Pastor Jonathan Falwell
The Cross. A powerful symbol. Think of what it must have been like that day. Three wooden crosses, fashioned from the rough wood of a recently felled tree. They didn’t spend time putting the finishing touches on these works. No smooth finish, no shiny lacquer. Just rough, splintering wood. Left that way to ensure the greatest pain for the criminal who would die there. As the condemned would slowly push up with their legs to grasp for air, getting ever more difficult with each move, the splinters from that rough tree would rip at their already shredded skin.
Three crosses stood that day. The whole town no doubt came out to see what this was all about, to watch these men die. The pharisees and religious leaders there to see their plan come to fruition. Their friends and family, with tears in their eyes, standing by in denial of what they would see witness. The soldiers simply doing what they were told to do, just another day at work.
Soon, the crowd grew larger as these men were led to the hillside. Their pain already more than most could withstand. They were brought to where the wooden crosses were waiting. Nailed to these trees then lifted to begin the agonizing process of dying as they hung for the world to see. Three men dying for the sins committed. Two for their own sins, one for the sins of us all.
2 Cor. 5:21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
“Him who knew no sin” became our sin. That’s why Jesus died. The substitutionary atonement for the sins of the world. Payment for your sins and mine. You see, someone had to pay. That’s what His substitutionary death was all about.
God is a Holy God. A righteous God, and the righteous Judge. He hates sin, cannot allow sin to go unpunished, to go unpaid. He had to judge and punish sin. But God is also a God of love. Ultimate love, unending love. And so, through His great love, He found a way for our sins to be punished, for the price to be paid, without getting what we deserve.
Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death…
That way was for His only Son, Jesus, to pay that price. To bear the weight of our sins, to be punished for our wrongdoing.
Isaiah 53:5 But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.
Jesus came to this earth, hung on that cross, died a horrible death. Not for what He had done, but for what we had done. Not for His bad acts, but for ours. Not for His sin, but for mine, and yours, and for all of mankind. Why? Because God loves us that much. Jesus stepped in and took the punishment so we wouldn’t have to suffer. To save us from our sin, to save us from Hell, to save us for Heaven.
That day was a long day. As they watched Jesus hanging on the cross, the pain he endured became greater and greater. The words He uttered became more troubling with each passing breath. And eventually, He breathed His last.
Luke 23:46 And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, “Father, ‘into Your hands I commit My spirit.'” Having said this, He breathed His last.
When He died, the earth shook, the sky darkened, dead people came out of their tombs, the veil in the temple was ripped in two. It was utter chaos. The family, friends and disciples who stood nearby were gripped by grief and fear. Tears rolled down their cheeks as they watched the man they loved, the man they had followed, for whom they had given up everything, slowly lose His life. Now, they probably slipped further away from the crowd, not sure what to do next.
The pharisees and religious leaders, those who had set this into motion, were no doubt filled with pride. Never again would they hear of this man Jesus, never again hear His teachings, never again see Him turn over the tables in the temple, never again dealing with those He healed, never again listening to what they perceived to be blasphemies uttered from His lips. Never again, this Jesus. They walked away with heads held high, they had won. The day had ended in defeat for this Jesus.
The soldiers? Just another day at work. They had done what they were told to do, accomplished their assigned tasks. No big deal, just another day at the office. The day was over, it had ended. Time to go home.
Soon, His body was taken down from that cross. Wrapped and prepared for burial. Carried off to the tomb borrowed for this purpose, not a great distance from where they stood. He was placed in the tomb, the entrance way sealed with a great rock. Guards placed there to ensure that no one would steal the body to cause confusion. The day was done, Jesus was dead, it was finished.
Not much is said about what took place between that day and a few days later. Reading the Gospel accounts, we are aware of a number of different events that took place on that morning. Angels appeared, soldiers knocked out, stone rolled from the entrance way to the tomb, disciples coming and going. Peter looking into the space seeing that Jesus wasn’t there and running away. But there’s an account in John 20 that I want to take a brief look at this morning because I believe it captures a special moment after the resurrection of Jesus.
John 20:11 But Mary stood outside by the tomb weeping, and as she wept she stooped down and looked into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. 13 Then they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.” 14 Now when she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” She, supposing Him to be the gardener, said to Him, “Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him, “Rabboni!” (which is to say, Teacher).
Mary had come to the tomb filled with hopelessness, pain, loss and grief. She had come that day to continue to grieve. To anoint His body as Mark 16 tells us. Her heart was broken because Jesus was dead. Now, to add insult to injury, His body was gone.
As she stood there, angels spoke to her asking her why she was upset. She answered because they had taken away the body of Jesus. Then she sees another man who also asks why she was upset. Thinking this man was the gardener, she begs him to just tell her where the body is, tell me where they’ve taken him! With the tears in her eyes, the grief in her heart, the pain that flooded her spirit, she had no idea who she was talking to at that moment. Then, one word changed everything. The man simply said…MARY!
