Lecture 39: Jesus' Death and Resurrection
Course: 52 Major Stories of the Bible
Lecture: Death and Resurrection
History is Heading Toward the Death and Resurrection
So far most of the 52 events we have discussed have been pointing to today's event. Most of the stories in the Old Testament and many of the New Testament have been pointing towards Jesus' death and his resurrection. In the first two chapters of the Bible we learned about creation and that we were created for fellowship with God. In chapter 3 of Genesis we learned about the fall, our fall into sin and how we became people that God was not pleased with, doing things that did not please him. And we learned that because of our sin we had separated ourselves from the very presence of our Creator. We looked at the book of Leviticus, learning about the sacrificial system and how a holy God cannot live in the presence of sin; how a just God cannot ignore sin and how the consequence of our sin is separation from our Creator. In the midst of all that, we learned that in his mercy, God grants forgiveness through the death of a substitute such as a lamb; if a person has sinned, they could bring a lamb to be killed and that lamb's death would pay the penalty for the person's sin. We looked at the story of Abraham and how God promised Abraham to create a nation from his descendants and then to bless the world through it. We looked at the prophet Isaiah who said that blessing would come through a person who would appear in the future whom he calls "God's Servant." In fact, Isaiah describes this future person in terms of a lamb that was going to die for our sins. For example, in Isaiah 53 Isaiah prophesies, "Surely he [this coming Servant, this Lamb of God] has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; and yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted." We thought that because he was being punished that God was the one punishing him. "But he [this Lamb of God] was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord [God the Father] has laid on him [Jesus, God's Servant] the iniquity of us all." But as we continued to look at other events in the Old Testament, we came across the prophets of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, and we read their prophecies of a coming new covenant, a coming new relationship that God was going to establish with his people. And this new covenant, this new relationship was not going to be just a bunch of rules; rather, this new covenant was going to come with the very power to transform our lives, to transform us from the inside out by the working of God's promised Spirit. The ability of God to make us into the kind of people that please him. It is that very transformation that Jesus was talking about when he told Nicodemus that if you want to enter the kingdom of God, if you want to become a disciple of Jesus Christ, if you want to become a Christian, then you must be born again. You must be born from above; you must be born by the power of God's Spirit. We also looked at last Thursday night Jesus spent with his disciples before he died. They were celebrating the Passover, an ancient Jewish festival, that Jesus gave an entirely new meaning to. And as they were passing the bread and the cup, Jesus said that "these things now refer to my body and my blood, to my death on the cross. And it is because of my coming death on the cross that I will be able to create this new covenant. I will be able to establish this new transforming relationship with my people." We saw that Jesus is God's servant just as Isaiah had prophesied that Jesus is the Lamb of God who will die for the sins of the world just as Leviticus taught us. You can weave these and many other events together and see Jesus; specifically, Jesus in his death and in his resurrection.
Death and Resurrection
On Thursday after they had celebrated Passover and Jesus had explained its new meaning, he was betrayed by Judas; Peter denied even knowing him and the rest of his special friends scattered because they were scared. He went through the mockery of a rigged illegal trial by the Jewish leaders; the Roman governor pronounced him innocent, but in order to keep a riot from breaking out, in order to pacify the crowd, he allowed them to kill the Lamb of God. And Jesus was scourged; he carried his cross to Golgotha; he was nailed to the cross and he was left there to die. In the moment of sin's apparent greatest victory, Jesus the Lamb of God died for your sins and for mine. On the cross God worked through the sins of men to break the very power of sin itself and the temple veil was torn in two. It is not just a passing comment; it is one of the most important theological statements in the entire Bible. The curtain was about a 6-inch thick curtain that separated a place called "The Holy of Holies" from the rest of the Temple. The Holy of Holies is the place where God's presence used to dwell in the days of King David. It was a place that only the High Priest could enter and could only enter once a year. That veil symbolized not only God's presence but also the fact that we are separated from the presence of our Creator. It was that veil that was torn from the top to the bottom completely in two, thus symbolizing and thus proclaiming that you and I can have direct access to the very presence of our Creator God.
