An Easter Message

The word "Easter" is not derived from the original Greek language from which we get the New Testament. The origins of the word "Easter" are described as obscure and pagan. The Greek word associated with the event is the word for Passover. Jesus was resurrected on the Sunday after Passover. However, because of that connection to modern-day Judaism, the calendar date that we celebrate Jesus' resurruction date is accurate. What we celebrate as Easter is at the same place in the year that Jesus' resurrection was in the year of His death. Any relation of the date we choose to celebrate Christ's birth is a much more distant one to His actual birthdate, which more likely was in the springtime, not the dead of winter. Curiously, people observe the birth of Christ with much more intensity but far less exact Biblical evidence than the resurrection of Christ, which we are commanded to observe every first day of the week. We are given much more concise information about how we are to observe the Lord's supper than how to observe the birth of Christ. Man has all of this backwards in terms of interest and intensity.

Crucifixion was the most cruel death that had been invented by mankind to that time. Some would say that it was the most painful and humiliating death ever invented at any point in history. In Jesus' time, crucifixion could be administered only by the Romans--Jewish law did not include the authority for the death penalty. Yet, in the heat of the trials of Jesus, the Jewish officials conveniently forgot that and pressed the Romans for capital punishment. Many Easter sermons focus upon the physical details of Jesus' death, and with good reason. However, my tack on this day is to center upon His resurrection. The totality of Jesus' death on the cross is more than can be digested in on a single sermon.

The scribes and Pharisees had been led to shame by the teachings of Jesus. Matthew 23 is only a sample of the things He had said about their hypocritical, shallow religion. While the scribes and Pharisees would bring humiliation to Jesus at the cross, He had already brought shame to the Jewish leaders, because of their guilt. Jesus went to the cross in humiliation and embarrassment as far as the eyes of men was concerned, but He did no go to the cross in shame in Heaven's eyes. Jesus was tempted in all points as we are, but He never committed any sin (Hebrews 4: 15; Hebrews 7: 26-27).

The Mission of the Son of Man (Luke 19: 28 - 24: 53). Jesus went to His betrayal trying to warn mankind of evils that would come to them. He wept over Jerusalem, lamenting the destruction that would come in AD 70 (Luke 19: 41-44). The Sadducees did not understand the spiritual nature of Christ's kingdom (20: 27-38). They commissioned Judas Iscariot to betray Jesus, unwittingly fulfilling prophecy after prophesy in so doing. Perhaps one prophecy fulfilled that is seldom noticed is that if it took an insider to point out who Jesus was, this only confirms Isaiah 53:2 that "he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him." After Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss while in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus was led by a mob of people equipped with swords and sticks to six mock trials. All of these trials were carried out in violation of Jewish and sometimes Roman law.

Six unlawful trials, none with a guilty verdict:

1. Annas, the previous high priest, father-in-law of Caiaphas, the then-reigning high priest. See John 18: 13; Luke 22: 54.

2. Caiaphas, the high priest. John 18: 24.

3. The Sanhedrin, Luke 22: 66. Their meeting broke many of their own laws.

4. Pilate, first time. John 18: 28-38. Luke 23: 1-7.

5. Herod, Luke 23: 8 - 12.

6. Pilate, final time. Luke 23: 13-25; John 18: 39.

Crucifixion was a fate reserved for the darkest of criminals. A previous Sanhedrin that had asked the Roman government for two crucufixions within seven years had been referred to as "the bloody Sanhedrin." This Sanhedrin instigated the charges against Jesus although by their own laws the Sanhedrin could not originate charges, but only investigate them. But this Sandhedrin wanted Jesus dead so badly that they were willing to live with the consequences. They met at night, strictly forbidden by their own laws. They did not do their deliberations at the designated place, but flowed to and from the six locations given above, in violation of Jewish law that the Sanhedrin should meet in one well-publicized place. Trials were supposed to be publicized in advance and totally public. The 70 men of the Sandhedrin were bilingual, and some trilingual, so that no defendant would ever be disserviced by any translator. They sat in concentric half-circles with the youngest at the front so that they would vote their consciences without peer pressure from the older members who were sitting behind them. But none of these safeguards seem to have been in place when our Lord was "tried." How feeble seem the efforts of man to do righteously.

Death on the cross.The Roman executioners were very familiar with this very grizzly form of capital punishment. They were not going to be deceived by someone who tried to feign a swoon in order to be taken off the cross before he was really dead. John's account in 19: 30-37 removes any such doubt "Then when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said,'It is finished!' And He bowed His head and gave up the spirit. Then the Jews, because it was Preparation, begged Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away, so that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the sabbath. For that sabbath was a high day. Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who was crucified with Him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs. But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a lance, and instantly there came out blood and water. And he who saw bore record, and his record is true. And he knows that he speaks true, so that you might believe. For these things were done so that the Scripture might be fulfilled, "Not a bone of Him shall be broken." And again another Scripture says, "They shall look upon Him whom they pierced." See for more evidence both secular and religious about the fact of His death.

The resurrected Son of Man. The account in Luke 24 gives us insight about our resurrected bodies, because we will be made like Him (I John 3: 2). His resurrected body was a body of flesh and bone (Luke 24: 39) but not a body of flesh and blood (I Corinthians 15: 50-58). He could eat food and be touched, which are not characteristics of dis-embodied spirits. This gives us hope that we can live as Christ now lives, resurrected, and in the presence of the Father. Paul said in Philippians 3: 20 -21 "For our citizenship is in Heaven, from which also we are looking for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall change our body of humiliation so that it may be fashioned like His glorious body, according to the working of His power, even to subdue all things to Himself. "

Make no mistake about it--the best message of the death, burial, and resurrection of the Christ is the resurrection. Through Jesus' resurrection, we all have hope of life after death. The resurrection answers the question in Job, "If a man dies, shall he live again?" (Job 14: 14). Romans summarizes the delimma of sinful man and God's uncomparable solution in Romans 5: "17 If, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. 18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous. 20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." So it was that through the events of the betrayal, the trials, the death, the burial, and resurrection, that the path for man to eternal life was opened by the Christ, God's own Son.

What to do about the resurrection message in our present time? Easter is not a once-per year observance, but a weekly one. The dearness that our Lord had for attention and recognition of His supreme sacrifice is evident in the full description that is given of the Last Supper in four places in Scripture--Matthew 26: 26-40, Mark 15: 12-26, Luke 22: 8-20, I Corinthians 11: 20 -34. Communion is and was near and dear to our Saviour. Let us do everything about communion as He wants it done. Let us do it on the days and within the interval He proclaimed in Acts 20: 7 ( "And upon the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul discoursed with them, intending to depart on the morrow; and prolonged his speech until midnight.") This is the only verse in the Bible that sets the day of the week and the intervals between weeks, but once is enough. To decide to partake of the Lord's Supper quarterly, bi-annually, or annually is to act on even less evidence. How many times did God have to say "Let there be light!" before there was light (Genesis 1: 3)? Let us remember each week to take of the unleavened bread and the fruit of the vine with the fondness that Christ wants us to remember Him by it. The responsibility for associating the bread and wine with the body and blood of Jesus is ours, not that of our church leaders.

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