The Most Important Question in the World
The Most Important Question in the World
The brilliant professor of philosophy at London University, C.E.M. Joad, was not a Christian. He was asked on a radio programme, ‘If you could meet any person from the past and ask them just one question, whom would you meet and what question would you ask?’
Professor Joad answered without hesitation: ‘I would meet Jesus Christ and ask him the most important question in the world – “Did you or did you not rise from the dead?”’
There came a day in Professor Joad’s life when he assessed the evidence, encountered Jesus himself and wrote a book called, Recovery of Belief. If Jesus Christ is risen from the dead, this changes everything.
When the New Testament writers speak of God’s love they point to the cross. When they speak of God’s power they point to the resurrection. God’s ‘incomparably great power’ was ‘exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead’ (Ephesians 1:19–20). The risen Jesus says to his disciples, ‘All authority (all power to rule) in heaven and on earth has been given to me’ (Matthew 28:18, AMP).
The resurrection means that the risen Jesus is present with you now. Jesus continues, ‘I am with you always’ (v.20).
The result of the resurrection is not only his power and his presence but also his provision.
His powerPsalm 21:8-13
According to the New Testament it is Jesus who is ‘the power of God’ (1 Corinthians 1:24).
David praises God for his ‘strength’ and ‘power’ (Psalm 21:13, AMP). He speaks of his confidence in God’s ‘hand’ (v.8a) and in particular his ‘right hand’ (v.8b). In the Bible, the hand, especially the right hand, is used as a symbol of might and power (Exodus 15:6,12). David is speaking of God’s powerful hand in judgment.
In the New Testament, the resurrected Jesus is frequently described as being at ‘the right hand of God’ (for example, Acts 2:33a). When you see those who ‘plot evil’ and ‘devise wicked schemes’ (Psalm 21:11) succeed in life, remember that their power is temporary because Jesus sits at the place of ultimate authority and power at God’s right hand. There will come a time when God will intervene. Jesus is risen and will come again to judge the living and the dead.
Lord, thank you for your great strength and power. ‘Be exalted, Lord, in your strength; we will sing and praise your power’ (v.13, AMP).
His presenceMatthew 28:1-20
I have found that there is nothing greater in life than to experience the sense of the presence of the resurrected Jesus.
The risen Jesus commissions his followers to ‘go and make disciples of all nations’ (v.19a). This is our calling as individuals and as a church community. The vision statement of our church is ‘to play our part in the evangelisation of the nations, the revitalisation of the church and the transformation of society’. It is based on this command of Jesus.
Together with the command comes a promise: ‘I am with you always’ (v.20b). The resurrection isn’t just an historical fact or religious idea; it is a life-changing reality. God promises that as you go about fulfilling his commission, the presence of the resurrected Jesus goes with you.
When the women see the empty tomb the angel tells them, ‘He is not here; he has risen… you will see him’ (vv.6–7).
Filled with ‘great joy’ they ran to tell the disciples. As they did so, ‘Jesus met them’ (v.9). They experienced the presence of the risen Jesus (vv.8–10), ‘clasped his feet’ (v.9) and worshipped him as God (vv.9b,17a).
The attempts of others to explain away the empty tomb began very early on (v.13) and, in spite of all the evidence, not everyone believed (v.17b). It was suggested that ‘his disciples… stole him away while [the soldiers] were asleep’ (v.13). Some people still postulate this explanation. But it does not fit the evidence:
- The disciples were discouraged and frightened. Only the miracle of the resurrection could have transformed them
- They did not expect Jesus to rise from the dead. They had no motive to steal the body
- The tomb was heavily guarded (27:62–66)
- They were not the only ones who saw Jesus. Many others saw him after the resurrection and interacted with him over a period of forty days (Acts 1:3; 1 Corinthians 15:6)
- If the disciples did steal the body, their whole lives thereafter were based on a lie. My friend Ian Walker, a Cambridge scientist, became a Christian because he could not believe that the disciples would have been willing to be tortured and put to death for something they would have known was not true.
It really is true. Jesus is risen. Death and burial are not the end. In Christ, you too will be raised from the dead.
It was women who were the first to be entrusted with the message of the resurrection. This is particularly noteworthy since women at the time were not considered valid witnesses in court. They are one of many examples in the Bible of women in leadership (Miriam in our Old Testament passage for today is another example).
Matthew’s Gospel starts by stating that Jesus is ‘God with us’ (Matthew 1:23). In the very last verse of the Gospel, Jesus affirms his eternal ongoing presence with all of his followers. To those who believe and obey Jesus’ command, he promises, ‘I am with you always’ (28:20b).
Lord, thank you that you send me out to go and make disciples of all nations and you promise that the presence of Jesus will go with me.
His provisionExodus 15:1-16:36
Are you worrying about the future – your health, your job, your family or your finances? Make a decision today not to worry. Corrie ten Boom said, ‘Worrying is carrying tomorrow’s load with today’s strength – carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time.’ Trust God and learn to live one day at a time.
We see in this passage that God promises to provide, but only one day at a time. Jesus taught us to pray ‘Give us this day our daily bread’ (Matthew 6:11). Trust God that he will provide for you just when you need it.
The song of Moses and Miriam in chapter 15 is a great example of this trust in God expressed in worship. They praised God for his character (Exodus 15:1–5), then they praised God for what he had done in the past – salvation, rescue and provision (vv.6–12), and finally they praised him for what he would do in the future – guidance, salvation, protection and provision (vv.13–18).
God promises his provision for their material needs. He promises to rain down ‘bread from heaven’ (16:4a) called ‘manna’ (v.31). Each day he provides them with all they need in terms of their ‘daily bread’. Each one gathered as much as they needed (vv.18c,21a). But they were told not to store it up for the future: ‘No one is to keep any of it until morning’ (v.19).
This is something that we have experienced as a church community over the years. God supplies all our material needs but he does not give us more than we need. We do not store up reserves for the future, rather we trust God constantly that he will provide month by month and year by year.
It is always a temptation to want to store up everything we receive as security for the future – rather than trusting God to provide what we need when we need it. This also applies to our spiritual needs – we cannot just rely on past blessings.
It is sad to see in this passage how quickly the people of God seem to forget about God’s goodness and provision in the past and begin to grumble about problems in the present. So often I am tempted to do the same. This passage is a reminder of the need to trust in God’s provision in the good times and the hard times.
Jesus himself tells us that he is the ultimate provision of God. He says, ‘I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which people may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live for ever.’ (John 6:48–51).
It is the resurrection of Jesus that gives an eternal quality to this provision. Because Jesus has been raised to life, those who eat this bread will live for ever.
Thank you, Lord, that you promise that ‘[you] will meet all [our] needs according to [your] glorious riches in Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 4:19). As I look back with thanksgiving, I look forward with anticipation and trust that you will continue to supply all my needs according to your riches in the resurrected Jesus Christ.
In a culture where women were considered second-class citizens, Jesus appeared first to two women. He chose two ordinary women and trusted them with the most important news in the whole of history.
Verse of the Day
Corrie ten Boom, Clippings From My Notebook, (Triangle, 1983).
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.
Scripture quotations marked (AMP) taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org)