Third-Day Power

by Victor Knowles

The body of Jesus, wrapped in linen cloth, lay cold and silent in the sealed tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. The cloth could not keep out the cold, but the body could not feel it anyway. Jesus was dead. His heart had ceased beating. Blood no longer flowed within His veins. There was no presence of brain-wave activity. Rigor mortis had set in. His spirit, as He told the penitent thief, was in paradise, but the body of the King of kings lay in state in a borrowed tomb. Only pitch darkness reigned within the tomb.

Outside the tomb there was life and light and profane laughter. Roman soldiers guarded the tomb, wondering why in the world they were guarding a dead body. The Pharisees had wheedled and whined to Pilate, "Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, After three days I will rise'" (Matt. 27:63). They asked Pilate to secure the tomb "until the third day." (Their explanation was that Jesus' disciples might steal the body and then claim that Jesus had risen from the dead.) So Pilate posted a guard.

Fulton Sheen observed, "The most astounding fact about this spectacle of vigilance was that the enemies of Christ expected the Resurrection, but His friends did not." The disciples were not about to launch an assault on the tomb. They were in hiding. And the women who arrived on Sunday morning came not to witness the resurrection but to anoint the body of Jesus.

What was so special about the third day? On several occasions Jesus had told His disciples that He would suffer many things, and be killed, but that He would be raised—"on the third day" (Matt. 16:21; 17:22-23; 20:18-19). To His enemies He had declared, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up" (John 2:19). No wonder they prevailed upon Pilate to post a guard at the tomb. They were more than a little nervous.

One day passed. Nothing. Another day. Nothing. The enemies started to breathe a little easier. Then, suddenly, very early on the third day, Sunday morning, something incredible happened inside the sealed and guarded tomb.

The Spirit of God, moving silently and unseen, entered the rock-cold tomb of Jesus. More than that, He entered the body of Jesus! Perhaps the Spirit gently hovered over the body of Jesus, as He had hovered over the face of the waters at Creation (Gen. 1:2). Then, as at the creation of man, the precious "breath of life" was given. And once again Jesus became a living soul. In a flash, His spirit returned from paradise. His great heart started to beat once again. Blood surged through His veins. Brain waves were reactivated. His flesh became warm. His limbs, once locked in death, were loosed in life. He reached up and removed the cloth covering His face. He swung to His feet and removed the linen cloth. Very carefully He folded the linen and laid it neatly on the rock shelf, as you would make your bed when you are leaving the home of a friend.

And then, just like that, He was gone. And when He moved out, you could have hung a sign on the stone that was rolled away: "Vacancy. Tomb for Rent. Inquire of Joseph of Arimathea"

Now here's the thought that gets my own heart to beating a little faster. The Apostle Paul, himself a witness of the resurrected Christ, noted, "But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you" (Rom. 8:11).

Did you get that? Twice in this text Paul declares that the same Holy Spirit who raised Jesus Christ from the dead dwells in you! The same Holy Spirit who entered the rock-cold tomb of Jesus Christ on Resurrection Morning, and brought Him back from death to life, dwells in you! Listen: If the Spirit of God could raise Jesus from the dead, He can raise you from your dead-end circum­stances. He can raise you from your discouragement, your disillusionment, your disappointments, even your depression! And when you die He will give life to your mortal body, just as He did with Jesus—If you have Him.

The Holy Spirit is a blessed indwelling gift from God, given to us at the time of our conversion (Acts 2:38; 5:32). The power of Christ not only "rests on us" (2 Cor. 12:9) but "resides in" us (Rom. 8:9). The Spirit dwells in the life of believers, empowering them to live for Christ. "Third Day Power" did not end on Resurrection Day! "Operation Resurrection" lives on! Incredible, invisible, incom­prehensible indwelling power resides in every Christian.

To know "the power of His resurrection" (Phil. 3:10) is to be assured that "Third Day Power" dwells in you.

You ask me how I know He lives?

He lives within my heart!

Victor Knowles is executive director of Peace on Earth Ministries (POEM), Joplin, Missouri.

Original artwork by Florence Anderson, gifted artist and longtime friend of AMG International.

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