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Easter

Surprising Death

April 17, 2022 • Sean Higgins • 1 Corinthians 2:8–9

# Introduction There are stories too good to be told only once. Some people enjoy going over known information, they get edification in the repetition, others enjoy seeking out new information and adding it to their collection. But there is one story in particular that is always the same and yet keeps making all things new. A key element in these stories is when things are *bad*. David and Goliath is a genre; there was no way David could win. Aslan at the Stone Table is brutal; when you read it for the first time it seems like hope dies. The 2004 Red Sox were down three games to none in a seven games series against the Yankees; no professional team in any sport had ever won four in a row in that situation. Chamberlain’s men were out of ammunition at the holding the Union’s left flank at Little Round Top. We eat these stories up like meat on a charcuterie board. What I pray brings comfort and strength and joy to you today is not only our remembrance that the darkness of the cross is eclipsed by the light of Christ's resurrection, but also that the cyclical attacks of the evil one, as bad as they have been, continually lead to his own undoing. At no point is this more obvious than the cross. Let's look at the main text for this morning and then trace the evil one's series of brutal yet self-defeating blunders. > Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written, > "What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, > nor the heart of man imagined, > what God has prepared for those who love Him." > (1 Corinthians 2:6-9) Paul has been exalting the word of the cross since 1 Corinthians 1:18. That word is *folly* to the kind of man who can only see what's in front of him, the man who takes his cues from what's everyone else around him thinks. Christ crucified made no sense as a way of salvation and certainly not as a way of glory. Christ crucified obviously made sense as the way to shut Christ down. Killing Him was clearly the move to make Him look bad. # Surprising Power But it is preaching Christ crucified that is God's wisdom. Christ crucified is God's power. > For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the **power** of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18 ESV) > to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the **power** of God and the wisdom of God. (1 Corinthians 1:24 ESV) > my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of **power**, (1 Corinthians 2:4 ESV) > so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the **power** of God. (1 Corinthians 2:5 ESV) The power of God is demonstrated in the crucifixion, which is a kind of divine *wisdom*, a wisdom that rulers missed, and in missing it they sealed not only their ignorance but their doom. Verse 6 doesn't change the subject from Christ crucified, but Paul does clarify that what sounded like a simple message--Christ crucified—is surprisingly powerful. **This age** is the current *aeon*, not just the first century, but is a *way* of looking at things. It’s less a whenever and more a however of a fleshly, man-centered, and *God-hating* way. They are playing a game, so to speak, and the field is only what's in front of them. There can only be one winner, and the competition must be destroyed. The **rulers** of this age are not just the Jewish leaders or Roman officials, Pilate and Herod and soldiers. Those men are included, as are all the men ever who lie and murder to get their power. But there are also spiritual rulers, angels, who were behind the scenes and to some extent always have been involved. There are “rulers and authorities” that are clearly men, there are “rulers and authorities” that are clearly *not* men. But they follow the same playbook. # The Typical Play You know how some women are always learning and never coming to the knowledge of the truth (2 Timothy 3:7)? The evil one is *Always Losing and Never Coming to the Knowledge of the Truth*. The ancient serpent hated God’s new image-bearers in the Garden of Eden, and for as much damage as he did to humanity, what he actually got was a specific, but not too specific, threat that became an obsession. “He shall bruise your head…” (Genesis 3:15). Who? When? How? Whether or not the “sons of God” (Genesis 6) were demons or demonically-possessed men, they tried to corrupt the seed of humanity in order to ruin the seed of the woman. What they got was not only a global demonstration of God’s power, but a forever covenant of God’s mercy. When news came that a child was born of a virgin, “the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it” (Revelation 12:4). Through Herod attempt was made to kill the boy, and what that got was more fulfillment of prophecy. # Winning That Isn’t And of course, the cross is the ultimate *defeat* of rebels. The death of Christ fulfills prophecies *and* satisfies the Father's wrath *and* purchases our forgiveness and eternal life *and* is the very triumph over the spiritual enemies that thought they were playing the terminal move. Check mate was a trap door. Satan himself deceived Judas into betraying Jesus. Satan and the rulers and authorities, both in the spiritual realm and in the sphere of politics, wanted Jesus dead. And they got what they wanted. They accomplished the terminal move. Their envy and anger didn't end with mocking and beating, but with crucifixion. That should have been it, right? But they didn't understand the game they were