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We Were Raised When Christ Was Raised

We Were Raised When Christ Was Raised

Ephesians 2:5-6

Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill

The song we sang earlier talks about when Jesus rose from the dead and about his body. Maybe you could look at John 20:11 because there are interesting clues there about what his body was like. Verse 11 talks about Mary standing outside the tomb. “But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’”

“Saying this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing, but did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me here you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rab-bon’i!’ (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, ‘Do not hold me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brethren and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ Mary Mag’dalene went and said to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her.”

So you can see that Jesus was standing right in front of Mary, but obviously she wasn’t able to recognize him. So whatever body he had there, and it’s usually referred to as his resurrection body, was a body that didn’t have the physical features that he had or that they could perceive he had when he was in Galilee. So it’s just interesting to see that his resurrection body certainly wasn’t recognizable by them because of his physical appearance.

And it was the same on the road to Emmaus where Jesus drew near and walked with two of them and they didn’t know him. Then it says, “He was known to them in the breaking of the bread,” — when he had the supper with them at Emmaus.

So obviously, the resurrection body that he came from the grave with was physically different, in appearance anyway, from the body that he had in Galilee. Then you notice the other thing that he said to Mary. It’s in verse 17. She must have stretched out her arms as she naturally would to someone who was so dear to her. He said to her in verse 17, “’Do not hold me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father.’” And it’s kind of strange to us and almost a little spooky. But what he said suggests that his body was not the one that he was finally going to have in eternity in heaven. It suggests somehow that he didn’t want her to touch it, or perhaps couldn’t touch it.

It’s quite interesting what it says in verse 19: “On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them.” It just says, “He came.” It seems he must have come through the walls, or in some way he suddenly was there — because there’s no story of him knocking on the door and them answering. “’Peace be with you… When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’”

Now, he didn’t tell them not to touch him. But it didn’t seem that any of them were going to touch him. You can see the exact opposite happening in verse 24: “Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in his side, I will not believe.’”

“Eight days later, his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. The doors were shut, but Jesus came and stood among them, and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas,” — different from what he said to Mary — “’Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing.’ Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’”

So obviously Jesus’ resurrection body was such that he could give it the feeling of physical touch. It wasn’t therefore that he told Mary, “Don’t do it, because the ghost will disappear!” He obviously had control of the appearance and the very attributes of his own body. You get that kind of feeling, when he had the breakfast with the disciples on the beach and he ate fish. They fried fish and he ate.

You get the whole feeling that this was undoubtedly a physical body. Yet it did seem it was a special body. It seemed that his resurrection body was something that was special for him and was capable of obviously traveling great distances very fast – because, you remember, he appeared on about 10 different occasions. They were a great distance from one another in different situations. So he obviously could appear wherever he wished with his resurrection body.

It might be good just to see that that body therefore was different from the body that he would eventually have. That is referred to in Philippians 3:21. In verse 20 you get the context of it: “But our commonwealth is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power which enables him even to subject all things to himself.” So just as he could subject physical touch and physical appearance to himself, so he can change our lowly bodies to be like his glorious body.

I think some of the translations of the previous piece that we read are not simply, “I have not ascended to my Father,” but, “I am not yet glorified.” So this promise is that we will have a body not like Jesus’ resurrection body — which was a special one given for the purposes God had for him at that time — but like his glorious body, the body he will have when he is glorified in heaven. So it’s maybe good for us to see that that’s the kind of body we will have.

Probably we will be able to recognize each other from the appearance. You know that we won’t be exactly how he was, because you remember John says, “We shall be like him for we shall reflect his glory because we will see him as he is.” {Paraphrase of 1 John 3:2} It seems when we ourselves are together with him, we’ll see everything as it really is and there won’t be that intermediate kind of stage.

