Today’s selected reading continues in and concludes the New Testament gospel narrative of the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ as it was written and recorded by the apostle John. More specifically, today’s passage begins with the nineteenth verse of the twentieth chapter and continues through to the twenty-fifth and final verse of the twenty-first chapter. “Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord. Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whos soever sins ye retain, they are retained” (John 20:19-23).
“But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will believe. And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands: and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God. Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (John 20:24-29).
“And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: but these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name” (John 20:30-31).
“After these things Jesus shewed himself again to to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias; and on this wise shewed he himself. There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two other of his disciples. Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing. But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus. Then Jesus saith unto them, Children, have ye any meat? They answered him, No. And he said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes. Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter, It is the Lord. Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he girt his fisher’s coat unto him, (for he was naked,) and did cast himself into the sea. And the other disciples came in a little ship; (for they were not far from land, but as it were two hundred cubits,) dragging the net with fishes. As soon then as they were come to land, they saw wa fire of coals there, and fish laid thereon, and bread. Jesus saith unto them, Bring of the fish which ye have now caught. Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land full of great fishes, an hundred and fifty and three: and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken. Jesus saith unto them, Come and dine. And none of the disciples durst ask him, Who art thou? Knowing that it was the Lord. Jesus then cometh, and taketh bread, and giveth them, and fish likewise. This is now the third time that Jesus shewed himself to his disciples, after that he was risen from the dead” (John 21:1-14).
“So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou. Me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep. Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdest thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me” (John 21:15-19).
“Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee? Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do? Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? Follow thou me. Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that the disciple should not die: yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?” (John 21:20-23).
“This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true. And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I supposed that even t he world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen” (John 21:24-25).
When you come to this particular portion of Scripture you will notice that it is one that is centered around the activity of Jesus post resurrection. It would be in the opening verses of this chapter we encounter the stone being rolled away from the tomb where Jesus’ lifeless body had been laid and His emergence from the tomb. If there is perhaps one mystery found within the New Testament—perhaps even within Scripture as a whole—it’s what that scene was like first thing in the morning on the third day. We know that there were angelic visitations, we know that the stone was rolled away from the entrance to the tomb and we know that there was an earthquake which caused the Roman soldiers guarding the tomb to tremble and fall upon their faces. The apostle Paul adds additional commentary concerning the resurrection when he writes about the Spirit of the LORD being the One who raised Christ from the grave. We know the stone was rolled away and that Jesus exited the tomb with the cloth around His head being in one place within the tomb while the grave clothes which wrapped His body were left behind within the tomb. In all reality the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ was similar and yet different to that of Lazarus for when Lazarus emerged from the grave he was still bound head to toe with the grave clothes which his lifeless body was wrapped in. Oh imagine what it must have been like for Lazarus to have emerged from the tomb wrapped in grave clothes—perhaps not being entirely aware of what had happened after he had died and passed from this life to the next.