in. They didn't understand the wisdom or power of God. They crucified Jesus but it was the crucifixion that purchased the death of rivalry and divisions (1 Corinthians 1:10). It purchased the death of slavery to the opinions of foolish men (1 Corinthians 1:25). It purchased the death of need for self-righteousness, let alone buying our way out of debt (1 Corinthians 1:30). It purchased the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16), and the confidence that our faith does not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God (1 Corinthians 2:5). It purchased the death of death. > Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself \[Jesus] likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. (Hebrews 2:14–15 ESV) Death is the devil’s move. It is his best weapon. But the wisdom and power of God is that death is beaten through death. If Satan knew what was going to happen, would he have stopped it? For however much Jesus’ death was surprising to evil men, how much more to the evil one? # Wisdom That Isn’t What the natural man can't see is that his pragmatism doesn't even work, which was supposed to be its advantage. It's self-limiting (to this age) and self-destructing, as they are **doomed to pass away** (ESV) or "who are coming to nothing" (NIV). Not only is this currently happening in their heyday, it is something they are doing to themselves (the substantival participle τῶν καταργουμένων is in the middle voice, so reflexive. Not only are they causing something to be powerless, they are doing it to themselves.) They are patting themselves on the back with one hand and with the other sawing off the limb they're sitting on. The wisdom of men wants immediate results. It's not mature, it's as demanding and far-seeing as a toddler screaming for a third helping of ice cream; the crash is inevitable. # God-Given Glory The Son of Man, however, is **the Lord of glory**, a title which is only found in 1 Corinthians 1:8, but already echoes in the age to come. Jesus is not only the glorious Lord, or the one who gives glory, but the very revelation of it. In Him is displayed the wisdom and power of God in defeating so-called rulers by their own selfish glory-grabbing. This wisdom of the word of the cross is part of the Lord's glory. It was also **decreed before the ages for *our* glory** (2:7). There is **glory**, *kavod* or *gravity* in Hebrew, weighty, substantial, and splendor with its Greek nuance. Here is magnificence. Here is meaning. Here is God's purpose for His elect, *predestined* before the ages by God. He determined the boundary line, προορίζω, mark a horizon (see also Romans 8:29). (Also, the cross was predetermined, Acts 4:28). All the powers of this age are sinking, slipping, fading in power and glory, while those who believe the word of the cross are being lifted, secured, and gaining in substance and color. His enemies are like the grass that pulls a concrete block onto itself, while we are being planted like trees beside living waters. **as it is written** in verse 9 readies us for revelation, and it must be a quote from Isaiah 64:4 and it seems a line from Isaiah 65:17. Not from empirical testing (eye has not seen), community tradition (ear has not heard), or speculative intuition (heart has not conceived)(Garland). We “have received…the Spirit who is from God, what we might understand the things freely given us by God” (verse 12). # Conclusion The rulers of this age who ignore the crucifixion *and resurrection* of the Lord of glory will know the power of God, but they will know it as their own foolishness undoes them. The terminal move changed everything. “Up from the grave He arose, with a mighty triumph o’er His foes”! Christ is our wisdom from God, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption and *boast*! ---------- ## Charge Do not waste a worry on the opinions or hostilities of the men of this age. Their success is as likely to cohere as a used Easter egg sticker. Do not fear the spiritual forces of evil in heavenly places, God’s own purpose is to show off His wisdom to them through the church. Serve the risen Lord with gladness. Be wise as to what is good. Overcome evil with good, in the power of the risen Savior. ## Benediction: > The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. (Romans 16:20, ESV)

Resurrectio in Excelsis

April 4, 2021 • Sean Higgins

John 11:25-26 Series: Easter # Introduction When grapes die they are glorified. Without any external energy applied, a grape that has lived to the full becomes more potent every fall. I learned about this reality from Robert Capon, in a chapter titled "Water in Excelcis," water in the highest. Because of the way that God made grapes, and because He sustains the chemical processes that grow and ripen and then ferment, grapes are born to become wine. According to Psalm 104:15 it’s a *gift*; just as God gave grain to become bread, so He gave wine to gladden the heart of man. Wine is, according to God-given laws of science, inevitable. > “Each thing, at every moment, becomes the delight of His hand, the apple of His eye. The bloom of yeast lies upon the grapeskins year after year because He likes it; C6H12O6 = 2C2H5OH+2CO2 (glucose ferments into ethanol and carbon dioxide) is a dependable process because, every September, He says, That was nice; do it again.” (Capon, _The Supper of the Lamb_, 85) Man must intervene to stop fermentation, or react after the face to undo the results of the alcohol bonds. Man can also ignore the whole thing, excuse himself by covering his mouth, and