By David Feddes
The man’s eyes were glazed over. His lungs had stopped breathing. His heart had stopped beating. His brain had stopped functioning. His arms were stiff. His legs were rigid. His flesh was cold. All that remained was a bloody, mutilated corpse. There was nothing left for his friends to do but wipe away the blood, apply some sweet-smelling spices, wrap the naked body in some fresh burial clothes, and then put it in a tomb. This man had caused quite a stir the last few years, and just a few days earlier he seemed to be riding high, but now it was all over. He was dead. And just to make sure, government officials sealed his tomb and surrounded it with a contingent of heavily armed soldiers. That was the end of it. Everybody knows it’s impossible for a dead man to do anything but stay dead.
Except that it wasn’t impossible, after all. What seemed impossible was actually inevitable. Whatever the appearances, whatever anybody thought, there was no way this man was going to stay dead. He was going to rise again. And not only was it going to happen, it had to happen. It wasn’t just possible. It was inevitable, unavoidable, unstoppable. It was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.
That’s not how it seemed at the time, however. Nobody expected Jesus to rise. When he did, his friends were so shocked that they had a hard time believing it. When Mary Magdalene first discovered the empty tomb, she thought that someone must have moved his body. Later, the Lord let a number of women know what really happened, and they told Jesus’ male followers about it. “But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense” (Luke 24:11). Later, even when Jesus was standing right there in front of them, some of his friends still had a hard time believing he was alive (Luke 24:37; Matthew 28:17). It seemed so shocking, so inconceivable, so impossible.
But what was really inconceivable, what was really impossible, was that Jesus would remain in the tomb. Jesus’ resurrection was something they should have been expecting all along, as Jesus pointed out to them. It had to happen. The grave couldn’t possibly keep him in, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.
And if it was impossible for Jesus not to rise, who knows what else is impossible? Your life may be such a mess that you think it’s impossible to turn it around. But when you believe in the risen Jesus, it’s impossible not to turn it around. You may feel so guilty about something awful you’ve done that you think it’s impossible for your sin to be forgiven. But when you believe in the risen Jesus, it’s impossible for your sin not to be forgiven. You may think the world is so mixed up that it’s impossible for things ever to turn out the way they should. But because of the risen Jesus, it’s impossible that things won’t turn out the way they should. When you know the risen Jesus, it changes forever the way you use the word “impossible.”
With Jesus a lot of things that look impossible turn out to be inevitable, and a lot of things that look inevitable turn out to be impossible. Simon Peter would be the first to tell you that. His confidence in Jesus was shattered when Jesus allowed himself to be seized by a mob. And Peter’s confidence in himself was also shattered. He once bragged that he would stick with Jesus through thick and thin, even if it meant dying with him. But when the moment actually came, Peter ran away and then denied three times that he ever knew Jesus. With Jesus dead, how could Peter have any hope at all? Impossible. How could Jesus ever do any of the things he had promised? Impossible. And if Peter was such a coward that he would abandon his dearest friend, how could he ever amount to anything? Impossible.
But then the risen Jesus came to Peter and completely reversed his idea of what was possible and impossible. Before long Peter was boldly telling a crowd of the very people who had crucified Jesus, “This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him” (Acts 2:23-24).
Peter now knew it had been impossible for Jesus not to rise, and he also knew it was impossible for him to keep quiet about it. The officials who had hated Jesus and arranged his execution arrested Peter and told him “not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.” But Peter replied, “We cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:18-20). It was impossible for him to go back to being a quiet, cowardly fisherman–though it had once seemed impossible not to.
Peter didn’t just say Jesus rose again. He said it was impossible for Jesus not to rise again. Why was it impossible for Jesus to stay dead? For two main reasons: it is impossible for God to lie, and it is impossible for God to lose.
Impossible for God to Lie
The Word of God predicted the resurrection, and it is impossible for the Word of God not to be fulfilled. Already a thousand years before Jesus came to earth, he spoke in a prophecy through David and said, “you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay” (Psalm 16:10). Later, through Isaiah, God said, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned” (Isaiah 9:2). The Lord Almighty “will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples… he will swallow up death forever” (Isaiah 25:7-8). In Isaiah 53 God described the Savior’s suffering and death and then announced, “After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life” (Isaiah 53:11).
