The World’s Greatest Comeback 4/4/99

John 20:1-8

Jesus Christ said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live” (John 11:25).

Then He walked through the jaws of death and out the other end of the valley of the shadow death and proved it.

He who was decidedly dead was assuredly alive.

Christ passed through death —- in both directions —- unharmed and thereby declared there is life beyond the grave.

Because He lives you can face life knowing death is behind you and only eternal life awaits you.

Love and wisdom resulted in heaven downloading God the Son in order that He might provide an uplink to heaven for us.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

Abruptly Christ’s mission to planet earth ended with Him being crucified. Those performing the execution were schooled and skilled practitioners of death. They knew how to bring a life to the vortex of death and suspend it there to inflict the maximum suffering. They also knew how to push a life over the brink to certain death. Having done both the centurion in charge of the execution squad reported to Pilate. The passionate Pilate asked if He had been dead long. Upon hearing, he released the corpse that it might be disposed of (Mark 15:44, 45).

For the followers of Christ life went into an eclipse. The darkness at midday that darkened the earth mirrored the bleakness hiding their hope. All hope died with Him.

We each can relate to the apostles. There is a pattern applicable to our lives. It is this: ANTICIPATION, FRUSTRATION, REALIZATION.

The apostles had great anticipation. For three years they followed Christ, heard Him talk, and observed His miracles. They anticipated the coming of the kingdom.

Frustration caved in on them. There was no kingdom only crucifixion.

Three days later, marvel of marvel, the resurrection and realization. On that third day God the Father in His own way said: “SURPRISE!”

Life had gone into slow motion for them. In despair on the third day a contingency of those who followed Christ went to His tomb before daylight. Frustration seemed to have triumphed. What they saw and in the next few days experienced changed human history and destiny.

The stone door of the tomb was rolled away a great distance uphill indicating a mighty force had been engaged to move it. Indeed an angel of the Lord had done so. The Roman guards were in a state of shock. The unsuspecting women thinking the body of Christ had been stolen by grave robbers fled to tell the disciples. This set in motion a series of events resulting in thousands in that era believing in the bodily resurrection of Christ and millions through the ages.

He was seen indoors, outdoors, on shadowy roadways and sunny beaches. He was talked with, walked with, and dined with. He was seen by one, by two, by five, by ten, by eleven, and by over 500 people at once. He who was known to be dead was seen to be alive.

One of the most validating evidences of the bodily resurrection is the fact those who believed it were so convinced they would not deny it even under the penalty of their own death. By all fundamental methods used to prove a person to be alive, He who was declared dead by the very ones who extracted life from Him is now seen to be alive by those unsuspecting a resurrection.

If all the stellar bodies of the heaven had personalities and could talk when speaking of the distinctive features of planet earth they would not say that which is unique is our atmosphere, water, or even life. They would say the distinguishing feature of earth is a vacated tomb in Judea.

His earthly mission over it is wise to review the reason for it. Consider – – – –

Abundant life is the best life.
It is the best life can offer.
It is the fullest satisfaction.
It is the optimum joy.
It is the ideal guidance.
A person in prison has life.
A person having a picnic on a river bank with birds singing, flowers blooming, and the fragrance of jasmine in the air has life more abundant.

What Christ offers is life at its best plus super additives.

Our culture has so corrupted our concepts that most people think that fulfillment and contentment is to be found in material things. As one friend explained it, when I finally got my dream home with all the gadgets and the view I had always envisioned I was still empty inside. Life with Christ, life more abundant is fulfilling with or without a dream home or other material things.

Many people exist but few really live. Many are like a hamster on a wheel living a frantic life. They cover a lot of ground without getting anywhere.

For many life has faded. It isn’t colorfast. The torrential downpour of calamities, crisis, conflicts, and confusion has left life colored a sickly grey. If life is to regain its sparkle and vibrance it must be restored by Christ. Without Him life has lost its song. The song is there but it can’t be sung.

As a child we had canaries. A distinctive trait I noticed of some of the birds was they wouldn’t sing until they had their bath. Our spirit is like that. Until cleansed of doubt, guilt, and fear life’s song is unsung. Once Christ cleanses us life sings because of the abundant life quality He provides.

Christ wants us to get in the spiritual surf of life and let His glorious, invigorating waters of the new life He provides wash over us.



As prophesied in Scripture Christ died in the way it was said Messiah would die.

The efficacy of His death on the cross is seen in that little word “for.” On our behalf He who had no sin died as a substitute for us.

He did not swoon, He died. Tomorrow’s uncertainties attacked Christ’s followers in the midnight of their fear. Death had engulfed another victim.

Faith, veil your eyes in anguish.
Unbelief abides.

Hope, moan and sob away your enthusiastic anticipation.
Despair gloats.

Love, hand down your blushing head and cower away.
Hate prevails.

From the cross Christ shouted one final word: TETELESTAI, translated “it is finished.” The Greek word means “it is finished as I intended to finish it and it stands perpetually, eternally finished.”

There is no record from that era, secular or sacred, that even suggests that anyone, detractor or devotee, had any thought but that Jesus was dead. Fate de comple!

