(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on February 6, 2016)

Mount Scopus, Jerusalem, Israel

Mount Scopus, Jerusalem, Israel (All images © 2016 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

I’m standing atop Mount Scopus in Jerusalem. The view is mind blowing! Before me lies the city whose history goes back to over 4000 years. Jerusalem has bewitched both conquerors and pilgrims through the centuries. Even today, it is the most contended ground on the face of the earth. Someone called it – “the hottest piece of real estate on the planet.” But my view is different. I don’t find any magical lure or spiritual power in her presence, just lessons of deep significance. Three such landmarks stand out for me:

  1. The Temple Mount – the gleam of the golden Dome of the Rock immediately draws my attention. It’s the site of Mount Moriah, where Abraham took Isaac to be sacrificed as a test of his faith. God accepted his willingness and gave him the glimpse of His Son
    The Temple Mount, Jerusalem, Israel

    The Temple Mount, Jerusalem, Israel (All images © 2016 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

    to come. Later David purchased the site from the Jebusites and Solomon built the temple on the very ground. On the third day I actually visited the Temple Mount for the first time. Although it was breathtaking, I could also sense the tension all around. As much as I loved the experience, I’m grateful that through Christ no longer is my access to God limited by a plot of land but we can come “boldly to the throne of grace.” (Hebrews 4:16)

  2. The City of David – between the Tyropoeon Valley on the west and Kidron valley to the east is the place that David chose to be his
    City of David, Jerusalem, Israel

    City of David, Jerusalem, Israel (All images © 2016 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

    capital. It is actually outside the walls of Jerusalem. I couldn’t help but visualize David walking on the terrace of his palace while his army had gone into battle. Down below he saw Bathsheba bathing. Instead of walking away, this “man after God’s own heart” gave into the sin of adultery. But he didn’t stop there. He even had her husband brutally murdered. Although David had to suffer the consequence of his sins, God still showed him mercy and grace. It reminded me that no one was immune to the temptation of sin and I resolved to God – “Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.” (Psalm 119:11)

  3. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre – Unfortunately, this structure does not outshine the surrounding buildings. In fact, one really has to search for the most important site in Christianity – the place where Jesus was crucified, buried, and resurrected. Inside, it is
    Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem, Israel

    Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem, Israel (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

    gaudy and stale and I never cease to be amazed at the blind devotions of the tourists, kissing the ground and attempting to gain some divine favor. If that’s not enough, it’s always fascinating and revolting to watch the different groups trying to control their piece of the shrine. It’s tragic…but a great illustration of human nature. We cling to our blind rituals. We remain divided over trivial stuff. We lose sight of the heart of the gospel. To me, the ground is historical not sacred. Only Christ and His work for us deserve our utmost devotion. Peter offers a stark warning, “Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.’” (1 Peter 2:7)

As I’m about to walk back to our van, I turn to catch one last glimpse of the gorgeous panorama of the capital of the world and I’m reminded that one day all of it will be remade. Revelation 21 2 Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” What a glorious hope!

How To Beat Death

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HOW TO BEAT DEATH? by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

howtobeatdeath-page-001Today we are celebrating Easter Sunday. It commemorates the day Jesus rose from the grave. With that in mind, I am preaching a message titled “HOW TO BEAT DEATH.” Unless Jesus comes for us first, death is coming to all of us.

Luke 24 1 Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. 2 But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. 3 Then they went in and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 And it happened, as they were greatly perplexed about this, that behold, two men stood by them in shining garments. 5 Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, 7 saying, “The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’ ”

Overall Background: If you ever want to kill a conversation, mention death. If you ever want people to avoid you, bring up the subject of death. Most people are afraid of death. One evidence of that is the number of euphemisms we have come up with for death – Bite the dust, kicked the bucket, passed away, is in a better place, R.I.P., etc. Bottom line: people don’t want to face the great unknown, the great beyond. The Bible has the most balanced view of death. On the one hand, it deals with the reality, finality, and brutality of death but, on the other hand, it also reminds us that death doesn’t have to be an enemy, it’s not final, and it is in fact the beginning of another life that never ends and its wonderful! It does that not by giving us cute euphemisms but hope in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Bible tells us that through Jesus we can beat death.

