He's Alive!

April 22, 2011

by Peter Amsterdam

It had been about three years since they had answered the call to follow Him. Each one had their own story of how it happened. Nathanael was told he was an Israelite in whom there was no deceit.[1] Peter and his brother Andrew heard the words, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men”[2] while casting their net into the sea. Matthew was sitting at the tax collector’s booth.[3] The years that followed had been the most exciting and intense years of their lives.

The things they witnessed were incredible—miraculous healings of the sick, deliverance from demonic forces,[4] the feeding of five thousand people with a mere handful of loaves and fishes,[5] followed by another mass feeding.[6] There was the day when a funeral procession was coming down the street and He was so moved by the mother’s grief at the loss of her son that He stopped the procession, touched the coffin, and the young man sat up alive.[7] And that wasn’t the only time that someone dead came back to life! There was the girl who was dead when He entered the room and alive when He left it.[8] Then there was Lazarus, who was dead for four days and was called out of his tomb alive.[9]

There were the times when He told such insightful stories—stories that held deep truth and revealed meaning to those who were open enough to understand them.[10] Sometimes He taught multitudes of people who gathered around Him to hear what He had to say, and at one point the people were on the verge of taking Him by force to make Him king.[11] At other times He took His closest followers away to a quiet place where they could rest and where He could give them personal teaching.[12]

These were heady[13] days indeed.

Of course not every day was full of such positive excitement. On some days, there was opposition. There were those who disagreed with Him and what He taught, who would challenge Him, trying to show that His teaching was wrong; but His answers were filled with such wisdom and power, and most of all, love.[14] Those who were challenging Him may not have seen it as love, but those who believed in Him saw such deep love for people in the answers He gave, and most of all, in His actions. Everything about Him was rooted in love and compassion for others. He was the most incredible person they had ever known. They deeply loved Him.

As time went on, His opposition grew stronger and more determined to put a stop to Him. But then right in the middle of all that, there was the day when the people met Him outside of the walls of the city waving palm branches and shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David.”[15] His religious opponents were afraid to touch Him because of His popularity, and were also concerned that His activities would cause the civil authorities to step in, which could have resulted in their losing their positions of prominence.[16]

These three years were extraordinary—full of wonder and hope, excitement and learning. His followers expected it to continue for many more years. They even disputed who among them would be the most prominent when He came into a position of power.[17]

Then it happened. He was arrested, and within 24 hours He was executed as a criminal. Their hopes and dreams for the future were crushed. The one they loved so deeply was gone. The life they had lived these past years was over. The future He spoke of hadn’t worked out as they expected. He was dead.

They were sad and confused. They were afraid and hid behind locked doors. They were shocked at the abrupt end of what they had become used to, the work they had participated in, the love they had come to know so well. Everything changed almost instantaneously. The future was bleak.

Three days later, early in the morning, some women who were His followers visited the tomb, but His body wasn’t there. When they told the other disciples, nobody believed them.[18] Peter and John ran to the tomb and saw that it was true, He wasn’t there. They didn’t understand it, but they knew His body was gone.[19]

Suddenly He appeared in the midst of them, in the locked room where they were hiding. The man they had loved and followed, who had been brutally tortured and killed, was standing before them.[20]

He was alive!

He had risen from the dead and was back with them. His presence changed everything. Though He had been executed as a criminal, the fact that He was standing there alive was the validation that all He had said and done was of God. The things He had told them about Himself were true: He was the resurrection and the life;[21] He would raise this temple in three days;[22] He would be killed and would rise again.[23] The truth of those words was now evident because He was there, alive. Their faith wasn’t misguided. He wasn’t another failed messiah. He was what they had believed Him to be.[24] Faith and hope were renewed. His presence brought new understanding of all that had happened. It totally changed the context of the preceding days. It hadn’t been a defeat after all—it was victory.

Shortly after that, He ascended into heaven. He was no longer with them physically, but the Holy Spirit was sent to dwell within them—a constant presence guiding them in truth and love and in sharing the faith they had gained.[25] He had taught them a great deal during the time they were physically together, and then He commissioned them to go everywhere teaching others about Him, telling them of His love, His life, death, and resurrection, and the salvation which was available to all.[26]

The wonderful days of living and working together with Him had come to an end, and the days of branching out and reaching others had begun. While it took time and adjustment, they did what He had instructed; they went to different cities and countries, meeting new people, making new friends, leading others to Him. They built communities, they taught others what He had taught them, they engaged in the mission day by day, year after year, heart by heart. They faced difficulties, trials, and tribulations, but they carried on even unto death—and in doing so, profoundly affected the world of their day and every age since.

His resurrection changed everything! His being alive empowered them to move beyond what they were used to, to let go of how things had been, and to enter into a new way of life—spreading His love and salvation to others, which effectively resulted in the faith being passed on to all succeeding generations since then.

The key to it all is the fact that He rose from the dead. That made all the difference. Although things had changed, and He was no longer present with them in the flesh, He was more present than ever with them through the Holy Spirit. He was still able to do miracles; to bring those who were dead back to life; to give incredible answers to those in need; to show love, compassion, and mercy; to bring the good news of salvation. Only now, instead of Him doing it in person, He did it through them. How? Because He was alive. He continued to dwell in them and work through them. And He’s been just as alive in those who have loved and followed Him ever since.

