All the Hope You Need . . . Good Friday, 2020
With Simon carrying the cross, one beaten, weakened Jesus reaches the top of Mount Calvary. A criminal on each side, our innocent Messiah is to be crucified. He is stripped naked, his bruised and bloodied arms outstretched on the rough cross beam, and five-inch long, three-eighths-inch square nails are driven through each of his wrists. Crucifixion is humiliating beyond compare, excruciating without any equal, as each painful hour drags by before death by suffocation eventually occurs . . . it is horrific. The soldiers bend Jesus’ knees, place his feet flat against the wood, and drive in another nail. At high noon, the soldiers raise the cross, and position its base in the hole, and drop it in with a jarring thud.
From the sixth hour until the ninth hour, there was darkness--a cosmic sign as the Light of the World was about to be extinguished. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken Me?" The words fulfilled David's words in Psalm 22:1. My heart aches at the incredible alone-ness Jesus experienced as God the Father had to look away from him and he became our sin. Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that Scripture could be fulfilled, Jesus said, "I am thirsty." Immediately, one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink.
When he had received the drink, Jesus said, "It is finished." "Tetelestai!" Jesus called out in a loud voice, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit. Tetelestai!" He uttered, and then drew his last breath. It was a Greek expression, but everyone standing within earshot would have understood what Jesus said. "It is finished." Tetelestai when used in accounting, meant "paid in full." In fact, archaeologists have found papyrus tax receipts with the word written across them. With Jesus' dying breath, our sin was paid in full, and our debt was cancelled.1
Joseph of Arimathea asked for Jesus’ body, and along with fellow Sanhedrin, Nicodemus, took him and prepared his body with burial spices, wrapping it carefully in layer after layer of linen cloths.
As the women arrived at the tomb at first morning's light on Sunday morning, they brought along burial spices to finish caring for Jesus' body. Amazingly, though, the gigantic stone had been rolled away from the entrance of the tomb, and even more amazingly, Jesus was not there. They were shocked. They were worried and frightened. They turned to go, and then told the disciples that the Lord had done what he had said he was going to do--he rose from the dead.2
Last at the cross, and first to the tomb . . . the women closest to Jesus. Peter and John went to see for themselves, and indeed, the official Roman seal had been broken, and the stone rolled away . . . and Jesus? He was not in the tomb. Apparently, he had risen from the dead! The soldiers were busy trying to make up stories about what had happened. At all costs, they had to produce the body of Jesus.
Why does Jesus' resurrection matter to you and me? Paul's statement in 1 Corinthians 15, says it all: "If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile. . ." another translation says, "And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith." Why? Because the resurrection changes everything. Jesus had said he would die and be buried, and on the third day, would rise again.3 IF Jesus did not rise from the dead, it would have made him a liar, and nothing else he taught would have been credible; IF he did not rise from the dead, we would not serve a living Savior and Lord, and IF Jesus did not rise from the dead, we would not have the hope of resurrection after death ourselves to make our home with him forever.
The Christian faith would not have gone forward if Jesus had been killed, and never heard from again. The disciples would have remained hopeless, died in shame, and that would have been the end of Christianity. Alas, it was not, and we are evidence of that. The young Jewish-Christian church started in Jerusalem, and soon spread to Mediterranean lands and beyond, which assures us that these new believers, who were enduring great persecution, saw and believed in the risen Lord.
Paul wrote the most extensive biblical treatise on the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, also recorded in 1 Corinthians 15 ~ I delivered to you that … Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,4 and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, (Peter) then to the twelve. After that he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared to me also. (so Paul was an eyewitness of the resurrected Jesus). These verses formed a creed that was recited in early Christian churches, and has been dated by scholars to within two to eight years of Jesus' resurrection.
Eyewitness accounts are the most valuable evidence in any matter or event being analyzed. Here we have 515 eyewitnesses, most of whom were still alive when this was written, who could have refuted what has been recorded about Jesus' post-resurrection appearances, but they did not. Jesus talked, walked and ate with his disciples.
The resurrection of Jesus is the greatest symbol of hope for believers today. It means that we serve a living God! Combined with our faith is the HOPE that there is a new world to come, and in that world, God will set the record straight. And the resurrection is one more testament that God keeps his promises . . .
Let us conclude by saying, the Resurrection is the epicenter of belief. It is not a belief that grew up within the church; it is the belief around which the church itself grew up, and the 'given' upon which its faith was based.5
Jesus is alive!! He is all the Hope we Need.
1 - Scripture from Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 23, and John 19
2 –from Luke 24
3 - Matthew 12.40; 16.21
4 – Psalm 16.10
5 – C.H. Dodd