So it’s obvious that at the moment we are not glorified, and at the moment we are not in heaven. In that sense, we are not experiencing what he experienced on the day of resurrection or what he experiences at this present time. But the heart of it is ours. And you know it yourselves — what it says starting at Ephesians 2: 4: “But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by

grace you have been saved), and raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”

It’s very tempting for us to say, “Oh yeah, well that just means Paul’s just looking back on the past, and looking back on his conversion. He’s saying, ‘You remember God was rich in mercy out of a great love in which he loved us, even when we were dead — when we were sinners, before we were converted – then later after we were converted he made us alive together with Christ. That’s when he made us alive.’”

We often get caught up in that. We stumble there because we think, “Now wait a minute! Even when we were yet sinners he made us alive? No, no, no. We were first sinners and then we were converted. Then we were born again, and then God made us alive.” But that’s not what the verse says.

The verse says, “Even when we were dead, at the very time when we were dead through our trespasses. At that time when we were dead through our trespasses he made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).” If you doubt that, then you have to accept that the following sentences really prove it: “And raised us up with him.” Because we can’t say, “Now wait a minute. Paul is just looking back on our conversion and he’s saying, ‘You remember when you were dead in your trespasses, then you were convicted of your sin by the Holy Spirit, and you were born of God? Then God made you alive together with Christ.’” Yes, but he didn’t raise us up with him and make us sit in the heavenly places with him. That hasn’t happened yet. I have not a glorified body so that wouldn’t be true.

If Paul here is just talking about their experience of conversion as Christians and them being made alive then he wouldn’t go on to say, “And he raised us up with him and he made us sit with him.” He would say, “And he will raise us up with him and he will make us sit with him in the heavenly places.” In other words, these verses don’t refer just to the temporal experience of our conversion. These verses are God’s truth that when we were sinners, when we were sinners years ago, maybe even before we were born when we were sinners, God made us alive together with Christ and raised us up with Christ and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus long even before we were born.

You know how that is reinforced with the verses in Colossians 1:15: “He,” Jesus, “is the image of the invisible God,” and this phrase that still surprises me, “the first-born of all creation,” — that Jesus was the first-born of all creation. “For in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities — all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Including you and me. He’s before everything, and he is before us. “And in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the first-born from the dead, that in everything he might be pre-eminent.”

Of course it’s clear there that God is saying, “My son existed before you did. My son existed before the earth did. My son actually was the first born of all creation. He really did not just become a man when he went to Galilee and was born as a little baby in Nazareth. But he was a man from before eternity. He was the first-born of all creation, and in him all of you were created, and in him you all hold together.”

That’s what that verse says that we’ve so often read in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in him.”

It gets back to that whole reality that God made us in his dear son. Even though Shelia and her mum are here, yet I’d still say our parents are God’s gracious way of bringing us into this physical world — but we ourselves we’re made in Jesus. We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus and we’re made in him. In him God foresaw all that we would do.

He said to his dear son, “My son, will you bear what they will become? Will you bear it? Will you bear their sins and bear them? Will you hold them within yourself? And, will you face all that they do to you and me — face it? Otherwise we ourselves are irresponsible. We cannot just make little toys and let them do as they please and then turn around and make it alright. If we are serious about our love for them we have to bear what they do to us. Will you bear that?” And the Savior said, “Yes I will, my Father.”

That’s why Revelation says, “He is the lamb slain from before the foundation of the world.” Because at that great moment God said to his son, “Will you bear the pain that will come to us? Will you bear the death that has to come if we are real? If we are honest about the things that they are going to do, they have to be destroyed. Will you bear their destruction inside yourself? Will you allow them to be slain with you so that I may raise them with you?” And Jesus said, “I will, my Father.” That’s part of what Paul is saying when he says, “God out of the great love with which he has loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ, and raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places.”

So today, this whole resurrection business is really just God saying, “You do see that I manifested this in history in 29 A.D.? You see that it actually took place? So did your death and resurrection in my son from before the foundation of the world — because I knew you before you were born.” And you remember in Psalm 139:16 it says, “All the days of our lives, every one of them, have been written in his book before there were any of them.” {This is a paraphrase.} So for us Easter is just the physical manifestation in history here on earth that Jesus was actually raised from the dead, and we were raised with him way before the foundation of the world.

