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The predawn of Easter Sunday is about 36 hours away at the time I am writing this post. In fact, at this precise moment, it is the afternoon of Good Friday, which is the day we commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. If you’ve ever wondered why it is called “Good Friday,” Justin Holcomb, an Episcopal priest (serving as the Canon for Vocations in the Diocese of Central Florida), who also teaches theology at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and Reformed Theological Seminary, has written an article titled, “What’s So Good About Good Friday?” In this article, Dr. Holcomb states:
On Good Friday we remember the day Jesus willingly suffered and died by crucifixion as the ultimate sacrifice for our sins (1 John 1:10). It is followed by Easter, the glorious celebration of the day Jesus was raised from the dead, heralding his victory over sin and death and pointing ahead to a future resurrection for all who are united to him by faith (Romans 6:5).
Still, why call the day of Jesus’ death “Good Friday” instead of “Bad Friday” or something similar? Some Christian traditions do take this approach: in German, for example, the day is called Karfreitag, or “Sorrowful Friday.” In English, in fact, the origin of the term “Good” is debated: some believe it developed from an older name, “God’s Friday.” Regardless of the origin, the name Good Friday is entirely appropriate because the suffering and death of Jesus, as terrible as it was, marked the dramatic culmination of God’s plan to save his people from their sins.
In order for the good news of the gospel to have meaning for us, we first have to understand the bad news of our condition as sinful people under condemnation. The good news of deliverance only makes sense once we see how we are enslaved. Another way of saying this is that it is important to understand and distinguish between law and gospel in Scripture. We need the law first to show us how hopeless our condition is; then the gospel of Jesus’ grace comes and brings us relief and salvation.
In the same way, Good Friday is “good” because as terrible as that day was, it had to happen for us to receive the joy of Easter. The wrath of God against sin had to be poured out on Jesus, the perfect sacrificial substitute, in order for forgiveness and salvation to be poured out to the nations. Without that awful day of suffering, sorrow, and shed blood at the cross, God could not be both “just and the justifier” of those who trust in Jesus (Romans 3:26). Paradoxically, the day that seemed to be the greatest triumph of evil was actually the deathblow in God’s gloriously good plan to redeem the world from bondage.
The cross is where we see the convergence of great suffering and God’s forgiveness. Psalms 85:10 sings of a day when “righteousness and peace” will “kiss each other.” The cross of Jesus is where that occurred, where God’s demands, his righteousness, coincided with his mercy. We receive divine forgiveness, mercy, and peace because Jesus willingly took our divine punishment, the result of God’s righteousness against sin. “For the joy set before him” (Hebrews 12:2) Jesus endured the cross on Good Friday, knowing it led to his resurrection, our salvation, and the beginning of God’s reign of righteousness and peace.
Good Friday marks the day when wrath and mercy met at the cross. That’s why Good Friday is so dark and so Good. (Quote source here.)
The hallmark of the Christian faith rests on the resurrection of Jesus Christ after his death by crucifixion. Unique among all of the world’s various religions is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. No other religion can claim it’s founder ever rose from the dead. And without the resurrection of Jesus Christ, Christianity would not exist. It is that clear cut.
Bill Bright (1921-2003), founder and President of Campus Crusade for Christ (now known as CRU since 2011) along with his wife, Vonette (1926-2015), wrote an article titled, “Why the Resurrection Matters to You: Explaining evidence and meaning of the resurrection.” In the article Dr. Bright states the following (quote source here):
The validity of Jesus’ claims about Himself rests on the Resurrection — whether He rose from the dead or stayed in the grave.
Many skeptics say that to believe in a risen Christ is nothing more than a blind leap of faith with little or no basis in truth.
When confronted with the facts, however, those who are intellectually honest have been forced to admit that the Resurrection is an historical event based on irrefutable proofs.
On my spiritual journey from agnosticism to faith in Christ, I, like many people, had a problem with the Resurrection.
But my personal study brought me to a firm conviction that a bodily resurrection is the only explanation for Christ’s empty tomb.
Several evidences helped me reach this conclusion.