There are many ancient tombs from the period in Israel. For any skeptic who might protest that Christ merely fainted on the cross and was revived in the tomb come inside such a tomb with me. The traditional sights of His burial have been so glamorized and beautified that much of the reality is missed. There are even a few of the unchanged tombs under the dome of the church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. On our last visit there we went off the tourist path and into one. The chamber is small with cavities dug into the side walls into which bodies were placed. These claustrophobic tombs were dark, tight, musty, with no circulation.

Here the hope of humanity lay shrouded as a mummy.

The Light of the world was now indeed a candle under a bushel.

The seal of Rome was on the tomb verifying it contained a dead man.

Then God the Father said – – – – SURPRISE!

Early on that inaugural Easter morning the women came to the tomb. Their minds were filled with doubt, questions, and fears. All the pastels of life had faded from their sunrise. Not the least of their questions was who will roll the stone away that we may enter the tomb.

When they got there the Lord had sent an angel who had rolled away the stone a great distance uphill. It was God’s little surprise. Isn’t that just like God. He deals with our worries and problems.

As it was prophesied He would, He arose.

To put that miracle in perspective it is no less dramatic than it would be for the sun to rise in the west.

What a difference a day makes. Because of that day no day has ever been the same again.

Because the resurrection doesn’t fit into our realm of familiarity some people have difficulty believing it. It being outside the sphere of normal human happenings it is considered with skepticism by some because they can’t comprehend it.

Suppose you and a friend were having a detail conversation about the most complex topic understood by both of you. In the room with you is your favorite pet: a cat or dog. That believed intelligent dog would not be able to fathom what you were talking about. It would not be able to comprehend what you were saying. It would not be in its realm or normal reasoning. That doesn’t mean what you are talking about isn’t reality. It is in effect a higher reality than the pet’s norm. The resurrection is a higher reality than our normal routine of life.

In the Bible land it is often hard for shepherds to get their flocks to cross rain swollen streams. To encourage them the shepherd often picks up one and takes it across. The others hearing its voice and seeing it follow.

Jesus Christ has enjoyed safe passage across death’s swollen stream. His responsive flock can follow fearlessly.

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain To receive power and riches and wisdom, And strength and honor and glory and blessing!” (Revelation 5:12).

Having considered WHY HE CAME and WHAT HE DID now note:

Having provided for all who would believe in Him in time He has gone to prepare a place for us in eternity.

In that eventful final week with His disciples Jesus went from Jericho to Jerusalem. As they journeyed the Scripture says, “Jesus went before them.” That is the secret of a joyous journey. He went before them and it is said, “they were amazed…” With Him leading the way life is amazing.

Our Lord always keeps a promise before His people. His creativity enables Him to keep a fresh challenge and reward before us. For the infant there is childhood. For the child adolescence. For the adolescent there is adulthood. For the adult there is maturity. For the mature there is age. At any point and inevitably with age there is a question mark as to what is ahead.

All of life we live with an “encore” mentality. More, more of the same. However, God has something more that is different and better. It is called heaven. It is there in part to motivate NOW. To motivate us to excellence and expectation. To challenge us to keep on keeping on.

In the Psychology Department at the University of North Carolina they conducted an experiment. They put two rats in separate containers half full of water. One was sealed with no way out. The rat in it sensing futility gave up and drowned in three minutes. The other rat was in a container only partially sealed. Sensing possible survival this rat swam for over thirty-six hours. An awareness of the possibilities of the future inspires a sense us enabling us to cope an have courage. Heaven isn’t an encore, more of the same, it exceeds our grandest imagination. Our Lord’s resurrection assures us it is there and that makes this life better. It keeps us going.

Our resurrected Lord has gone to prepare a place for us. After the resurrection He sent a message to His followers. The one bearing it with great joy said, “He has gone before you…” (Matthew 28:7).

When our moment of passing comes we’ll do just fine because He has gone before us.

History is full of pseudo-saviors and mock messiahs who have made extravagant claims and promised cure-alls. The renowned historian Arnold Toynbee in his classic work The Study of History, devotes a chapter to the topic of saviors. He groups them in four categories:
the savior with the scepter – the political savior;
the savior with a book – the philosopher, the metaphysician;
the savior with the sword – the military type and tyrants.

He concludes that all these demi-gods of history have come to the same end and been defeated by mankind’s old enemy — death. Then he resolves that when the last civilization comes to its end and stands on the banks of the river of death there on the opposite shore, filling the horizon will be the Savior, Jesus Christ, the resurrected Christ.

He has gone to provide a prepared place for prepared people and He prepares people for the place prepared for them. A vital question is how do you get prepared?

This simple formula bears repeating. Come to the conclusion:

  1. God is God.
  2. I am not God.
  3. I sin when I get number 1 and number 2 reversed.
  4. Christ came to help me get number 1 and number 2 in order and to forgive me of number 3.

Christ said, “If any man will come after Me let him take up his cross and follow me.”

Today, and every day our response should be, “You go first, Lord, and I will follow.”

He said, “I GO to prepare a place for you.”