Resurrection Power

Rev. Deacon Allen J. Batchelder

Trinity Church
Waltham, Massachusetts
April 7, 2013 – Easter II
The Sacrament of Holy Communion

Acts 5:27-32, Psalm 150, Revelations 1:4-8, John 20:19-31

From the book of Acts:
“We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.”

From the Revelation to St. John:
To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

And from the Gospel of St. John:
“As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

Let us pray:
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer, our Strength and our Salvation.

I have talked to Pastor Howard a few times since his retirement and his move to Florida. He always ends the conversion by saying, “say hello to everyone for me.” He is amazed at how friendly people are down in Florida. It’s a whole different culture down there. He is also amazed at how open the people are about their faith in Jesus Christ; that within a few minutes of the conversation, they will invite him to their church. How do you think that would work up here in New England? How many of us would have the courage to talk to a complete stranger; witness our Christian faith and then invite them to our church?

The news that Jesus was alive began to spread among His followers, at first with hesitation, but then with enthusiasm. Even His disciples did not believe the first reports, and Thomas demanded proof.
But wherever people were confronted with the reality of His resurrection, their lives were transformed. In fact, that same transforming experience can be yours today!

How did our Lord transform His disciples’ fear into courage? For one thing, He came to them. We do not know where these ten frightened men met behind locked doors, but Jesus came to them and reassured them. In His resurrection body, He was able to enter the room without opening the doors! It was a solid body, for He asked them to touch Him – and He even ate some fish (Luke 24:41-43). But it was a different kind of body, one that was not limited by what we call “the laws of nature.”

It is remarkable that these men were actually afraid. The women had reported to them that Jesus was alive, and the two Emmaus disciples had added their personal witness as well (Luke 24:33-35). It is likely that Jesus had appeared personally to Peter sometime that afternoon (Mark 16:7), though Peter’s public restoration would not take place until later (John 21). No wonder Jesus reproached them at that time “with their unbelief and hardness of heart” (Mark 16:14).

His first word to them was the traditional greeting, “Shalom – peace!” He could have rebuked them for their unfaithfulness and cowardice the previous weekend, but He did not. The work of the cross is peace, and the message they would carry would be the Gospel of peace (Rom. 10:15). Man had declared war on God (Acts 4:23-30), but God would declare “Peace!” to those who would believe.

Not only did Jesus come to them, but He reassured them. He gave them proof of His resurrection. He showed them His wounded hands and side and gave them opportunity to discover that it was indeed their Master, and that He was not a ghost.

But the wounds meant more than identification; they also were evidence that the price for salvation had been paid and man indeed could have “peace with God.” The basis for all our peace is found in the person and work of Jesus Christ. He died for us, He arose from the dead in victory, and now He lives for us. In our fears, we cannot lock Him out! He comes to us in grace and reassures us through His Word.

When Jesus saw that the disciples’ fear had now turned to joy, He commissioned them: “As My Father hath sent me, even so I send you” (John 20:21). Keep in mind that the original disciples were not the only ones present; others, including the Emmaus disciples, were also in the room. This commission was not the “formal ordination” of a church order; rather, it was the dedication of His followers to the task of world evangelism.

What a tremendous privilege and what a great responsibility! It is humbling to realize that Jesus loves us as the Father loves Him (John 15:9; 17:26), and that we are in the Father just as He is (John 17:21-22). It is equally as humbling to realize that He has sent us into the world just as the Father sent Him.

It must have given the men great joy to realize that, in spite of their many failures, their Lord was entrusting them with His Word and His work. They had forsaken Him and fled, but now He was sending them out to represent Him. Peter had denied Him three times; and yet in a few days, Peter would preach the Word and thousands would be saved.

Jesus came to them and reassured them; but He also enabled them through the Holy Spirit. God breathed life into Adam, the first man. The breath of God in the first creation meant physical life, but the breath of Jesus Christ in the new creation meant spiritual life. Without the filling of the Spirit, they could not go forth to witness effectively. The Spirit had dwelt with them in the person of Jesus Christ, but now the Spirit would be in them (John 14:17).

