The greatest comeback of all time

“He will be raised on the third day” (Matthew 17:23).

Last Sunday (2/5/17), the New England Patriots mustered the greatest comeback victory in Super Bowl history. They were down 25 points late in the game, but rallied to score 31 straight points to win 34-28 in overtime.

When a team cannot be held down and refuses to lose, you can’t help but be inspired.

But no comeback in history was greater than Jesus’.

Jesus started telling his disciples about his death several months before it happened. He assured them that his suffering and death was part of God’s plan (Matthew 16:21-23; 17:12). He also told them plainly he would come back from the dead (Matthew 12:39-40, Matthew 17:9; John 2:18-22; John 10:17-18).

Yet, his disciples understandably struggled to grasp it. They refused to hear of it (Matthew 16:22). They just couldn’t see how this could fulfill God’s plan. But it was carried out anyway. Jesus died in the most gruesome and humiliating way possible: Roman crucifixion.

The disciples were devastated. All hope seemed lost. Had their time been a waste? Had they been duped? How would the kingdom be realized?

After Jesus’ cruel and unjust death, his spirit remained in the unseen realm for three days (Acts 2:20-22); his lifeless body occupied Joseph’s new tomb (Matthew 27:57-60). A comeback seemed impossible.

You’ve been to funerals. You’ve seen lifeless bodies in caskets.  You’ve probably seen bodies lowered into the ground. I’ve seen family members take shovels and toss dirt into the grave. There is no coming back. Death conquerors all men, great and small.

But the Holy Spirit said it was impossible for the grave to hold him (Acts 2:24). Three days after his death, on the first day of the week, Jesus came storming out of the grave. He was not barely alive, or in desperate need of medical attention. His wounds were not sore and infected. He was not delirious from dehydration. His heart and lungs were not stressed. He was apparently not even slightly uncomfortable. Jesus’ spirit reunited with His dead body, and He simply walked out of His grave Sunday morning as if nothing ever happened.

This is not at all like a football team “miraculously” coming back from a 25-point deficit in the Super Bowl. It is not like a baseball or basketball team coming back from a 3-1 deficit. These kinds of events are unquestionably inspiring, amazing, unique; miracles they are not.

A miracle would be if a player died on Wednesday, was buried Thursday, and on Sunday he crawled out of his grave, suited up, played and won the MVP award.

That – in a manner of speaking – is exactly what Jesus did.

Jesus’ comeback was divinely inevitable. His resurrection from the dead was a heavenly foregone conclusion. Though it might have looked to the average observer that things weren’t going so well, as it turns out, the contest between Jesus and death was not even close (Revelation 12:7-10).

The only comeback that will outdo this one, is when Jesus returns in glory to judge the living and the dead (Acts 10:42; 2 Timothy 4:1; 1 Peter 4:5).

To stretch the football metaphor once more in this final application, the Bible teaches that our current epoch of time – which began on the Day of Pentecost following Jesus’ resurrection – is the last quarter of the game. There will be no overtime.

Are you ready for the last comeback?

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Rick Kelley

I began preaching in Wallace, WV (2000-2002), and worked with the church in Proctor, WV (2002-2004). I graduated from the West Virginia School of Preaching (2004), served the church in Prestonsburg, KY as pulpit minister from 2004-2014, and am currently laboring with the Massillon, OH congregation (2014-present). Outside of biblical studies, I enjoy spending time with my much better half, Samantha, and our six children (Christian, Hannah, Noah, Emma, Evan & Leah). We have an equal parts sweet and goofy Golden Retriever (Max), a rather energetic Australian Shepherd (Mallie), and a very chill Goldendoodle (Moses).

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