Of course it takes away all the burden that we lay on ourselves — because the burden we lay on ourselves is, “I must become like him. I must become like him. I must do whatever is needed. I must work and exert effort, and do the good works to become like Jesus.” And resurrection on Easter Sunday says, “No. You have been raised with Jesus. You have already been raised with him, and he has been raised inside you. All you have to do is allow him to reveal himself in you as he revealed himself in that new resurrection body as it was, as he revealed himself in that body on the first Easter day. All you have to do is now let him live fully in you.”

That’s why Paul wrote to the Galatians and said, “I’m praying that Christ will be fully formed in you.” {Paraphrase of Galatians 4:19} That’s what Easter is for us. It’s reminding us that we are here to let all that we have been, be actually done away with here in this physical world, and let the new person that is Jesus show himself through us. I think I’ve said it before, but I wonder if you ever actually thought through why they say, “Oh your Christian name. Your Christian name. What’s your Christian name?”

Of course, back in the beginning of the early church it had great meaning — because it was very

clear to them that if any man is in Christ he is a new creation, and all things are passed away and all things become new. So you get a Christian name. You actually do away with the name that you were given when you were born of your human parents — and receive a Christian name. That’s why I prayed earlier that not only is every day Easter day for you and me. But actually for me I think it brings it home more that every moment is either an Easter moment or it’s a crucifixion moment.

We are pushing ourselves forward so much all the time. In Northern Ireland we often feel, “Oh we have a terrible self esteem,” or, “Oh, we’re nothing.” Yet it doesn’t matter what our outside attitude is. I often used to think, “Boy, in Belfast we’ve a grim grip on life.” But I don’t think it’s only people in Belfast. I think we’re all the same, whether we’re in the States, or wherever we live. We have a grim grip on life that is so unconscious that we don’t realize it. But it is so strong that – I don’t want to say “that little will of a wisp” — because he’s no will of a wisp — but that gentle Savior who will not push himself — cannot manifest himself.

If you say to me, “Do you mean that all that I am and have been has been destroyed in him? The good as well as the bad?” Yes, yes! Because even our best works, our works of righteousness, are filthy rags. Yes, it seems to me Easter Day for us is everything that we have been up to this present moment, it’s gone – and, “We accept that Lord. We now, Lord Jesus, open ourselves for you to manifest yourself in us.”

I think the Holy Spirit is really gracious to us, and moment-by-moment he will make us aware of where it’s still us living and not him. Certainly I’m more and more conscious how ugly I am myself and how beautiful, and gentle, and gracious he is, and how he is always giving up his way for others to be happy, and how often I am not giving up my way for others to be happy.

So really, the issue this morning, I think, for each of us, is that there is only one version of Jesus called Joe Seltzer. There’s only one version of Jesus called Trish Overby. There is only one version of Jesus called Ernest O’Neill. We’ve to settle if that version of Jesus is going to live, or if we are going to push him back into the tomb. Let us pray.

Even if our friends and our relatives do not recognize you as they look up on our faces, Lord, we know that it is your will that they would immediately, the next second, recognize you when they touch your spirit when they feel your love, and when they sense your purity. Lord Jesus, we see that your will is that we would be a walking Easter and a living Easter. Your will is, Lord, that we would be overwhelmed by you, lifted out of ourselves by you, and taken beyond ourselves by you — so that your Father would look down on us and see that the old has passed away and the new has come, and would say, “This is my beloved son, in whom I’m well pleased.”

Holy Spirit, we ask you to lead us into this. Get us out of the way so that Jesus may be seen as he planned — to do the things you have always intended to do in us and through us. And oh, Holy Spirit, open before us now this exciting life, this life of discovery, where each moment we will walk into new light and new life — rather you, Lord Jesus, will carry us up into new light and new life each moment of each day. Amen.