Resurrection Sunday: Revelation 1:9-18

Resurrection Sunday
Revelation 1:9-18

We’ve been a quite a journey over the last week. And I’m not talking about the COVID-19 crisis that seems to change daily, with ebb and flow and news and heartbreak and worry. Yes, that’s real and present. But I’m talking about walking with Jesus in the last week of his earthly ministry. This is what we’ve been remembering and celebrating this week. Passion Week.

Last Sunday, traditionally called Palm Sunday, we looked at the idea of PROMISE beginning in Exodus 3, jumping to Mark 10 and then finished in 2 Corinthians 1. We discovered that grief + a promise = hope. This powerful formula is extremely relevant to anyone, in any time, but is especially suitable for this unprecedented season of rapid global change. Focusing our attention on Jesus, we saw that in Him all of the promise of God are yes and amen. He is the center of God’s work of creation and redemption. All of God’s promises find their fulfillment in Jesus Christ.

But what about Friday? If all of the promises of God are yes in Jesus, doesn’t He have to be alive to fulfill all of these promises? Let’s be frank. As we saw when we remembered the story of Jesus’ contrived trial, brutal scourging and excruciating death - Jesus died. He breathed his last and was buried in a tomb. Was all that He said meaningless? Were His promises empty?

The song of Jesus ended in a minor key, unexpectedly, without resolution. A tomb. No miraculous, last-second rescue. No Divine intervention on the cross. Was it an empty promise?

As we walk with Jesus’ disciples, we sit through Friday night and all day Saturday in a state of utter shock, speechless fear and introspection. Did we follow a fool? Am I the fool? What just happened? Am I next?

But with a burst and shout, everything changes. Mary Magdalene at a few other women nearly break the door of your home down with a strange mixture of fear and joy. Breathless and white, they communicate that Jesus’ body is gone. Someone had taken it. And then they say that they actually met Jesus - alive, in the flesh - on the way here. They spoke to Him. That He’s alive!

Then end of every Gospel account is a unique but harmonious record of Jesus’ bodily resurrection to new life. He physically met with the disciples and the women. He ate with them. They touched Him. He appeared to more than five hundred people on one occasion. This is real. Jesus is alive. He is risen.

The rest of the New Testament constantly and consistently rejoices in the truth and doctrine of the resurrection of Jesus. It extends to our resurrection because His promise was not empty. In fact, in a twist, the empty tomb is His promise fulfilled. Empty turned out to be the promise. Now through His resurrection, we can see with new eyes. His eyes. And we discover that all of our worst fears are empty. The lies of the devil are empty. This life apart from Jesus is empty. His promise is sure and true. His death was the price for sin. And His resurrection is the confirmation of His promise.

The Book of Revelation, chapter one, offers unique insight into the resurrected Jesus. I love this text because it describes the cosmic power of the resurrected Christ and then we get to hear from Him in His own words.

“I, John, your brother and fellow partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance which are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like the sound of a trumpet, saying, “Write in a book what you see, and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.”
Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands; and in the middle of the lampstands I saw one like a son of man, clothed in a robe reaching to the feet, and girded across His chest with a golden sash. His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow; and His eyes were like a flame of fire. His feet were like burnished bronze, when it has been made to glow in a furnace, and His voice was like the sound of many waters. In His right hand He held seven stars, and out of His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword; and His face was like the sun shining in its strength. When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. And He placed His right hand on me, saying, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.

—Revelation 1:9-18

Wow. Can you imagine seeing that. John’s description is almost comical, but only because for Him it is an exercise in futility. He was told to write down what he saw, but how does a human man with finite language describe something infinitely beautiful? John is reduced to analogy and correspondence to things he is aware of. It’s the best he can do. And even that is gorgeous and awe-inspiring.

Each of the descriptive markers and analogies are meaningful. But when Jesus touches John - the same disciple of Jesus that saw Him die on the cross - it is almost too gorgeous to comprehend. Then Jesus speaks. Did you catch the depth and meaning of His words?

Do not be afraid” is the first thing out of His mouth. It sounds just like what He said to His disciples when He appeared to them later that first Resurrection Sunday: “Peace be with you.” He said it twice that first Sunday. And meeting with them again the next Sunday Jesus said the same thing again. “Peace be with you.” It seems peace and the absence of fear - notably in the presence of Jesus - are critical things Jesus wants His disciples to know and experience. Its the same with His disciples still.

I am the first and the last, and the living One; I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and Hades.” Keys are an ancient and modern symbol for control, answer and solution. Death has been solved. Answered. Conquered. Hades is a Hebrew term that describes “the grave” or the underworld, that location of the decaying body after death. Do you see what Jesus is saying? He has conquered death and the grave.

The point is simple and profound. Jesus’ resurrection is the key to your resurrection. By your faith in Jesus Christ - the Son of God who died for your sins and was raised to life - His empty tomb is the promise of your freedom and eternal life.

But Jesus’ resurrection is more than history. It is a historical fact. One that many have failed to disprove over the last two thousand years. But it is more than fact. It is an ongoing reality and truth for all who believe in Him. By faith in Jesus, you get to walk in newness of life.

Family Discussion Questions:
1. If you were a follower of Jesus back in that time, what do you think you would have done watching what happened to Jesus? Why?
2. Would you have been fearful that you might be next, because you were one of His followers? Why? Why not?
3. When Mary Magdalene and the other women came back and told the disciples that Jesus was alive, if you were among the disciples, how would you have reacted? Why?
4. What does Jesus’ resurrection mean for those who trust in Him by faith?
5. Have you trusted in Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins and eternal life?
6. How should your life be different because of the resurrection of Jesus?
7. How does Jesus’ resurrection give you hope?

Small Group Discussion Questions:
1. As you recall the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ resurrection, what sticks out to you? What is your favorite part? What parts do you have questions about? Share with your group.
2. How can you identify with the fear the disciples of Jesus shared on that Friday, Saturday and even Sunday?
3. In Revelation 1, is John’s description of Jesus encouraging to you, or haunting, frightful or simply interesting? Explain to your group your thoughts.
4. What are the meanings behind each of the different elements of John’s description? (HINT: The answers are developed in the Old Testament; See Daniel 7:9-14 for a little help and parallel imagery)
5. What is significant to you about Jesus’ touching of John in Revelation 1:17?
6. What is significant about Jesus’ first statement, “Do not be afraid?” Where else do you see Jesus saying that in the resurrection accounts? (HINT: Read John 20:19ff).
7. What does Jesus mean by “I am the first and the last”?
8. What is significant about when Jesus reveals that He is “the living One” who “was dead” but is now “alive forevermore,” and that he now has possession of “the keys of death” and the grave?
9. How does one gain authority over something like death? Consider the way Jesus accomplished this and discuss it with your group.
10. What is the ongoing significance of Jesus’ resurrection in the life of the believer? Are there any biblical passages that come to mind?

Weekly Reading Plan:
Sunday Matthew 28; Mark 16:1-13
Monday John 20-21
Tuesday Luke 24; Acts 1:1-11
Wednesday 1 Corinthians 15
Thursday Romans 6
Friday Colossians 3:1-17
Saturday Ephesians 2
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