The Resurrection of Christ is the single most important doctrine for the Christian faith. But it is also the doctrine that is hardest to believe.
We know that there are many hard core atheists who cannot even begin to wrap their minds around it. But let’s not forget that the early disciples didn’t come to grips with it all that quickly either.
We know that Jesus had repeatedly told them he would rise again from the grave during his life. And the passage before the one we just read we find that a couple of them had seen the empty tomb. And that passage ends with Mary seeing the Lord and running to tell the other disciples
So the disciples had the testimony of the resurrection proclaimed to them numerous times. But it would not come until Jesus proclaimed it to them himself.
Being that this was difficult for the disciples, we should not think that it should be any easier for us. Sure, we Christians might "know" the doctrine of the resurrection--at least it may be an esoteric doctrine floating around in the back of our minds. But in our heart of hearts, it might not be fully confirmed.
If you are ever tempted to doubt the resurrection--or if you waver in its applicability to you, this passage is one that was written for you. For in this passage Jesus proclaims the reality and the availability of his resurrection life.
In the first two verses we read Jesus seeks to solidify the fact that He has brought us eternal life.
I. Jesus proclaims its reality [19-20]
And I want you to see that he proclaims this life to them in three different ways. First of all, Jesus proclaims the reality of his resurrection through his wounds.
A. by his wounds
Verse 20 says that after Jesus appeared he showed them his hands and his side. In other words, he showed them the indelible marks of his crucifixion. And, then, after the disciples witnessed these wounds, it says that they were glad. They were immediately cheered and full of joy.
And it wasn’t just because they had been reunited with an old buddy. These guys now had a full understanding of what was going on. They now understood that Jesus was alive and that he had indeed conquered sin. These wounds were a testimony that his death had taken away the curse that was due to them for sin.
It is interesting to think too that these wounds are eternally etched in Jesus’ body. We don’t know much about what a glorified, resurrected body will be like. The Bible seems to speak in code when it talks about what we’ll be like when we are raised up. But the idea of the resurrection is that there is no more sin and no more accompanying affects of sin.
So, people sometimes ask, "When Christ comes again will we get older? Will we age? When I celebrate my 1 millionth birthday, will I look older?" The answer to that is yes and no. It depends on what you mean. Yes, we will get older. Our bodies might mature and possibly even change, but we won’t go through the process of "aging," at least not as we know it now.
We commonly think of aging as getting wrinkles and gray hair. But when the resurrection comes, all that will be gone. We’ll be older, but we won’t have all the expressions that are common to the process we now know as aging. Our knees won’t ache. Our backs won’t hurt. We won’t limp or need a cane to walk
The resurrection will do away with the effects of the fall that have to do with death and decay.
But its interesting that Jesus, even in his glorified state, still bears the scars he received in his sacrifice. That can only be for one reason. It is to affirm to us the reality of who He is and what He has done.
I like what Matthew Henry says. Henry says, “Conquerors always glory in the marks of their wounds.”
That’s what we did when I used to play football. The day after a game, we would come in for practice and each of us would show off his bruises.
There’s a sense in which Jesus gets to do that for all eternity. And that’s essentially what he did here for these disciples. He rolled up his sleeves and he pulled up his shirt so that his disciples could know the reality of his saving work.
Today we can’t see Jesus. He has ascended into heaven and he is seated at God’s right hand. So we can’t see him, but we can see his wounds.
Every time we celebrate communion, we are able to look at the wounds of Christ. We can hold in our hands this little torn piece of bread and, figuratively, we see the wounds. And that meal is given to us so that we can have our faith affirmed just like it was affirmed to the disciples. So remember that next time you take communion. Remember that Jesus is using that moment to solidify your faith. He’s confirming your faith in that little piece of bread. Just as Christ’s wounds were a visible sermon that declared to his disciples that he had had victory over death, that little piece of bread is a visible sermon to you declaring that you too may participate in the resurrection life he has purchased for you.
But the reality of the resurrection is not just affirmed by Jesus’ wounds, it’s also affirmed in his work.
B. In his work
Look at verse 22. It says that Jesus breathed on them and said, “receive the Holy Spirit.”
What did Jesus do here? What was the work? Some people think that this is John’s version of Pentecost. I’m not sure that I agree with that. Pentecost happened after Jesus ascended into heaven. I think this is different. This was something of a precursor to Pentecost.
I believe Jesus’ work here is a reference back to the book of Genesis. Do you remember what happened when God first created man? When God first created man, he made him out of the dust of the earth. But he didn’t become a living being until he breathed life into him. He was just a body lying on the ground. But the Scripture says that God breathed life into him and he became a living being.
