When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?” But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’” Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid (Mark 16:1-8).
Traditionally, at the time which approximately coincides with the Hebrew calendar and the celebration of the Passover, millions of Christians throughout the world commemorate the death of Jesus on “Good Friday” and then, only “three” days later, they celebrate the resurrection of Jesus on “Easter Sunday”. However, (also traditionally), millions of Christians throughout the world frequently partake of “the Lord’s supper”, (also known as the Eucharist, a name derived from the Greek words meaning “thanksgiving”), which is the communal sharing of bread and wine among the disciples of Jesus.
So then, when you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, for when you are eating, some of you go ahead with your own private suppers. As a result, one person remains hungry and another gets drunk. Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God by humiliating those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? Certainly not in this matter!
For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes (1 Corinthians 11:20-26).
Evidently, the breaking of bread among the believers on the first day of the week, (Sunday), seems to have become a tradition from the earliest gatherings of the disciples of Jesus as recorded by Luke, “On the first day of the week we came together to break bread” (Acts 20:7). This celebration of “the last Passover supper of the Lord Jesus”, also became known as a communal “love feast” as referred to by Jude, when Jude remarked upon how these love feasts had been infiltrated by impostors: These people are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm—shepherds who feed only themselves (Jude verse 12).
I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people. For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord (Jude verses 3-4).
The point which I am making is that although traditionally Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus annually coinciding with Passover, the actual “love feast” of breaking of bread and sharing the cup of wine, instituted by Jesus, was not intended to commemorate his resurrection, but rather to proclaim and be symbolic of his death as frequently as it may be practised, until he comes again in his heavenly glory. As far as this life in the flesh is concerned, Jesus is – and must continually be – clearly portrayed as crucified lest any man in the flesh ever imagine that he will be justified in the sight of God in the flesh.
Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth (1 Corinthians 5:6-8).
Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified (Galatians 3:1). He is portrayed as crucified through the breaking of bread and sharing the wine. We do not try to attain life and justification in the flesh. We do not celebrate the resurrection of the life in the realm of the flesh.
When Jesus came as a man in the flesh, like all other human beings, he actually appeared among us in the form of sinful, naked flesh, although he never gratified the sinful lusts of the flesh nor acted in any sinful manner. His human body of flesh was prepared as a sin offering and his blood shed to make atonement for the sins of the world (Hebrews 10:5-7; 1 John 2:2).
Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil — and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted (Hebrews 2:14-18).
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are —yet he did not sin (Hebrews 4:14-15).
Paul taught in Romans and Galatians that the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit and that the mind controlled by the flesh is hostile towards God and can never please God. All of humanity had become enslaved to sin in the realm of the flesh – and the only way to be set free from the control of the evil one is through putting to death the body of flesh which is predisposed of to the sinful nature.
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit (Romans 8:1-4).
This is stated more crudely in Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth, God made him who had (or knew) no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Through the frequent breaking of bread, we are to symbolically proclaim Jesus’ death the broken bread depicting his body broken on the cross and the wine symbolic of his atoning blood shed for the sins of the world. We are to proclaim his death through this sacrament until he comes again in his heavenly glory. In other words, although Jesus was bodily raised from the dead, he had laid down his life only to take it up again in order to prove beyond any doubt that he is the Resurrection and the life. After his resurrection, he appeared among his disciples a number of times in flesh and bones for a period of forty days. He ate with them to prove that he was not a ghost. But contrary to tradition, we are not required to celebrate his resurrection in the likeness of sinful flesh, but rather to proclaim his death! To show forth emphatically that no flesh will be justified or inherit the kingdom of God.
While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence (Luke 24:36-43).
