The following was the basis of a devotional,
given at Medicalodge, Neosho, MO, on April 1, 2001
"And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him" (Mark 16:6, KJV).
In recent weeks, we have been talking about a deeper walk with God, about seeing through the veil of flesh into the spiritual truth behind the physical symbols. We have covered a lot of ground and I'd like to take one more step forward today. As the church world prepares for Easter, which the media characterizes as "Christianity's most holy season," I want us to think about the benefits that accrue to us from His incarnation. How blessed we are that He put on flesh and dwelt among us. Today, I would encourage you to move beyond the cross to the resurrection power of the risen Lord, because His Spirit bears witness, moment by moment, day by day, that we are saved by His life, which the Apostle Paul affirms in Rom. 5:10. What I'm meditating on today is the fact that we are IN Christ, (Rom. 6:11, 23; 8:1-2,39 12:5; I Cor. 1:2,4,30; 15:22; II Cor. 5:17,19; Eph. 1:3, to name a few of the 77 scriptures that attest to this). And because we are in Him, what happened to Him is a part of our spiritual experience and heritage as well. He was the first born of many brethren (Rom. 8:29), the first born from the dead (Col. 1:18; Rev. 1:5), the pattern son, the firstfruits of God's bounty (I Cor. 15:20,23) toward men and women and beyond that, to all creation (Col. 1:15).
The graphic God gave me for this piece is a view from the inside of the tomb, looking outward. When we were in Israel last March, we visited "The Garden Tomb," (End Note "A": link to pictures) which many believe is the place where Joseph of Arimathea laid the Lord's body after He had collected it from Pilate (Matt. 27:57-61; Mk. 15:43; Jn. 19:38). Inside the tomb, over the door to the outside, is a crudely printed wooden sign which reads, "HE IS NOT HERE-FOR HE IS RISEN." It was an interesting experience to be in that grotto, hewn out of rock, to see the very small stone pad where tradition says He was laid, and to feel by the Spirit, the weight of the world's sins, which He took to the cross for us all. But the greatest thing for me personally, was to rejoice that He has risen in my heart, and because He has, I have risen from the dead as well. Hallelujah!
Sadly, it is the experiential conclusion of many Christians today, that Jesus left the tomb and after 40 days, went back to heaven, where He is today. These folks have put their spiritual lives on hold until He returns. How many times have we heard the expression, "When Jesus comes, thus and so will happen." Or, "I will do this or that if Jesus doesn't come first." As I've said over and over in my writings, He is here now! And if He isn't, then we'd all just as well pack it up and go home. Why bother staying in this troubled old world if He isn't here?
Since we've been in Missouri, we've been plunged into the fundamentalist mind set, and this has benefited us greatly, by causing us to press on in the Spirit, depending on Him to lead us into what God is saying in this hour. There is a terrific tension between living with skin on, while knowing by the Spirit, that we are seated in the heavenlies with Christ (Eph. 2:6). Jesus had a lot to say about living "in the world," but not being "of the world" (Jn. 15:9; 17:6, 14-16). I don't know a single person who lives in the flesh who doesn't experience grief or pain or loss of some sort. Do you? Yet Christianity is the only religion that offers power to overcome, in this life, skin and all. Jesus said, "In this world you will have trouble (tribulation). But take heart! I have overcome the world" (Jn. 16:33).
When I saw this graphic of the open sepulcher, it reminded me again that the stone has been rolled away from the tomb of our lives. We were dead in trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1), Paul said, "separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world" (Eph. 2:12). Into this bleak landscape, the lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8), came and dwelt among us, bringing us who were far from God, home again to the Father. Paul glories, "For he is our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby bringing the hostility to an end" (Eph. 2:14-16). Isn't that proclamation enough to make you fling your grave clothes aside, and dance out into the "sonshine" of eternal life?