If there is one thing surrounding the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ which so intrigues and captivates me it’s the events which took place on the early morning of the third day. We know the stone was rolled away, however, we don’t know if it was one of the angels who rolled away the stone or if the stone was rolled away as a result of the earthquake. What’s more is we don’t know if Jesus Himself rolled away the stone from the entrance to His own tomb in which His lifeless body laid. I am inclined to believe that one of the angels rolled away the stone from the entrance to the tomb and that after the stone was rolled away the very Spirit of God raised Jesus up from the grave and allowed Him to emerge from the tomb very much alive. Just like the living and eternal God breathed into the nostrils of Adam after He had formed him from the dust of the earth outside the garden causing him to become a living soul the Spirit of the Sovereign LORD would essentially breathe into and breathe upon the lifeless body of the Lord Jesus Christ as He lie there within that borrowed tomb. In all reality it is quite intriguing when you take the time to think about and consider this as it calls and draws our attention to the breathe of the Spirit causing Adam to become a living soul and coming alive for the very first time and the Spirit breathing within and breathing upon Jesus thus causing Him to rise from death to life. Oh we must needs recognize and understand the activity of the Spirit in the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ—particularly and especially when you consider the activity and presence of the Holy Spirit in Ezekiel’s vision of the Valley of the dry bones. It would be in the thirty-seventh chapter of the Old Testament prophetic book of Ezekiel we encounter and come face to face with the Spirit taking Ezekiel up in visions of God into a valley that was filled with a very many bones which were dry and scattered throughout the valley floor. With this in mind I invite you to consider the following words found in the thirty-seventh chapter of the prophetic book of Ezekiel beginning with the first verse:
“The hand of the LORD was upon me, and carried me out in the Spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones, and caused me to pass by them round about: and, behold, there were very many in the open valley; and, lo, they were very dry. And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O LORD God, thou knowest. Again he said unto me, Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. Thus saith the LORD God unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live: and I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and. Ye shall live; and ye shall know that I am the LORD. So I prophesied as I was commanded: and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold a shaking, and the bones came together, bone to his bone. And when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came upon them, and the skin covered them above: but there was no breath in them. Then said he unto me, Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of many, and say to the wind, Thus saith the LORD God; Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live. So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, and exceeding great army. Then he said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts. Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the LORD God; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. And ye shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves, and shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I the LORD have spoken it, and performed it, saith the LORD” (Ezekiel 37:1-14).
It is absolutely necessary that we recognize and pay close attention to the words found in this passage of Scripture for within it we not only find a valley that was filled with a very many bones but we also find a valley filled with a valley of many bones which were dry and lifeless. Within this vision which Ezekiel was shown he was instructed by the sovereign LORD to prophesy unto the bones that they might come together and that sinews and flesh might come upon them. What we must needs recognize and understand, however, is that although the bones came together and although flesh and sinews came upon the bones there would be no breath in them and they would be nothing more than outer shells of fallen beings who had no breath. There would be the initial prophetic word which would be declared that would cause the bones to come together and sinews and flesh to come upon those bones and there would be a second prophetic word that would be prophesied—that which would command the breath of God to come from the four winds of the earth and breathe upon these slain that they might live. It would be in direct response to the prophetic word and declaration of Ezekiel that the breath of God would come upon these slain and just like the breath of God entered into Adam causing him to become a living soul so also would the breath of God enter these slain that they might live. It would be after the breath of God would come upon these slain after the bones themselves came together and flesh and sinews came upon those bones that they would not only come to life but would also stand upon their feet as an exceeding great army. Oh how absolutely incredible it is to read the words found within this passage and to see firsthand the activity of the Holy Spirit as the Holy Spirit would not only breathe upon these slain that they might live but would cause them to come to life again.
I sit here this morning thinking about and considering the words which are found in this passage of Scripture and I can’t help but see the activity of the Holy Spirit being evident and manifested in the act of resurrection. We know in the second chapter of the Old Testament book of Genesis that the Holy Spirit as the very breath of God would be the catalyst that would cause Adam who was at that time only a lifeless being formed from the dust of the ground to become a living soul. In all reality it is quite interesting to read the words found in the thirty-seventh chapter of the Old Testament prophetic book of Ezekiel for the same activity of the Spirit and breath of God that was manifested in the earth outside the garden was the same activity of the Spirit and breath of God in this valley of dry bones. Outside the garden Adam would be formed from the dust of the ground as the LORD God undoubtedly created bones, sinews, flesh and the like for this being called Adam and yet Adam would not be a living soul until the breath of life was breathed into his nostrils. Adam’s lifeless body which had newly been formed from the dust of the earth would not become a living soul until the breath of life entered into his nostrils and completely filled him causing him to become a living soul. This in and of itself is entirely and altogether intriguing when you take the time to think about it for the same Spirit that caused Adam to become a living soul would be the same Spirit that would breathe into the nostrils of this great army which would experience a part of resurrection.
