It is odd to read the story of Jesus being crucified even though he was innocent of any crimes. He was tempted in every way like we are, yet never gave in to the temptation and was never guilty of a single sin. Even when the religious leaders tried their hardest to come up with something he had done wrong, they couldn’t get the witnesses against him to agree about anything he had done wrong. But that didn’t matter. He didn’t fit their image of what the Messiah was supposed to be like. So, they led him to Pilate the Roman Governor to be tried. There the charges against him seem to float off in every direction. He realized it was because of envy that they had delivered him. But, when they shouted that he made himself a king instead of Caesar, it became obvious to Pilate he had to deal with the charges or it would cause him problems. Even with his wife pleading with him to have nothing to do with this just man because she had suffered many things that night about him in a dream, Pilate knew he couldn’t risk having someone else claiming to be king instead of Caesar. When he asked Jesus about being king, Jesus had explained that his kingdom wasn’t from this world and that if it was his servants would fight but his kingdom was a spiritual kingdom, in no conflict with Caesar. Still Pilate felt pressed into the corner and came out with Jesus having been scourged by the soldiers. They had placed a crown of thorns on his head, put a reed in his hand and mocked him, bowing before him, hitting him over the head saying if he was the Christ then tell who had hit him. Now he was ready to be crucified. They marched him through the streets with the cross beam on his back and Simon carrying the rest of the cross. When they reached Golgotha they nailed him to the cross and hung him between two thieves. For about six hours he hung on the cross, agonizing as he took each breath. Finally, he declared “It is finished” and yielded up his spirit and died.
Joseph of Arimathea asked for his body and prepared it for burial. He along with Nicodemus who came to Jesus by night buried Jesus body in a new tomb that had been prepared for Joseph. The religious leaders went to Pilate asking for guards to be placed outside the tomb to make certain the disciples didn’t come and steal the body, pretending he had been raised from the dead. They sealed the rock to the entrance of the tomb and placed guards outside to make certain there was no escape. Early on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and some of the other women came to the tomb intending to anoint the body with spices and prepare it better for burial. As they were approaching the tomb they began to ask each other what they would do to get the stone over the entrance rolled away so they could take care of the body. It was a heavy stone and they knew they weren’t strong enough to move it. But when they arrived the stone was rolled away, the tomb was empty. Instead of the body of Jesus there were angels there telling them, “He is not here. He is risen and gone before the disciples into Galilee as he promised.” When they rushed back to where the apostles were hiding for fear of the Jews, to tell them he had been raised, they didn’t believe them. Peter and John ran to the tomb to check it out for themselves, but they too found the tomb empty.
Later that day two disciples were on their way to Emmaus when Jesus joined them. God had closed their eyes to who Jesus was, so that they didn’t recognize him. As they walked along they were bemoaning what had happened to Jesus. Jesus asked them what they were groaning about. They told of Jesus the prophet whom they had believed was the messiah but the religious leaders had him crucified. Now some of the women had said he was raised from the dead and when two of the disciples went to the tomb they too found it empty and they couldn’t understand it all. Jesus explained to them how the Scripture had to be fulfilled and it was in God’s plan always that the Savior would die for the sins of the world. It wasn’t until they reached Emmaus and sat down to eat with Jesus and he took bread, broke it and gave thanks to God for it that they recognized him in the breaking of the bread. He disappeared from them and they talked about how their hearts had burned within them as he explained to them to Scriptures. They rushed back to the city to tell the other disciples what had happened. There Jesus appeared to the whole group and showed them the scars in his hands and feet to help them know he had truly been raised from the dead. Even Thomas who had declared he wouldn’t believe unless he could put his hands into Jesus side and see the print of the nails in his hands, saw and believed, declaring to him, “My Lord and My God.”
Why does it matter so much whether Jesus was really raised from the dead or not? Because it is in the resurrection from the dead that he conquered Satan. He went down into death with Satan and if the devil could maintain him as dead, he won. Sin has no cure and we are all doomed. It is the resurrection of Jesus that gives us hope. It shows the power of God and good over Satan, sin and death. It is by the resurrection of Jesus that God’s power is demonstrated. In Romans 1:4 it says that Jesus was declared to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead. When Paul prayed for us to know the amazing power of God that is available in our lives in Ephesians 1:14-22 he said it was the power God demonstrated when he raised Jesus from the dead and seated him at his own right hand in the heavenly realms. The resurrection of Jesus gives us hope for the future. In I Corinthians 15 Paul laid out the gospel as being centered in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. He said, “If in this life only we have hope we are of all people most to be pitied.” Then he said he had been raised from the dead and appeared to many different people including over 500 brothers at one time, most of whom were still alive when he wrote that letter. The resurrection of Jesus is the guarantee that we too will be raised from the dead. In I Corinthians 15:20-28 he said, “As in Adam, all die even so in Christ will all be made alive, but each in his own order. Christ the first fruits, afterward those who belong to Christ when he comes again. When we are baptized we reenact the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus from the dead (Romans 6:3-4; Colossians 2:12). In Colossians 3:1-4 Paul wrote “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”
The resurrection is far more than just a holiday that we are to remember one time a year. It is more than hunting eggs and dressing up for church services. The resurrection of Jesus is at the heart of Christianity itself. Without it we only have a great teacher in Jesus who died an awful death he didn’t deserve. The resurrection makes it all come together as God’s plan put into effect that offers salvation to all people. In I John 3:1-3 it says, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. There reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” When we meet Jesus in his second coming we will be made like him in his resurrection from the dead. Amazing!