If, in the flesh, we may stumble and sin seventy-times and seventy-times if we were sentenced to death in the flesh and forgiven and raised again seventy-times, such a wretched and wearisome cycle of life in the flesh would never end. If we had been raised again to life in the flesh, we would be predisposed of to sin and to stumbling all over again. This is why we are not forgiven and raised again to the old life in the flesh. On the contrary, the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead raises us up firstly into a new life in the spirit even while we live by faith in this body of flesh which is now counted as crucified in Jesus Christ. (We are not trying to rebuild any former old life in the flesh when we live the new life in the spirit.)
“But if, in seeking to be justified in Christ, we Jews find ourselves also among the sinners, doesn’t that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! If I rebuild what I destroyed, then I really would be a lawbreaker. For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” (Galatians 2:19-21).
Jesus has Ascended!
Jesus was raised from the dead after three days. However, to fulfil the prophecy of Daniel, Jesus entered the very presence of God from which Adam and Eve had been banished in the flesh and in their nakedness. Jesus, in the likeness of a son of man, was taken up into the heavenly realm to be crowned as King of kings with all authority in heaven and on earth given to him.
“In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed” (Daniel 7:13-14).
What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe (Ephesians 4:9-10).
Just before Jesus ascended into heaven, he said to his disciples, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:8-11).
A well known musician once posed the rhetorical and sarcastic question, “If Jesus was raised from the dead, then where is he now?” Jesus is hidden from this sceptical world but God reveals him to the humble. Israel expected the coming of an anointed king, a descendant of King David who would vindicate Israel and bring about world peace so that all the nations would acknowledge his greatness and be reconciled with Israel and drawn to Mount Zion to worship the one and only true God. Although the suffering and death of the Messiah was prophesied, not many people could comprehend how the Messiah could ever be glorified through such a shameful death on the cross. But Jesus’death on the cross was not for victory in the flesh. On the contrary, it was to finally condemn sin in the flesh by nailing it to the cross (Romans 8:3; Colossians 2:14).
When Joshua defeated Ai, the King of Ai was killed. To shame and humiliate the defeated King of Ai, Joshua hanged his dead body on a tree until evening.
So Joshua burned Ai and made it a permanent heap of ruins, a desolate place to this day. He impaled the body of the king of Ai on a pole and left it there until evening. At sunset, Joshua ordered them to take the body from the pole and throw it down at the entrance of the city gate. And they raised a large pile of rocks over it, which remains to this day (Joshua 8:28-29).
From the perspective of this world, it may appear as if Jesus was defeated and publicly shamed through crucifixion, much like the defeat of the King of Ai. Jesus was publicly shamed. He was beaten, stripped naked and hanged on the cross with a sign above his head written in three languages, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews”. Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.” Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written” (John 19:20-22).
The Jewish leaders knew that Jesus had said that he would be vindicated by God and raised to life on the third day and that he, as the son of man, would enter heaven upon the clouds of glory. This is precisely why they crucified Jesus because, from their perspective, he declared himself to be equal with God who was described as the Redeemer who comes upon the clouds of glory, (i.e. in mighty power as the Judge in the heavenly, spiritual realm above the earth and higher even than the angels in heaven).
The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.” “Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard (Matthew 27:62-65).
However, unlike the King of Ai whose dead body was covered by a pile of rocks, the tomb in which Jesus was placed was found to be empty even though it had been sealed and secured with a large stone under strict Roman guard. The tomb was empty because Jesus was raised to life. But there will always be scoffers from whom the risen Saviour-King will remain hidden. The sceptical perspective of this word expects a king to conquer and kill his enemies. When Jesus hang on the cross people mocked him saying, “If you are the king of the Jews save yourself and come down from the cross.”
Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking. I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Saviour through your apostles.
Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgement and destruction of the ungodly. But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:1-9).
Jesus’ public, earthly ministry lasted for only about three-and-a-half years and then he was crucified as a relatively young man of about thirty-three years of age. His disciples travelled with him back and forth from Galilee to Jerusalem. They knew Jesus as a man with whom they spoke face-to-face. But there was nothing particularly attractive in Jesus’ human appearance. His heavenly, majestic glory was veiled behind frail, mortal flesh that was eventually publicly shamed and nailed to the cross. But his flesh was the curtain that was torn open to show sinners how, through being baptised into Jesus’s death, the way into heaven has been opened.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him (Isaiah 53:2).
