(Scripture: Psalm 16 and Acts 2:22–32)
In the course of the Christian era no fewer than four Roman Popes and two Roman Emperors have taken to themselves the name “Anastasius.” But what enormous presumption! For this is a Dame that rightly belongs to Christ alone. It is a latinization of the Greek word “anastasis,” which means “resurrection.” Jesus claimed exclusive right to that name when he said, “I am the Anastasis (Resurrection) and the Life” (John 11:25). Indeed, our Christ is Anastasiusl Not Anastasius the First for Anastasius the Second is an impossibility. Though Christians are permitted to share in and benefit from their Savior’s resurrection, even coming “to know the power of his resurrection,” they have always correctly understood that Christ is the Fountain of Life, and his resurrection was only the demonstration, the bursting forth, of a divine quality which resides in him alone. Anyone who has the audacity to appropriate the name Anastasius must also be prepared to call himself Life, or Logos, or Theos,
It is of Anastasius that David prophesied in Psalm 16. Yet a veil obscures him from our view as we read that Psalm. That is, until we hear Peter’s authoritative exegesis in Acts 2. How grateful we may be for this revealing passage. It will pay us to examine it closely.
David, filled with the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of prophecy, exclaims, “Moreover my flesh also shall dwell in hope: Because thou wilt not leave my soul unto Hades, Neither wilt thou give thy Holy One to see corruption.”
Without Acts 2 we would have to ask as did the Ethiopian eunuch, “Of whom speaketh the prophet this? Of himself, or of some other man?” But notice how quickly Peter speaks to dispel the idea that David could possibly have had the illusion that his body would not decay in the grave. He says, “Brethren, I may say unto you freely of the patriarch David, that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us unto this day.”
Surely, David could envision the Lord’s taking marvelous care of his soul and body after death, but, says. Peter—
Surely, David could enVISIOn the Lord’s taking mnrvelous care of his soul and body after death, but, says. Peter
“(David), being a prophet, and knowing that Cod had. sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins he would set one upon his throne; he foreseeing this spake of THE RESURRECTION (ANASTASIS) of the Christ, that neither was he left unto· Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus did God raise up, whereof we all are witnesses.”
Here we have a striking instance of at least four remarkable truths:
1. The Holy Spirit has packed an amazing wealth of prophecy in what men are inclined to pass over or to explain in the light of a prophet’s experiences in his day.
2. David, in his day, possessed a consciousness of theMessiah, and a faith in the promises wrapped up in the Mess!ah, that justifies us in thinking of him as one of those heroes of faith mentioned in Hebrews 11, “who wandered in deserts and mountains and caves, and holes of the earth.”
3. The Holy Spirit illumined the Apostles so that they could record a revelation that was markedly progressive.
4. The centrality of The Resurrection, The Anastasis, The Risen Christ, throughout the revelation of redemption—both in the estimation of Old and New Testament writers and in the “kerygma’” (official proclamation) of the Church.
It is particularly salutary for us to reflect upon that last matter as we celebrate the Resurrection of Christ. Many a pastor will have to admit as he reviews his file of sermons that much less prominence is given to Christ as Anastasius. than to Christ as the Crucified One. The “Lenten Series” and the communion sermons combine to make this so. It is true that all our sermons are predicated upon Christ as the risen and ascended Lord; but the explicit facts of Easter Sunday, the cosmically-relevant phenomena of the Deserted Tomb and the Transformation of the body of Christ’s humiliation into its glorified state—these we tend to reserve for and crowd into our Easter-Day sermons. This is neither Petrine nor Pauline procedure. A rapid survey of the Book of Acts teaches us that the Apostles in their preaching seldom mentioned Calvary without a strong reference to the resurrection. Their emphases upon Cross and Empty Tomb were always kept in careful balance.
To document this, let us follow Peter and Paul on their missionary itinerary.
On Pentecost, Acts 2: “Jesus of Nazareth…ye by the hand of lawless men did crucify and slay…this Jesus did God raise up.”
On Solomon’s Porch, Acts 3: “But ye denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted unto you, and killed the Prince of Life, whom God raised from the dead.”
Again, when summoned before Annas, Acts 4, Peter proclaims: “Be it known unto you all. and to all the people of Israel, that in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead even in him doth this man stand here before you whole.”
In Acts 4:33 we read, “And with great power gave the apostles their witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.”
In Acts 5, Peter, having been commanded not to preach .any more, says to the Sanhedrin: “We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew, hanging him on a tree. Him did God exalt with his right hand to be a Prince and a Savior.”
Acts 10 records Peter’s words to Cornelius and his family: “And we are witnesses of all things which he (Jesus) did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem; whom also they slew, hanging him on a tree. Him God raised up the third day. and gave him to be made manifest.”
Paul, in the synagogue at Antioch in Pisidia (Acts 13), says, “And we bring you good tidings of the promise made unto the fathers, that God hath fulfilled…in that he raised up Jesus…”
In Acts 17 we read concerning Paul, when he was at Thessalonica, in the synagogue, that he “as his manner was, went in unto them, and for three sabbath days reasoned with them from the scriptures; opening and alleging that it behoovcd the Christ to suffer, and to rise again from the dead.”
And so we could go on to Mars Hill (Acts 17); before the Sanhedrin (Acts 23); in the presence of Felix (Acts 24); and before King Agrippa.
The fact that the crucifixion was widely known and believed, while the resurrection was witnessed by comparatively few and was generally disbelieved as the Apostles went out to preach, made it imperative for the resurrection to be widely attested in the apostolic era. But the ratio between those who glory in the resurrection and those who disbelieve continues disparate. Only through a “crash program” of world-wide testimony to Christ as Anastasius, the Resurrection and the Life, by official proclamation, and by a community of believers that obviously is serving a Living and Reigning King, will the ratio be altered. Let this be our earnest resolve as we celebrate Easter this year.