The Death of Christ
- Tim Cain
- Apr 3, 2010
- Series: Topical
Kaleo Church El Cajon.
Today we get together to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. It is an amazing day. A special day. The greatest of all days, as we see that God has accepted Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross in our place and that death, hell, and Satan have been conquered. Tonight is a special night. However, it is impossible to talk about the resurrection without setting it in its context. In order to have a resurrection there first must be a death. And what we find is that the brightness of the resurrection stands in direct relationship to the darkness of Christ death. Last night we had a special service here. It was a dark service, a service where we read about Christ’s death for us. Tonight I want to go back and once again set the scene for Jesus glorious resurrection. But this time instead of looking at Jesus death from his perspective I want to talk about the last days of Jesus life from his disciple’s perspective. I want you to go back with me and try and understand what it must have been like to be one of Jesus’ disciples during the last week of his life. It must have been so intense.
Imagine, just a week ago the crowds were all calling out Hosanna, Hosanna, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the king of Israel.” Oh how the disciples hearts must have rushed. Oh how they must have thought that the end was coming. Their Messiah Jesus was about to establish his throne. Everyone was praising him. And then they watched him go into the temple and turn the tables and they thought this is our Messiah, here is our savior. Look at him. He is not afraid of anyone. And then the blind and lame were brought and he was healing everyone. And then for the next few days the Sadducees and the Pharisees came and tried to test him and every time he destroyed them until they stopped asking him questions because they knew they could never trick him. He was telling parables about the end times, about the coming of the kingdom and the disciples hung on every word, wondering how soon it would come. One day while they were walking back and forth from Jerusalem to where they were staying, Jesus looked for fruit on a tree and there was none. He cursed the tree and the next day when they came back the tree was all withered and they were just thinking wow! Wow! What a powerful Messiah. Then they went to celebrate the Passover with Jesus and they were so excited. In fact they were so excited that they got in an argument over which one of them was going to be the greatest when Jesus finally took over his kingdom. But Jesus rebuked them, and the tide began to turn. All of the sudden everything began to get confusing.
Jesus got up from the table, he took off his outer garment, wrapped a towel around his waist and began to wash his disciples’ feet. And they were so confused, they were ashamed, they felt so awkward. Peter voiced these feelings as he told Jesus he would never wash his feet. But Jesus would not be stopped. He washed their feet. Washed their feet as they sat there squirming that their Messiah would stoop down and do what no other superior known in ancient history had ever done. And then Jesus began to talk about being betrayed and being denied. And the festive night got somber all at once. And then he broke some bread and said, “This is my body which is broken for you.” And no one understood but they were all sad. And then they sang a hymn and left.
Jesus stopped them when they got to the Mount of Olives and he asked them to pray. He took three of them further on and they could see just how shaken up Jesus was. They remembered Jesus saying, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” And they were so sad. So broken and confused by the emotions of the week. And they couldn’t stay awake. They fell asleep. Even though their Messiah had only asked them to pray with him for one hour, they couldn’t and they fell asleep. And three times he woke them up but each time they fell back asleep. And then, from their sorrowful rest, they were woken up and they heard sounds and saw lights coming toward them. Soldiers, Judas, the chief priests and scribes. And they were totally confused. Judas came and kissed Jesus, and then they began to try and bind Jesus but Peter would have none of it. Peter knew this isn’t how it went down. He knew that God was going to break in and save the day and he wanted to be fighting when God broke in. He took a knife, struck at one of the servants and cut his ear off. And he thought for sure that God was going to break in. That angels were coming, that Jesus would rebuke the soldiers like he had that fig tree and they would all wither. That is what he was waiting for, that is what he expected. He knew how powerful his messiah was, he knew that this is not how it was going to go down. But then he watched and it was crazy. He watched Jesus take all his power and instead of rebuking he touched the servants ear and healed it.