Application: Are you afraid of death? If you don’t know Jesus, you should be. Saying – “What will be will be” is not enough because God has provided a way to decide how you will spend your life on the other side. To ignore what God has to say about life after death is to insult Him, reject His work, and bring His judgment upon us. Are you saved?

Three questions we will answer in this passage that will teach us how to beat death.


Background: When you start talking about the resurrection of Jesus to people who don’t believe the Bible, you get the following responses:

  • It’s an ancient myth found in various religions (Gnostic redeemer, Mithras, or fertility cult) and Christianity is no different. The problem with that is that there is zero parallel in ancient history of a human being to have died and come back to life and reappeared to people who knew him.
  • Some since the nineteenth century have claimed some rationalistic explanations for Jesus’ resurrection – Jesus never truly died. He just swooned. When someone says that, I like to say “How about if we were to flog you 39 times and then drive nails through your hands and feet, hang you on the cross which would dislocate your shoulders and you go into a hypovolemic shock. Then after you die pierce your side with a spear and break your legs. Then take you down and wrap you in a burial cloth, place you inside a tomb, and roll a big stone over it. What are your chances of getting out?!!”
  • Yet others claim that it’s a bunch of stories the disciples made up to cope with Jesus’ death or the church is behind it? The disciples themselves stole His body or they went to the wrong tomb or it was just a case of mass hallucination or it was just a spiritual experience. How do we answer that? Let’s just read the text and see if there are any clues that prove that the Bible is telling the truth and the disciples didn’t make this up and that Jesus actually did beat death. There are many.

Let’s look at a couple:

  • Luke 23   50 “Now behold, there was a man named Joseph, a council member…”
Garden Tomb 3

Garden Tomb Outside (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

This is referring to the Great Sanhedrin in Jerusalem – the supreme court of the Jewish people made up of 70 members and one High Priest.

“…a good and just man. 51 He had not consented to their decision and deed. He was from Arimathea, a city of the Jews, (Maybe Northwest of Jerusalem) who himself was also waiting for the kingdom of God. 52 This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 53 Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a tomb that was hewn out of the rock, where no one had ever lain before.”

What a great risk? Not just for Joseph of Arimathea but for the gospel writers to mention this man’s name, position, and the town he came from! All I have to do is prove that he is not a member or from the town of Arimathea.

  • Luke 24 1 Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them…

If I were making up the story of the resurrection, I would have chosen the high priest who happened to be in the area or Pilate who was out for an early morning ride or even one of the male disciples who were the first to witness the empty tomb. Instead, verse 10 “It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them, who told these things to the apostles.” Women were not considered a legitimate and credible testimony.

  • Luke 24 1 “…came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared.”

The disciples were not even expecting the resurrection. They came early to probably avoid any confrontation with those who had killed Jesus. They brought spices to embalm Him because as far as they were concerned, it was over.

  • Luke 24 2 But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. And Matthew adds in Matthew 28  2 And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it.

Earthquake? It means everybody in the vicinity felt it. You are setting your self up big time if it didn’t happen.

We can go on and on from other passages but the point is clear – something extraordinary happened to the dead body of Jesus. It came back to life. The proofs are too many! The evidence is leaning heavily towards the fact that Jesus beat death. The disciples died believing that Jesus had risen. Nobody does that for a hoax, not a group.

Application: Do you find it hard to accept that Jesus beat death? Is it because you have examined the evidence or are you just repeating what you heard on TV or in a class or read in some magazine article? It’s too important to dismiss casually.


Background: This is a deeper question. Although the written evidence shows that Jesus beat death and came back to life, the greater question is – “Is this even possible?” “Can human beings come back to life?” The overwhelming evidence says “No.” People die and that’s final. That’s why we have cemeteries and graveyards. Muslims have their “kabaristans,” Hindus have their “shamshan ghats,” Parsis have their “Tower of Silence,” and Native Americans have their “Burial Mounds.”