A simple word, her name, that immediately changed everything about this situation. She heard her name spoken, she had heard it a million times before, but this wasn’t just another mention, she wasn’t overhearing this common name spoken by someone else, this was her name uttered by someone that meant everything to her. It was Jesus. He was alive. She immediately recognized His voice, she looks at Him and speaks, RABBONI (rabb-ee-oh-NEE). Teacher! The one who had taught her everything that really mattered. The one who had healed her. Seven demons cast out of her by this Man. It was Jesus. He was ALIVE! It was a BRAND NEW DAY! Everything changed! Jesus is ALIVE!
Lamentations 3:22-26 Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not. 23 They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. 24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I hope in Him!” 25 The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, To the soul who seeks Him. 26 It is good that one should hope and wait quietly. For the salvation of the Lord.
I love that phrase in verse 23…”they are new every morning!” What an amazing concept. Everyday is a brand new day with Him.
DARKNESS, SLEEP AT NIGHT, WAKE UP
You just want your mind to shut down, to stop thinking about all of the problems, the challenges, the hurts and worry. But yet in the midst of the darkness of night, sometimes it seems as if that is all we can think about and it just won’t stop. But, when day arrives, when dawn breaks, when the light begins to shine, it seems as if everything is okay once again.
That’s a picture of verse 23…NEW EVERY MORNING! That’s the picture of His resurrection. Darkness reigned, worry consumed, grief overwhelmed, fear abounds, then morning came! The light shines, Jesus raised from the grave! GREAT IS THE FAITHFULNESS OF GOD! No matter how bad it might seem, He is faithful because HE LIVES.
Verse 24 states, “Therefore I hope in Him, the Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who sees Him!”
Our hope is in Him because He has defeated death, the grave and hell. He has destroyed the plans of Satan himself. The darkness that was all-consuming when they rolled the stone in front of the entrance to the tomb was shattered by an ever-burning, ever-present light that can never be extinguished. Jesus rose from the grave, HE IS ALIVE FOREVERMORE! Darkness, then the dawn.
Verse 25 states, “It is good that one should hope and wait quietly. For the salvation of the Lord.”
For the salvation of the Lord! That is what Easter is all about, the salvation of the Lord. God the holy One, the righteous judge, has to see sin punished. He hates sin and cannot allow sin to go without payment. Our sin, the sins of the world, is something that God cannot tolerate and will not let slide. He has to punish sin. The sin must be covered and it requires the shedding of blood to atone for our sins.
Hebrews 9:22 And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission.
There must be blood to pay for our sins and the blood that was required was our own. For the wages of sin is death…We deserve to pay that price, we deserve to suffer, we deserve to die for our sins. But yet God, the righteous judge, loves us so very much that He wouldn’t hear of it. He doesn’t want us to pay with our blood, our lives, for our sin. He doesn’t want us to pay eternally for the sin in our lives. His desire is for there to be a covering and Jesus is that covering.
1 John 2:1-2 My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.
For the whole world. He is that covering, He Paid that price. That is the Gospel in a nutshell. He died for our sins according the Scripture, and he was buried, and He rose again the third day, according to the Scriptures (1 Cor. 15). Jesus died and rose again so that everyone of us, all of us, could have victory over the darkness of our lives, the pain of our past, the severity of our sins, the suffering we deserve. He died and rose again so that we might have life in His name. He died and rose again so that by believing in Him, we can escape the reality of the Hell we deserve to experience the hope of the Heaven we’ve been given through Jesus Christ.
Today we celebrate, not because it’s Spring, not because of the Easter bunny, not because we might like candy, not because we like to look for little plastic eggs. We celebrate because there’s a God in Heaven who loves us so very much that He gave His all (His Son Jesus) to pay it all, for us all, so we could have it all…if we will just believe.
Jesus shed His blood. He died. He was buried. But praise God, on the third day, He shattered the darkness, He broke through the bondage, He cast aside the shackles, He tossed off the guilt, He wrapped His arms around us, He welcomed us into His family, and gave us the greatest gift that one could ever imagine. He gave us A BRAND NEW DAY! A BRAND NEW TOMORROW! A BRAND NEW ETERNITY!
BECAUSE HE LIVES!
They thought He was dead. They thought He was defeated. They thought it was over, that Jesus had been stopped. They thought they would never again have to hear about what He had done, no more miracles, no more sermons, no more throwing the money changers from the temple, no more graves robbed, no more supposed blasphemies from His lips. He was dead, locked away in His tomb, sealed away for all time, dead, gone, forever! BUT…
UP FROM THE GRAVE HE AROSE;
WITH A MIGHTY TRIUMPH OVER HIS FOES;
HE AROSE A VICTOR FROM THE DARK DOMAIN,
AND HE LIVES FOREVER, WITH HIS SAINTS TO REIGN.
HE AROSE, HE AROSE, HALLELUJAH, CHRIST AROSE!
Robert Lowry, 1826-1899