If there is one thing which I find to be truly captivating when reading the words found in the thirty-seventh chapter of the prophetic book of Ezekiel it’s that the valley was filled with the bones of a very many people who were long deceased and who were no more within the earth. The only thing that remained within the earth from those that had fallen and those that had been slain were there bones which were very many, which were very dry and which were scattered all throughout the valley floor. There would, however, be something that would entirely and altogether change this for a prophet of the living God would show up having been brought to this valley both in and by the Spirit of the living God. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for there would essentially be three different prophetic words which would be spoken in the midst of this valley on this occasion. There would be the initial prophetic word that would cause the bones to come together bone to his bone and flesh and sinews to come upon those bones. Once this prophetic word had been fulfilled as a result of Ezekiel’s obedience to the command of the LORD a second prophetic word would come forth—that prophetic word which would cause the breath of the living God and the breath of the Spirit to enter into these slain that they might live. Not only this but there would be a third prophetic word that would come unto and come upon the now living army that was present within the valley. That which was once nothing more than a very many bones which were dry and scattered throughout and across the floor were now standing before Ezekiel as a living and exceeding great army. Oh I can’t help but wonder what this particular sight and sound must have been like for Ezekiel when he not only heard the noise and rattling of the bones coming together but also saw sinews and flesh come upon those bones after they had come together. Not only this but Ezekiel would also witness the breath of the living God enter into these which had been slain causing them to become living souls once more.
THE BREATH THAT CAUSES ONE TO COME ALIVE FOR THE FIRST TIME! THE BREATH THAT CAUSES THOSE WHO ARE SLAIN TO COME ALIVE FOR THE SECOND TIME! Oh the more we think about and consider this particular truth and reality the more we are brought face to face with the fact that the very Spirit of the living God was indeed very much active in the garden, as well as in the valley and even in the grave. THE GARDEN, THE VALLEY AND THE GRAVE! Although we can’t describe Adam become a living soul as a resurrection we must needs recognize that the same type of activity of the living God and of the Holy Spirit which would later be manifested in Scripture would indeed be manifested in the valley in Ezekiel’s vision as well as the grave in which Jesus’ lifeless body lie and was buried. What a truly awesome and powerful truth this is when we think about and consider the fact that the activity of the Spirit not only causes that which has never lived before to come alive for the first time as well as that which was once alive and died to live again. Oh there is the process of the breath of the Spirit of the Sovereign LORD causing things which were never alive to come to life for the first time while there is the process of the breath of the Spirit of the living God that would cause that which has died to come to life for the second time. What a truly awesome and powerful thought it is as you consider the fact that the Spirit is not only involved in bringing life to what has never experienced life before and restoring life to that which died and has perhaps been buried in the grave.
I sit here today thinking about and considering the words which are found in the thirty-seventh chapter of the prophetic book of Ezekiel and I find myself being absolutely gripped and captivated with the activity of the Holy Spirit causing that which was once dead to come to life again. The initial prophetic word would cause the bones to come together and flesh and sinews to come upon those bones, however, it would be the second prophetic word that would cause the breath of the Spirit of the Sovereign LORD to enter into those slain and cause them to live again. With this being said there was a third prophetic word which the prophet Ezekiel prophesied—one which is oftentimes overlooked when reading this passage. This particular passage has been taught and preached behind pulpits throughout the centuries and chapters and books have been written concerning this prophetic event within the life of Ezekiel and yet most choose only to focus on the first two prophetic words. Those who talk, teach, preach and speak about Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones do so focusing on the prophetic word that caused the bones to come together and flesh and sinews to come upon those bones as well as the prophetic word that caused the breath of the Spirit of the Sovereign LORD to enter into those which had been slain causing them to live again. The truth of the matter, however, is that there was a third prophetic word found within this chapter—one which carries just as much weight and significance as the first two. It would be in the third prophetic word the living and eternal God would reveal that the bones represented the whole house of Israel who said of themselves that their bones were dried, their hope was lost, and they had been cut off for their parts. The prophet Ezekiel would be commanded by the LORD to proclaim and prophesy unto them that the LORD would open their graves and cause them to come up out of those graves and bring them into the land of Israel. Not only this but Ezekiel would also be commanded to declare unto the house of Israel that they shall know that He is the LORD when He opened their graves and brought them up out of those graves and put His Spirit in them causing them to live and being placed in their own land.
