Jesus Is Alive!

 

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John 19:28 – 20:31

John was a master in using ironic phrases, especially in his buildup to the Crucifixion.  For example, Jesus referred to this event as “the time of His glorification.”  What an ironic way to describe the way He was going to die!

John also devoted more time describing in minute detail the events surrounding Jesus’ crucifixion than the other Gospel writers.  We can learn a lot about the Crucifixion from reading what John wrote, and we can also learn a lot about God’s eternal purposes in how he wrote it.

1.      Jesus died and was buried, John 19:28-30; 38-42

(a)  The Lamb of God, 19:28-30

Jesus knew that everything was now finished, and to fulfill the Scriptures said, Im thirsty.  A jar of sour wine was sitting there, so a sponge was soaked in it and put on a hyssop branch and held up to his lips. When Jesus had tasted it, he said, It is finished, and bowed his head and dismissed his spirit.  (John 19:28-30 TLB)

Only John gives us the very profound theological background for Jesus’ words, “I’m thirsty.”  It’s remarkable to contemplate, but even in His last few moments of life, Jesus was fully aware of His mission and completely dedicated to its completion.  The word “finished” in verse 28 refers to the “perfect completion of the whole prophetic image.”  With the utmost care and attention to detail, Jesus carried out His mission on Earth for man’s good and His Father’s glory.  It reminds us of what Jesus had  prayed just a couple of chapters earlier:

I brought glory to you here on earth by doing everything you told me to.  (John 17:4 TLB)

But not only was Jesus fulfilling His mission, He was also fulfilling Scripture, specifically Old Testament symbolism.  The use of the “hyssop branch,” for example.  The hyssop was used in certain Passover observances in memory of Exodus 12:22, where it was used like a paint brush, painting and sprinkling blood around the doors of Jewish homes.  In John’s Gospel, Jesus is referred to both as the Lamb and the door!  The Jewish Passover was perfectly fulfilled in the sacrifice of the true Paschal Lamb.

In verse 30, Jesus exclaimed, “It is finished.”  What was finished?  His earthly life, certainly was finished, but the word He used, tetelestai, refers to the absolute completion of His job on earth.  This expression has been interpreted in various ways:  a cry of relief, a cry of painful anguish, or a shout of victory.  Given the stress in John’s Gospel on the fact of Jesus’ control of all the events we’re reading about, the last interpretation seem best.  “It is finished” was Jesus’ cry of absolute victory.  This was, as some scholars have noted, the last report of Jesus from earth to His Father in Heaven.  IT IS FINISHED!  was the Victor’s cry, not a victim’s whimper.  Jesus, remarkably, remained in complete control of Himself and events until He gave up His life.

(b)  Compassionate religious leaders, 19:38-42

Together they wrapped Jesus body in a long linen cloth saturated with the spices, as is the Jewish custom of burial.  (John 19:40  TLB)

In another ironic twist, all of Jesus’ disciples had fled the scene.  It was two of Jesus’ “secret disciples,” Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus, who worked together to prepare Jesus’ body for proper burial, which in the Middle East, takes place within 24 hours after death.  Had these two religious leaders not intervened, Jesus’ body would have been tossed into a common grave, along with the other two who had been crucified with Jesus. 

Joseph of Arimathaea was a wealthy man and member of the Sanhedrin.  Luke gives us this insight:

Then a man named Joseph, a member of the Jewish Supreme Court, from the city of Arimathea in Judea, went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. He was a godly man who had been expecting the Messiahs coming and had not agreed with the decision and actions of the other Jewish leaders.  (Luke 23:50-52  TLB)

Nicodemus, was also a member of the Sanhedrin, who first visited our Lord “by night,” suggesting there were other visits.  Both men were wealthy and both men were followers of Jesus.  How much did Nicodemus think of Jesus?  Apparently he brought enough spices to bury a king.

2.   Jesus rose from the dead, John 20:1-8; 19-20

The accounts of Jesus’ Resurrection differ from Gospel to Gospel, each emphasizing a different aspect of the event.  But no Gospel gives details about the three-day interval between His death and Easter morning. 

(a)  An empty tomb, verses 1-5

Then Simon Peter arrived and went on inside. He also noticed the cloth lying there, while the swath that had covered Jesus head was rolled up in a bundle and was lying at the side. Then I went in too, and saw, and believed that he had risen.  (John 20:6-8  TLB)

If the biography of Jesus had ended at chapter 19, Jesus’ would have been just another religious leader; a man of exceptional character whose teachings changed lives and whose sincerity could never be questioned.  Every biography of every human being ends in their death. But the story of Jesus was far from over.

John may have hesitated entering the tomb of Jesus, but Peter had no problem barging ahead of his friend.  What they saw was startling.  No wonder John wrote that he “believed that he had risen.”  In all, there were three convincing proofs:

   The stone was rolled away.

   The grave clothes were  now lying in a neat pile;

   The body of Jesus was gone.