I think that this is an allusion back to that. Jesus, in this work, reminds them of that first event of creation—that day when man first received life. And he’s basically reiterating the point that He is the author of life and he now is bestowing upon them the reality of new life. They are now new creations. Though they are dead in sin, the Lord has imbued them with new life.
You might say that this is a resuscitation that corresponds to Adam's first day. It is a reminder that, though their bodies may return to dust, they will be brought up once again to live forever.
But there’s one more way the resurrection reality is proclaimed. Jesus not only proclaims it by his wounds and his work. He also proclaims it in his words.
C. In his words
Our passage tells us that when Jesus appeared, he preached a mini sermon. He said, “Peace be with you.”
Maybe you thought this was just a way of greeting them. Or perhaps you thought Jesus was just trying to calm his disciples who he has just scared by walking in on them. The doors were locked and they weren't expecting any company. Maybe you thought that Jesus gave them a start and simply tried to calm them down by saying, "Peace be with you."
That might be part of it. But there's more to it than that. These words are pregnant now with redemptive meaning. When Jesus said, “peace be with you,” he was verifying the reality of his resurrection.
Peace in the Hebrew mind has to do with wellness. It has to do with wholeness. When someone greeted you by saying, “Shalom” they were wishing a blessing upon you. They wanted you to experience the fullness of well-being by being completely whole.
Jesus’ greeting is more than just a well wish. As he speaks he is giving his disciples an insight into the present reality of the resurrection. Real peace is now a reality in their lives. Wholeness has been effected because he has risen from the dead. Death is no longer anything you have to fear because Jesus makes you complete again. His resurrection is the reminder that we will be completely restored in body and in soul.
I just said that we don’t know much about the resurrection and what it will be like. Again, it is kind of like the Bible talks in code when it refers to our future state. But I can say this: We know more about the resurrection of those who believe than we do the resurrection of those who don’t. Someone once said that the Bible is “eerily silent when it comes to the resurrection of the wicked.”
We know that those who believe will experience peace. They will be made whole. But those who don’t believe, what is their resurrection be like? Yes they will be resurrected, but their resurrection isn’t a resurrection to wholeness. Those who believe it is a resurrection unto life, but for those who do not believe, it’s a resurrection unto condemnation.
I don’t know exactly what it will be like, but I can’t help but think that the unbeliever’s resurrection will be rather ghoulish. I wonder if all the zombie stuff that is so popular today is something of a parallel to the resurrection of those who don’t fear God.
I can’t say for sure, but I know that their resurrection is not a resurrection unto peace. It is not a resurrection unto wholeness. Yes, they will undergo a physical resurrection. Their bodies will come up from the grave, but from what I can gather, it is not going to be anything to which you can look forward to. It will be a resurrection that is overshadowed by decay and death. There’s not going to be any peace in it.
That’s why I want to extend the invitation to you today that if you do not believe in Christ, that you turn to him and put your trust in him. Today you can know the peace that is spoken of here. You do not have to be condemned for your sins because Jesus has been victorious over death.
And I know that you can enjoy being a part of it because of that our text goes on to talk about. You see, our passage not only confirms the reality of Jesus’ resurrection, but it also confirms the availability of his resurrection.
II. Jesus proclaims its availability [21-23]
Look at verse 21. You’ll notice John doesn’t spend a lot of time on the resurrection. The passage quickly moves from Jesus’ resurrection to Jesus’ commissioning of his disciples. He says, “Peace be with you, as the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” Then verse 22 tells us that he equipped them for the work they were going to do by breathing on them and said to them, “receive the Holy Spirit.”
So you look at this and you think, what’s going on here? Jesus doesn’t even allow time for questions about his resurrection. It’s almost as if he passes right over it.
And I’ll admit, I wanted a little more too. I said, “I have to preach a resurrection sermon. Why isn’t there much here on the resurrection?” But Jesus didn’t want to talk about the resurrection. He wanted to get on with business. He simply shows up, shows himself off, and sends them out.
So what we have here is the most abrupt ordination service that has occurred in the history of man. That’s what this is. It is not so much a resurrection appearance as it is an ordination service. Jesus’ main purpose in coming to that room is to put his disciples in evangelism mode. He’s appeared to them in order to send them out into the world to preach the gospel.
But why is he in such a hurry? I think it’s because Jesus really wants people to know that this new resurrection life are to be made available to everyone in the world.
