Monday, March 22, 2010

He is Risen


It is interesting to note that if you took all four gospel writings and counted all the verses that tell about Jesus’ 33 years of life on this 3rd sphere from the sun – 32% of the verses in the gospels cover the last week of Jesus’ life. If Jesus lived 1,720 weeks, it seems that the last week was the most important of all.

One scholar calculated that Jesus lived 12,045 days. Of all the incidents covered by the gospel writers, only 9 events are covered by all four gospel writers – just 9. Of those 9 events – 5 of them happen in the last 24 hours of Jesus’ life – on day 12,045: The last supper, Peter’s denial of Jesus, Jesus’ trial and sentencing by Pilate, The crucifixion and Jesus’ burial.

All this leads us to the conclusion that whereas the last week was the most important week of the 1,720 weeks He lived and the last 24 hours of Jesus’ life – day 12,045 was the most important 24 hours.

As the week unfolds, we have watched Jesus give the lesson on servanthood and be the servant. We have witnessed him share the significance of communion and his broken body and shed blood. Then we see him wrestle with a life and death crisis as we follow him to an olive grove on the Mount of Olives to a small Garden known as Gethsemane.

The church I attend has two pictures that hang at the front of the church – one is the classic 1941 work by Warner Sallman called “Head of Christ”. The other, He is knocking at the front door of a house. One of the most famous however is Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane – painted in 1890 by Heinrich Hofmann. This is one of the most copied paintings in history which was purchased by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and is displayed in Riverside Church in New York City.

But the Scripture depicts a picture of Jesus today in these last 24 hours that we are unaccustomed too. It is not a picture of a genteel, serene Jesus with a halo on his head and a moon beam on his face. The Message translation says he was “plunged into an agonizing sorrow”.

It’s a much different picture and the Gospel writers describe it: “He began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” -Matthew 26:37b-38a. John 18:4 tells us that Jesus knows that death on the cross is ahead-- “Jesus knowing all that was going to happen to him…” He knows that the clock is ticking, He knows about the beatings, the lashings, carrying the cross, the nails in his hands and feet, the spear in his side…but that is not why he is grieved and heavily depressed. He is “overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” because he knows he is: “…the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)

Dr. Dan Reeder adds to the in-depth feeling, “And now Jesus is the living, perfect Lamb of God. And on this night before His death, he realizes he who knew no sin is about to take the sins of the entire human race for all time upon himself. He will become it. Every sick and twisted perversion, every lie, every murder, every rape and every child abuse. Adolph Hitler’s sin. Charles Manson’s sins. Jeffrey Dahlmer’s sins. My sin, your sin. The sin of the human race.”

In the Gospel of St. John chapters 18 and 19, you will find four locations in the last week of Christ; namely, Gethsemane, Gabbatha, Golgotha, and the Garden tomb.

First, in John 18:1, “When Jesus had spoken these words; he went forth with his disciples over the brook Cedron, where was a garden, into the which he entered, and his disciples.”
John does not give it a name other than calling it a garden, but the other three gospel writers all called it, Gethsemane, which actually means “an oil press”. Jesus had gone there to pray because he knew he would be parting his earthly life and baring the sins of the world on the cross in a few hours. Some have even said that his prayer was a prayer of weakness and that he was trying to get out of what he had come into the world to do, but rather we find there much power.

Let me make an observation concerning this garden, which was only a few yards from the wall of Jerusalem where Jesus had gone. It was here that he actually went to receive power from God his father. An interesting story is told in verse two of Judas who was to betray the Lord Jesus that he knew the place because Jesus “off times resorted there with his disciples.”

Jesus understands the scope of trouble: “He calls his sufferings a cup; not a river, not a sea, but a cup which we shall soon see the bottom of” said Matthew Henry a noted commentarist.

Even bearing the sins of the world and experiencing all of the grief of the world was still only a “cup.” Jesus’ trouble and grief had a beginning and an end.

Many of us also know the place of prayer, and often times we fail the Lord. These verses tell us that Judas came with a band of soldiers for the sole purpose of betraying Jesus Christ. And when Jesus saw them coming, He asked them whom were they seeking. Actually, Jesus asked the soldiers this on two different occasions and each time we see them falling backwards. This does not show our Savior as a weak person but actually one who manifested great strength and power. Chapter 18 contains a number of times where the power of Jesus is manifested and would be worthy of your reading it again.

Jesus knew that it was the time that he was to die and had the correct answer for Pilate who on three different occasions had said that he had found no fault with Jesus.

Since Pilate knew that he was not going to change the opinion of the accuser’s, he scourged Jesus and allowed the soldiers to plat a crown of thorns and put it on his head, as well as putting a purple robe on him saying “Hail King of the Jews” and smote him with their hands. Again the Roman governor said, “I find no fault in him”, but in an effort to appease them he released Barabbas.


Afterwards, he brought Jesus forth and set down in the judgment seat in a place that is called The Pavement, but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha. In the Greek it was called bema which was a stone platform in the open court in front of the Praetorium--the place of final sentence. Interestingly, this is also used as the Judgment seat of Christ by Paul in some of his writings. Since this was about mid-night Pilate again said, “Behold your king”. But their anger was such that they cried the more “Crucify him.”


