By Pastor Sean Harris
On the first Sunday of this month, the Christian church celebrated its most important holy day, known as Easter or Resurrection Sunday. Each year, Christians all over the world dedicate a single Sunday to put extraordinary emphasis on the significance of the resurrection of Christ. As our world continues down a glide path of progressive secularism, fewer people are celebrating this special Sunday and even fewer understand why it is such a big deal!
The man, Jesus of Nazareth, claimed to be the Son of God. He made it clear on more than one occasion that His Father was the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He stated that he was sent by God to this earth. He said he had a preexistence that dated back to before Abraham (John 8:58). Simply put, these are outlandish claims if they are not true. If someone came into your church with these type of claims, you’d conclude they had lost their marbles. In order to validate these claims of divine origin, Jesus performed many great and supernatural miracles. He called Lazarus back from the dead. He healed the blind and made the lame to walk. He fed thousands on multiple occasions. He walked on water! The gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are replete with miraculous stories.
After three years of teaching and performing public miracles, many came to believe that Jesus was the Jewish Messiah foretold by the Old Testament Scripture and sent by God. These Jews were convinced that Jesus was who he claimed to be. They called him Lord and Master, and He said they were right to call him such, for so he was (John 13:13). On the Sunday before his death, nearly all of Jerusalem called Jesus their King with words of praise and adoration (Matthew 21; John 12:13). This sudden rise of incredible popularity caused great fear among the Jewish political and religious leaders. If Jesus of Nazareth became the King of Israel, what would happen to their positions of power, influence and wealth? All would be lost. They saw that Jesus had disciples and these disciples no doubt would occupy positions of leadership in this new kingdom. Something had to be done to stop Jesus.
Meeting behind closed doors and in the late hours of the night, the Pharisees and Sadducees worked together to have Jesus crucified. False charges were trumped up and a man, Judas Iscariot – one of Jesus’ disciples – was paid off to betray Jesus. Because of the Roman law prohibiting the Jews from carrying our capital punishment, the Roman governor had to be convinced that Jesus of Nazareth was a threat to Rome. Pontius Pilate was the Roman governor at the time, and the narrative in the gospel of John shows that he was fully convinced that Jesus had done nothing worthy of death. He said, “I find no guilt in him” (John 18:37). Pilate asked Jesus if he was the King of the Jews and Jesus didn’t deny this truth for so He is! Pilate expressed his extreme frustration with the entire situation throughout the narrative and attempts multiple times to free Jesus. It is obvious to the reader of John that Pilate does not want to put an innocent man to death. The dialog between Jesus and Pilate is interesting and worthy of your attention. Read all of John 18 slowly and carefully and you will see that Jesus will not back down from his divine origin and his position as the promised Son of David, the King of the Jews. Yet He knows He must die; the amazing truth was that the King must die for His people.
The idea that the King, the promised Messiah, must die was inconceivable to Peter and the disciples. Peter was willing to fight to the death to keep His Lord from dying. Yet that was not God’s plan. Jesus was born to die. He had to save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21). The curse of sin, any and all forms of disobedience to God and his law, had separated the Creator God from His creation since Adam fell in the Garden. A God who can ignore sin is not worthy of worship and adoration. A God who would not judge the sins of kidnapping, rape and murder would be a monster. God’s righteous indignation toward the sin of humanity could not be suppressed. And yet, God’s love for the world compelled him to action. God, more specifically the Son of God, would take man’s place. He would pay the debt. He would endure the wrath. He would die for the sins of the whole world. He would satisfy the righteous demand for justice and demonstrate God’s love at the same time on a bloody cross on the hill called Golgotha.
Is all this true? Was Jesus the Son of God? Was He the promised Messiah? Was Jesus the Lamb of God who took away the sins of the world? Did he indeed die for the sins of the whole world? Could men and women be saved from sin and death? Resurrection Sunday screams “Yes!” Just as Jesus predicted, He rose from the grave on the third day. The same Jesus that was put to death on a cross rose from the grave. Resurrection Sunday celebrates an empty tomb. Death has been defeated. The bodily resurrection of Jesus validated the authenticity of who Jesus claimed to be, “the Son of God with power,” (Romans 1:4) and what he said he accomplished on a cross, the payment for and the forgiveness of sin. We can stand confidently and proclaim, “It is finished.”
What did you celebrate on this Christian holiday? Was it the death, burial and resurrection of Christ for God’s glory and your salvation? For 40 days the resurrected Jesus appeared to his disciples on numerous occasions in different ways so they would believe. Do you?
Sean Harris is senior pastor at Berean Baptist Church in Fayetteville