April 12, 2020, Pastor Cliff Bergman
I pointed out on Friday that Good Friday and Easter Sunday are the watershed of redemptive history. It is cross of Jesus Christ, where He voluntarily laid down His life as a sacrifice for our sins that is foundational and provides the underpinnings of our faith and hope. I have said numerous times that the cross of Christ addressed the number one problem faced by humankind. While there are many grave issues faced by humankind, both in the past as well as in the present, none is as monumental as sin. Every other issue, no matter how serious and how life changing it may be, pales in significance to sin. The only One capable of dealing with it was God Himself, that is why Jesus came to earth and that is the mission Jesus completed at Calvary.
Some however, may raise the question, “How do you know Jesus’s death really dealt with our sins?” They may point out that scores of others were crucified and numerous people have been tortured and killed, including religious people. “What makes Jesus’ death different?” they may ask. There are a number of things that make it different, not the least of which is that Jesus is both fully God and fully man, but let me focus on but one, and that is what happened afterward. About 2 years earlier at the time of the Passover, Jesus had chased the money changers out of the temple (John 2.13 – 22). When Jesus was challenged by the religious leaders and asked for a sign to support His aggressive action,
John 2:19 (ESV) Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
According to Jesus, His bodily resurrection from the dead would not only be a sign for His authority to deal with the money changers who were corrupting the temple as an intended place for worship, but His resurrection would demonstrate His victory over sin and satan. It would validate every claim and promise He had made, including His claim to forgive sin and grant newness of life to all who placed their faith and trust in Him for their salvation.
The religious leaders of course thought He was talking about the Temple in Jerusalem, but He was actually referring to His body, something they seemed to come to realize over the course of the next 2 years. For after they had crucified Jesus, it was because of Jesus’ claim to be raised from the dead, they secured His tomb with a guard.
Matthew 27:62–65 (ESV) 62 The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate 63 and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’ 64 Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.” 65 Pilate said to them, “You have aguard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.”
Despite securing the tomb, not only were the guards unable to contain Jesus in the tomb, a point described in,
Matthew 28:4 (ESV) And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men.
but more importantly, satan and his kingdom of darkness and evil were equally unable to hold Jesus back from His victory over death and satan. Paul, in writing to the believers in Corinth said of Jesus’ death,
1 Corinthians 15:3–4 (ESV) 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,
4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,
Paul then went on to summarize the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection.
1 Corinthians 15:5–8 (ESV) 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.
The evidence for Jesus’ bodily resurrection is overwhelming. His resurrection not only verifies the sufficiency of Jesus’s death as a sacrifice for our sins, but also for our future, both for the balance of our physical lives on earth, and thereafter throughout eternity.
This past week Beverley and I watched a program describing the Terracotta Soldiers of the First Emperor, Qin Shi Huang, of China. The Terracotta army is comprised of thousands of sculptures of soldiers, chariots, horses, and so on. They had been apparently been buried by Qin in the third century BC and were first discovered in 1974. It is estimated that it required hundreds of thousands of workers to create the sculptures. Nearby is the yet unexcavated tomb of Qin which is believed to have be designed to be impenetrable and encompassing innumerable provisions for his afterlife. It is believed Qin’s purpose for the army was to protect him in the afterlife from the spirits of his opponents and to continue his reign. Qin, like the pharaohs of Egypt, and many others, went to great effort to prepare for the afterlife, thinking they could take the wealth, power, and prestige they accumulated in this life to the next.
Qin was oblivious of the truth expressed by Job in,
Job 1:21 (ESV) And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”
Or similarly expressed by Paul writing to Timothy,
1 Timothy 6:7 (ESV) for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.
The only way to secure both our present, as well as our future throughout eternity, is through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It is His resurrection from the dead that underpins our hope. Those who are trusting in the sufficiency of His sacrifice for their sins will not be disappointed.
Romans 10:10–11 (ESV) 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.”
Romans 10:13 (ESV) For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Our faith is sure! We don’t need lifeless soldiers or elaborately designed tombs protecting our bodies surrounded with endless wealth and elaborate provisions for our afterlife. The only provision we need is faith, that invisible thread linking us to God through His Son Jesus Christ. It is that faith which was secured by the very visible and adequately verified bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead.
Press forward with confidence and hope today, with your eyes focused heavenward awaiting the sound of the trumpet from heaven signaling our transformation from frail human bodies to disease free, resurrection bodies.
Jesus is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!