You know how you sometimes write up an email and you hit send a little too quickly. Maybe you realize you had something else to say or perhaps you should have said something a little differently. (or maybe, as is often the case, you should not have said anything at all!).
Well, Jesus hits the send key pretty fast. Of course, it is not a mistake. He does so purposefully. It is because he’s ready to get this thing going.
It’s almost like he says, “I want you guys to recognize that this life I have, is not just for you. It is for everybody. I’m making eternal life available to everyone who will receive it.” He wants these guys to proclaim it wide and far.
This is the lesson that he wants us to have today. This life—this resurrection life—is available to you. It is available right now. Jesus is sending his word to you today that your sins can be forgiven and you can take part in the resurrection unto life. All you need to do is look to him for it.
You’ll notice that’s the point in the last verse we read. In verse 23 Jesus says, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”
Now, there is some difficulty in understanding this verse. It kind of makes it sound like you need special recognition from someone in order to be forgiven of your sins. But that’s not what its saying. Only God has the power to forgive you sins.
If anything, it is saying that your sins can be forgiven. You do not have to be condemned. You don’t have to go to hell and suffer the punishment that is due for your sin because redemption is available. Christ has made it available. All you have to do is receive and rest upon him, and resurrection life is yours.
I’m glad that you all came back. Some of you might not have been here last week. If that is the case we welcome you. But I know that some of you were here last week, and I was a little scared you might not return.
Last week we studied Psalm 1 and we saw how God promised to prosper those who fear him. It reinforced the teaching with the image of a lush and prosperous tree
But you might have been quite disappointed over the course of the week. You might have wondered, “Where’s my happiness?” And you might not have been inclined to come back, thinking I’m some charlatan.
Well, I’m glad you came back. Because this is where Psalm 2 comes in. Psalms 1 and 2 serve as the introduction to the whole Psalter. As you read through the Psalms, what you find is that the God fearing man struggles. He struggles a lot. That’s because there are wicked people in the world. And these wicked people are making life tough for him. Their sins impeding upon our happiness.
And a lot of our troubles come from oppression. Oftentimes our happiness is hindered because these wicked people are in positions of power. Since they hold these positions of power, they make life quite difficult for God’s people.
And that’s why Psalm 2 is a compliment to Psalm 1. This Psalm presents us with the absolute authority Jesus Christ has as the King of all the earth. This Psalm is considered a Messianic Psalm. That’s because it talks a lot about the Messiah. He is mentioned in verse 2. The word anointed is the word Messiah. Towards the end of the Psalm we are told to “kiss the Son lest he be angry.” That’s a reference to Christ, who is the Son of God.
So this Psalm is explicitly messianic and it is here to remind us of the sovereign rule of Christ over all the rulers of the earth.
And it is only appropriate that this be our text this Lord’s Day. This Tuesday we will be going to the polls to elect those we desire to be our governors. And it is good time for us to remember the rule of Jesus Christ is unbreakable, unbearable, and unbelievable.
I enticed you last week by saying that this Psalm is God’s word to Donald Trump. Well, it is actually God’s rule to every leader. It doesn’t matter if it is Trump, Hillary, Obama, or Pol Pot. This text is here to remind us that God is Sovereign and all the rulers of the earth need to know that His reign is unbreakable.
I. God’s rule is unbreakable [1-3]
Look at the first three verses of the Psalm Verses 1-3 tell us about how all the nations and kings of the earth are opposing God with the utmost vehemence. Look at the words that it uses. In verse 1 it says that the nations are raging against God. It also says they are actively plotting against him.
Verse 2 says that the kings of the earth set themselves against God and take counsel against him. The idea is that these kings are forming an alliance with one another in order to try and overthrow God. They are depicted as combining resources so as to mount a powerful and strategic attack.
Now, notice what this means. It implies that all the nations are bound to be God’s vassals. They are under God’s authority and therefore they must be subject to His law. They are to acknowledge His rule and they are to abide by His commands.
So this means that every nation of the earth is not allowed to make up their own laws and govern as they please. They are required to submit themselves to the rules and regulations spelled out in Scripture.
So President Obama isn’t allowed to do his own thing. And whoever comes into office next, be he Trump, Cruz, or Hillary, each of them is to govern this nation on the basis of Scriptural principles.
But, of course, this passage is saying that all the nations of the earth are not doing that. They are raging against God. So that means they are not living in submission to God’s law word. They are rebelling against His authority.
