The final chapter of the Gospel of Matthew shows us the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is the event that changes everything.
You are the Source of all life and the Creator of all things. And we understand that you gave your Son to suffer death in our place so that our sins would be forgiven.
We thank you for Jesus, who died, but was always planning to rise from the dead. He is now risen, just as he said.
He has conquered the grave and the gates of hell cannot prevail against his church.
Though we may feel sinful, dirty and lost, we trust that our sins are forgiven through faith in Jesus Christ.
Though we may feel forgotten and alone, we understand that he is Immanuel, God with us, and he has promised to be with us always.
Help us to constantly keep that in mind as we wait for his soon return.
Thank you in Christ’s name,
The resurrection turns the ultimate defeat into the ultimate victory. Sin, death and Satan have now been dealt with forever because the Son of God has risen from the grave. The consequences of humanity’s fall into sin are reversed, never to take control of us again.
Just before issuing his Great Commission to the disciples, Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” That means the sin, death and Satan combined have approximately zero authority.
Since this deals once and for all with our biggest problem, lesser problems also come into a proper perspective. All of the hurts, problems and defeats that I have experienced or that I have caused are reduced to times that my team and I have fallen behind in a winning game. It may look bad for the moment but our final victory is ultimately assured.
There is never a reason big enough to give up hope. Christ is risen and someday we too will be resurrected into a completely new life in him.
2 Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples 3 and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” 4 And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. 6 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”
John the Baptist was languishing in prison. Conditions were harsh even for him, a man unaccustomed to comfort. Further, he was not a criminal, and he knew he didn’t belong there. Where was that Messiah that was going to set the world right? Jesus was certainly that very man, wasn’t he? There was the voice from heaven and the Spirit descending like a dove. He was a relative and John knew him well enough to believe Jesus of Nazareth was the one. But again, here he was, locked up and no happy ending anywhere in sight. Who can blame him for asking Jesus for some word of hope or instruction?
The doubts of a saint are vastly different from the doubts of the skeptic. When we find we don’t have the Jesus we wanted, we need assurance, even if we are determined to believe. It’s a question of trust. We can trust someone during difficult times, but still acknowledge that the times are difficult. Disappointment with God is a real thing. Our faith may waver, but it will not fail. Surely, as we wait, God will strengthen our heart.
The skeptic sees things differently. Difficulties just add to his denials. She builds a wall of doubt out of bricks inscribed with objections. Trials are never an acceptable outcome of obedience. Disobedience can always find its reasons.
The saint knows better. The narrow gate and the difficult way lead to life. The rugged cross is something to cherish and something to cling to, while awaiting to exchange it for a crown. Is this the Jesus we wanted? No matter, it is the real Jesus. And he would tell us the same thing he told John:
“The blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”
Christ’s death for our sins is sometimes referred to as vicarious atonement. He took responsibility for us when we were incapable of atoning for ourselves. That is a wonderful fact and an essential concept that is basic to the Christian faith. If you want, you can read more about it here.
Now we are going to talk about something else — vicarious faith — an idea central to the Christian life. Needy people are not always in a position to believe. They may need us to step in for them and take the responsibility upon ourselves to believe. Our faith can stand in for their faith, our prayers for their prayers. Matthew 9 shows us an extreme case.
18 While he was saying these things to them, behold, a ruler came in and knelt before him, saying, “My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.” 19 And Jesus rose and followed him, with his disciples. … 23 And when Jesus came to the ruler’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion, 24 he said, “Go away, for the girl is not dead but sleeping.”And they laughed at him. 25 But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose. 26 And the report of this went through all that district.
The ruler came to Jesus on behalf of his daughter. She was dead. In the house was a lifeless, breathless and certainly faithless corpse. Her father reached out in faith when she was unable to believe for herself. The mourners were no help. Their expressions of grief were interrupted by their laughing at Jesus. But Jesus did what Jesus does and the girl arose. I want to exercise that kind of faith on behalf of others.