THE OPENING OF GRAVES! THE COMING OUT OF GRAVES! I WILL OPEN YOUR GRAVES! I WILL CAUSE YOU TO COME UP OUT OF YOUR GRAVES! Please do not miss the tremendous significance of what is found in this third prophetic word for it is what is found in this third prophetic word that directly links the breath and activity of the Spirit causing that which was once dead to come to life with the opening of graves and the coming forth of graves. It would be in Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones where we would continue to see resurrection as being possible—this despite the fact that there were instances of resurrection which took place during the days of Elijah and Elisha. It would be during the days of these Old Testament Hebrew prophets that resurrection would in fact take place as these prophets would pray and entreat the living God to cause those which had died to come to life again. What we find here in the prophetic book of Ezekiel, however, would directly and intrinsically link together the activity and breath of the Spirit with life—and not only with life but with the opening of graves and the coming out of graves. Despite the fact that there would in fact be resurrection which would take place during the days of Elijah and Elisha there would be no opening of graves nor would there be any coming forth from those graves. Both Elisha and Elijah would pray and petition the LORD on behalf of those who were dead that they might live again and the LORD would hear and honor their requests by causing those which died to come to life once more.
This third prophetic word which was found in the Old Testament prophetic book of Ezekiel is one that is absolutely remarkable and astounding when you take the time to truly consider it as it calls and draws our attention to the intrinsic link and connection between the opening of graves and the coming out of those graves with the breath and activity of the Holy Spirit causing that which was once dead to come to life again. It is absolutely necessary that we pay close attention to this for although there would indeed be the initial opening of graves and even the coming forth from the graves there would still need to be the presence and activity of the Holy Spirit. It is this third prophetic word found in the prophetic book of Ezekiel that calls and draws our attention to the tremendous link and connection between the opening of graves, the coming out of the graves and the breath of the living God causing that which was once dead to come to life once more. What adds even more weight to this is that there were at least three instances within the New Testament when graves were opened and when those which were once dead not only came forth from those graves but also experienced life once more. It is in the twenty-sixth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew that describes the opening of the graves of the righteous at the death of Jesus as well as the resurrection and coming to life of those dead at the resurrection of Jesus. It would be in the twenty-seventh chapter of the gospel written by Matthew, the sixteenth chapter of the gospel narrative written by John Mark, the twenty-fourth chapter of the gospel written by Luke and the twentieth chapter of the gospel written by the apostle John that would describe the grave in which Jesus’ lifeless body lie being opened and His coming forth from the grave having been raised from death to life by the Spirit of the Sovereign LORD. What’s more is it would be in the eleventh chapter of the New Testament gospel written by the apostle John we find the grave of Lazarus—that friend whom Jesus loved—being opened and he which was once dead emerging from the grave very much alive and being loosed from his grave clothes. Oh consider if you will the following words found in each of these passages concerning the opening of graves, the coming forth of those which were once dead as well as the activity of the Holy Spirit:
“Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many” (Matthew 27:50-53).
“Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate, saying, Sir, we remember that the deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again. Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first. Pilate said unto them, Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can. So they went and made the sepulchre sure, stealing the stone, and setting a watch. In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary to see the sepulchre. And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the LORD descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: and for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men. And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you. And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy: and did run to bring his disciples word. And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him. Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me” (Matthew 27:46-28:10).