But look at the first word. The first word is key. It’s the word “Why?” It is put as a question. Why are you doing all this? Why are you making such a fuss? Do you really expect to accomplish anything? The word why reveals how utterly foolish and futile their alliances and strategies really are. It reminds us that God rules the earth and his rule cannot be broken.
I really like verse 3. In verse 3 the nations speak and say, “Let us burst their bonds and cast away their cords from us.” This is basically saying that God has all the rulers of the earth on a little leash.
If you have a dog, you are the master of that dog. You rule that dog. And one of the ways you show your ownership of that dog is by putting him on a leash. Now, the dog might not like you. He might lash and whip around. He might try to get away from you by wiggling out of that leash. But typically that doesn’t happen. When you have that leash on him you have mastery of that dog.
That’s the picture here. All the nations are writhing like mad dogs trying to shake loose God’s rule, but they can’t do it. God has them on his little leash and they can’t break it.
This is the passage by the way that the early church quoted in the book of Acts. You remember that Peter and John were put in prison for having preached the gospel. But they were eventually let go. And when the people heard this they quoted this passage. They knew that it was completely futile to try and oppose the name of Christ and the proclamation of his kingdom.
More than that, they went on to lump Herod and Pontius Pilate in with the religious leaders—the very guys who had Christ killed.
So think of that. At the very moment when the rage of the world was at its height—at the very moment they thought they were casting off the bonds of God, they were actually fulfilling God’s plan and doing what he wanted them to.
This just reminds us that God’s rule is unbreakable. My friends, remember that God is sovereign over every nation. Every nation is obligated to submit to King Jesus. Our presidential elections are upon us and God’s word to every candidate is that they are obligated to obey and enforce His law. They are not permitted to deviate from Scripture.
But you can also be assured that when they do not—when they rebel against His law and try to overthrow God’s authority—you can be assured that their efforts will be futile. Our God is completely sovereign over them and they are ever on his leash.
But notice that God’s rule is not just unbreakable, it is also unbearable.
II. God’s rule is unbearable [4-9]
Verses 4-9 tell us how God treats these wicked kings who are raging against him. And when you read these words you find that these kings suffer tremendously at the hand of a just & powerful God. The suffering that is described in verses 4-9 is simply unbearable.
You know one of the most scathing ways to treat someone is to mock them. Taunting someone can often be so unbearable, especially to proud people. It will simply drive them crazy. And that’s exactly what God does. Verse 4 tells us how God teases them.
A. The wicked are teased
It says, “He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision.”
When I was younger, I used to get very upset with my bigger brother. I used to get so mad that I’d go after him. I’d try to hit him and knock him out. But you know what he used to do to me? He’d simply put his hand out and stick it on my forehead. So there I’d be, swinging and fighting, but I couldn’t touch him. And you know what he’d do then? He’d laugh hysterically. And that only made me even more mad.
That’s the picture here. God sees these rulers ranging and fomenting with anger and he just laughs. He finds it downright comical.
I never knew what it meant when it says that God holds them in derision until this week. I got to study the word derision, and I found that it means “to stammer” and “to talk in a mocking way.” I think of it as taking your finger and rolling it back and forth over your lips. You know how you did that when you were kids? When your friend got mad at you and you taunted him like that.
God is up in heaven laughing and mocking these arrogant leaders. He knows that they are nothing in comparison to his sovereign might.
But he takes it one step further. Not only does he taunt them, but he also terrorizes them.
B. The wicked are terrorized
Look at verse 5. It says, “Then he will speak to them in his wrath and terrify them in his fury, saying, “As for me I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.”
Yes God will make fun of them, but eventually a time will come when his anger will burst forth upon them. And when that does, they will be utterly frightened. The word I have translated “terrify” (some of you may have the word “vex”), but it means “to cause to tremble.” In other words, these people will be so scared that they will not be able to function because fear causes their muscular system to break into panicked spasms.
Why are they shaking? It is because Jesus sits upon the throne. They will break forth into a wild frenzied panic because Jesus is the King and ultimate ruler.
You remember when Jesus was at his most vulnerable moment in his earthly life. He was in the Garden of Gethsemene and the mob had come out to arrest him. The book of John tells us how that encounter went. The mob came forward asking for Jesus and Jesus responded by saying, “I am.” John tells us that the mob tumbled backward and fell to the ground. They were simply overwhelmed and could not even hold their ground for another second.
The presence and power of Christ, even in his hour of betrayal, was simply too much for them to handle. It was completely unbearable. And what you see there in that incident is just a microcosm of what happens every single day.
