We are approaching the time of year when we will, as Christians, be most appreciative of God's plan of salvation that has been made possible through His grace in sending Jesus to the earth. He came to take away our sins so that whoever would believe in Him may have eternal life. Jesus' death is a recorded fact of secular history. It's not just the Bible that informs us about the event. There has never been any doubt that Jesus died on a cross. It's not a story made up by His followers. It was witnessed by many who did not believe in him. It was well documented at the time by the Roman soldiers and leaders. Even the Roman authorities recorded that a man called Jesus, a carpenter from Nazareth, was crucified. Any controversy concerning it has not been about the event; it has concerned the meaning of it.
We have to go to the Bible, God's written communication to everyone, to realise the meaning. The Bible tells us that Jesus died, in our place, to take the punishment for our sins and that He rose again on the third day. His death was an atoning sacrifice. His resurrection was an affirmation that He was the Son of God. His death is essential to the Christian's belief in the provision of God for the sake of our reconciliation but it's only half of the plan of God.
At the heart of our belief is the fact that God can now treat sinners as sons because He treated His only Begotten Son as a sinner. Jesus became sin for us. God could have folded His arms in righteous indignation at the state of fallen man of His creation through the effect of sin; He could have been angry at the thought that His Son, who lived a totally sinless life, had to die to take away the punishment we deserved. But, crucially, He didn't. Instead He opened His heart and reached out with arms of love to all of mankind to enfold us with His love, grace and mercy. All of that was while we were still at enmity with Him. God so loved the world that He sent His only Begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should have everlasting life.
That set me thinking. For many people Easter has become simply a holiday; a break from work; an opportunity to get away from it all. But, for those who believe, on Good Friday we humbly thank God that He sent His Son to die in our place. We can, with grateful hearts say, "It's Friday but Sunday's coming."
His resurrection is the other essential fact of our faith. John Stott said that "Christianity is, in essence, a resurrection faith.The concept of the resurrection is at the very heart of our faith." There were many who witnessed His death on the cross but no one witnessed His resurrection because He rose from within the sealed tomb where His body had been laid. However there were many who witnessed the resurrected Jesus. The stone that sealed the entrance to the tomb was rolled away to let the disciples in; not to let Jesus out
How can we know? By looking at the substantial evidence. There were eye witness accounts. Though it's true to say that no one witnessed the resurrection (it happened in a sealed tomb) the resurrected Jesus appeared to many of His followers. He appeared to the followers who gathered around the empty tomb. He appeared to the twelve disciples. He appeared to a crowd of five hundred. He appeared to the apostle Paul.
The resurrection is a verified, witnessed, historical fact; one which remains at the heart of the Christian faith. The facts are indisputable. There was an empty tomb.. The large stone that sealed the door of the tomb was rolled away and the Roman seal which no one would have dared to break was broken. There was no body in the tomb and the grave clothes were folded and left in the tomb. These are what the Bible calls the infallible truths.
In addition there was plenty of circumstantial evidence. The lives of the disciples were transformed. The day of rest was changed. Jesus' dead body was never found simply because He had risen. The believers consequently would greet one another with the words, "He is risen" to which the response would be "He is risen indeed"
Jesus answered the questions concerning His death and resurrection with the words, "Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies it remains alone; but, if it dies it bears much fruit" (John 12:24) He took an example from the natural realm to explain a truth from the Spiritual realm. A grain of wheat sown in the ground appears above ground in a different form. The old has gone and the new has come. That is the essence of faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Jesus died and He rose from death. He has a new body that is no longer subjected to the restrictions of the body that died. It's the same principle at work in the spiritual realm as in the realm of nature when the farmer sows his seed in the ground, in one form, and it is raised in another form.
Jesus died to atone for our sins. He rose from the dead for our justification and He ascended into Heaven to present His blood as atonement for our sin.. This Easter let us give thanks with ever increasingly grateful hearts. Now there's a thought.
Article written by Mick Smith