The disciples saw that God was not breaking in here, that he was not going to come and save Jesus yet and so they fled. And they waited. They knew that it was only a matter of time. They knew that soon God would break in and set everything right. And so they spent a dark night waiting to see what was going to happen. How was God going to fix it all? When would he break in with his angels and fix everything? In the morning they heard Jesus was being brought to Pilate, so they went to watch the trial. They knew Jesus was innocent and so they awaited his release. And then the governor came out with Jesus and they saw him. He looked tired and haggard. He had been mocked all night, he had been spit on, and his face was swollen where he had been slapped. Pilate began to speak and he offered to release to the people a notorious criminal named Barabbas or Jesus and the disciples were excited. Finally, they knew the people loved Jesus, they had heard them only a few days earlier singing his praises, and he had healed so many of them. They knew that this was how God would save Jesus. But the people began to scream “Away with this man, and release to us Barabbas.” And then they began to chant “Crucify him, Crucify him.” And the disciples again were waiting for God to break in. They couldn’t believe what they were hearing and they were waiting for God to come and fix it. To send his angels, to vindicate his Messiah, they were waiting, but it never happened. And then they watched as Jesus was whipped and they waited. Waited for something to happen. You know that at each stage they believed that God would break in. At each stage they were convinced that this could go no further. That God would not let his Messiah suffer anymore. They believed that this story would end like the story of Abraham and Isaac, they were waiting for the angel to come and say, “Stop, don’t lay a hand on the Messiah.” And for everyone to be aghast at what they had done. That is what they were waiting for. They could imagine no other outcome. As Jesus carried his cross up the road to Calvary, as he stumbled and fell they knew now is the time, now, now, now. That is what they are thinking. And as he was nailed to the cross, as he was lifted in place, as the hours began to pass, as the world became dark, and as he told the beloved disciple to take care of his mother. With each moment their hope diminished. With each passing hour they grew more and more confused. Despair and hopelessness grew as their confidence in Jesus’ power diminished. Until he breathed his last and gave his spirit up to God.
The disciples were absolutely crushed. They had hoped that he would be the one to redeem Israel. They had hoped that he would bring about the long sought after kingdom of God. They had hoped that he would be the messiah, but now they realized that he was like every other prophet Israel had ever had. He was mighty in power and deed and he spoke the words of God but he was no messiah, his death proved that.
I want you to imagine the devastation. His disciples had left everything to follow him. They had left their jobs, their friends, their family, left it all to follow him. He had been everything to them; he had been their teacher, their friend, their hero, the one they had put all their trust in. They had nothing left. And they felt so badly for him because when he had needed them most they had abandon him, they had left him, and they had not protected him. For the last three years he had protected them, he had watched over them, they had felt safe with him and now they were alone. The disciples where devastated. All their hopes, all their dreams, everything crushed with Jesus death. And so Jesus body was laid in a tomb and then came the Sabbath day where everything shut down for a day of rest.
That is where we pick up the story. I want you to turn to John 20 where we will hear the rest of the story. It was the next day, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene, a woman who had followed Jesus for the past few years went early to the tomb and she saw that someone had rolled the stone away. And so she ran back and got Peter and John and they came and went in the tomb and found it empty. They found Jesus grave clothes still there but the tomb was empty. And they left but later Mary returned. And in verse 11 we see Mary weeping outside the tomb. She believes that someone has played a cruel joke on them by moving Jesus’ body and she is even more devastated then before. She feels absolutely empty. I mean everything she has given her life to has been taken away and now she can’t even properly honor the corpse of the man she had put all her hope in. Seriously. Look at how empty her life is. What is it that Mary wants? What is her greatest hope at this point? Her greatest hope is that someone would help her find Jesus’ body so that she can properly honor it. That is how low she has fallen. And finally she looks into the tomb. And as she looks into the tomb there are two angels. Do you hear that? Two angels are sitting in the tomb. What have the disciples been waiting for for the past few days? They have been waiting for God to break in. That is what they have been waiting for. How do you think the disciples would have felt if they would have seen angels appear while Jesus was being tried by Pilate, how would they have felt? They would have rejoiced, they would have been so excited. But now, now when angels finally do appear there is no such reaction. You see Mary has given up hope. Even though two angels sit in an empty tomb, even though it is clear that God has broken in to this story, Mary thinks it is too late.
The angels ask her why she is weeping and she tells them it’s because she can’t find the body of Jesus. She is unphased by their presence. And then she hears something and turns around and there she sees Jesus standing behind her. This is supposed to be the climax, the most exciting thing in all the world. Jesus is standing behind her. You couldn’t script this better could you? This is amazing isn’t it? And yet it’s not amazing. This is not the climax; it is not the climax because Mary doesn’t recognize that it is Jesus. Can you believe it? Jesus is standing behind her and she doesn’t recognize him? And then he asks her a question. He asks her, “Whom are you seeking?” Do you see the irony? Jesus who is standing right in front of her asks her who she is looking for, when we all know that she is looking for Jesus. This is crazy. How on earth could it be possible that she does not recognize Jesus?
Now you can probably come up with any number of naturalistic reasons, reasons like “She was crying and couldn’t see through her tears, she was hysterical, Jesus glorified body looked different”, I am sure there are any number of reasons you can come up with. But that is not what John is trying to show us here. You see Jesus’ question is meant to show us why she didn’t recognize him. Let’s go back to Jesus’ question; he asked “Whom are you seeking?”
What is her answer? Who is she seeking? She is seeking the dead body of the one she had hoped was the messiah but who proved to be just another amazing prophet. That is who she is seeking right? Look at her answer. She is seeking a body, she is seeking a body that had been carried away and laid somewhere so she can give it a proper burial. That is who she is seeking.
