, skits, spoken word, theatrical readings, praise dances, and even showing of movie excerpts such as Passion of the Christ. All of the presentations served as a means of sharing the Gospel with visitors and “Chreasters” (people who only attend church service during the Christmas and Easter holidays); for regular church goers it was a tribute to the price paid for their salvation.
Either before, during or after the presentation pastors of various denominations stood at pulpits and delivered sermons which retold of the triumphant entrance of Christ into Jerusalem, His sorrowful betrayal & capture, His horrific abuse & agonizing death on the cross, and His glorious resurrection and ascension. The atmosphere was somber as pastors recounted the last words of our Savior before His death …but with sudden vigor they retold of the darkening of the sky, the great earthquake, and the tearing of the temple shroud from top to bottom which symbolizes the removal of the veil of separation between God and man as the result of the sacrifice made by Christ on the cross.
Very rarely, if ever, is there any mention of a small but extraordinary passage found in Matthew 27:52-53; the full context reads as follows:
- “51 Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split,
- 52 and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised;
- 53 and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.
- 54 So when the centurion and those with him, who were guarding Jesus, saw the earthquake and the things that had happened, they feared greatly, saying, “Truly this was the Son of God!”
Verses 52 and 53 records that after the resurrection of Jesus Christ (i.e., after His resurrection) Believers who had passed away prior to His death (i.e., the saints who had fallen asleep) were also resurrected (i.e., were raised and coming out of the graves) and went into the holy city. Isn’t that extraordinary? How amazing it must have been to also see the resurrection of so many followers of Christ. What an incredible visual it must have been for the centurion and others to see all those saints appearing to be on autopilot as they made their way into Jerusalem (i.e., the holy city). Can you grasp the significance of how this applies to you, myself, and all those who believe in and follow Jesus? Christ raising the dead was not and is not just limited to the young girl (Mark 5:21-43), the widow’s son (Luke 7:11-17), Lazarus (John 11:1-44), and the saints who had fallen asleep (Matthew 27:52-53). His resurrecting power is for each and every one of us in the very now and living present. In John 11:25-26 our Lord tells us:
- “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”(John 11:25-26).
So what’s your answer? Do you really believe Him? If you don’t believe or you’re sitting on the fence of indecision here are 3 truths you can take to the bank:
Fact #1 – You’ve been resurrected. The moment you sincerely accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior you were resurrected by the immediate indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Indwelling means “to be permanently present in one’s heart and soul; possess spiritually.” The word of God tells us:
- “In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.” (Ephesians 1:13)
- But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” (Romans 8:11)
- “…Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
I recently heard a scripturally incorrect but very melodious worship song. Part of the lyrics in the chorus were “the resurrected King is resurrecting me”. No pun intended but this is dead wrong. All of the Biblical accounts of Christ and His raising of the dead speaks of an instantaneous miraculous event not a drawn out process. The Holy Spirit is a living person. He is part of the Godhead (Holy Trinity) and He does not dwell in dead flesh. In the exact moment you sincerely made the confession of faith in Jesus Christ you were instantly brought into a new life so believe that your resurrection complete. It’s a done deal.
Fact #2 – A resurrected person must live a resurrected life. One would think that the resurrected saints would have immediately started looking for their families and old friends …or even stop and talk to the on lookers; instead they were single-minded and focused on going to the holy city (“coming out of the grave they went into the holy city”). Their behavior gives a picture of being led by the Spirit. Being led by the Holy Spirit can only occur through complete obedience and submission to the Him and Him alone.
What is the benefit of complete obedience and submission to the Holy Spirit? Sanctification. Sanctification is a process of setting apart as or making / declaring holy and sanctified. Another scripturally incorrect song lyric is “I’m saved and sanctified”. Again this is wrong. The process of sanctification occurs over and over …and over again throughout a Believer’s entire life time through their obedience and submission to the Holy Spirit. This continual process occurs in order to make every Believer more Christ-like by renewing their mind, transforming world-views, resetting priorities, softening of the heart, and changing of character.
Jesus Christ (who is the perfect example of righteousness) always did the will of the Father and never acted on His own. The most beautiful and heart wrenching example of His complete obedience and submission is recorded in the garden of Gethsemane. In agony our Savior sweated blood and submitted to the will of the Father.
- “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him. And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” (Luke 22:42-44)
Every time you deny your own will and do as the Holy Spirit has directed you you’re being sanctified. Every time you make the free will choice not to follow your inclination but follow the Holy Spirit’s prompting you’re being sanctified. Every time the Holy Spirit shines the light on your heart issues (i.e., sinful actions, thoughts, attitudes, and motives) and you accept it as truth, acknowledge and confess your sin before God, and repent of it you are being sanctified. Remember the mandate found in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 and hold on to these:
- “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher.” (Luke 6:40)
- “…God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:5-7)
- “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)
Sanctification is by no means an easy process but its reward is the path that leads to holiness. Study the word of God and let it make you a true disciple. Keep walking towards the holy city and do not allow yourself veer off the narrow road.
Fact #3 – God will resurrect everything that was dead in you. If you can accept fact 1 and live out fact 2 you’ll receive this final fact. The Lord in His goodness will take those dry and barren places in you and transform them into living waters. Whatever your giant, mountain, or valley of the shadow of death our Father in heaven is faithful to resurrect you from it. Trust and believe His word:
- “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)
- “To console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” (Isaiah 61:3)
- “I have been young, and now am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his descendants begging bread.” (Psalm 37:25)
- “You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11)
Be encouraged! Similar to the centurion & others who saw the saints and realized that Christ truly was the Son of God, in time the speechless testimony of your life will be a witness of Him and His resurrecting power in you.