Easter Sunday message delivered April 20, 2014
On this Easter Sunday morning I want us to look at the most important time in Christian history – the Passion Week. The Bible is full of passages regarding the events of this week. From the Old Testament telling that it would happen and describing it, to the New Testament living it and pointing to it with practical and spiritual guidance, God’s word points to the cross and the resurrection.
(1) Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them.
(2) And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre.
(3) And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus.
(4) And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments:
(5) And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead?
(6) He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee,
(7) Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.
Only a week before the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry, we saw Him praised and worshipped on His triumphal ride into Jerusalem. The time since then has not been quite so pleasant, though it is much more valuable to mankind.
After the celebration of the previous entry into the city, Jesus went back to Bethany and has returned to observe the Passover. In the course of the events that happen, He must meet with His closest followers, so an upper room is selected.
Around Him are the men He knows will be responsible to continue spreading God’s message when He is gone. He has more lessons He needs to teach them, and He needs to prepare them for the next few days.
He washes their feet. Humbles Himself to perform the acts of a servant so that the men He entrusts with His ministry understand that they, too, must be humble in this life.
(12) So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you?
(13) Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am.
(14) If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.
(15) For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.
(16) Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him.
(17) If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.
He presents to them the bread and wine to commemorate what will be happening to Him in just a few short hours. He tells them how the bread is to remind them of His broken body sacrificed for the sins of the world, and how the wine should remind them of His spilled blood that He freely gave as a covenant of His promises. These are things they could not fully appreciate until later.
(19) And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me.
(20) Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.
He leaves the upper room to go to the garden to pray. He needs to some time alone with His Heavenly Father to prepare Himself for what was to come. He needed the support of His most devoted friends around Him. On His way to the garden, He takes the opportunity to teach one more lesson to His followers. They pass by a vineyard where He tells them that they have the source of all the power and strength they need as they extend out from Him and continue to reach souls for the kingdom of Heaven.
(4) Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.
(5) I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
In the garden, He urgently requests His Father to change His purpose for coming into this world. He knows, however, that there is no other way to accomplish His mission. It causes Him grief and much pain, but He knows what is coming. His friends don’t understand the urgency and succumb to the weariness of the day.
(36) Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder.
(37) And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy.
(38) Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me.
(39) And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.
(40) And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour?
(41) Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
(42) He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.
(43) And he came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy.
Then Satan begins to have his way. He has many allies in the Jewish leadership and the Roman governors. Even one of Jesus’ own followers is under his sway and betrays Jesus to the soldiers. He thinks he will be able to end Jesus’ mission of salvation, right here, right now. Little does he know, he is playing right into God’s plan.
The trials and torture are cruel. His body, already fatigued with the previous day’s activities, is not given a chance to rest and recover. It is further weakened by the beatings and loss of blood. Mentally, He is assaulted from all sides. Soldiers mock Him. Jewish leaders accuse Him. Roman officials berate Him. In all this, He does not respond with harsh words, but instead with love and truth. It only stirs up more hate and venom.
In the middle of all the misery, He still has time to be concerned for one of His own who falls to the temptation of fear. Peter needs Him more now than ever. He catches his eye, and in that moment, Peter understands his predicament and failure, but is also reminded of the love that the Master has.
(60) And Peter said, Man, I know not what thou sayest. And immediately, while he yet spake, the cock crew.
(61) And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.
(62) And Peter went out, and wept bitterly.
Jesus’ body is almost spent, but He is given one more cruel task to perform. He has to carry the instrument of His death to the place where they will crucify Him. It is the most painful and gruesome deaths man has been able to devise, and He must suffer it. His back is raw and His skin is slick with the blood and sweat from the previous night’s activities. It is all He can do to hold the heavy piece of lumber, much less carry it. Before long, He requires help from a stranger.
(17) And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha:
(21) And they compel one Simon a Cyrenian, who passed by, coming out of the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to bear his cross.
Each step He takes gets Him closer and closer to the end of His physical, earthly life. The man in Him wants to give up. The God in Him knows He cannot, so He continues on down that street.
At the top of the hill, He is forced down on the heavy wooden timber. Spikes are driven through His flesh and into the wood. They will secure Him there for the remainder of His mortal life. The pain is excruciating, but the worst is yet to come.
They raise the cross upright and drop it into the hole that will keep Him suspended in the air. The thud as the cross slams into place jolts His body and rips the skin where the nails hold His hands and feet in place. The pain is almost intolerable. After the shock of the initial pain sets in, the realization is that He cannot breathe. With His weight fully on His arms, the muscles that fill His lungs cannot work. To take a breath, He has to push Himself up with His legs, placing all His weight on the spike through His feet. As He does this, He can fill His lungs with the air that they are aching to receive. He can only hold that for so long as the pain in His feet and the fatigue in His legs make it necessary for Him to sag back onto His arms. It gives Him the relief that He needs for His feet and legs, but now His lungs begin to scream with desire for the air they require, and He must do it all over again. Again and again, He has to go through this anguish. He has heard from others that this Roman way of execution generally causes the person to die from lack of air rather than anything else as their body gets weaker and weaker over time until it just cannot push up onto the feet any more and the lungs run out of air.