his eyes, but he cannot make creation different. > “Only the ungrateful or the purblind (the slow) can fail to see that sugar in the grape and yeast on the skins is a divine idea, not a human one. Man’s part in the process consists of honest and prudent management of the work that God has begun. Something underhanded has to be done to grape juice to keep it from running its appointed course.” (Capon, 89) According to John 6:55-57, the living Father sent His Son to be true food and true drink. In flesh and blood Jesus lived to the full, full in obedience, and like a grain of wheat became even more potent when He died and was buried (see John 12:23-24). Because of who Jesus is, He could not help but rise from the grave. > God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. (Acts 2:24) According to God-given laws of sacrifice, Jesus' resurrection was inevitable, along with the resurrection of every man who believes in Jesus. A man can deny these truths, but he cannot undo them. *Resurrectio in excelcis!* This is resurrection in the highest! Grapes die every harvest to make hearts glad; wine exists inescapably. Jesus died once for all (Romans 6:10) and those who died with Him are given cups overflowing with joy in salvation. Jesus' resurrection is a first-fruits, and His elect can't help but be following-fruits (1 Corinthians 15:20). As He Himself said, He laid down His life for the sheep that they may have life and have it *abundantly* (John 10:10-11). So what is the deal with wine in an Easter sermon? There are a couple reasons, both of which I've already introduced without calling them points per se, and I'll restate them and then spend some time with each one. But it's also come to our attention that some outside our church have taken to calling us the "boozer" church. It is sort of humorous, and sort of expected, and sort of a great opportunity to ask what we want to be known for, indeed, what we *ought* to be known for. And that is as related to the resurrection as the letter r. We should not want to be known for our sin, though it wouldn't be a bad start if we had a reputation for being quick to confess our sin. And, of course, drunkenness *is* a sin. So is the wrong kind of fear. The same is true of thanklessness, or boredom with God, or lack of joy, or self-righteousness. But we keep worshiping even though it could be done wrongly. And based on the number of kids dressed in their new Easter outfits, it's obvious that husbands and wives aren't entirely avoiding the marriage bed even though the sins of lust and sexual immorality are obvious and dangerous selling points in our cultural context. The good news is that drunkenness died with Christ. He atoned for all our sins, and our fleshly desires died in Him and were buried with Him. So also lying and covetousness and anger and slander and obscene talk died with Him. And the good news is that death wasn't His end. It couldn't be. And because we are united with Him by faith, death isn't our end either, and that makes certain things certain. Wine, then, provides a double-analogy, both because it is inevitable and because, received rightly, it makes glad. # Resurrection was a When not If. Jesus' interchange with Martha in John 11 continues to help map my theological coordinates. The Gospel of John has the "I am" statements, claims that Jesus made about His nature as *God*. "I am" is, of course, the idea behind God's covenant name, *Yahweh*, which God told to Moses (Exodus 3:14). Jesus took up the I am identification for Himself. He said, "I am the bread of life" (John 6:35), "I am the light of the world" (John 8:12), "I am the door of “the sheep” (John 10:7). To some scoffers He even said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am" (John 8:58), leaving no doubt as to His conscious claim of divinity. In John 11 Jesus came two days late to see Lazarus. When He heard that Lazarus was sick He staid away (John 11:6), and when He arrived in Bethany Lazarus had already been buried four days (11:17). Lazarus had two sisters, Martha and Mary, and Martha came out to meet Jesus (11:20). She believed enough to believe that if Jesus had just come sooner He could have kept her brother from dying (11:21). Even still, she seemed to have some hope that Jesus might be able to do something (11:22). Jesus gave her some theology, but she initially put it in the wrong category. He said, "Your brother will rise again," and she understood that about the end times, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day." It is His response to this comment that requires our Easter attention. **Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life."** Resurrection, then, is not only an action God can accomplish, it is *an attribute of God* as revealed in the Son. Just as the Son is access to God (the door), as well as understanding (the light) and energy (the life) of the world, He is also the *conqueror* of death. He not only can keep from dying, He overcomes dying. It belongs with His very nature. When Martha acknowledges that He is “the Christ, the Son of God” (John 11:27), she is using the categories that she was familiar with. Putting it together, the Messiah is the Savior through death, Immanuel, God with us, who defeats death. It could not be otherwise because resurrection is God's idea, and in a sense it is in His very nature. When Jesus told His disciples that He must suffer, be killed, and then rise again (as in Matthew 16:21), it wasn't simply because He knew more of His Father's plan, it was because He knew His own character. When