These prophecies and many others were right there in the Old Testament Scripture long before Jesus was even born. And when Jesus was with his disciples, he plainly told them he’d have to suffer and die and then rise again. “But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it” (Mark 9:32).
Jesus’ disciples didn’t really get it. And when it finally dawned on them that first Easter that Jesus was alive, it wasn’t because they remembered anything from Scripture or from Jesus’ predictions. No, they started to believe simply because they found that Jesus’ tomb was empty, and because he appeared to them and talked with them and ate with them. The Bible says, “They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead” (John 20:9).
But Jesus soon changed that. He didn’t just appear to them and show them he was alive. He taught them from God’s Word that this was the way it had to be, that it had been impossible all along for him not to be raised. “Jesus said to them, ‘This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms.’ Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures” (Luke 24:44-45). He gave them a Bible lesson they never forgot.
From then on, Jesus’ followers didn’t just tell people that Jesus did in fact rise from the dead. They said that he had to rise, that it was inevitable, because the Word of God had said he would rise. Peter said it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him, and the other apostles also emphasized that Jesus had to rise in keeping with God’s Word. Here’s an excerpt from a sermon of the apostle Paul. He said: “The people of Jerusalem and their rulers did not recognize Jesus, yet in condemning him they fulfilled the words of the prophets… When they had carried out everything that was written about him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead… What God promised our fathers he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus” (Acts 13:27-33).
There you have it. God promised in his Word that the Savior would rise again, so for Jesus to stay in that tomb, the Word of God would have to collapse. But that is impossible, since “the Word of our God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:8). Death could keep its hold on Jesus only if God had told a lie, but “it is impossible for God to lie” (Hebrews 6:18).
God never says anything he doesn’t mean, and he never says anything he can’t back up, even if it sounds impossible to us. In Isaiah God tells us, “I am the Lord, who made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself, …who carries out the words of his servants and fulfills the predictions of his messengers… I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please” (Isaiah 44:24,26; 46:9-10).
God’s predictions always come true. His purposes always stand. It is impossible for anything in his Word to be false, and impossible for anything against his Word to be true, for as Jesus said, “Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35).
Do you ever think in those terms? Many of us tend to look around at what we call “the real world,” and we calculate what’s possible and impossible on the basis of what we see. We say, “The laws of nature cannot be broken” or “The power of death cannot be broken.” But Jesus says, “Scripture cannot be broken.” We’re tempted to use our “real world experience” to say that something in the Bible can’t possibly be true. But when we do that, we’ve got it backwards. Our calculations can’t prove anything in the Bible to be impossible, but the Bible can prove our calculations to be impossible. The resurrection is the supreme proof. If you had simply examined Jesus’ bloody corpse, you’d have said it was impossible for him ever to live again. But if you had examined the Word of God, you’d have found it was impossible for him not to rise.
You see, it’s possible for appearances to be wrong, but it’s impossible for God’s Word to be wrong. What we call “the real world” isn’t real at all compared to God’s Word. “Heaven and earth will pass away,” says Jesus, “but my words will never pass away” (Mark 13:31). Why was it impossible for death to keep its hold on Jesus? Because God’s Word predicted his resurrection, and Scripture cannot be broken. It is impossible for God to lie.
Impossible for God to Lose
But there’s also another reason, which is closely related. It was impossible for death to keep its hold on Jesus, not only because of what Scripture said, but also because of who Jesus is. Jesus is the Son of God, the Creator of all things, the Lord of life, the Almighty. When he entered into the realm of death, something had to give way, and it wasn’t going to be him. It came down to a contest between the power of Jesus and the power of death. And death never had a chance.
It was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. In fact, death never really had much of a hold on him in the first place. Death did not take Jesus’ life away from him. He gave up his life willingly. Jesus put it this way, “I lay down my life–only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again” (John 10:17-18). Death couldn’t keep Jesus in the tomb any longer than Jesus chose to stay there. Death never had a chance.