As the early believers went forth into the world, they announced the good news of salvation. If sinners would repent and believe on Jesus Christ, their sins would be forgiven! “Who can forgive sins but God only?” The Jewish religious leaders had that correct. What they didn’t understand was that Jesus was the Son of God and that He did have the power to forgive sins.

We as Christians do not have the power to forgive sins. Jesus did not give His disciples the power to forgive sins either. Only God can forgive sins! Jesus Christ died on the cross for the remission of sins; our sins are forgiven; the debt has been paid! Jesus then gives us the authority, as He did His disciples, to be witnesses to this truth! God performs the miracle of forgiveness; we only bear witness to it. If sinners will believe on Jesus Christ, we can authoritatively declare to them that their sins have been forgiven; Alleluia!

By now, the disciples’ fears had vanished. Jesus had appeared before them; removed any doubt; and Jesus had breathed the Holy Spirit on them. They were sure that the Lord was alive and that He would be with them. They had both “peace with God” and the “peace of God” (Phil. 4:6-7). They had a high and holy commission and the power provided to accomplish it. And they had been given the great privilege of bearing the good news of forgiveness to the whole world.

We must not look at Jesus’ disciples and envy them, as though the power of Christ’s resurrection could never be experienced in our lives today. This is why John wrote his Gospel – so that people in every age could know that Jesus is God and that faith in Him brings everlasting life.

It is not necessary to “see” Jesus Christ in order to believe. Yes, it was a blessing for the early Christians to see their Lord and know that He was alive; but that is not what saved them. They were saved, not by seeing, but by believing. The emphasis throughout the Gospel of John is on believing.

You and I today cannot see Christ, nor can we see Him perform the miracles that John and others wrote about. But the record is there, and this is all that we need. “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Rom. 10:17).
All of the evidence points to the conclusion that He is indeed God come in the flesh, the Saviour of the world.

Sinners are not saved by believing in miracles; they are saved by believing on Jesus Christ. Many of the Jews in Jerusalem believed on Jesus because of His miracles, but He did not believe in them! Great crowds followed Him because of His miracles; but in the end, most of them left Him for good. Even the religious leaders who plotted His death believed that He did miracles, but this “faith” did not save them.

Faith in His miracles should lead to faith in His Word, and to personal faith in Jesus as Saviour and Lord. Jesus Himself pointed out that faith in His works was but the first step toward faith in the Word of God. The sinner must “hear” the Word if he is to be saved.

Eternal life is not “endless time,” for even lost people are going to live forever in hell. “Eternal life” means the very life of God experienced today. It is a quality of life, not a quantity of time. It is the spiritual experience of “heaven on earth” today. The Christian does not have to die to have this eternal life; he already possesses it in Christ today.

The new covenant was not sealed by the blood of animal sacrifices but by the precious blood of Jesus Christ. May we have the resurrection power to be a witness to His love and saving grace. As we come to your most sacred table Lord; we remember Thy Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ; that we are partakers of His most blessed Body and Blood; that this Bread and Wine are signs of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ; that we may evermore dwell in Him and He in us, until His coming again.

Let us pray:
Almighty and everlasting God, who in the Easter mystery established the new covenant of reconciliation; Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ’s Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.


Jesus Lives!

Rev. Deacon Allen J. Batchelder

Trinity Church
Waltham, Massachusetts
March 31, 2013 – The Day of Resurrection – Easter Sunday

Acts 10:34-43, Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24; I Corinthians 15:19-26, John 20:1-18

From the book of Acts:
They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and made him manifest; not to all the people, but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. And he commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that he is the one ordained by God to be judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

From St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians:
But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.

And from the Gospel of St. John:
Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” Jesus said to her, “Do not hold me, for I not yet ascended to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” Mary Magdalene went and said to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

Let us pray:
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer, our Strength and our Salvation.