Evidence for the Resurrection
- 1st, Christ predicted His resurrection. The Bible records, “From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things … and be killed, and be raised up on the third day” (Matthew 16:21, New American Standard Bible). Even though His followers did not understand what He was telling them at the time, they remembered His words and recorded them.
- 2nd, Jesus made numerous appearances to His followers. He comforted the mourners outside His tomb on Sunday morning. On the road to Emmaus, He explained things about Himself from the Old Testament. Later, He ate in their presence and invited them to touch Him. Scripture records that Jesus was seen by more than 500 at one time. Some may argue that a few people could have agreed to a deception, but how can one explain the collaboration of 500 people?
- 3rd, the unrelenting faith of the disciples convinces me of the Resurrection. Those disciples who were once so afraid that they deserted their Lord now courageously proclaimed this news, risking their lives to preach. Their bold and courageous behavior does not make sense unless they knew with absolute certainty that Jesus had been raised from the dead.
- 4th, the growth of the Christian church confirms the Resurrection. Peter’s first sermon, which dealt with Christ’s resurrection, stirred people to receive Him as their living Savior. Luke records the thrilling results: “That day there were added about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41). And that group of believers has multiplied until now it reaches around the world. Today, there are hundreds of millions of believers.
- Finally, the testimony of hundreds of millions of transformed lives through the centuries shows the power of the Resurrection. Many have been delivered from addictions. The destitute and despairing have found hope. Broken marriages have been restored. The most conclusive proof for the resurrection of Jesus Christ is that He is living within believers today in all of His resurrected life and transforming power.
The Resurrection sets Christianity apart. No other religious leader has broken the power of death and conquered sin.
Significance of the Resurrection
The Resurrection confirms that Jesus is who He claimed to be. Let us consider the magnitude of this event:
- The Resurrection proved that Christ was divine. The fact that Jesus Christ died on the cross does not prove in itself He is God. Jesus proved His deity by fulfilling the prophecies of His death and by His return from the grave. The Bible declares that “by being raised from the dead [Christ] was proved to be the mighty Son of God, with the holy nature of God Himself” (Romans 1:4, The Living Bible).
- The Resurrection proved Christ’s power to forgive sin. The Bible asserts, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:17). By rising from the dead, Jesus proved His authority and power to break the bonds of sin and to assure forgiveness and eternal life to all who accept His gift of salvation.
- The Resurrection revealed Christ’s power over death. The Bible records, “Christ rose from the dead and will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him” (Romans 6:9, TLB). The Resurrection secured our victory over death as well and “lifted us up from the grave into glory along with Christ, where we sit with him in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 2:6).
- The Resurrection defeated God’s enemy. From the moment of his original rebellion until the day of the Cross, the devil fought viciously and cunningly to overthrow the kingdom of God. Satan must have thought he had dealt the final and decisive blow in this age-old war. But this was the devil’s most serious miscalculation. The Cross was heaven’s triumph. And when Jesus Christ arose, the power of sin and death was forever shattered. Because of the Resurrection, Christians need never fear Satan or death again.
Completion of Redemption
For 40 days after His death and resurrection, Christ appeared many times to His followers.
On one occasion, He gathered His remaining 11 disciples on a mountain in Galilee and gave them His Great Commission.
He said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always” (Matthew 28:19,20).
Later, the Book of Acts records that, on the Mount of Olives, He admonished His disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they were filled with the Holy Spirit and then to take His message to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the world (Acts 1:4,5,8).
Immediately after, He rose skyward and disappeared into the clouds, leaving the disciples staring after Him in amazed wonder.
The ascension of Christ was the final act in the drama of redemption. His mission completed, Jesus Christ was exalted to His former glory.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ ranks as history’s most revolutionary event.
One cannot deny that He shook the world in His day.
But His life just as dramatically has shaped the course of history in our time.
On Easter Sunday 2012 I published a short post that included Matthew 28 (click here for the original post) which contains the Biblical account of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. I’ll end this post by reposting it again below:
It’s the greatest story ever told.
Do you believe it?
After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.
There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.
The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”
So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
The Guards’ Report
While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.
The Great Commission
Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
“Therefore go. . .”
So what are we waiting for?
Go. . . Make. . . Teach. . .