“And now when the even was come, because it was the preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea, an honourable counseller, which also waited for the kingdom of God, came, and went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus. And Pilate marvelled if he were already dead: and calling unto him the centurion, he ask him whether he had been any while dead. And when he knew it of the centurion, he gave the body to Joseph. And he brought fine linen, and laid him a sepulchre which was hewn out of a rock, and rolled a stone unto the door of the sepulchure. And Mary Magdalen and Mary the mother of Joses beheld where he was laid. And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salmone, had brought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him. And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchure at the rising of the sun. And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre? And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great. And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted. 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. But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you. And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any man: for they were afraid. Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils. And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept. And they, when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not. After that he appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked, and went into the country. And they went and told it unto the residue: neither believed they them. Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraidedthem with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen” (Mark 15:42-16:14).
“And, behold, there was a man named Joseph, a counseller; and he was a good man, and a just: (The same had not consented to the counsel and deed of them;) he was of Arimathaea, a city of the Jews: who also himself waited for the kingdom of God. This man went unto Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. And he took it down, and wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a sepulchre that was hewn in stone, wherein never man before was laid. And that day was the preparation, and the sabbath drew on. And the women also, which came with him from Galilee, followed after, and beheld the sepulchre, and how his body was laid. And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the sabbath day according to the commandment. Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchure, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them. And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre. And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus. And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments: and as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again. And they remembered his words, and returned form the sepulchre, and told all these things unto the eleven, and to all the rest. It was Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women that were with them, which told these things unto the apostles. And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not. Then arise Peter, and ran unto the sepulchre; and stooping down, he beheld the linen clothes laid by themselves, and departed, wondering in himself at that which was come to pass” (Luke 23:50-24:12).
“And after this Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus. And therte came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight. Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury. Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre wherein was never man yet laid. There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews’ preparation day: for the sepulchre was nigh at hand. The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre. Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciples, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord our of the sepulchre, and we know not where they had laid him. Peter therdfore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre. So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre. And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying: yet went he not in. Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie, and the napkin that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself. Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed. For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead. Then the disciples went away again unto their own home” (John 19:38-20:10).
“Now Jesus was not yet come into the town, but was in that place where Martha met him. The Jews then which were with her in the house, and comforted her, when they saw Mary, that she rose up hastily and went out, followed her, saying, She goeth unto the grave to weep there. Then when mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled, and said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see. Jesus wept. Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him! And some of them said, Could not this man, which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died? Jesus therefore again groaning in himself cometh to the grave. It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it. Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days. Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God? Then took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that hou hast heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me. And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him god” (John 11:30-44).
Now I recognize that this was a lot of Scripture which was just presented in this writing—namely four different accounts of the resurrection of the grave, one account of the resurrection of Lazarus from the grave and the account of the graves of the righteous being opened at the death of Jesus being opened and their coming forth from the graves at His resurrection. The truth of the matter, however, is that it was and is entirely necessary to pay close attention to each of these passages for there is one thing they all share and have in common—yea, actually two things they all have in common. The first link between each of these passages is that of the graves of those which were once dead being opened—the graves of the righteous being opened at the death of Jesus, the grave of Jesus Himself being opened, and the grave of Lazarus being opened. The second link between each of these passages is those who were dead emerging and coming forth from those graves. How incredibly powerful it is to read the words found in these passages of Scripture and how the words and language which we find in the Old Testament prophetic book of Ezekiel seems to be intrinsically linked and connected to what is presented before us in these New Testament passages of Scripture. It is in the Old Testament prophetic book of Ezekiel we find the Sovereign LORD declaring unto this Hebrew prophet in exile that He would open the graves of the house of Israel and cause them to come forth from those graves. Not only this but the LORD also declared unto Ezekiel that once those graves were opened and those who were dead emerging and coming forth from them He would put His spirit in them and they would live again. This was in all reality the underlying truth surrounding the vision as a whole for within this valley we encounter bones which were very many, which were very dry and which were scattered coming together and flesh and sinews forming upon them. Once the initial work of formation was completed the secondary work of breath and life would take place. Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for the LORD still moves and operates this way as He first completes the work of formation before He engages the secondary work of breathing into the nostrils of those which were dead that they might live again.