Jesus told His disciples that they would weep and lament, but that their sorrow would turn to joy as when a woman had great joy at the birth of her baby (John 16:20-22), it's because He knew the rejoicing that His resurrection and their reunion would bring. He said, > “So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” (John 16:22) We should drink this in. # Resurrection is a Joy not Killjoy. Jesus' resurrection gives birth to **joy** (John 16:22), to "the experience of gladness" (BDAG for *χαρά*). What is it, though, that causes such joy? There are *reasons* for joy, reasons for rejoicing, and it relates to some of the things that God gives us through the resurrection of His Son. *We can't be condemned/canceled*. Which is another way to say that we are forgiven, and we can know that we are forgiven because Jesus' resurrection demonstrates the Father's acceptance of the sacrifice. We deserved judgment; "The wages of sin is death." All of us *were* guilty, and God's righteousness requires that unrighteousness be addressed. For all those who would ever believe, God sent His Son to die in their place. Jesus paid it all, it is finished. Peter wrote, > Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him. (1 Peter 3:21–22) So Paul wrote, > “Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died--*more than that, who was raised*--who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.” (Romans 8:33-34) Christian, your guilt was crucified in Christ. Your flesh was crucified in Christ. Your disobedience and “the record of debt that stood against” you, was crucified in Christ (Colossians 2:14). So let no one pass judgment on you (Colossians 2:16). When Christians are being tagged today as haters, as racists, as hypocrites, as dangerous (which, of course, could have been the kind of criticisms against Christians in Rome to whom Paul was writing, Christians who were about to be "regarded as sheep to be slaughtered" as Romans 8:36), we are to remember that Jesus died, was buried, and rose again on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). When the serpent and his offspring accuse us, we remember that we are forgiven, we cannot be condemned. *We can't be enslaved/captivated by sin.* A second reason for our joy in the resurrection is because we have been raised with Jesus and we share in His life. We can obey, and obedience has consequences of blessings. This reality is also pictured in our baptism, and it is an argument Paul uses in order to challenge those who think grace is only as good for covering sin. Grace also changes us. > “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, *we too might walk in newness of life*" (Romans 6:3-4). Sins of every kind are the killjoys; God blesses obedience and good works with joy. Every self-pitying, moping desire of the flesh is a killjoy, but we are free from the joy-killer within us. *We can't be manipulated/coerced.* Because "we know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again," and that "death no longer has dominion over him" (Romans 6:9), because He promised that "everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die" (John 11:26), what can man do to us? We no longer seek the glory that comes from man (John John 12:43), let alone the protection that comes from man. We are free from those killjoys, those who would shame us or malign us (see 1 Peter 4:3-5). We seek the glory that comes from God. We seek the same joy as Christ. > let us run…looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2) So we have patience and endurance and courage and *joy*. None of that would be possible apart from the resurrection. # Conclusion How then should we live? I am not exhorting you to be more joyful, though there are those imperatives (Matthew 5:12; Romans 12:12; Philippians 4:4; 1 Thessalonians 5:16). I'm saying *joy is yours*. Joy is an indicative in the resurrected Christ. Don't accommodate yourself to self-pity, to mopery, to the spirit of this age, to death. Ours is not syrupy simplicity, nor is it like the vinegar of truth. Our joy is not a cackling of fools like the crackling of thorns under a pot (Ecclesiastes 7:6), but like well-aged wine, refined (Isaiah 25:6), mature and deep. In his book _The Everlasting Man_ G.K. Chesterton wrote: > “Pessimism is not in being tired of evil but in being tired of good. Despair does not lie in being weary of suffering, but in being weary of joy. It is when for some reason or other the good things in a society no longer work that the society begins to decline; when its food does not feed, when its cures do not cure, when its blessings refuse to bless.” Let us not be weary of joy, or give it up, thinking that it is the problem. According to God's will grapes become wine become a heart-gladdening gift to man. According to God's will the Son took on flesh, obeyed perfectly, sacrificed lovingly, and rose again on the third day so that His joy might be in us. You were a killjoy, and He has made you free. You are surrounded by killjoys, and He has made you free. *Resurrectio in excelsis!* ---------- ## Charge As you give your kids candies and chocolates for a sweet celebration of resurrection, make sure you are tasting the goodness of the Lord. As you gather, as you eat ham and drink wine, make sure your heart is glad in God. If you are hurting, if you are struggling, make sure you mediate on God's power that raised His Son from the dead and the hope He calls you to. ## Benediction: > May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead. (Ephesians 1:17-20a, ESV)