Easter Sunday: where we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. The resurrection is an essential part of the Gospel message and a key doctrine of our Christian faith. It proves that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that His atoning work on the cross has been completed and is effective. The empty cross and the empty tomb are God’s “receipts” telling us that the debt has been paid. Jesus Christ is not only the Saviour, but He is also the Sanctifier (Rom. 6:4-10) and the Intercessor (Rom. 8:34). One day He shall return to judge both the living and the dead.

From the beginning, the enemies of the Lord tried to deny the historic fact of the Resurrection. The Jewish leaders claimed that the Lord’s body had been stolen from the tomb. This belief was absurd, because how would they have done it? The tomb was guarded by Roman soldiers and the stone sealed by an official Roman seal.

When Mary Magdalene went to the tomb the next day and found the stone rolled away and the body gone, she also thought someone had stolen the body. Even Jesus’ closest followers, including His disciples, did not understand that Jesus was to be raised from the dead, even though He had told them.

As Jesus began appearing to people, first to Mary, then to the Disciples and then to others; it gradually dawned on these grieving people that their Master was not dead, but alive! And what a difference it made when the full realization of His resurrection took hold of them! For Mary Magdalene it meant moving from tears to joy (John 20:1-18); for the ten disciples it meant going from fear to courage (John 20:19-23); and for Thomas it meant moving from doubt to assurance (John 20:24-31). With Mary, the emphasis is on love; with the ten, the emphasis is on hope; and with Thomas, the emphasis is on faith.

When Jesus first appeared to Mary in the garden, she thought He was the gardener. She asked him: “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Then Jesus called out her name, “Mary.” Then she immediately recognized Him, and the realization of the resurrection was revealed and she believed. She turned and said, “Rabboni” My Master, my teacher. She then ran to tell the others as Jesus had instructed her to do.

Did they believe her? No. They had to go see for themselves. They wanted proof. Peter and John ran to the tomb. John arrived first and looked into the burial chamber. What did John see? He saw the grave clothes lying on the stone shelf without any evidence of violence or crime. They lay there like an empty cocoon, still retaining the shape of Jesus’ body.

Peter arrived and went into the chamber. The only way that those linen clothes could be left in that condition would be if Jesus passed through them as He arose from the dead. Then John entered the chamber and looked at the evidence. They both saw and believed!

It seems incredible that the followers of Jesus did not expect Him to come out of the tomb alive. After all, He had told them many times that He would be raised from the dead. Did He not raise Lazarus from the dead?

What kind of faith did Peter and John have at that stage in their spiritual experience? They had faith based on evidence. They could see the grave clothes; they knew that the body of Jesus was not there. However, as good as evidence is to convince the mind, it can never change the life. I sometimes think that the disciple Thomas was given a bad rap. He was the last disciple to see Jesus risen, and thus the last disciple to believe. The fact is, they all didn’t believe until they had physical proof and yet it was Thomas who was given the name of “doubting Thomas.”

Those of us who live centuries later cannot examine the evidence, for the material evidence (the empty tomb, the grave clothes) is no longer there for us to inspect. We probably can’t go down to the local cemetery and see our Risen Lord like Mary did; I am somewhat sure that Jesus is not going to appear before us this morning. But we have the record in the Word of God (John 20:9) and that record is true. In fact, it is faith in the Word that the Lord really wanted to cultivate in His disciples. Peter made it clear that the Word of God, not personal experiences, should be the basis for our faith (1 Peter 1:12-21).

After His resurrection, our Lord did not reveal Himself to everyone, but only to selected witnesses who would share the good news with others (Acts 10:39-43). This witness is now found in Scripture, the New Testament; and both the Old Testament and the New Testament agree in their witness. The Law, the Psalms, the Prophets, and the Apostles together bear witness that Jesus Christ is alive!

Mary not only shared the fact of His resurrection and that she had seen Him personally, but she also reported the words that Jesus had spoken to her. Again, we see the importance of the Word of God. Mary could not transfer her experience over to them, but she could share the Word; and it is the Word that generates faith (Rom. 10:17).