What we find in these New Testament gospels are the graves of at least two individuals whose names we know being opened as well as the graves of a number of other righteous saints also being opened. We don’t know the names of the righteous who were buried in these graves nor even how many righteous dead experienced their graves being opened but we do know that there were a number of righteous dead whose graves were opened at the death of Jesus and that many of those which slept arose. The apostle Matthew is the only one to record this particular truth and it is one we must needs understand for it would be at the death of Jesus the graves of the righteous would be unlocked and would be opened while it would be at His resurrection those which slept and arose would actually come forth from the graves. It is absolutely remarkable and powerful when we read and consider this particular truth for within the Old Testament prophetic book of Ezekiel we find the third prophetic word spoken and released by Ezekiel unto those which now lived again that they represented the house of Israel. Those in the house of Israel felt as though all hope was lost and that there was nothing that would come of their situation and circumstances. The truth of the matter, however, was that the LORD would not only open their graves and cause them to come forth from those graves but would also cause His Spirit to dwell within them and cause them to come to life once more. I am absolutely convinced this third prophetic word which was spoken by the prophet Ezekiel is one which has tremendous weight and significance for it is this third prophetic word that directly links together the opening of graves, the coming forth from those graves and the activity of the Spirit. Oh there is not a doubt in my mind that this third prophetic word is such which must be carefully understood for it helps serve as the background and foundation for what we find in the New Testament gospel narratives.
In all reality I have to admit that I absolutely love the words which are found in the four New Testament gospels as they call and draw our attention to the absolutely tremendous truth that there were indeed resurrections which would take place—including that of Jesus Himself—which would and could take place yet not without and apart from graves being opened. The apostle Matthew was very specific when he wrote how at the death of Jesus the graves of many righteous were opened and how many of those which slept arose yet did not actually emerge from the graves and enter into the city until the resurrection of Jesus Himself. Each of the four gospel authors wrote concerning the resurrection of Jesus on the third day and we find how an angel of the LORD descended from heaven and not only rolled away the stone but also sat upon the stone. Through the accounts and narratives of these gospel authors we encounter the awesome truth that there was a great earthquake which struck the ground on the third day and how the guards stationed outside the tomb where Jesus’ body lay not only fell to the ground but were affrighted and terrified. What’s more is that we find that after the stone was rolled away and Jesus emerged from the grave an angel appeared and spoke unto the two Mary’s which came unto the tomb very early in the morning at the rising of the sun. What’s more is that not only would an angel from heaven appear unto these two women there in the garden but so also would Jesus appear unto these two women. On the same day in which He emerged from the tomb and on the same day He emerged from death to life Jesus would appear unto these women and would show unto them first that He was indeed alive. Oh it is this particular truth of Jesus Himself showing that He was alive which is the foundation for the final verses of the twentieth chapter and that which is contained in the twenty-first chapter.
As you turn and direct your attention to the words found in the twentieth and twenty-first chapters of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John you will find that at the very heart and center of them is the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ from the grave. What’s more is that these chapters are not only focused on Jesus’ resurrection from death to life but also His showing Himself as alive unto certain women who came to the tomb, as well as unto the remaining eleven disciples. In fact it is in the final verses of the twentieth chapter and the opening verses of the twenty-first chapter we find and encounter Jesus shewing Himself alive and appearing unto the disciples on three separate occasions. Oh if there is one thing I can’t help but be absolutely gripped and captivated by when reading these words it’s that not only did Jesus emerge from the grave on the third day but He also deliberately and intentionally took the time to show Himself as being alive unto certain women of their company, as well as unto the disciples. What’s more is that the Lord Jesus Christ would also show Himself alive unto two men who journeyed from the city of Jerusalem unto the town of Emmaus. It would be the physician Luke and John Mark who would write about Jesus showing Himself alive unto these two men as He not only appeared unto them but also walked with them. Jesus’ appearing and showing Himself unto the women in the garden as well as unto the two men who were walking on the road to Emmaus that would begin to set in motion the events surrounding Jesus showing Himself unto the disciples. It is absolutely captivating when reading the words in the twentieth and twenty-first chapters of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John for not only does the apostle write of Jesus showing Himself unto the disciples once but he emphatically writes about Jesus showing Himself unto the disciples three different and three distinct times.