Do you see why she doesn’t recognize Jesus? She is seeking the wrong Jesus! That is why she doesn’t recognize him. Her Jesus was too small. Her Jesus could be contained by the grave. Her Jesus was just a good prophet. But the Jesus she was seeking didn’t exist did he? There was no body lying around somewhere. No! That Jesus didn’t exist. That is what Jesus is trying to get us to see with his question. He is trying to wake Mary up to the truth. And the truth is that the grave could never hold the true Jesus. Oh no. You see the Jesus who truly is, that one is the alpha and the omega, he is the beginning and the end, he is the perfect son of God. He created the heavens and the earth, all of life is held together by his word. He is the one who holds in his hand the breath of every person on this earth. No one could take his life; instead the true Jesus gave his life willingly knowing all along that the grave could not hold him. Oh he knew that his father would not let his body see decay. I Peter tells us that the Jesus who truly is was able to go to die because he knew that his Father would raise him up on the third day. For three years he had been trying to tell his disciples who he truly was but they couldn’t see past his physical body. They could not see that inside him all the fullness of God himself dwelt. They could not see that in his face was the very glory of God. That he was the exact image of the Father. That is why Philip would say to him, “Show us the Father and then we will be happy” and Jesus responds, “have I been with you so long and you still don’t know me. If you have seen me you have seen the Father.” You see Mary didn’t recognize him because she was looking for the wrong Jesus.
Oh my friends tonight I want us to see the Jesus who truly is. I want our minds to be blown away by the power and majesty of the Jesus who truly is. Look at this Jesus. He is not merely the Jesus who hung upon the cross. He is the Jesus who has risen from the dead. The grave could not hold him. He has bore in his body all the wrath of God against all of his people and then he has walked triumphantly away from death. He has risen from the dead never to die again. Never to feel pain, never to suffer, never to be thwarted. He has conquered death, hell and Satan. He has set the captives free. He has conquered our sin so that we no longer need to be slaves of sin. He has shed his blood and now has risen from the dead and ascended on high, where he ever lives to make intercession for his people. He ever lives at the right hand of God the Father and he lives at his right hand to make intercession for us. Hebrews says he has sat down at the right hand of God and the reason he has sat down is cause his work is finished. The grave has been conquered, Satan has been bound, the messiah reigns on high and he is in the process of restoring everything to its proper place under his righteous rule. Oh that is the Jesus who is. That is the true Jesus. His face shines like the sun in all its glory, his hair is like snow glistening in the morning sun, that is the Jesus who exists.
Oh my friends Mary was seeking the wrong Jesus. That is why she didn’t recognize him. Her Jesus was too small. Her Jesus could die and stay dead. Her Jesus had been conquered by the Romans, he had been thwarted by the chief priests, he had been condemned by sinful men, but the Jesus who is, is the Jesus who willingly gave himself as a sacrifice. Like a lamb before his shearers Jesus was silent, but he was silent because he knew that this was not the end. Oh when he breathed his last, when he gave his spirit into the hands of his Father, he knew he was giving his spirit into the hands of the one who would soon raise him from the dead. He knew he could trust his father. He knew that his father had accepted his perfect sacrifice. That he had been pleased with his perfect life and that he was pleased that his son had shown the world the depths of his love by giving his life as a sacrifice for all his people. Oh God was pleased with his son. He was pleased with him and he would never let his body see decay. Today I want you to see the Jesus who is. Please. Guys I don’t want you missing Jesus tonight because your Jesus is too small.
But there is so much more. This massive, majestic, amazing Jesus is patient with his people. Even though Mary does not recognize him. Even though she had given up hope. Even though she was overwhelmed with despair and was looking for a dead Jesus, the living Jesus is patient with her. He doesn’t leave her in her despair. He doesn’t just say, well, good luck finding the body and move on to someone who had more faith. No. Look at what he does. He says her name. That is it. He says “Mary.” That is all he had to do. You see the true Jesus is the good shepherd, and he calls his sheep by name and they hear his voice and follow him. And so he calls Mary by her name. The massive, glorious, risen Jesus gently speaks her name. He doesn’t make the earth shake, he doesn’t blind her by showing her his glory, he doesn’t strike her dead for her lack of faith, he says her name. He speaks tenderly to his people; he calls his sheep by name.
And she recognizes him and she runs to him and clings to him. He is alive. Her Jesus is alive. Oh she is so happy. She is so happy and she clings to him. She clings to him because she can’t bear the thought of losing him again. She can’t ever bear the idea of losing him again and so she clings to him. But as she clings to him, Jesus must tell her to stop. She must stop because her Jesus is still too small. She clings to him as if she could lose him again. She clings to him as if he is raised like Lazarus only to die again. But Jesus is no Lazarus. Jesus is the resurrection and the life and he will never die again. He is returning to the Father where he will rule and reign and make intercession for his people. This Jesus will never leave his people or forsake them. She cannot cling to him because that would be going back to the old way of knowing him. She will no longer know him merely in his physical form. No, from now on she will know him as the one who will never leave her or forsake her. She will know him as the one who is with her always even to the end of the age. She will know him as the one who she can always talk to, always run to, who is always near. Nothing will ever separate her again from the savior that she loves. And when she learns this she is able to leave. She can leave his physical presence and go to the disciples with a message, because he is risen and he is bigger and greater than she ever thought.