It is good to have faith that is based on solid evidence, but the evidence should lead us to the Word, and the Word should lead us to the Saviour. It is one thing to accept a doctrine and defend it; it is something else to have a personal relationship to the living Lord. Peter and John believed that Jesus was alive, but it was not until that evening that they met the risen Christ in person along with the other disciples.

What is the greatest miracle that God can do for us? Some would call the healing of the body God’s greatest miracle, while others would vote for the raising of the dead. However, the greatest miracle of all is the salvation of a lost sinner. Why? Because salvation costs the greatest price, it produces the greatest results, and it brings the greatest glory to God.

Many of you know that I grew up in the Methodist Church on Moody Street in Waltham. John Wesley was the founder of this Protestant denomination. John was a religious man, a church member, a minister, and the son of a minister. He belonged to a “religious club” at Oxford, England, the purpose of which was the perfecting of the Christian life. Wesley served as a foreign missionary, but even as he preached to others, he had no assurance of his own personal salvation.

On May 24, 1738, Wesley reluctantly attended a small meeting in London where someone was reading aloud from Martin Luther’s commentary on Romans. “About a quarter before nine.” Wesley wrote in his journal, “while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed, I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.” The result was the great Wesleyan revival that not only swept many into the kingdom, but also helped transform British society through the Christian faith.

Jesus left His disciples, and with us, the great commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.”

It was a three stage process for the disciples: first bring the news of Jesus’ resurrection and salvation to the Jews, then to the Samaritans, then to the Gentiles. Jesus died for everyone; He took on the sins of the whole world by His sacrifice on the cross. The third day He rose again for our salvation. Salvation is offered to everyone. But then God, allows us to choose: to believe in Him or reject Him; to choose salvation or death.

I found an article in a Leadership magazine that I would like to share with you:

Little Philip, born with Down’s syndrome, attended a third-grade Sunday School class with several eight-year-old boys and girls. Typical of that age, the children did not readily accept Philip with his differences. But because of a creative teacher, they began to care about Philip and accept him as part of the group, though not fully. The Sunday after Easter the teacher brought in some Leggs pantyhose containers, the kind that look like large eggs. Each receiving one, the children were told to go outside on that lovely spring day, find some symbol for new life, and put it in the egg-like container. Back in the classroom, they would share their new-life symbols, opening the containers one by one in surprise fashion.

After running about the church property in wild confusion, the students returned to the classroom and placed the containers on the table. Surrounded by the children, the teacher began to open them one by one. After each one, whether flower, butterfly, or leaf: the class would ooh and ah. Then one was opened, revealing nothing inside. The children exclaimed, “That’s stupid. That’s not fair. Somebody didn’t do their assignment.” Philip spoke up, “That’s mine.” “Philip, you don’t ever do anything right!” one student retorted. “There’s nothing there!” “I did so do it.” Philip insisted. “I did do it. It’s empty, the tomb was empty!” Silence followed. From then on Philip became a full member of the class.

Philip died not long afterward from an infection most normal children would have shrugged off. At the funeral this class of eight-year-olds marched up to the altar not with flowers, but with their teacher, each to lay on it an empty pantyhose egg. The tomb is empty!
Jesus Christ Lives! He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!

Let us pray:
Almighty God, who through your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ overcame death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life: Grant that we, who celebrate with joy the day of the Lord’s resurrection, may be raised from the death of sin by your life-giving Spirit; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Crucified, Dead & Buried

Rev. Deacon Allen J. Batchelder

Trinity Church
Waltham, Massachusetts
March 29, 2013 – Good Friday

Isaiah 52:13-53:12, Psalm 22, Hebrews 10:16-25, John 18:1-19:42

Let us pray:
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer, our Strength and our Salvation.

The private ministry of our Lord with His disciples has now ended, and the public drama of redemption is about to begin. Man will do his worst, and God will with His very best. “But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” (Romans 5:20).

