Thoughts on the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ
Contrary to popular belief, the Lord Jesus' life did not end in a tragic death. There are countless claims that His life was cut short by the Romans and that He did not rise from the dead.
As we reflect on the events surrounding the Lord's death and resurrection over the Easter period, we recall that He willingly gave Himself as a sacrifice for our sins and that He did indeed rise from the dead!
The Garden of Gethsemane with 2000 - year old olive trees, Jerusalem
He Laid Down His Life
Scripture declares that the Lord came into the world with the purpose of dying on the cross. His life was not taken from Him by the Roman soldiers, albeit they were instrumental in the crucifixion. He laid down His life in obedience to His Father.
“Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.”
He also prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane on the evening before His death:
O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. Matthew 26:39 (KJV)
When the Lord's betrayer, Judas, came to the garden with the band of men to arrest Him, He did not resist, nor did He defend Himself at His trial. The Lord willingly laid down His life for us.
Love Led Him to the Cross
His death on the cross was a willful act of His love for us. It has often been said that it was not the nails that kept Him on the cross but His love. There were many occasions when the Lord Jesus was profoundly affected by the plight of the human race. He healed the sick and raised the dead out of His deep compassion for people suffering from the consequences of a fallen, broken world. However, there was no greater demonstration of His unconditional love for us than at the cross.
Descriptions of His sacrificial death are found both in the Old and New Testaments. The Psalmist David penned the poignant words of Psalm 22, prophetically portraying the crucifixion.
I am poured out like water,
And all My bones are out of joint;
My heart is like wax;
It has melted within Me.
My strength is dried up like a potsherd, And My tongue clings to My jaws; You have brought Me to the dust of death.
For dogs have surrounded Me; The congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierced My hands and My feet; I can count all My bones. They look and stare at Me. They divide My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots.
This account depicts the cruelty and savagery of crucifixion one thousand years before the practice was invented. Matthew 26 records that the Lord had twelve legions of angels at His disposal and could have been saved from the brutal scourging at the hands of the Romans. He chose, however, to be led like a lamb to the slaughter (Isaiah 53:7).
Not only was He tortured by men before and during the crucifixion, but He also took on Himself the sin of the world as the ultimate sacrifice. In the darkness that lasted for 3 hours, He was forsaken by God and bore our eternal judgement. He endured God's wrath for all sin, for my sin, and by faith I can go free.
His motivation was love for you and me! In the words of Paul, the Son of God ... loved me and gave Himself for me. Galatians 2:20
My Lord what love is this That pays so dearly That I, the guilty one May go free!
Amazing love, oh what sacrifice The Son of God given for me My debt He pays and my death He dies That I might live.
The Garden Tomb, Jerusalem
He Triumphed over Death
Had the Lord remained in the tomb, as many ascertain, there would have been no Christianity. The Christian faith rests entirely on the truth of the resurrection. Paul writes to the Corinthians:
And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! 1 Corinthians 15:17
We rejoice that Christ triumphed over death and rose from the dead on the third day! The tomb is empty! We read in Matthew's Gospel that guards were placed at the tomb because the Jews feared the disciples would fake His resurrection. The tomb was also secured and would have been very difficult to open. It seems unlikely the body could have been stolen by the disciples, who had dispersed and fled after the Lord's arrest.
An empty tomb in itself does not prove that He rose from the dead, but the fact that He was also seen alive by many witnesses adds testimony to this amazing fact. There were appearances of the Lord to individuals, small groups and a crowd of more than five hundred. He appeared post-ascension to the zealous Jew, Paul, and radically changed him from a murderer of Christians to one of the greatest advocates for Christianity in history. Today, millions of lives continue to be changed by encountering the risen Christ. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit imparts spiritual life and renews hearts.
The resurrection of the Lord generates the living hope of every believer. We can know resurrection power in our lives (Ephesians 1:19-20) and possess the assurance that one day we will be resurrected to eternal glory!
Lee Strobel, a former atheist and journalist, writes in his book, "The Case For Easter":
The resurrection is the supreme vindication of Jesus' divine identity and his inspired teaching. It's the proof of his triumph over sin and death. It's the foreshadowing of the resurrection of his followers. It's the basis of Christian hope. It's the miracle of all miracles.
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How wonderful for mankind that it did not end at the cross!
The Lord has risen! He is alive!
Does He live in your heart?