When Jesus died he made possible this new covenant, this new transforming relationship that we can have with our Creator. When Jesus died he paid the penalty of our sins by being our substitute, by being the Lamb of God. When Jesus died he brought us back to the Garden of Eden where it all began in Genesis 1 and 2 so that we could be at peace with our Creator. But this peace is only for those who have faith in Jesus Christ; for those who truly believe that he is who he says he is, that he is God and man. And that peace is only for those who truly believe that Jesus did what he said he did; that he died on the cross as the just and holy and loving penalty for your sin and mine. This is what Paul is telling the Romans in chapter 5 when he writes, "Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." We have peace because we have been justified, because we have been declared "not guilty" of our sins. The enmity is gone because we have been ushered into a right relationship with God, not because of what we do, but because of our faith. The war is done because we truly believe that Jesus is the God-man who did the work for us because we couldn't do it in dying for our sins. We have peace with God, but it is only through the work of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross. Only Jesus dealt with sin, therefore only Jesus gives us access into the presence of our Creator God. There is neither peace nor salvation in any other name. Not Mohammed, Buddha, or Confucius can provide salvation. It is because only Jesus dealt with sin. Christians are often accused of being exclusive. We are exclusive. We are phenomenally exclusive because only one God-man has ever existed who dealt with sin, thus tore the curtain in the Temple and gave us access to the very presence of our Creator God. There is so much that happened on Good Friday that this is slightly scratching the surface. If you would like to know more, John Piper has written a book called ''The Passion of Jesus Christ'' that explains the top 50 reasons why Jesus died and what he accomplished on the cross. I know it is sorrowful to think of the pain that Jesus suffered for us on the cross. It is truly a painful sorrowful experience, yet Good Friday is good and joyful because of what Jesus' death accomplished for us on the cross. Of John's 50 topics, let me just read you the top 15 from the Table of Contents: Jesus' death absorbed the wrath of God. Jesus' death achieved his own resurrection from the dead. Jesus' death was to show the wealth of God's love and grace for sinners. Jesus' death was so that he could become a ransom for many people; to forgive our sins; to provide for our justification [our declaration that we're not guilty]. Jesus' death takes away our condemnation. It's makes us holy, blameless and perfect. It gives eternal life to all who believe. Jesus' death reconciles us to God. It frees us from the slavery of sin. Jesus' death enables us to live for Christ and not for ourselves. Jesus' death created a people passionate for good works. Jesus' death frees us from bondage to the fear of death and has secured our resurrection from the dead. And that is just a sampling of the joy that is ours because of what Jesus did on Good Friday. The story does not end on Friday. It does not end on the sadness of the cross. What happens next is more than a mere postscript. Three days after his death, Jesus' followers find out that he is alive and He appears many times to his disciples; one time to a group of more than 500 of them. Death is a penalty for sin, not a penalty for living too long. Are you aware of that? "For the wages of sin is death." Death is the penalty for sin. That is how God created it, Romans 6:23. But Jesus was sinless. He had no penalty to pay of his own. So when he died for your sins and mine, death was not able to contain him for there was no penalty and he rose again. Jesus' last words on the cross were "It is finished." "I have accomplished all that I've set out to do. I set out to live and I set out to die and I have accomplished all that my Father has given me to do." And the resurrection was God's stamp of approval on that very statement, that Jesus cried out "It is finished." And God says, "You're right. I am going to show people that you're right by raising you from the dead." John Piper, page 26 writes, "The wrath of God was satisfied with the suffering and death of Jesus. The holy curse against sin was fully absorbed. The obedience of Christ was completed to the fullest measure. The price of forgiveness was totally paid. The righteousness of God was completely vindicated and all that was left to accomplish was the public declaration of God's endorsement. This he gave by raising Jesus from the dead. There is no sin that you can commit that will put you outside the ability of the cross to forgive, and to make that point clear, God raised Jesus from the dead." Jesus was not just given additional life, not the same kind of life that you and I have; resurrection is not resuscitation. Lazarus was truly dead but he was merely resuscitated. A pretty good miracle in and of itself, but Lazarus had to die again. But Jesus was raised to a new kind of life, to a resurrection life, a heavenly life in which he will never again die. And the beauty of this is that he calls us to join him in that kind of resurrection life.
In Romans 6:4 Paul has been talking about our conversion and the proclamation of our conversion and our baptism and he says in verse 4, "We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life." When you and I became a disciple of Jesus Christ we were joined with Christ, we died with him; we are in some kind of mystical faith union with him. Just as Jesus was raised to a new kind of life, so also you and I are invited to be raised with him to a new kind of life; to walk in newness of life.
What Does Resurrection Life Look Like?
The question is, what does this resurrection life look like? What does it mean to walk in newness of life? I want you to see that the Bible is intent on telling us that this life is as joyful as the crucifixion is sad. What does this resurrection life that we are called up with Jesus to enjoy look like? First of all, it is a life of forgiveness. Paul writes to the Corinthian church, "And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins." But Christ has been raised. Our faith is effective and we are no longer, we who are disciples of Jesus Christ, in our sins. Full forgiveness is made available on the cross. It was purchased by his blood and it was celebrated by his resurrection. The resurrected life is a life of forgiveness. The resurrected life is also a life of regeneration; that you and I as disciples of Jesus Christ, because of what he did on the cross, can be made into new creatures; that we who were once dead can now be made alive with him. That's regeneration, being made alive, being born again. Peter says it this way, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." God is a God of mercy who, because of his mercy, sent his Son to die and be raised from the dead. With the same power that God used to raise his Son from the dead, God caused you to be born again. This time not to a dead hope, not to a hope that will end in death, but to a hope that will end with eternal life in the presence of our Creator God in heaven. The resurrected life is a life of regeneration. What else does a resurrection life look like? It looks like a life of sanctification, a life of growth in spiritual maturity. It is a life of becoming more and more like Jesus Christ. Paul tells the church at Rome that we "belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God." Christianity is not a new list of things you can do and things you cannot do. That is not what it is all about at all. Christianity is the message that we are ushered into a new kind of life, a resurrected life when we become disciples of Jesus Christ. We are made into new kinds of creatures. We are called into a new creation where the power of sin has been broken. We no longer have to live under the power of sin. By the resurrecting power of God we want to be the person that God wants us to be. When we experience the resurrecting power of God we want to do the things God says is best for us to do. We struggle, and that is why there is forgiveness. But the life of the resurrection is a life of growth, becoming more and more to look like Jesus Christ and all his holiness. And some day that holiness will be complete and we will look like him when we see him face to face in heaven.