Like most of you, I have feasted on this truth for decades, but I long for more. To some limited degree, I still occasionally feel the tomb's cold walls around me, as life's problems press in on me or on those I love. Nevertheless, I'm feeling in my spirit that the time is here for us to exit the tomb once and for all, leaving behind all that binds us, and all that blinds us from seeing the Kingdom of God, which is everywhere around us. It is time to step through the open door of the Spirit and to experience the substance of who Jesus is, to eat His flesh and drink His blood (Jn. 6:53-56); to feast on His very being, (End Note "B") and to know all that He came to do for us, through us, and in us. The Spirit of God bids us see through what our natural eyes can behold, and take the journey with Him into the heavenlies, which is another way to say "in Spirit and in truth." This journey is what Lenny and I have come to call, "The Glory Road," and I have written a zillion words about all of this, as my long suffering readers well know, but words are never enough. Like many of you, I long to soar in the rarefied air of the kingdom, to experience without limit His love, power and might, for after all, "... the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but IN POWER" (I Cor. 4:20, RSV).
We personally know some Christians who say they want the Holy Spirit to move in their lives, but they hang back, seemingly afraid that He will knock down the walls of their religious tradition. These same folks wring their hands over loved ones who are dying from Satan's attacks, but they want God to do it their way, "in decency and in order" (Taken from I Cor. 14:40, this is NOT what Paul was talking about there. Is this why some don't invite God to their services? Do they fear He will jump up and act rowdy?) Many of the rest of us long for God to burst forth in time and space, manifesting His power HOWEVER He wills, in whatever format, to deliver our beloved family and friends from the bondage that still holds them captive to sickness, depression, and poverty, emotional as well as physical. Of Jesus, John said, "For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit" (Jn. 3:34, NIV). Since we are promised "greater works than He did" (Jn. 14:12), this statement will be true of us as well. In God's timing, when He has conformed us into the image of His son (Rom. 8:29), we will be given the Spirit without limit.
When I look at a room full of people, all dependent upon wheelchairs and walkers, I often think of the pool of Bethesda mentioned in John 5:2-3. We read, "And there is in Jerusalem by the sheep-gate a pool that is called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porches, in these were lying a great multitude of the ailing, blind, lame, withered, waiting for the moving of the water." As you may recall, the first person into the pool after the angel stirred the waters was healed of whatever disease he had (Vs. 4). Until we viewed the ruins of this pool, I didn't realize how much faith it required for a person to leap in. Our Israeli tour guide, Yossi, said that the pool was 50 feet deep. If one were physically incapacitated, there was a good chance he might drown, if he didn't get healed and could not swim out. In spite of the danger and the poor odds, afflicted people had at least the hope that God would heal them, if they could get into the water. The man in Jesus' story had been ill for 38 years (Vs. 5). Jesus knew this about him, and asked him if he wanted to be healed, to which he replied that he had no one to put him into the water. Jesus broke through the angst and depression of his miserable, paralyzed life and said, "Rise, take up your pallet, and walk" (Jn. 5:8). What wouldn't we give for the Master of sky and sea to appear in person to all who still lie beside the pool today. All those waiting to be cleansed in the living waters, would hear Him say, "Enough. No more excuses. I'm here! Get up and walk!"
Countless thousands are ensconced in the tombs of their aging or diseased bodies, and battle weary psyches, with no hope other than death to deliver them. How often, have I cried out to God to break through the gloom, to unleash the power that raised Jesus from the dead, and to break down their prison doors. God does all things according to His will (I Jn. 5:14), AND He does all things well, but I am sorry to observe that while we await His timing, some have come to the exact emotional place described on the sign posted over Dante's Inferno, "Abandon hope, all ye who enter here." Ministering without the power of God, is like fighting Bruce Lee with our hands tied behind our backs. There are people I pray for daily who are in such dire straights that no amount of religious practices or dogmas or prayers or medical science can deliver them. They are in wheelchairs or walkers in their minds and in their emotions, in their family life, in their finances, and in their bodies. Cripples all, they need the gospel, the pure, essence of God's power to save the Jew first and also the Greek (Rom. 1:16). Words are not enough, Lord. Your power is what it will take.