Death is universal unless you’re not human. Then, you’re not bound by death.

Church of the Holy Sepulchre Empty Tomb

Church of the Holy Sepulchre Empty Tomb (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Who was Jesus? We know that He was a human being because He died. But He was more – Listen to verse 4 And it happened, as they were greatly perplexed about this, that behold, two men stood by them in shining garments. (Matthew tells us that they were angels.) 5 Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, 7 saying, “The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’ ”

The key phrase here is “Son of Man.” Some people think that Son of God refers to Jesus being God’s Son, fully God, and Son of Man refers to Jesus being Mary’s Son, fully Man. Although, that sounds pretty good, there’s more in that title than that. You have to go to the Book of Daniel in the Old Testament to understand the true meaning of that title. Daniel 7  13  “I was watching in the night visions, And behold, One like the Son of Man, Coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, And they brought Him near before Him. 14  Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, Which shall not pass away, And His kingdom the one Which shall not be destroyed.

Repeatedly in the Gospels Jesus referred to Himself as the Son of Man. What He was claiming was deity. He was claiming that He was God. Just a few chapters earlier in Luke 21:27 Jesus said, “Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” When Judas came to betray Him, He said in Luke 22:48 “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” Then in Luke 22 66 As soon as it was day, the elders of the people, both chief priests and scribes, came together and led Him into their council, saying, 67 “If You are the Christ, tell us.” But He said to them, “If I tell you, you will by no means believe. 68 And if I also ask you, you will by no means answer Me or let Me go. 69 Hereafter the Son of Man will sit on the right hand of the power of God.” 70   Then they all said, “Are You then the Son of God?” So He said to them, “You rightly say that I am.” 71   And they said, “What further testimony do we need? For we have heard it ourselves from His own mouth.”

Here’s the point – If Jesus was the Son of Man, then He was God and as God who created life and gives life and sustains life, death has no power over Him.

On the Day of Pentecost when Peter preached, He said in Acts 2 that even though they had crucified Him, God raised Him – 24 “…having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.” Then in Acts 3:15 he called Him the Prince of life.”

Application: Do you believe that Jesus was the Son of Man? If so, then the Resurrection is not a problem, the Virgin birth is not a problem, and walking on water is not a problem. Miracles are not a problem. By the way, the greatest miracle is none of them. It is the resurrection of a dead soul to life everlasting. Have you been resurrected?


Let’s go back to verse 6 He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, 7 saying, “The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’ ”

Garden Tomb 2

Garden Tomb Inside (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

When did Jesus say that? Luke 9:22 “The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.” Was this just casual information? Luke 9:44 “Let these words sink down into your ears, for the Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men.” Meaning: He really wanted them to get the reality of the resurrection. Why? It had a tremendous implication for their life! When we receive Jesus as our Savior, His life begins to flow through us. It’s the life of God. It’s the life that death cannot conquer. When I die, because of the life of Jesus in me, I am coming back to life just like Him. In other words, I am going to beat death like He did.

John 11:25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

John 14:19 “A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also.

Romans 8:11 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.

1 Corinthians 15 55 “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

There is an old folk tale titled as the “Appointment in Samarra” (retold by W. Somerset Maugham [1933]) – “There was a merchant in Bagdad who sent his servant to market to buy provisions and in a little while the servant came back, white and trembling, and said, Master, just now when I was in the marketplace I was jostled by a woman in the crowd and when I turned I saw it was Death that jostled me.  She looked at me and made a threatening gesture, now, lend me your horse, and I will ride away from this city and avoid my fate.  I will go to Samarra and there Death will not find me.  The merchant lent him his horse, and the servant mounted it, and he dug his spurs in its flanks and as fast as the horse could gallop he went.  Then the merchant went down to the marketplace and he saw me standing in the crowd and he came to me and said, Why did you make a threating getsture to my servant when you saw him this morning?  That was not a threatening gesture, I said, it was only a start of surprise.  I was astonished to see him in Bagdad, for I had an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.”

Invitation: Are you ready to beat death? Through Jesus you can!

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