Thursday brought betrayal, grief and abandonment. Friday brought the agony and darkness of the cross. Saturday brought the cold silence of the tomb. But Sunday brought hope. Sunday brought life. Sunday brought resurrection.
Sunday brought Easter.
We saw on Friday the darkness and despair of that day we now celebrate as “Good” Friday and the hope of Sunday to come but the thing about Good Friday is that without Easter Sunday it just doesn’t make any sense.
“The incarnation was a necessary means to an end, and the end was the putting away of the sin of the world by the offering of the body of Christ.”
Jesus came into the world to leave it. Easter is the reason that Christmas happened. But why? He said that He had come to bring life, how does dying do that? I’m afraid I’m going to use long theological words here but it’s the best way to summarise it, I’ll explain them as best as I can.
The term theologians give the death of Christ is ‘Penal Substitutionary Atonement’, let’s take that one word at a time.
1. Penal: That means punishment. Christ suffered on the cross, physically, mentally, spiritually. It was an agonisingly painful and slow death.
2. Substitutionary: That means that Christ died in our place. He didn’t deserve that death; He didn’t deserve any death at all. As the thief nailed beside him said: “And we indeed [suffer] justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong”. The only sinless man gave up His life so that we could have life instead. But why?
3. Atonement: Basically ‘At-one-ment’. Jesus suffered and died on the cross on Good Friday so that we could be made one with God again, so that we may once again live in fellowship with God, forgiven of the sin and cured of the rebellion that keeps us apart.
“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God.”
1 Peter 3:18 ESV
That’s the simple version. The very simple version, whole books have been written on this.
Jesus lay in the tomb, His spirit with His Father in Heaven. Not in Hell (when He said ‘It is finished’ He meant it). When the Apostle’s Creed says “He descended into hell” it literally says ‘Sheol’, that is, the place of the dead. We would say ‘He really did die’. They put that bit in because some people were saying that Jesus just swooned. I’ll do a post on why that’s a silly idea sometime.
Atonement is great and all but how do we know it actually worked? How do we know the sacrifice was enough? How do we know that we can have life?
That’s where Sunday comes in, that’s where everything fits together. We know because Jesus rose. He broke the power and dominion sin on the cross and then he broke the power and dominion of death by rising from the dead. Our Lord conquered death; we know that we too will rise with him. The language of the resurrection leaves no room for ifs, buts or maybes. It is clear, complete and decisive. Paul speaks at length on the importance of the resurrection and the certainty of hope it gives us:
“12Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.
20But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.”
1 Corinthians 15:12-23 ESV
Boom. Is there anything else I can say? Let’s just draw a few points out of this, things to consider especially as we read it through.
We need to remember that the resurrection matters. No matter what any self-professed ‘Christian’ Scholar says about how it’s all about the meaning, whether it actually happened or not is unimportant etc etc. There are people who claim to be authorities of theology who say that truth of the historical event of the resurrection is unimportant. I am no great theologian, I don’t claim any great authority and certainly not any great wisdom. However, it seems to me that when the apostle Paul, speaking with the inspiration of God says: “But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:12-23 ESV) then he should probably be taken fairly seriously… The resurrection matters, anyone who denies that denies everything.
1. The resurrection matters because to deny the resurrection is to deny redemption; Paul says in verse 17 of our passage: “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.” No resurrection, no redemption. It’s as simple as that. Without Christ’s cross we would have no forgiveness yes, but Paul says here that the same is true of the resurrection.
2. The resurrection matters because to deny the resurrection is to deny life; Paul says in verse 18: “Then those also who have fallen asleep [died] in Christ have perished.”. It only stands to reason – if God himself, in the person of Jesus Christ couldn’t rise from the dead then how on earth are we meant to? Mere mortals, capable of defeating death, the enemy that brought God down? I think not. But Christ did conquer, He did rise and we will have life.
3. The resurrection matters because to deny the resurrection is to deny hope; verse 19 states that: “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied”. Did you take that in? If you believe in Jesus today and yet that belief doesn’t impact eternity then Paul says you are pitiable. You are wretched and hopeless my friend, without the resurrection. With it we can rejoice! But without the foundation of our faith we cannot stand. To reject the resurrection is to exchange our hope for other people’s pity.
The resurrection matters. An atheist friend of mine once asked me what one piece of evidence would disprove Christianity for me and destroy my belief in God. My answer was that if Jesus’ body was found, then I could no longer believe. If Jesus’ body is found, then the scriptures lie, God is not good, Jesus cannot save.
But rejoice! Jesus is alive. The resurrection did happen. What a glorious hope my friends, what a wonderful hope. To know that our master and our Lord is not dead, but alive! As Christians we do not follow a God whose body lies rotting in a tomb in Palestine, we follow a God who rose! A Lord who now stands and intercedes for us before the Father’s throne.
“For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.”
(1 Corinthians 15:22-23 ESV)
What a glorious hope! What a glorious day!
Without the resurrection the cross was a hopeless tragedy, a failure.
Without the cross the resurrection was just another neat miracle.
Together they form the Easter story. Together they are hope for lost sinners. Together they are grace so free, so rich, so full.
That is what Easter is all about.
The cross of Good Friday is the only place where we find our salvation but the empty tomb on Easter Sunday is the vindication of that salvation.
Sunday proves that Friday worked. Sunday gives us hope.
The cross, the grave, the resurrection. Never forget any of them.
Friday, Saturday, Sunday
Salvation, Resurrection, Vindication.
Now that’s a good weekend.
<<Written solely because a friend read Friday and said ‘it sounds like it’s a trailer for something epic on Sunday’. In a way I guess it was, perhaps more of a prequel. Whatever it is, they need to be taken together.>>