Even if we ignore for a moment the fact that Jesus is God, and look only at his human nature, it would still be true that death really had no power over him and no claim on his life. You see, death has power only over people who are sinners, but Jesus was perfectly sinless in his human nature as well as his divine nature. He was loving and holy and pure in everything he did, and so death had no right to claim him. Only because Jesus took the burden of our sin upon himself could death touch him, and even then, it was only for as long as it took Jesus to carry the penalty for our sin and bury it forever. The purity of the man Jesus came up against the corruption and decay of death. And death never had a chance.
And, of course, death wasn’t just up against a perfect man. Death was also up against God. Death was up against God the Father, the one who made from nothing everything that exists, who created living creatures from dead matter. Death was up against the eternal Son of God, the one through whom all things were made, and who had already shown his power over death by raising several dead people to life again. Death was up against the Holy Spirit who breathes the breathe of life into every living creature. Death was up against the infinite, eternal, almighty Trinity. Death never had a chance.
Death is not almighty; God is. Death doesn’t get the final word; God does. Nothing can stop God from getting his way and accomplishing his plans. The Almighty says, “I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?” (Jeremiah 32:27). God inspired Jeremiah to pray, “Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you… O great and powerful God, whose name is the Lord Almighty, great are your purposes and mighty are your deeds” (Jeremiah 32:17-19). This is the God death had to stop. Death never had a chance. It is impossible for God to lose.
The Bible says that God will rain down life (Joel 2:23). It says the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings (Malachil 4:2). It says that God’s Spirit is a wind that blows the breath of life wherever it wants (John 3:8). How could death possibly stop the life-giving power of God? Can a sword stop the rain? Impossible! Can a bazooka stop the sunrise? Impossible! Can a machine gun stop the wind? Impossible!
What Else is Impossible?
The resurrection of Jesus is the supreme demonstration that the Word of God declares what reality is, and the power of God determines what reality is. Because of what God’s Word says, and because of who Jesus is, it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. And that’s not all that’s impossible.
What else is impossible? In light of Jesus’ resurrection, it’s impossible that the whole human race should remain dead in sin. The Bible says, “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins… But because of his great love for us, God … made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ” (Ephesians 2:1-6). Can the deadness of sin keep God from making you spiritually alive? Impossible!
What else is impossible? In light of Jesus’ resurrection, it’s impossible to trust in him and not be saved. The gospel promises: “That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). It doesn’t say, “You might be saved.” It says, “You will be saved.” Can you trust in the risen Christ and still be rejected by God? Impossible!
What else is impossible? In light of Jesus’ resurrection, it’s impossible to trust in him and not change to become more and more like Jesus. The Bible says “just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (Romans 6:4). “And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again… Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; they old has gone, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:15,17). Can you belong to the risen Christ and remain the same old person? Impossible!
What else is impossible? In light of Jesus’ resurrection, it’s impossible that anyone who belongs to Jesus would ever be snatched away from Christ and lost. Jesus says, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:28). Once you’re saved, can anyone take away your salvation? Can anything separate you from the love of Christ? Impossible!
What else is impossible? In light of Jesus’ resurrection, it’s impossible for our bodies to be permanently dead. Scripture says, “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you” (Romans 8:11). “In Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him” (1 Corinthians 15:22-23). Will death be the end of you? Can the grave hold on to your body or the bodies of those you love? Impossible!
What else is impossible? In light of Jesus’ resurrection, it’s impossible for anything to prevent this world from becoming what Jesus intends. “For he must reign,” says the Bible, “until he has put all his enemies under his feet” (1 Corinthians 15:25). By the time Jesus is finished, there won’t be a single enemy left standing. At that point, the Lord will say from his throne, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away… I am making everything new” (Revelation 21:3-5). Can any enemy prevent this from happening? Can anything stop Christ from making everything new? Impossible.
What else is impossible? In light of Jesus’ resurrection, fear and worry and discouragement and despair can’t possibly take permanent control of your heart. “In this world you will have trouble,” says Jesus. “But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Can any amount of trouble destroy you when you belong to Jesus? Impossible!
Jesus says, “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades” (Revelation 1:17-18). It was impossible for death to keep its hold on him, and when you believe in him, it is impossible for any deadly power to keep its hold on you. “Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57).
By David Feddes. Originally broadcasted on the Back to God Hour and published in The Radio Pulpit.