Even in the midst of this ordeal, He still has things to show and things to teach. He is not alone on this hill. There are people all around Him. On each side is another man being executed. One is recalcitrant and unrepentant. The other is receptive and truly sorry for what he has done.
(42) And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.
(43) And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.
Even as late as it is for that man, he can still be saved. If he was the only one that Jesus had to die to save, He would still be in the position He is right now.
The religious leaders had to be shown that they had completely missed His message and His purpose. The Roman governors had to be shown that they had not silenced the movement that He had started, and that is movement was not of rebellion against them, it was instead a returning to the true God and the love for one another He showed for others. For His followers, He had to show that this was not the end. It was the focal point of His earthly ministry, but there was much better to come.
It was coming up on the Sabbath. He couldn’t be left on the cross to suffer on that day. It was offensive to the Jews and their customs. The Romans had agreed that to hasten the end for any that were executed on Friday, they would break their legs so the end would come sooner.
Jesus’ life was not taken by these people. They were only playing their part. Jesus gave up His life, just as it was intended according to the Father’s plan. No bones would need to be broken, because Jesus released His spirit so the body could expire.
(44) And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour.
(45) And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst.
(46) And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.
The sacrifice had been made. The sinless had paid the penalty for the sinful. The perfect covered the sins of the corrupted. God’s judgment was satisfied.
(30) When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.
Jesus had suffered and died so that all men now had an opportunity to spend eternity with the Heavenly Father. But was the sacrifice sufficient? Time would tell.
His body was removed from the cross. If He was not claimed, He would be cast out with the trash. Instead, He was laid in a tomb that belonged to someone else. He was wrapped with love and care as was the tradition of the Jews. He was laid carefully and lovingly in the tomb. From His followers’ perspective, this would be the place they would come and give Him honor and tribute as long as any of them survived, but that would be as much as they could do. How could this happen? Wasn’t He the Messiah? Was this all?
They were in mourning, but they could not go to the tomb unto the Sabbath had ended. It was an agonizing couple of days, and they heart ached to back to where they had left Him. The Roman and the Jewish leaders didn’t trust them. They had rolled a huge stone in front of the grave and had sealed it. Soldiers stood guard because they didn’t want any of Jesus’ followers to steal the body and claim He was still alive. All they were going to do was interfere with their worship.
Jesus’ followers were huddled in the upper room for fear that the authorities would do the same to them that they had done to Jesus. They had basically put their lives on hold to follow after this man who performed miracles and taught truth like no other man before Him. They were left grieving and dreading what was to come.
Early on Sunday morning, as soon as the Sabbath observances would allow, followers began to make their way to where He was buried. They had not been able to properly say goodbye, so they were on their way to the tomb.
But they would not find Him. He was not there. The soldiers could not explain what happened. The heavy stone was push back away from the opening, not down-hill as would be easier, but pushed back up where it had started. This was not human undertaking, because no number of men large enough to accomplish it could have possibly gone unnoticed, but there it was, …the stone had been rolled away.
(1) And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him.
(2) And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun.
As the women who were the first to arrive peered inside, they discovered that Jesus was no longer there. They began to panic as the reality sunk in. Where was His body? Why had they taken Him? What were they going to do now? This was all too much after what they had witnessed on Friday.
But God did not leave them to wonder what happened. An angel appeared to them and told Him that He was no longer there, that HE WAS ALIVE!!!
(5) And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted.
(6) And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him.
It was a miracle. Jesus was alive. That meant that the sacrifice He had made for their sins on Friday had been accepted by the Father. Their sins were truly covered. They had a Savior, a Redeemer, a Lord. He had defeated death and the grave. They had nothing more to fear.
They had to tell someone, anyone. Who should be the first? Peter. He was in Jerusalem. They should tell him. If anyone needed to know, it was Peter. It was time for them to celebrate. They needed to emerge from the dark gloom that had settled on them into the light of the joy that the Father could give them.
The message was no longer only one of repentance and returning to God, it was now of the salvation of a person’s soul through the sacrifice of their leader – God’s Son, Jesus Christ, the true Messiah. This was the reason behind the cross. This is why Jesus came. This was the rest of the story.
This is what Jesus of Nazareth did for you. This is what God’s Son did for you. If you were the only one on earth to accept His free gift, He would still have done exactly what He did. It was not the Romans who nailed Jesus to that cross. It was not the Jewish leaders who drove those spikes into His hands and feet. It was you. Your sins held Him on that cross. It is your turn to decide what you will do with that gift. It is not beneficial to you unless you actually accept it.
John 3:16 tells us:
(16) For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
And that is what God wants for you – everlasting life. The scriptures tell us that we cannot have that on our own. We are not worthy.
(23) For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
That is why Jesus had to pay our penalty on the cross.
(23) For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
If He had not died for us, we would have no alternative but eternal separation from God. But instead, we have a gift that is offered to us. That gift is eternal life with the Father.
The gift is accepted by confessing and believing.
(9) That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
God promises, and God always keeps His promises.
(13) For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
Do you know that you are saved?
1 John 5:13
(13) These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.
If you have not accepted Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior, you have a decision to make. What will you do with Jesus who suffered and died on the cross to pay the penalty for your sins? If you decide to surrender your life to Him, please post a comment on this post, with your email address, and I will get in touch with you.
Thank you for reading this post.