I am an avid reader. I love books (almost to a fault) and I have loved reading since my late high school years. I read all kinds of books… fiction (i.e. Sci- Fi/Fantasy, horror, thrillers, suspense, & historical fiction), non-fiction (i.e. autobiographies, biographies, history, & leadership), and religious (i.e. theology, Christian living, Christian fiction, church history, & Bible commentaries). The key ingredients for a great book is an introduction that captures my attention, a theme, topic or storyline that is well-written a strong conclusion. I want to make sure the author ties up all of the loose ends? Does he/she resolve the conflict? Are all the questions answered or mysteries solved where I am not left guessing what happens? Did the author finish or accomplish what he/she set out to accomplish in writing the book? Nothing is more frustrating than a bad ending or a week conclusion. If you are a reader maybe you understand what I mean? I can’t tell you how many books I invested hours in just to be met with complete dissatisfaction in how the book or story ends. I occasionally enjoy a Stephen King novel. Mr. King is probably one of the best story tellers I have read. He is detailed in his writing and he writes in a way that really interests me. I know he is a horror novel writer but I do enjoy a good scare every now and then. It is not unusual for him to write a books that can be up 700 to 1000 pages reading one of his novels can certainly be a huge time investment. He is a genius writer but sometimes his conclusions are terrible. Every now and then I finish one of his novels and wonder what was the point of this book? I have one of his books on my shelf at home that is over 1000 pages and I am reluctant to invest in it knowing his track record.
Ultimately a book that does not deliver is disappointing and frustrating. A bad ending can ruin a great book.
Imagine if the end of the Gospel of John was chapter 19. Think about how dissatisfied you would be as a reader (and we as humanity). How disappointed would you be as a believer? Would you even be a believer? I wonder up to this point if the disciples who followed Jesus for the past 3 ½ years were staring at the lifeless body of Jesus hanging on the cross and thought, “What a waste of time.” At this point in their lives this was the conclusion to the story. It was over. Everything they were taught, believed and even fought for was seemingly thrown out the window. Jesus talked about eternal life, the abundant life and ushering in the Kingdom of God and there he hung lifeless on the cross. Thankfully, the story does not end here. In so many ways it is just the beginning. If the Gospel of John ended with chapter 19 then this book of the Bible could not be called the Gospel of John because the word Gospel means good news. A dead Jesus in a tomb is not good news. A risen Jesus who has ascended to the Father is Good News. In these remaining chapters we see the disciples will finally get the purpose behind all that has happened up to this point. They will see this story does have a happy ending and it ultimately ends as any good and satisfying story does, “And they lived (or will live) happily ever after."
Read John 20:1 – 10
This is the first day of the week the day after the Sabbath. The Sabbath began around 6 pm Friday and ended around 6 pm Saturday. It was early Sunday morning so it was still dark out. Mary Magdalene was at the tomb of Jesus (with other women). John does not mention these other women but the other three Gospels do and they were there to tend to the body of Jesus. This is a beautiful picture of Mary Magdalene's devotion to Jesus; even in death she care for and loved Jesus. When Mary approached the tomb she noticed the large stone had been rolled away from the opening. The tomb had been under guard by order of Pontius Pilate and it was sealed with the seal of authority of Pilate. She was concerned because she thought the body of Jesus had been stolen. She immediately went and found Peter and John.
Peter and John heard this news and immediately ran to the tomb. John felt it was important to tell the readers that he was faster than Peter. We are not sure why the detail is there but I find it curious and funny as I wondered if the two of them had a little bit of a competitive edge to them. They reached the tomb; John bent down and looked in and noticed the burial clothes were in tatters. Peter shows up later and pushes past John and goes into the tomb. In most instances the tomb opening was only 3 feet high. A grown adult would probably have to crawl in through the opening. Peter went in and he noticed the burial clothes were there in shambles but the face clothe (kind of like a handkerchief) was not with the rest of the clothes but folded in its own separate place. John went in after Peter and upon seeing the empty tomb verse 8 says, “He saw and believed.” Peter and John investigated for a bit and then they went back home. Maybe they were perplexed, maybe they were concerned or maybe they just needed time to digest what they just witnessed.
The Significance of the Resurrection
What is the significance of the resurrection? I would encourage you to read I Corinthians 15 to get a full understanding it. The reality for Christians is we put everything into the fact that Jesus Christ not only died on a cross but he also rose from the dead. The death of Jesus is essential to our Christian faith (without it atonement cannot be made) however we cannot stop with his death. The story does not end there. Good Friday is not the main point of Easter.
According to Romans 1:4 The Spirit/God publicly declares Jesus as divine by his resurrection and scripture also tells us that he has always been divine. We must always remember Jesus did not become the Son of God after he rose from the dead he always has been the Son of God from eternity past, present and future. The text implies here that Jesus was publicly declared the Son of God through the resurrection. The resurrection was his declaration of who he is. We now can accept, acknowledge and draw near to God as a result of the resurrection of Christ.
I have heard this question asked many times, “How can you be sure Jesus rose from the dead?” There are various accounts of Jesus’ appearances to people throughout the New Testament. I Corinthians 15:5 - 7 says that Jesus appeared to all of the disciples, to 500 brothers at one time and he also appeared to James (Jesus' brother) and all of the Apostles.
Just like a good story needs a conclusion a sermon needs a conclusion. When concluding one question I always ask is, “How does this passage/topic apply to us today?” What can we take home with us? The answer is quite simple… We can take with us hope. We can take with us the understanding that this life is indeed precious and we must live our lives in abundance for the Lord here on earth but also this life is not all we have. If you truly believe the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ then we have more to look forward to in this life and in life after we die. Last night I spent a few moments with a woman who is at the final phase of her life, the cancer has seemingly won and I know there is fear in the unknown. However I also know that when one has faith in Jesus one can face death without reservation. I was thinking on my way home, “It’s just a matter of time and this woman will be in the eternal presence of Jesus.” I couldn’t help but being a bit envious but the Lord has given to me another day to live here on this earth. Knowing that Jesus lived, died and rose again so that we can live, die and rise again gives me strength, faith and the desire to live fully for Him because he died willingly for His children so they may have life and have it abundantly.
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Jeff has been in ministry for well over two decades. He currently serves as Campus Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Southside Campus in Bradenton, Florida.
Jeff Has authored an Advent Devotional (The Advent of Jesus) and a devotional on the book of James (James: Where Faith and Life Meet). Both are available on Amazon.
He is married to Carrie and they have four children, Micaiah, Gabe, Simon, and Berea.
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