The Lord Jesus Christ is the eternal son of God. The scriptures declare his virgin birth, his sinless life, his miracles, his substitutionary work on the cross, his bodily resurrection from the dead, and His exaltation to the right hand of God. (Assemblies of God Statement of Fundamental Truths)
If all God ever did was to send Jesus to Earth to teach a moral code, it would have been nothing more than an interesting footnote in the history of the world that for three and a half years God visited His creation and gave us instructions on how to live righteously. It would have been a great event, but it would not be a life changing event for those living two thousand years later. However, Jesus did much more than simply teach us how to live. He gave us life itself. Because of sin, we live under the penalty of death. He took our sins upon himself and let sin itself be nailed to a cross. Death died with Christ on the cross, and Life eternal arose with Christ from a garden tomb three days later.
The cross and the empty tomb are not merely interesting historical events of the time to be recorded along with the conquests of Caesar and the intrigues of the Imperial Court. No, the cross and the empty tomb stand at the very apex of history. All the history of the world before that Easter weekend pointed toward this event, and all history afterward looks back to it. And the blood that stained that cross two thousand years ago still flows into hearts and lives today saving, delivering and healing those who believe.
Last week we looked at the birth, the life and the miracles of Christ. This week we will look at his work of atonement in his death, his resurrection and exaltation.
Jesus Died for Our Sins
Today, at your local Bible book and gift stores, you can purchase a variety of crosses. You will find them in gold and silver, studded with rhinestones, semi-precious and precious stones. They glitter and shine with great beauty. In a way this is right and proper for God's greatest treasure was hung on a cross. However, we must never forget that the cross to which Jesus was nailed on that Friday evening was not beautiful. It was formed from rough timbers. Splinters tore into the savior's wounded back. Nails pierced his wrists and his feet. He experienced untold agony with every breath.
The cross was first and foremost a hideous form of execution. It would be like gold plating a hangman's noose or electric chair as jewelry. What did Jesus do to deserve this death sentence? He did only one thing -- He Loved us. No human hand could have placed a crown of thorns on his head, nor whipped him, nor nailed him to the cross except that He permitted it. Why did He permit it? Because He knew that only a perfect sacrifice freely given could pay the sin price. He was the only one who could qualify. The cross was his road to death, but it became our pathway to life eternal.
When Jesus cries out, "It is finished!" , the veil in the temple separating us from the presence of God is torn asunder. Every sacrificial altar, every burnt offering, every dove or bullock or lamb to be sacrificed for a person's sin became unnecessary. Once and for all time, God accepted a perfect sin offering that we need not die, but have everlasting life.
Jesus Rose from the Dead
Darryl Williams wrote a song which says, "You can lay a flower on the grave where they laid old Buddha down and hear Mohammed's Children pray to his bones in the ground, but journey to Jerusalem to a graveyard if you dare.....for there ain't no body there."
Jesus death provided a perfect sacrifice for forgiveness of sin. But Jesus didn't stay dead. With His resurrection, he showed us our future estate. The Bible says, that Jesus is the "First born from the dead" (Col. 1.18) As a young person I found this a strange statement because there were many instances in the Bible prior to Jesus resurrection of people being raised from the dead (Lazarus, the widow's son, etc.). Then one day I was reading C.S. Lewis' book Miracles: A Preliminary Study. Lewis made the point that Jesus was not raised from the dead as a mortal man only to die again. He was raised to immortality. His body was no longer as our bodies are. He could enter locked rooms and appear and disappear at will. Yet in all this He was not ghost like. He ate and drank with the disciples. He had Thomas touch him. As Lewis put it He could walk through walls not because He was insubstantial, but in comparison, the walls were. He was the real and we were the shadow.
And so it will be with us, when we put off this moral body to be given one immortal. We will not die again. We will experience absolute reality for the first time. We can't understand it all at this time, but we know that we will be changed. If He was the firstborn from the dead. We will be the "second born" sharing part of his nature through eternity. John put it this way: "Beloved, now are we the sons of God and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see him as he is."
Jesus is Exalted
Jesus is an example of obedience for us. He did all that the Father asked him to do. He did it willingly and enthusiastically. When he completed His work on Earth, the father welcomed Him back into heaven to a place of honor. Listen to what Paul says about this relationship between Jesus’ obedience and His exaltation
And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became
obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. 9Wherefore God also hath
highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: 10That at
the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in
earth, and things under the earth; 11And that every tongue should confess that
Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2.8-11)
Jesus was “obedient unto death” and because of His obedience He brings salvation to the world which in turn produced a great exaltation in heaven for Him. I don’t understand how one was a co-equal part of the Holy Trinity could be more exalted than what He was from the beginning of time, but in some way, according to the scripture, the Father gave Jesus special honor because of his willingness to be our sin sacrifice.
Today, Jesus sits at the right hand of the father with tears in His eyes watching the world turn away from Him. One day very soon, the world will bow at his feet with tears in their eyes as they acknowledge him as Lord of Lords. Personally, I want to get started early in that acknowledgement How about you?
I Corinthians 15:3-8
A. What does this scripture declare clearly about Christ?
B. What evidence did Paul cite about the truth of the resurrection?
A. The first sermon of the church age dealt with one theme - What is it according to this scripture?
B. Did the death of Christ come as a surprise to God, according to this scripture?
A. What was the message of the angel to the women?
B. What did he tell them to do after he showed them the tomb was empty? What should we be doing?
A. How did Jesus demonstrate his love for us and for the father according to this scripture?
B. As a result of this sacrifice, what happened and what will happen?
A. Jesus was the “express image” of whom?
B. What did Jesus do for our sins? What happened after He did this?