Before we get into these three different times in which Jesus showed Himself alive unto the disciples I feel it is absolutely necessary that we consider—not only the words which are found in the twenty-fourth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by Luke but also the words which are found in the first chapter of the New Testament book of Acts and the fifteenth chapter of the first epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints. It would be in each of these different sections of scripture we encounter and come face to face with Jesus not only emerging from the grave but also showing Himself alive unto men before He would ascend unto the right hand of the Father. If you think about it Jesus could have been raised from death to life on the third day and immediately ascended unto the right hand of the Father. The Father could have raised Jesus from death to life there in the tomb without the stone ever being rolled away and Jesus could have ascended unto the Father from within the tomb itself without even needing to come forth from the grave. What we find in Scripture, however, is not only the stone which was before the tomb being rolled away, not only the grave clothes remaining behind within the tomb, not only Jesus emerging from the tomb very much alive, but we also find Jesus showing Himself alive unto certain of His disciples and those in the comp0any of men and women who walked with, followed and believed in Him. What would begin with Jesus’ appearing unto the two women in the garden would continue with His appearing unto the two men on the road to Emmaus before His appearing unto and showing Himself alive unto the eleven apostles—not once, not twice, but on three different occasions. It is with this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the New Testament concerning Jesus showing Himself alive during those forty days following His resurrection and prior to His ascension:
“And as they thus spake, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? And why do thoughts arise in your hearts? Behold my hands my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet. And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat? And they gave him a piece of broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. And he took it, and did eat before them. And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, and said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things. And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem until ye be endued with power from on high. And he led them out as far as Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them. And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy: and were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen” (Luke 24:36-53).
“The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen: to whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God: and, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should depart form Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth. And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven. Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem about a sabbath day’s journey. And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James. These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren” (Acts 1:1-14).
“Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; by which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: and that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: after that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom t he greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called and apostle, because I persecuted the church of God” (1 Corinthians 15:1-9).
The words which we find in each of these passages carefully describes how the Lord Jesus Christ appeared unto and showed Himself to different individuals after He had been risen from the grave. We know from the gospel narratives written by the gospel authors that Jesus first appeared and showed Himself unto Mary Magdalene at the tomb in the garden and that He then showed Himself unto the two men who journeyed on the road to Emmaus before departing from their presence. Both Mary and these two men would bring report unto the apostles that they had seen the Lord and that He had risen before Jesus Himself appeared unto them. There is perhaps no greater truth surrounding the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ than that prior to His resurrection He showed Himself alive with many infallible proofs. Not only this but for forty days after He was raised from death to life Jesus showed Himself unto the apostles and at one point unto upwards of five-hundred brethren at once. Oh there is something truly astounding and powerful about the resurrection of Jesus—and not only the resurrection of Jesus but also His showing Himself alive unto those who walked with and followed Him. It wasn’t simply enough for Jesus to emerge from the tomb and the grave and then immediately ascend into heaven for there was a showing and a revealing that needed to take place. With this being said we must needs recognize that after His resurrection the Lord Jesus Christ not only showed Himself as being alive but He also showed the scars from His suffering and from His crucifixion. Scripture makes it perfectly clear that when Jesus appeared unto the apostles He not only showed them the prints in His hand but also the print in His side where the soldier thrust the spear into Him causing blood and water to flow.