Human history began in a Garden (Gen. 2:8ff), and the first sin of man was committed in
that Garden. The first Adam disobeyed God and was cast out of the Garden, but the Last
Adam (1 Cor. 15:45) was obedient as He went into the Garden of Gethsemane. In a
Garden, the first Adam brought sin and death to mankind; but Jesus, by His obedience,
brought righteousness and life to all who will trust Him. He was “obedient unto death,
even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:8).

The Apostle’s Creed states it without embellishment: “He was crucified, dead, and buried.” These three momentous events we should understand not only from the historical point of view but also from the doctrinal. What happened is important; why it happened is also important, if you hope to go to heaven.

Pilate delivered Jesus to the chief priests; and they, with the help of the Roman soldiers, took Jesus to be crucified. It was the most cruel and shameful of all punishments.

Crucifixion probably had its origin among the Persians, but it was the Romans who made special use of it. This mode of capital punishment was reserved for the lowest kind of criminals, particularly those who promoted insurrection. Today, we think of the cross as a symbol of glory and victory; but in Pilate’s day, the cross stood for the lowest kind of rejection, shame, and suffering. It was Jesus who made the difference.

Jesus knew what was going to happen; He was fully in control as He obeyed the Father’s will. He knew He was going to die! He was enduring real physical suffering, for He had a real human body. He had just emerged from three hours of darkness when He felt the wrath of God and separation from God (Matt. 27:45-49). When you combine darkness, thirst, and isolation, you have – hell!
Jesus was not murdered in the strictest sense; He willingly gave His life for us. His death was an atonement, not just an example. He actually accomplished the work of redemption on the cross.

His death was voluntary: He willingly dismissed His spirit (John 19:30); He “gave Himself” (Gal. 2:20). He offered Himself as a ransom (Mark 10:45), as a sacrifice to God (Eph. 5:2), and as a propitiation for sin (1 John 2:2).

Two groups of people were involved in our Lord’s burial: the Roman soldiers and the Jewish believers. It was not unusual for victims to remain on the cross in a lingering death, so the Jewish religious leaders did all they could to hasten the death of Jesus and the two thieves. However, our Lord was in control; Jesus spoke His last words: “It is finished!” Then He dismissed His spirit at “the ninth hour,” which was 3 pm.

It is remarkable that the Roman soldiers did not do what they were commanded to do – break the victim’s legs – but they did do what they were not supposed to do – pierce the Savior’s side. In both cases, they fulfilled the Holy Scriptures! The bones of the Passover lamb were not to be broken (Ex. 12:46). His side was to be pierced (Zech. 12:10).

When Jesus said, “It is finished,” this meant the whole debt was paid. Jesus Christ was the perfect sacrifice, in contrast to the imperfect sacrifices that were offered under the Old Covenant. Our Lord’s superior priesthood belongs to a better order – Melchizedek’s and not Aaron’s. It functions on the basis of a better covenant – the New Covenant – and in a better sanctuary, in heaven.

Sin, of course, is man’s greatest problem. No matter what kind of religion a man has, if it cannot deal with sin, it is of no value. By nature, man is a sinner; and by choice, he proves that his nature is sinful.

Because of Christ’s sacrifice, we have a gracious invitation: “Let us draw near….Let us hold fast…Let us consider one another.” This threefold invitation hinges on our boldness to enter into the holiest. And this boldness rests on the finished work of the Saviour. On the Day of Atonement, the high priest could not enter the holy of holies unless he had the blood of the sacrifice (Heb. 9:7). But our entrance into God’s presence is not because of an animal’s blood, but because of Christ’s shed blood.

This open way into God’s presence is “new” and not a part of the Old Covenant. It is “living” because Christ “ever liveth to make intercession” for us (Heb. 7:25). Christ is the new and living way! We come to God through Him, our High Priest over the house of God. When His flesh was torn on the cross, and His life sacrificed, God tore the veil in the temple. This symbolized the new and living way now opened for all who believe.

With this in mind let us pray:
Almighty God, we pray you graciously to behold this your family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed, and given into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the cross; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. AMEN †