Because this was the third rejection by the assurers of Jesus Christ, this brings us to the third location, where Jesus was to be crucified, which was called in the Hebrew, Golgotha, but in the Greek Calvaria or Calvary. St. John and Matthew both called this place “the place of a skull” and Origen, who lived between 185 and 253 BC, refers to a tradition that Christ was crucified where Adam was buried and where his skull was found. I am not sure that I can accept this tradition, but wouldn’t this be an interesting word picture, because the Scriptures say in I Corinthians 15:22, “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”

I like what Donald Harvey Tippet said, “If Easter means anything to modern man, it means that eternal truth is eternal. You may nail it to the tree, wrap it up in grave clothes, and seal it in a tomb. But truth crushed to earth shall rise again. Truth does not perish. It cannot be destroyed. It may be distorted. It has been silenced temporarily. It has been compelled to carry its cross to Calvary's brow or to drink the cup of poisoned hemlock, but with an inevitable certainty after every Black Friday dawns truth's Easter morn.

Crowns have always been the sign of authority and Kingship. Put them all together, from all of Europe and from the archives of the East, all of them are but trinkets compared to Christ's crown. Revelation 19 says he had many diadems. He wears a crown of righteousness. He wears a crown of glory. He wears a crown of life. He wears a crown of peace and power. Among those crowns, one outshines the rest. It was not formed by the skilled fingers of a silversmith, nor created by the genius of a craftsman. It was put together hurriedly by the rough hands of Roman soldiers. It was not placed upon its wearer's head in pomp and ceremony, but in the hollow mockery of ridicule and blasphemy. It is a crown of thorns. The amazing thing is that it belonged to me. I deserved to wear that crown. I deserved to feel the thrust of the thorns. I deserved to feel the warm trickle of blood upon my brow. I deserved the pain. He took my crown of thorns--but without compensation. He offers to me instead His crown of life, the crown that fades not away.

It was A. W. Tozer who said, “If we are wise, we will do what Jesus said: endure the cross and despise its shame for the joy that is set before us. To do this is to submit the whole pattern of our life to be destroyed and built again in the power of an endless life. And we shall find that it is more than poetry, more than sweet hymnody and elevated feeling. The cross will cut into our lives where it hurts worst, sparing neither us nor our carefully cultivated reputation. It will defeat us and bring our selfish life to an end.”

Garden Tomb

Actually we come to the fourth location, which is described by St. John in chapter 19:21 of a new tomb where no one had ever laid. This was the place where Lord Jesus Christ would be laid. Had the disciples forgotten that he said that in three days he would lift up himself? We call this the resurrection of Jesus Christ and what a resurrection! It was empty when Mary came. It was empty when John and Peter came. It was empty when the Angels gladly acknowledged, “He is not here. He is risen!”

Soon two disciples met Him, and then more than 500 knew it. Then the disciples in the upper room met with him. Paul even saw Him on the Damascus road and I can even attest to it since I did something I should have never done--I lay in the tomb on a visit in the garden while it was unattended and can shout out, “He was not there!”

Christianity has something that no other religion can acknowledge. We have a leader, Savior, and Messiah that is alive forevermore and like the angels we can say “He is not there. He is risen!”

Many think the Christian religion has run its course, and that the gloom of Good Friday is now settling over the long history of the church. But they are wrong. The reality of the resurrection cannot so easily be undone. In truth, it is the world of unbelievers that remains on notice of judgment.
Winston Churchill chose to believe. Churchill arranged his own funeral. There were stately hymns in St. Paul's Cathedral and an impressive liturgy. But at the end of the service, Churchill had an unusual event planned. When they said the benediction, a bugler high in the dome of St. Paul's Cathedral on one side played Taps, the universal signal that the day is over. There was a long pause. Then a bugler on the other side played Reveille, the military wake-up call.
Churchill believed in Jesus Christ who said, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me though he were dead, yet shall he live."
“0 death, where is thy sting? 0 grave, where is thy victory?” “This is so true that even Satan cannot deny it. Christ's resurrection and victory over sin, death and hell is greater than all heaven and earth. You can never imagine his resurrection and victory so great but that in actuality it is far, far greater,” proclaimed Martin Luther.
The simplest meaning of Easter is that we are living in a world in which God has the last word. On Friday night it appeared as if evil was the master of life. The holiest and most lovable One who had ever lived was dead and in His tomb, crucified by the order of a tyrant without either scruples or regrets. He who had raised the highest hopes among men had died by the most shameful means. A cross, two nails, a jeering mob of debauched souls, and a quick thrust of a spear had concluded it all. Those hours when His voice was stilled and His hands were quiet were the blackest through which the race has ever lived.

But Paul Hovey describes my sentiments entirely when he said, “Then came Easter morning and the glorious words: "He is risen!" And evil's triumph was at an end. Since that hour when Mary in the garden first discovered the staggering fact of victory, no man whose heart was pure and whose labors were honest has ever had reason to fear or despair if he believed in the Resurrection.

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