I sit here today thinking about and considering the resurrection of Jesus and I can’t help but be brought face to face with the awesome truth surrounding the showing of Himself as alive as well as the showing of the scars upon His physical body. When we think about and consider the showing of Jesus as live we must recognize and understand that part of the showing Himself alive was the showing and revealing of the scars. It is truly something awesome and worth considering that Jesus could have been raised from death to life without the scars from where the nails were hammered into His hands, He could have been raised from death to life without the scars from where the nail was hammered into His feet, and He could have been raised from death to life without the scar from where the spear was thrust into His side. The truth regarding the resurrection of Jesus, however, is that when He emerged from the grave—not only did He emerge from the grave very much alive but He also emerged with the scars upon His physical flesh as proof that He was indeed alive. In fact, I would dare say that the scars were a necessary part of showing Himself as being alive for the scars were in and of themselves proof that He had suffered. The stone rolled away and the graveclothes being left behind were proof that He had risen from the grave while the scars in His hands and in His side were proof that He had suffered. When Jesus showed Himself unto the apostles He not only showed Himself as being alive but He also showed Himself to have suffered and that He had the scars to prove it.
As I prepare to bring this writing to a close it is absolutely necessary that we recognize and understand that Jesus showing Himself unto the apostles was absolutely necessary for He didn’t merely show Himself unto them but also showed His scars as well. You cannot read the words found in the gospel narratives and not encounter the awesome and incredible truth that the Lord Jesus Christ rose from death to life on the third day and that He showed Himself alive unto Mary Magdalene, unto the apostles, unto the two men journeying on the road to Emmaus, and even unto upwards of up to five hundred at once. We know that Jesus showed the scars and the prints in His hands and His side unto the apostles as well as unto Thomas and I can’t help but wonder if He showed those same prints and scars unto the five-hundred whom He appeared to during those forty days. With this being said I can’t help but consider the fact that Jesus spent forty days showing and demonstrating that He was alive and thus had overcome death but also showing the scars which were proof that He had indeed suffered. The scars in His hands and in His side were not only proof that He had suffered but that He was the Christ whom certain among them had witnessed as having suffered. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for there is something absolutely wonderful about Jesus not only showing Himself alive but also having showed Himself as having suffered in the flesh as well. The stone being rolled away was proof and evidence that He had indeed risen from the grave while the scars was evidenced that He had in fact suffered. STONES AND SCARS! If we are being honest with ourselves and with the Holy Spirit we must needs admit that there is something truly powerful about the testimony of stones and scars. There is something truly powerful about stones that have been rolled away and thus serve as notice that we have been raised from death to life and scars upon our persons serving notice that we have not only suffered in the flesh but have indeed come out on the other side of that suffering.
I am absolutely captivated with the fact that the stone being rolled away was indeed part of the resurrection process for the stone needed to be rolled away that Jesus might emerge from the grave. Not only must needs the stone being rolled away but so also was it necessary for the graveclothes being left behind for those who are alive have absolutely no need for graveclothes in the land of the living. The stone being rolled away from the tombs and graves serve notice that the Spirit of the living God has indeed raised us from death to life and has restored us unto life once more while the scars within our physical persons and quite possibly within our hearts and souls indicate that we have not only suffered but have also overcome the suffering we have experienced. The print of the nails in the hands of Jesus and the print of the spear which was thrust in His side indicate that Jesus did indeed suffer and die. It was the stone being rolled away that indicated Jesus was dead and is now alive while it is the scars in His hands and side that indicate that He did in fact suffer and die in the flesh. It is truly incredible to read the words found in the final chapters of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John for the words presented here not only indicate that Jesus did in fact rise from the grave and from death to life but also that He showed Himself as alive unto the apostles—not only through many infallible proofs but also through the scars in His hands and in His side. Oh there was the element of showing Himself alive that was evidenced and manifested through infallible proofs but there was also the evidence that Jesus was alive as evidence and manifested through the showing of the scars. Oh that we would recognize and understand that Jesus did indeed suffer in the flesh and was crucified on a cruel Roman tree before being buried in a borrowed tomb and that not only was the stone rolled away thus making room for Him to rise from death to life but He also kept and held on to the scars as proof that He did indeed suffer and die in the flesh and when He was raised from death to life in the flesh He bore the proof of that suffering and death.