At this point, John had not seen the risen Lord, but he believed.  The word used, episteusen, means John simply made up his  mind.  It was a real step of faith, especially in light of verse 9:

 ...for until then we hadnt realized that the Scriptures said he would come to life again!  (TLB)

Right now, they believed the evidence of their own eyes, but they didn’t grasp the teachings of the Scriptures in this regard.  But what Scripture or Scriptures does this verse refer to?  We may only offer an educated guess.  On the Day of Pentecost, Peter delivered his amazing sermon and quoted Psalm 16:10–

For you will not leave me among the dead; you will not allow your beloved one to rot in the grave. (TLB)

For these two men, John and Peter, the real truth of the Resurrection of Christ was just beginning to dawn on them.  They didn’t possess the full revelation, but they knew enough to know something miraculous had just happened!

(b)  A holy encounter, verses 19, 20

That evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors, in fear of the Jewish leaders, when suddenly Jesus was standing there among them! After greeting them, he showed them his hands and side. And how wonderful was their joy as they saw their Lord!  (TLB)

This is actually the third appearance of Jesus after He rose from the dead.  John does not record the appearances to Peter and to the men on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35).  This visit of Jesus to the group of disciples was of vital importance because, though they believed a miracle had taken place, they were still filled with fear.  They had almost been arrested in the Garden, they were under suspicion, and they were without Jesus, the Leader they depended on.

The doors were shut and locked, but that didn’t  keep Jesus out!  His first words indicated He knew exactly what these people needed at this moment in time:  Peace.  But really, what this group of frightened believers needed most of all was Jesus Himself.  To prove to them that He was the genuine article, Jesus showed them His wounds and the result was “joy.”  The people were filled with joy.

3.  Jesus is Lord and God, John 20:24-31

The Resurrection was and remains a life-changing and world-changing  event.  But even it wasn’t the end of the story.  The Resurrection was more than just Jesus coming back to life; there was a meaning and a purpose behind it.  The disciples needed more than just to know Jesus had come back to life; they needed to know the meaning behind the event:  His continued ministry on Earth IN them.

(a) Doubting Thomas, verses 24-28

Thomas was absent when Jesus visited the other disciples in verses 19 and 20.  Why he wasn’t there is obvious:  he was a doubter, so what was the point in meeting together as though Jesus were alive?  Obviously their leader was dead, so why keep the band of followers together?  As far as Thomas was concerned, people didn’t return to life and Jesus was dead.  The hopeful thought that Jesus might have been the Messiah was just that:  a thought.  And this is why Jesus had to come and see Thomas.

 “I wont believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his handsand put my fingers into themand place my hand into his side.  (verse 27  TLB)

Only John records this visit.  It may be unfair to nickname Thomas “Doubting Thomas,” because all the disciples had their doubts.  Maybe a better nickname would be “Pessimistic Thomas,” or “Thomas, the Dark Cloud.”  He was a practical man that leaned toward being pessimistic.  The events of the last few days simply confirmed his worst fears. 

Thomas should have been with the other believers – doubts and pessimism aside – the night Jesus visited the group.  Instead of fellowship, he chose to be by himself and that was a big mistake.  Fortunately for him, Jesus cut Thomas some slack.  A week later, Jesus appeared to Thomas and that visit must have scared Thomas witless! 

Then he said to Thomas, Put your finger into my hands. Put your hand into my side. Dont be faithless any longer. Believe!  (verse 28  TLB)

Jesus’ direction to Thomas shows that Jesus knew what Thomas had said to his friends even though He was nowhere around!  

This visit to Thomas teaches us some very important things about the Christian life. First, whether we like it or not, Jesus is always around us.  He hears what we say. He knows what’s in our hearts.

And second, there are levels of faith; we aren’t all the same and our faith changes.  There are those believers who depend on seeing with their eyes before they believe.  Their salvation is real, but Christians like this are missing out on the blessedness that comes to those who believe in Jesus AND  in what He can do for them beyond saving them.  Christians that depend on what they see are limited in their experiences with God because they unknowingly limit God.  But those who believe in Jesus AND see Jesus as actively involved in their lives open themselves up to wonderful, limitless spiritual vistas.  Such was the case with Thomas.  In a life-changing encounter, Jesus showed the skeptic how involved He could be in a believer’s life!  Jesus proved to Thomas that He knew what Thomas had told His friends and then paid him a personal visit to encourage the man’s faith.  There could be no doubt any more that not only had Jesus risen from the dead, but that He was somehow more than just alive.  He was divine.

(b)  Stunning proclamation, verse 29

Then Jesus told him, You believe because you have seen me. But blessed are those who havent seen me and believe anyway.  (verse 29  TLB)

Sight is important, but it isn’t everything.  It was important for His disciples to “see” who He was.  Through miracles and the Resurrection, His disciples believed because they “saw” these things.  This included Thomas.  But the main part of this verse is what comes after because Jesus is referring to the many future believers who would manifest saving faith in spite of never having seen Jesus perform a miracle or seen Him in His Resurrected state. 

Even though this isn’t the very end of the Gospel, it is the climax because it shows Jesus as truly divine for His appearance elicited a profession of faith from the disciples, including Thomas.  It shows Jesus as victorious over death and the grave; sin and sorrow; doubt and fear.  In the experience of Thomas, John shows how faith can grow into maturity and how that growth can change the direction of a single life.

Jesus:  the most remarkable Man who ever lived.  And died!  And lived again!  Had He remained in the tomb the world would barely have noticed Him.  But the tomb couldn’t hold Jesus.  He rose from the dead.  Because of the Resurrection, redemption had been made available to all who call upon His Name.

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