What does this resurrection look like? It is a life that guarantees my resurrection from the dead. Paul tells the Corinthian church, "God [the Father] raised the Lord [Jesus] and will also raise us up by his power." The very power that pushed the stone aside, the very power that gave life to Jesus' dead body is the very power of the universe that when I die will give life to me, to my spirit and to my body and I too will be raised from the dead. Paul tells the Romans that the "Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you [that's God the Holy Spirit, the third member of the Trinity], he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you." That's the promise of God. That is the promise of Scripture, that the resurrecting power of God can be yours as well. See, once again we see that it is through Jesus and Jesus alone that death has been defeated and our resurrection has been guaranteed. Paul writes to the Corinthians in chapter 15 about this process of dying, putting off what is mortal and being clothed by the power of God with immortality and the removal of the fear of death. This is what he says in 1 Corinthians 15, "When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: 'Death is swallowed up in victory.' 'O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?' The sting of death is sin and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." Jesus has conquered death and it is through that conquering that he can promise us freedom from the sting of death because we know it's not the end. We know that death is just the door into a new kind of life that we get to enjoy forever. This is just what you would expect from someone who never said, "I'm a good man." He said, "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live." The resurrected life is a life in which all disciples of Jesus Christ are guaranteed of their own resurrection.
But fifthly, the life of the resurrection is the life of peace. It is a life of living in the presence of our Creator forever. Jesus is coming again. He will either come at my death or at the end of time, but he is coming again. The author of the book of Hebrews writes, "Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him." Disciples of Jesus Christ are to be living in such a way that we are eagerly waiting for him to come back again; eager to hear the words, "Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your master." You know what the joy of our master looks like. It is described in the last book of the Bible, Revelation 21 and the prophet John writes, "Then I saw a new heaven and new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. [This is who we are and this is where we get to live forever.] And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. [We've come full circle to the Garden of Eden. We're back in the direct presence of our Creator; what God always intended for us.] He [God] will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away." The life of the resurrection is the life that is lived in peace as we wait for the coming of our blessed God and Savior, Jesus Christ. And then a life of peace lived forever in the direct presence of God.
Question of Easter: Are you ready?
The question of Easter is very simple, is it not? The question of Easter is "Are you ready?" Are you ready for your sins to be forgiven? Are you ready for your life to be transformed? Are you ready to lose your fear of death? Are you ready to look forward to eternal life? Are you ready to be at peace with your Creator? It is as simple, in a sense, as ABC. It means that you must Admit that by your sin you have separated yourself from your Creator. You Believe that Jesus is who he says he is and that he did what he said he was going to do; that he is God and man at the same time who was able to die on the cross and pay a penalty that we could never pay. He paid the penalty for our sins so that we could be with him forever. It means that you Commit your life to him, waiting eagerly for his return. If you become a disciple of Jesus Christ, if you become a Christian then God's Spirit will transform you. He will forgive you. He will declare you righteous, not guilty of your sins. And he will empower you to live a life of increasing holiness. The question of Easter is, Will you respond like Jesus' followers responded when they saw the risen Lord? The disciples were glad when they saw Jesus. Will you be glad when he comes for you in death? Will you be glad when he comes for you at the end of time? Will you, as Thomas did, worship him? Will you fall down on your face and say, "My Lord and my God" or will you run for the hills and ask for the rocks to fall down and crush you? Jesus has already come once to deal with sin. He is coming again to gather to himself those who are part of this resurrection life and who are eagerly waiting for him.
“If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:17).
- List as many Old Testament promises as you can that were fulfilled by Jesus on the cross.
- Think of the temple veil being torn in two. How does that impact how you live your daily lives?
- How does Jesus’ resurrection help you understand that fact that you are can be forgiven?
- How does Jesus’ resurrection help you understand that fact that you can be born again?
- How does Jesus’ resurrection help you understand that fact that you can become more like Jesus?
- How does Jesus’ resurrection help you understand that fact that you also can be raised from the dead and live forever with your Creator?
- What are the “ABC’s” of salvation?