He is risen!

Published 9:20am Monday, April 25, 2011

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Yes I know that saying is typically reserved for Christmas, but to me it really belongs to Easter or at least it belongs to both. The Easter season comes at a joyous time (springtime) when all of creation is coming alive again. Green grass and leaves on trees is such a blessing after months of brown lawns and bare trees.

At springtime, I’m infused with new energy seeing nature come alive with bursts of color as flowers bloom and the sun becomes our friend again (at least for a short while until it gets hot) warming us after the cooler winter months. It’s like all the new growth and new life is creation’s celebration and reenactment of Jesus Christ rising from the dead and exclaiming “He is risen!”

All through the season of Lent, we contemplate our brokenness and need for a Savior and then during Holy Week we watch and remember as Jesus takes the journey from being the popular coming King of Palm Sunday with the crowds cheering and singing His praises to the crowds chanting “crucify Him” by the end of the week. Jesus’ three years of ministry culminates on Holy Week with Him meeting with His disciples in the second story room.

There He shared the Passover meal and instituted our Communion celebration. He taught them what it means to serve each other and love each other and then they move to the Garden of Gethsemane for prayer. He wrestled with the will of God the Father and the ultimate reason and purpose for His coming – to take away the sin of the world through His death. Then one of his disciples, Judas, betrayed Him with a kiss, and the mob accompanying Judas take Him to the high priest for trial. His accusation is blasphemy with a sentence of death, but since only the Romans can carry out a death sentence, the Jewish religious leaders couldn’t kill him.

Instead, they took Him to the Roman governor, Pilate, who questioned and then scourged Him (whipping Him with 39 lashes). Many in that day died from the trauma of the scourging alone, but Jesus endured and suffered and took the punishment that we deserve. He was then forced to carry the cross beam for the cross through the streets to the place where He was crucified. The Roman soldiers drove nails through His hands and feet and then raised His cross and dropped it into its upright position. Jesus hung there for hours slowly suffocating and bleeding to death. All this happened during the Jewish Passover celebration, where a perfect lamb was sacrificed in gratitude to God for His rescuing them from Egypt so many years before. After suffering and dying, Jesus was the perfect and final permanent sacrifice – the Passover lamb for all of the world.

They placed His body in a tomb of hewn rock and rolled a stone in front of the entrance. Guards were placed in front of the entrance so no one could steal His body. On the third day after he died, early in the morning Jesus rose from the dead! The Bile says there was an earthquake and an angel rolled away the stone. The angel gave the message of His resurrection to some women who had come to perform the traditional Jewish burial practice that Sunday morning.

They were bewildered, fearful, and confused, yet hopeful and joyful at the prospect of the empty tomb and Jesus being alive. The disciples thought the women were crazy until Jesus appeared to them and instructed them to look and touch His wounds and get Him something to eat (proof that He was truly alive).

According to the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:3-6, there were more than five hundred witnesses who saw Jesus “with their own eyes” – not in some spiritual sense but physically as we see each other. Paul wrote, “…what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living…”

This is the Gospel message that brings salvation. His death on the cross was the sacrifice that paid the debt for the sins of the world. Tullian Tchividjian (Billy Graham’s grandson) states so beautifully what happened. “Jesus had risen, just as He told them He would. After a criminal does his time in jail and fully satisfies the sentence, the law has no more claim on him and he walks out free. Jesus Christ came to pay the penalty for our sins.

That was an infinite sentence, but He must have satisfied it fully, because on Easter Sunday He walked out free. The resurrection was God’s way of stamping PAID IN FULL right across history so that nobody could miss it.”

Resurrection is essential to our faith. John Stott, the great British preacher said; “Christianity is in its very essence a resurrection religion. The concept of resurrection lies at its heart. If you remove it, Christianity is destroyed.” This refers to the resurrection of Christ, but also to the life we can live in following Him in the power of the Holy Spirit of God. The Apostle Paul writes in Romans 8:11 …if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you. The problem is that we too often fail to live in that power that is available to us. We fail to immerse ourselves in the Gospel and live in the grace that motivates our obedience to God.

So as we remember and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, may we live our lives in an acceptable response to Him. May we live so that in all things our lives are exclaiming, “He is risen indeed!”

Gene King is the pastor for Grace Fellowship.

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