Easter is the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus. It’s the celebration of the fact that He’s alive. He defeated death and hell and Satan. He redeemed us from our sins. He lived and loved and died for us as individuals, and He’s with us today just as much as He was with those He walked the earth with two millennia ago.

He’s alive! There was a short time when His disciples didn’t realize it, as they only saw the circumstances they were in.—He had been crucified, He was gone and no longer with them. But that was short-lived. The confusion, fear, and uncertainty passed once they realized that He lived, and that His love, His truth, His compassion, His words and actions, were still there with them, even if their physical circumstances were different. He was alive and was working through them to change the world, to spread His truth and love, His redemption and salvation.

He’s just as alive today, working through you to do the same. No matter what circumstances you are in, no matter what changes have occurred, no matter how difficult things may be, He’s alive in you. His power, anointing, and Spirit are there with you. The power to fulfill the commission He gave to His first disciples, and to all who have answered His call since then, is still active.

Wherever we are, He is with us. In whatever circumstance, in whatever situation, whether we are in a far-flung country or in our hometown, He is with us, working through us as much as we allow Him. He’s alive. Others need to know this; they need to experience it. His being alive in you, and showing His life through your life, is one of the key ways for them to see it and understand it.

Share Him with others. Let them see His Spirit in you. Let them hear His words through the words you speak to them. Let them feel Him through your loving actions, through your compassion and empathy. Show them He’s alive even in today’s confused world by bringing Him to them—by arranging an introduction, by connecting them to Him, so that they too can know that He’s alive.

[1] Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael said to Him, “How do You know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathanael answered Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” John 1:47–49 ESV.

[2] Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” And immediately they left their nets and followed Him. Mark 1:16–18 ESV.

[3] As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and He said to him, “Follow Me.” And he rose and followed Him. Matthew 9:9 ESV.

[4] And He went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. So His fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought Him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, epileptics, and paralytics, and He healed them. Matthew 4:23–24 ESV.

[5] When He went ashore He saw a great crowd, and He had compassion on them and healed their sick. Now when it was evening, the disciples came to Him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” But Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” They said to Him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.” And He said, “Bring them here to Me.” Then He ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, He looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then He broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children. Matthew 14:14–21 ESV.

[6] Then Jesus called His disciples to Him and said, “I have compassion on the crowd because they have been with Me now three days and have nothing to eat. And I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.” And the disciples said to Him, “Where are we to get enough bread in such a desolate place to feed so great a crowd?” And Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven, and a few small fish.” And directing the crowd to sit down on the ground, He took the seven loaves and the fish, and having given thanks He broke them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up seven baskets full of the broken pieces left over. Those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children. Matthew 15:32–38 ESV.

[7] Soon afterward He went to a town called Nain, and His disciples and a great crowd went with Him. As He drew near to the gate of the town, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow, and a considerable crowd from the town was with her. And when the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” Then He came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And He said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and “God has visited His people!” Luke 7:11–16 ESV.

[8] While He was still speaking, there came from the ruler’s house some who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” And He allowed no one to follow Him except Peter and James and John the brother of James. They came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and Jesus saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. And when He had entered, He said to them, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at Him. But He put them all outside and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with Him and went in where the child was. Taking her by the hand He said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement. Mark 5:35–42 ESV.

[9] Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. I knew that You always hear Me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that You sent Me.” When He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” John 11:38–44 ESV.

[10] Then the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” And He answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.” Matthew 13:10–13 ESV.

[11] Perceiving then that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by Himself. John 6:15 ESV.

[12] Jesus went up on the mountain, and there He sat down with His disciples. John 6:3 ESV.

[13] Having a strong or exhilarating effect (New Oxford American Dictionary).

[14] So they watched Him and sent spies, who pretended to be sincere, that they might catch Him in something He said, so as to deliver Him up to the authority and jurisdiction of the governor. Luke 20:20 ESV.

[15] The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and He sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before Him and that followed Him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” Matthew 21:6–9 ESV.

[16] So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the Council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. If we let Him go on like this, everyone will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” John 11:47–48 ESV.

[17] And they came to Capernaum. And when He was in the house He asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. Mark 9:33–34 ESV.

[18] The women who had come with Him from Galilee followed and saw the tomb and how His body was laid. Then they returned and prepared spices and ointments. On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment. But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how He told you, while He was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” And they remembered His words, and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. Luke 23:55–56, 24:1–11 ESV.

[19] So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that He must rise from the dead. John 20:3–9 ESV.

[20] On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. John 20:19–20 ESV.

[21] Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to Him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.” John 11:25–27 ESV.

[22] Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?” But He was speaking about the temple of His body. John 2:19–21 ESV.

[23] And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. Mark 8:31 ESV.

[24] He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 16:15–17 ESV.

[25] When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. Acts 2:1–4 ESV.

[26] Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. Matthew 28:19–20 ESV.