Summary: On Christmas night, light blasted the darkness, and God crushed the status quo.
In the darkest moments, God performs his greatest acts. Jesus was acclaimed “Son of David” on Palm Sunday. By Maundy Thursday, he was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane and brought to trial before Annas and Caiaphas, Pontius Pilate and Herod. Friday he was condemned to death and was crucified. Saturday he lay in the tomb. And all seemed as darkness. The power of the enemy appeared to have conquered God. But now on Easter, after all hope is gone—while it was still dark—the tomb is empty!
Mary Magdalene came and saw the empty tomb and was startled and shaken. She ran and found Peter and John. The last time Simon Peter and John were together was at the house of the high priest, when Peter made his three-fold denial of Jesus. Peter then went outside and wept bitterly. Who knows where Peter was after that. We don’t hear that he followed the hoards to Calvary. Did he look out from the city wall on that barren hill? John had gone up to be with Jesus at his death, along with Mary, and the other women. Perhaps Peter and John were discussing what had taken place on Good Friday. Considering how John’s Gospel and epistles so focus on the love of God, perhaps John was confirming Peter, that the Lord knew all that was in his heart and that forgiveness was available. It may not make sense how he could forgive so complete a betrayal, but Jesus said to forgiven even to 77 times.
Hear Mary’s agony, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him.” Peter and John must have been startled as well. What had already happened was bad enough. They both ran to the tomb. John arrived first and stoops down and sees the linen strips. Then Simon Peter comes and rushes into the tomb. He too saw the linen strips and the burial shroud. But this wasn’t the work of grave robbers—the cloth is folded neatly and placed on the side. Finally John went in and saw, and he believed. He didn’t understand, but he had faith in Jesus, that He was who He said He was. He believed in the mystery of Easter.
What is Easter, and why should we care? Easter is the Feast of the Resurrection of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. So what. Jesus suffered and died on the cross at Calvary. So what. He is the Son of God, God from God, Light from Light, perfect and of infinite value to the Father. He is also man, true man begotten of the Virgin Mary; he is sinless and perfectly submitted to the Father’s will. So what. || He bore our sins on the cross. ||
If Jesus had simply gotten old or sick, died, and was then resurrected, it would be great for him, but of no avail to us; we would be sunk in the same mire. If Jesus had suffered and died just as a man—even a perfect man—he may have saved himself, but it would be no help to us still perishing in our sins; his merits would not pass beyond himself. If Jesus had suffered and died as true God and true man, he could have taken away the sins of the world, but there would be no way to know if it had been enough or if the sacrifice was acceptable to God. Moreover, there would be no hope for the life to come. Beyond that, there remain the words of the prophets and of Jesus himself that he would suffer, die, and rise again…empty promises.
Jesus had to suffer, die, be buried, and rise again. All this He did! His death was not the end, it was not the stumbling block that terminated a highly successful, if short, ministry as prophet, religion reformer, and healer. His death did not hinder his mission. The death of Mohammed ended his ability to provide new teachings. The death of Buddha was the stop of his work.
Only Jesus Christ was unhindered by death. In fact, it was for this reason that he was born. All his life, the shadow of the cross stood before him. The prophet Simeon told Mary that by her son, her joy, a sword would pierce her own heart. At his baptism, John proclaimed Jesus the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world; a lamb meant to be slain. Jesus declared that the Son of Man had to and handed over to the Gentiles, who would mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him, and kill him. Christ came into this world to save sinners, to die for us, to make the once-for-all sacrifice that would reconcile God and man. The resurrection was the vindication of His mission, proof that all He said is true. || The resurrection is the only way that we can understand the plan of salvation. || All Jesus’ teaching would be unintelligible until his death and resurrection. Have you ever been to a 3D movie? Did you take off the funny glasses to see what was actually on screen? The movie is strange, out of focus, and oddly colored; it is not fully understandable without the glasses. In the same way, we can understand Jesus’ teaching only in part without the “special glasses.” But when we look at his life through the lens of his passion, death, and resurrection, it’s like seeing Christianity in 3D, it’s alive and makes sense.