Knowing the Ascended and Exalted King
How do we relate to God’s glorious Anointed King whose kingdom is eternal but not of this world and who is seemingly so absent and removed from this present world? How do we follow him? How do we comprehend the extent of his love and mercy?
If we saw Jesus glorified, in his majestic, heavenly splendour, as the apostle John saw him on the Island of Patmos, we too would fall down at his feet as though dead. John had eaten the Passover with Jesus and he had rested his head on his beloved friend and fellow-human being, but his later encounter with Jesus, with whom he had been so familiar, was something too glorious for a mere, mortal man in the flesh to behold. Jesus was not only bodily raised from the dead so that he appeared again among his disciples for another forty days in the appearance of a man in the likeness of sinful flesh. As a man raised from the dead, he on occasion cooked and ate breakfast with his disciples.
But where is he now and in what form? He has been glorified and is immortal! He has now ascended into his heavenly glory from where he came. He is highly exalted, glorified and enthroned in heaven. He is not coming again in the likeness of sinful flesh to be made a sin offering. On the contrary, when he appears again at the end of this age, with the veil of flesh removed, he will appear in such glorious splendour and majesty that his very appearance will destroy the deceiver and all of rebellious humanity who resisted the shame of the cross and who delighted in the evil of corrupt flesh.
The deceiver, who first enticed Eve, has taken all of humanity captive and he desires to eventually manifest himself in human flesh for his wicked and rebellious intent. The ransom price paid by our Saviour-King for us to be set free, is death – and it is through death that we are set free and not through the resurrection again of this body of sinful flesh. We do not celebrate the resurrection of this body of flesh, rather we show forth our Saviour’s death on our behalf and through baptism, by faith we participate in his death so that we too, may be raised to a new life by the power of the Holy Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead. We wait for the glorification of our bodies, so that we may be made like Jesus – as he was made to appear among us, for a short time, in the likeness of sinful flesh which has once for all been nailed to the cross. And so he condemned sin in the flesh (Romans 8:3).
The secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendour of his coming (2 Thessalonians 2:7-8).
As the King of kings he will one day judge all of humanity – condemning those who hated and rebelled against him – but receiving his faithful, redeemed people as his very own brothers and sisters into our heavenly Father’s glorious kingdom. As ambassadors of the King of kings, we do not preach a message of God’s vengeance and condemnation, but rather the message of forgiveness and reconciliation through God’s love and mercy.
For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:14-21).
How does Our exalted, risen King reign from Heaven?
Jesus does not rule in the manner of the corrupt rulers of the nations who lord it over the people while they take pride in their worldly power, pomp and splendour.
Our King, who reigns from heaven, puts his Spirit in us as his seal of ownership and love. He moves us by the love of God to worship and obey him. Through suffering and humility we bring glory to his name. We are his ambassadors on earth and in humble faithfulness we share in his suffering and death so that one day we may also share in is heavenly glory. But friendship with this world is a betrayal of our King. To glory in this flesh is to live as enemies of the cross.
That which is highly honoured by men from the perspective of this world, will eventually be to humanity’s utter shame when Jesus appears in his heavenly, majestic splendour. Humanity’s power and glory in the flesh is actually sinful and feeble and represents enmity with God. Jesus’ death on the cross actually signifies God’s victory over sin and death – and defeat of the evil one who once had humanity under his dominion through their fear of death.
When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross (Colossians 2:13-15).
Through the cross we celebrate the new humanity in Jesus Christ – and not any resurrection of the old humanity in the flesh. Jesus was raised from the dead to show that he has triumphed over sin and death, but not to give life again to sinful flesh.