YouTube Video: “Mighty to Save” by Hillsong:
I love taking road trips. There is something about being on the open road that is very freeing. One can leave the frustrations of life behind for a short while and be open to thinking about the more important things in life that are so often hidden behind a big pile of routine activities, pressing commitments, and worries or concerns that are currently clogging up our lives. It’s also a chance to take in the beauty that surrounds us that we so often miss in the daily grind of life.
This week is the week between Palm Sunday and Easter. The Jewish holiday of Passover is part of this week, too, and it derives its name from the last of ten plagues that struck the Egyptians in the book of Exodus (see Exodus 12) in which the firstborn of every Egyptian family was killed as well as the firstborn of Egyptian animals when the Angel of Death visited Egypt and “passed over” Hebrew homes, which had been marked with lambs’ blood on the doorposts (see source here for explanation of all ten plagues and the story behind them). It was this tenth plague that finally freed the Jewish people from 430 years of slavery under Egyptian rule. The significance of the Passover being at this time of year–between Palm Sunday which is the time of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem; His crucifixion on Good Friday culminating with His resurrection on Easter Sunday morning (e.g., the first day of the week) cannot be overlooked. Jesus Christ was (and is) the perfect Lamb of God, who was slain on the cross at Calvary as the ultimate sacrifice for sin, and rose again on the third day (commemorated on Easter Sunday each year). More information on how Jesus fulfilled the Passover can be found at this link.
Let’s fast forward a few days to Sunday morning and pick up the story on the morning of Jesus’ resurrection in Luke 24:1-12:
On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’” Then they remembered his words.
When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.
Notice that they did not believe what the women had told them because what they said appeared to be nonsense to them. Only Peter got up and ran to the tomb to see if what they said was really true, and when he saw that it was, he wondered what exactly had happened.
It was that very same day that two of them were traveling on the road to Emmaus when Jesus came up to them and started talked with them, but they did not recognize Him. Let’s pick up the story from Luke 24:13-35:
Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him.
He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”
They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”
“What things?” he asked.
“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”
He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.
When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.
As I read this story, I wondered how many times do we miss Jesus in the midst of all of our daily routines and activities whether they are work related or church related; leisure related or we’re busy building a career; or looking for love or finding someone to marry or going through the devastation of divorce; or raising a family or watching as family relationships slowly or not so slowly deteriorate; or building a business or watching as it dies in bankruptcy; constantly running to and fro–busy, busy, busy–following the throngs like everybody else running to and fro–busy, busy, busy. And the question again is, how many times do we miss Jesus in the midst of all of that activity?
Jesus came to give us life and to keep us free from endlessly pursuing a huge collection of “stuff” in things or people that we think will give us life. Even the richest person on the planet who has everything imaginable at his or her disposal will die (often from a health destroying disease caused from the stress of trying to keep all that stuff), and all that rushing around accumulating all that “stuff” will die with him or her and go to someone else who will die pursuing the same meaningless end.
Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). Ask yourself what it is that is eating away at your life and destroying you. And is it that important in your life that you won’t let go of it? You don’t have to let go, but the consequences will be staggering someday (and maybe sooner than later).
Jesus died to set us free–free from the trap of accumulating money and things and people; free from the need for power and prestige and control; free from selfishness and self serving ways and frantically pursuing a lifestyle that we think will bring us happiness but that only ends in death, both physical and eternal. This world is not as it appears on the surface . . . it’s a battleground (see Eph. 6:10-18). We are in a war . . . .
If you’re caught up in the vicious cycle of “more, more, more” and haven’t got a clue where it will all end, I challenge you to take some time this Easter Sunday, when Jesus rose from the grave to give us new life, and get alone and meet with Him. Take a drive out in the country, or go sit by a lake or a field or someplace far from all the activity of your normal, daily life if only for an hour or so. And take your Bible with you, and ask Him what He would have you to know about Him, and what He really wants for your life. You might be surprised at the answer. And don’t miss Him because of the unbelief in others or the status quo that surrounds your daily life and routine. “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17).
Trust Him . . . . He can and will guide you safely through the maze if you let Him have total control.
Will you let Him have control?
YouTube Video: “Jesus Saves/Easter Song” sung by Northland Church Worship Team, April 12, 2009: