Remember Jesus Christ, Risen from the Dead
Yesterday was Easter Sunday, or better still, Resurrection Sunday, where our thoughts and affections were especially directed to the reality of Christ as risen from the dead. My message at Bridgeway was based on the exhortation of Paul to his young protégé Timothy, in 2 Timothy 2:8-10. Continue reading . . .
Yesterday was Easter Sunday, or better still, Resurrection Sunday, where our thoughts and affections were especially directed to the reality of Christ as risen from the dead. My message at Bridgeway was based on the exhortation of Paul to his young protégé Timothy, in 2 Timothy 2:8-10.
“Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory” (2 Timothy 2:8-10).
I’ve always been intrigued both by what Paul says and doesn’t say here. He doesn’t say remember Jesus Christ. It is not merely the person of Jesus to which he directs our attention. Nor does he say remember Jesus who rose from the dead. Neither does he say remember the resurrection of which Jesus is the first to experience it.
Rather it is: remember Jesus as the living Lord. Remember him precisely in his identity as the one whom God raised from the dead and seated at his right hand in power and authority over all of creation. Remember the risen Christ! Let the truth of Christ as risen take root in your mind. Let the reality of his unending life awaken your affections. Let the victory of Jesus over death be ever in the forefront of your thinking.
When we suffer and are hurting and grow despondent there are any number of things we might choose to remember, such as family, or some occasion in the past when God proved faithful and delivered us, or the promise that nothing will separate us from God’s love, etc. But here it is specifically Jesus Christ as risen that we are exhorted to remember. It is Jesus as living Lord of the universe who once was dead but is now and forevermore alive that we are called upon to keep fresh and forceful in our thinking.
It isn’t even to the exaltation of Jesus that he directs our attention, although following his resurrection that is what happened: Jesus was exalted and enthroned with God the Father. Rather, here he wants Timothy and you and me to continually hold in our conscious experience the reality of this one who himself suffered such humiliation and oppression as being now risen from the dead.
This had special relevance for Timothy, to whom it was originally addressed. He was young. He was timid. And he was being slandered and undermined and persecuted. Earlier in chapter one, verse eight, Paul had told him not to be “ashamed” of the gospel but to “share in suffering” for it (2 Tim. 1:8). He then, in 2:1, encouraged Timothy to be “strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 2:1). Again, he almost repeats himself in 2:3 when he exhorts Timothy to “share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 2:3). That is why Paul directs Timothy’s attention to Jesus as “risen from the dead” in 2:8.
He wants Timothy, and he wants you and me as well, to be strengthened to endure whatever hardships come our way by remembering that Christ has conquered every enemy, even death itself, and reigns as the living Lord over our lives and all the adversity and painful circumstances we encounter. So Paul speaks not only to Timothy but all of us today as well and in effect says: “No matter how hard life may be, no matter how serious our suffering may become, the most that anyone on this earth can do is kill you. So remember Jesus as the risen and ruling Lord who has overcome death and has removed its sting. Remember what Jesus said: ‘Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul’” (Matt. 10:28).
“And one more thing, Timothy. No matter what you have to suffer or endure in this life, never forget that the risen Christ has secured for you a salvation ‘with eternal glory’ (2 Tim. 2:10).” Or as Paul put it in his second letter to the Corinthians, “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Cor. 4:17).
So Paul is not here pointing to Jesus as our example, although he is surely that in countless ways. But we are to look to him and think of him as the resurrected and almighty, Savior and sovereign Lord over all mankind, even, perhaps especially, over those men and women who greatly ridicule us and reject us and seek to destroy us.
So let’s reflect a bit more about this word translated “remember” (2 Tim. 2:8a). We often use the word “remember” for someone no longer alive. “Oh, yeah, I remember President John F. Kennedy. And I remember the comedian Robin Williams. Too bad they’re no longer with us.” But this is not what Paul means when he exhorts us to “remember” Jesus. We are to remember Jesus precisely as risen from the dead. It is as the risen, living, very-much-alive-and-ruling-the-world Jesus that we are told to keep fresh in our thinking and ever in front of our thoughts and vividly present in our hearts.
Paul want us to remember Jesus precisely as the Risen One. He doesn’t call on us to remember his earthly life, although he would fully endorse and support such thinking on our part. It isn’t in his authority over demons or his healing of the sick or his teaching with authority to which he draws our attention. It is to his ever-present life in heaven as Lord and King over all things. Why this focus? Could it be that it is precisely because he is risen from the dead that we can have confidence that what he achieved in his life, teaching, ministry, and sacrificial death is true and lasting?
In other words, of what possible good was his sinless life if he’s dead and decaying? What authority could we possibly give to his teaching if he’s ultimately no different from the Buddha or Confucius or Gandhi or Muhammad? And why would we ever believe that his death was atoning and has fully paid the penalty for our sin if he could not conquer the grave? Why would his death be any different from yours or mine or of any other famous figure in history if he was powerless to overcome the grave and rise again?
The precise expression Paul employs here lays stress on the fact not simply that Christ was raised. After all, there are several resurrections mentioned in the NT. Christ himself as well as the apostle Paul raised several people from the dead. Lazarus was resuscitated and brought back to life. But Lazarus eventually died yet again. Paul’s point in the language he employs is to highlight the fact that the risen Christ is still alive. He was raised and is even now still raised and will be forevermore! Thus Paul’s focus isn’t simply on the historical event of the resurrection but on the resurrection as an on-going reality, an irreversible truth, a perpetual fact of space-time history that is to be rehearsed over and over again in the mind of the Christian.
My hope is that yesterday was not a momentary, one-time, one-day focus on the resurrection of Christ, but merely the more overt expression and declaration of what ought to be a daily confident trust and conscious reflection on Jesus as risen.