And listen to the message that Jesus sends her to tell his disciples. This message is precious. He says, “Go to “my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” Do you hear that? Here, in this line we see how the whole story comes together. You see Jesus came to make his Father our Father; he came to make his God our God. That is why he came. He came to restore all things. He came so that through him we might be adopted and God might not merely be his Father but our Father. Isn’t it sweet to hear Jesus say it this way? Jesus calls God our Father. He says I am going home to my Dad and your Dad, to my God and your God. Jesus Father is our Father. Jesus, the massive beautiful, resurrected, holy, perfect, creator of heaven and earth, he is our brother. Oh what a family we have. What a family we have.
Do you remember what the disciples were doing at this time? They were hid in an upper room, afraid, despairing, lonely, and confused. Do you remember? They were devastated like Mary was devastated. They were confused by the empty tomb but most of them were still thinking someone must have taken his body. They didn’t know what it all meant. And what is Jesus first message to the disciples that he has loved and poured himself into for three years? What does he want them to hear from him as his first words? Listen. Listen to the words of Jesus to those who are lonely, those who are in despair, those who are confused, those who are finding life is harder than they ever imagined. His message is this, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” His message is that God is now their Father and that he is their brother. That his death on the cross was not a mistake but it was a sacrifice. He died to redeem them, to restore them, to forgive them, to reconcile them to God, to adopt them into the very family of God.
And let me tell you why this is good news. Why is it good news that God is your Father? I will tell you why it is good news. It is good news because look at how God treats his children. Look! Look at how God treated Jesus. Look at him. Yes he allows his children to suffer. Yes there will be times when we feel like life is more than we can bear, but look. Look, that is not how the story ends. No, God does not leave his children in the grave! Do you see that? Death has no power over his children. God raises his children from the dead! That is what God does. God raises his children from the dead. God brings his children to live and reign with him for all eternity. That is what God does for his children. That is what Paul tells us in Ephesians 1:18-20. Do you see that? He prays that our eyes would be enlightened and we would know the immeasurable greatness of God’s power toward us who believe according to the working of his great might that he worked when he raised Jesus from the dead and seated him in the heavenly places.
That resurrection power is at work in us who believe. Do you see that? Because God is our Father the power that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and set him in the heavenly places is the great power at work in us. Can you fathom that! We have a massive powerful, amazing Father who works all his power for his children. That is our God. That is who he is.
And today I want you to know this God. I want the eyes of your heart to be opened. I don’t want you to live your life like Mary at the tomb. I don’t want you worshiping a dead Jesus. A weak Jesus. A Jesus who is not strong enough to take away your anxiety, a Jesus who makes it nice that you don’t have to go to hell when you die but is powerless to bring any joy into your crazy hard life. A Jesus who you use when you need him but then dispose of when other things come along that seems to be able to satisfy you. Don’t seek this Jesus, if you seek that Jesus you will never find him because he doesn’t exist. I want you to know the real Jesus. The Jesus who God has raised from the dead who ever lives to make intercession for his people before God. The Jesus who came and died to make his Father your Father. I want you to hear his voice tonight. I want you to hear him as he calls your name and I want you to worship him. I want you to know that you can cling to him now. You can cling to him, for he has ascended and now he ever lives so that his people everywhere can cling to him. He no longer walks the earth in a physical body so that only one person can cling to him at a time but now he is with all of us, he is near to you, and you can cling to him. If you hear his voice tonight do not harden your heart. Do not turn away from him. Do not think of him as an accessory, something to use when it’s convenient and then to discard when loving him is hard. NO! My friends your Jesus is huge, he is risen, he will never leave you or forsake you, he is near and you can cling to him. And when you are discouraged, when you are afraid, when you are anxious, when you are angry or frustrated or bitter or lonely I ask you to listen to his words. Listen to your Jesus who says to all his brothers and sisters tonight, “I am going to my Father and your father, to my God and your God.” He came and gave his life on the cross and went to the grave and rose again so that he could make his Father our Father and so that his God could be our God. And what a God he is! Oh he is good to his children. He is very good to his children. His children need never fear death for he will raise them up again and bring them to himself. That is how he treats his children.
And so, this Easter let us celebrate the power of God by which he raised his beloved Son from the grave and promises that he will work that same power in the lives of all his children.