But look at what it says in the next couple of verses. Verse 7 says, “I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, “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 to pieces like a potter’s vessel.”
C. The wicked are terminated
It is not enough that these wicked nations are teased and terrorized. They are ultimately terminated. Christ destroys them. He breaks them to pieces like a piece of pottery.
Look at the history of the world. It is the story of Christ disposing of dictators and despots. The testimony of Scripture is this: Tyrants and tormentors eventually come to an end.
And the promise here is that, once they are removed, Christ will have full rule over the entirety of the earth.
But we cannot downplay what happens to these nations and rulers. When you consider everything that is said here you find that Jesus shows no mercy whatsoever. Those nations who continue to rise against Jesus Christ will not be treated kindly. They will feel the scepter of Christ come down upon their skulls and they will be laid to waste.
God is sovereign and those who opposed him will not only find that his rule is unbreakable, but they will also find it to be unbearable.
But I want you to notice one other thing about God’s rule. It is almost shocking how this passage ends. As a matter of fact, after all that has been said, it is downright unbelievable.
III. God’s rule is unbelievable [10-12]
In verses 10-12 the Lord addresses all the kings of the earth, and what you find is that he offers them a second chance.
Look at verses 10-11. It says, “Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.”
This is not what you would expect to hear after the first 9 verses of this Psalm. Any typical king, if there was a mutiny of this degree among his subjects, would have them all destroyed. And we see that’s exactly what he said he would do. Jesus was presented as ruthlessly smashing his enemies to smithereens.
So the last thing we may expect is his offering his enemies a chance to live. But that is what he does. In verses 10-12 God offers his enemies terms of peace.
Now granted, the terms of peace are nothing more than unconditional surrender. That’s what it amounts to when it says serve him, take joy in him, kiss him. Kissing him is a form of homage. It is recognizing him as your Lord—your authority. But they still get to live!
Not only do they get to live, but they get to rule!
It is unbelievable that he grants them life, but it is even more unbelievable that he allows them to continue in office.
You’ll notice that nothing is said here about their removal from office. As a matter of fact, God allows these leaders to “serve him.” They don’t have to step down or resign. They are not deposed from office, but instead, they are given the chance to be godly leaders. As long as they promise to bring themselves and their nation into subjection to Christ, they get to continue to serve.
There is one other thing that is worthy of notice. It is the very last line of the Psalm. It says, “blessed are all who take refuge in him.”
It is unbelievable that they get to live. It is unbelievable that he lets them continue to rule. But here’s another unbelievable things: He promises to bless them.
This, of course, is a reference back to Psalm 1. It is the idea of blessing (prosperity and happiness) that Psalm 1 spells out. The Lord says, “If turn from your evil ways and serve me, then I will have compassion on you. I will not destroy you. More than that, I promise to bless you and prosper you.”
This is why it is unbelievable. Every human institution puts countries in subjection in order to leach off of them and suck the life out of them. They impose heavy taxation and demand all kinds of tribute. But God doesn’t do that. He promises to bless them and prosper them.
You want to make America great again? This is how you do it. It is not by building a wall. It is by bowing before God and acknowledge Him as your only sovereign.
And here is the most unbelievable thing in it all: Jesus promises to be your refuge.
You know what a refuge is? It is a place you go when you are in trouble. It is a place where you are kept safe. So if there is a storm, you take refuge under a pavilion or in a house.
The fact that the Lord promises to be your refuge means you will be safe from all your enemies. Most of all, you will be safe from God himself.
That’s the most unbelievable things about this passage. It tells you that the sovereign Christ will be the one who shields you from his own wrath by taking it upon himself.
When Jesus was on earth, he was teased and taunted. They mocked him and laughed at him, wrapping him up in a robe and placing a crown of thorns on his head.
The terrorized him and vexed him as they beat and whipped him. Relentlessly and ruthlessly they dug into his flesh and caused his body to shake.
Then they crucified him and terminated his life.
And because he suffered and died, he now allows anyone who takes refuge in him the opportunity to experience the blessing of life.
This evening I want us to think about the way to happiness. That is the idea behind Psalm 1. The very first word of our psalm is the word “blessed.” It is the idea of God’s favor whereby he bestows cheer and allows us to experience personal happiness.
Happiness is a topic that we Americans are very much infatuated with. It’s something we as a culture have enshrined. Happiness is something that is part and parcel with being an American.
We are also the people who have produced the Happy Meal. We are so infatuated with happiness that we have wrapped it up with a cheeseburger in a cutesy little box.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.