All of the New Covenant promises are "yea and in Him amen to the glory of God" (II Cor. 1:20). Many of these are enjoyed by His followers, including the promise of salvation, the restoration of fellowship with God, the freedom from bondage to sin and guilt, and the love, joy and peace that is ours in the kingdom. Yet, we and the whole creation long for the "apokalupsis," the revelation of the one whose promises are to be fulfilled in time and space. We who have the "earnest (down payment) of our inheritance," the Holy Spirit, (Eph. 1:14), now groan for the full revelation of Him in our lives. What that will mean, among other things, is deliverance from the bondage of our flesh, our carnal nature. It will be the final demise of old Adam's influence in our lives, and especially in our bodies, our flesh realm. Paul characterized death as "the last enemy" to be put under Christ's feet (I Cor. 15:25-26).
There are those who indicate to us today that they are well along the road to being the "manifested sons" of God. Great! Super! Outstanding, but the evidence of that according to the Apostle Paul is "the redemption of our bodies." Listen to the whole passage: "because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies" (Rom. 8:21-23). As long as we continue to get sick and die, our sonship is not fully manifested, but there will come a day, Paul said, when, "We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed" (I Cor. 15:51).
It has been almost 2,000 years since Christ died on the cross, and His power is evidenced everywhere in the world today, but you can set your watch by the fact that any time human beings put their hands on the divine, the work of God loses something in the translation. I don't know about you, but for me, the religious world's Easter celebration is more ritual than reality, and more pageant than power. Indulge me here and imagine for a moment the wild celebration that will take place all over planet Earth when the sons of God are finally manifested. It will be the time when, not just one, here and there, but everyone still waiting by the pool of Bethesda will be healed. The prophet Zechariah saw it, "On that day there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness" (Zech. 13: 1). Under the leadership of Christ, our head, the sons who were washed, sanctified and justified by the Spirit (I Cor. 6:11), will begin to speak peace to the heathen all over the planet (Zech. 9:10). We will hear our Father say, "You are my son, today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron, and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel" (Ps. 2:7-9). In that wondrous day, Isaiah's glorious prophecy will come to pass: "Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it" (Isaiah 40:4,5, KJV). There are multitudes of rough places, and crooked spots which will be gloriously restored by the hand of God. I've heard preachers say that "every eye will see Him" (Rev. 1:7), via satellite feed to our Television sets all over the planet. I don't think God needs our puny technology to reveal the work spoken of by all the prophets.
In that day, the remnant of grace (Rom. 11:5), will arise, clothed upon by immortality and incorruptibility, to finalize the mission of God and fulfill the rest of the promises: "For out of Jerusalem shall go forth a remnant, and they that escape out of mount Zion: the zeal of the LORD of hosts shall do this" (II Kings 19:31, KJV, also Isa. 37:32). Notice that the "zeal of the Lord of hosts shall do this." The manifestation of the sons of God to a hurt and broken world will be completed BY THE HAND OF GOD, not the works of men. I cannot adequately express in mere words what a tremendous relief that knowledge is to me personally. I glory in our Father's precious promises and in His ZEAL which will perform them.
This is the day when the nations shall come to our light and kings to the brightness of our rising (Is. 60:4), when all darkness and shadows will be driven away by the light of God's glorious presence on His entire creation. The stones will be rolled away from the door of every tomb and those in the grave and out of the grave shall arise from the bondage of decay by the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. Until that day, we rest in His promise for this day, for today, for every day. He reassures us, "Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom" (Luke 12:32, RSV). Hallelujah, we ARE risen from the dead.
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
End Note "A" Pictures of the Garden Tomb and the Pools of Bethesda
End Note "B": "Bread of Heaven," by Jan
Jan's Poem, "Resurrection"
Jan's Poem, "I left the tomb today"
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and last edited on 11/04/08.