Up the carpenter went to Jerusalem, knowing full well why. It was time, HIS time, the time, the eternal time as appointed when a world changing event would happen.
It was to be the end of his earthly journey, a time for the transition between the Jesus of history and the Christ of Glory.
There came that time in the Garden of Gethsemane where he went to pray. He asked his disciples to participate, to watch with him, to stay awake with him. Not knowing the incredible events about to happen, they slept. But the Master prayed, communed with the Father. How wonderful the humanity of Jesus the Christ in Gethsemane. As man, he knew the incredible suffering and agony to come, the crucifixion which would happen and he prayed to the Father:
LET THIS CUP PASS FROM ME
Let there be another way to introduce your love and saving grace rather than crucifixion. But the answer was clear, the plan in place. There would be no change.
Perhaps that was the greatest expression and revelation of the WILL of God at work. The plan of salvation would begin with Him, Jesus of Nazareth so that all men might know that He was indeed the SON OF GOD.
And so, in blessed surrender, the soon to be Christ of Glory uttered this incredible prayer:
NOT MY WILL BUT THY WILL BE DONE
On earth even as it is in heaven. He was ready, and willing.
Jesus of Nazareth loved Jerusalem as all Jews do. There stood the temple, the holiest place on earth to the Jews, the earthly abiding place of the HOLY OF HOLIES. It was ordained so by the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and it was the place, the center for the longing, the love and the passion of all Jews. Jerusalem, the one and only Jerusalem, the City of David.
Jesus of Nazareth poured out His love on the city and its people so very special to him. He passionately lamented how he would love to take the city and its people under his wing and to show them what he firmly believed was the way, the truth, and the life, all new things. There would be from God through him a new creation possible, all things and people born again, a fresh and vital spirituality. But before these new gifts from God could become universal, a tragic and horrific event must occur followed by the most miraculous and wonderful event in the history of mankind.
HE had dined in Jerusalem with his disciples, a loving Last Supper to commemorate the event to come, the celebration of his body and his blood. That communion of the disciples and the Lord, that spiritual fellowship celebrated vicariously with bread and wine, was the end event for them but only the beginning of a lifelong celebration for us.
Roman soldiers found him in Gethsemane. There came the mockery of trial and interrogation before Pilate and Herod. The world knows of the hands-washing, the refusal to make the decision of death for a just and innocent man and the offering to the people of a choice between Jesus of Nazareth and a convicted criminal. The crowd of course chose the criminal.
Then came the walk to the cross, the VIA DOLOROSA, the way of sorrow still today commemorated in Jerusalem by the 12 Stations of the Cross. When His cross became too heavy to bear, another carried it for him. Crowds lined the way, watching and listening, some mocking, some wailing, all perhaps sensing this was no ordinary man nor would there be any ordinary crucifixion. But none could know that the world could change.
And so, the cruelest and most brutal death possible occurred for an innocent man, a public crucifixion. Roman soldiers nailed Jesus of Nazareth to that wooden cross.
It seems ironic indeed, does it not, that a man who lived and worked with wood died a brutal death on wood itself.
He hung on that cross for hours, a criminal on each side. The sky grew dark and it was as though the earth and all in it mourned. The Christ of Glory hung in utter agony, and the horrific pain he experienced caused Him to utter these unforgettable words:
MY GOD, MY GOD WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME
So alone, in utter agony, feeling even that the FATHER had forsaken Him. It is impossible to know how He felt, how awful that death must have been for Him. But He was man, human. We as humans like him can understand the cruelty of man and the suffering and agony he suffered in death as many of us have. HE took on the suffering of mankind on that Golgotha Hill. So many who loved him watched, mourned and prayed, never really knowing that this tragic crucifixion would turn into a glorious resurrection.
It seemed indeed that in that darkest moment, God Himself had departed, forsaken. Perhaps it was, as some scholars think that this Holy God could not look upon the ultimate and tragic event as they were laid on him the sins of the world. On that cross, in the blood and tortured flesh of the body of the Son of God, in that death unto sin were in fact the sins of the world, all of them and all of ours. That final bloody act of remission and propitiation had to be finished. There had to be that tumultuous and cataclysmic collision of worlds, when heaven and earth became one through Him. For hours, He suffered in agony and pain. His precious body was exposed, mutilated and mocked. He was crowned in the ultimate sarcasm with a crown of thorns to mock the claim of:
KING OF THE JEWS
Roman soldiers taunted him, challenging him to use His miraculous powers to come down from the cross, laughing all the while. They cast lots for his garments and treated in cavalier style this world changing event as ordinary, the crucifixion and death of yet another fanatic, yet another would be Messiah as there were so many of them in that day. Never could these men know what would happen on the third day.
And so He died and as He was removed from the cross, there came mercifully and lovingly Joseph of Arimathea to claim the body, something which rarely happened in early Roman times, so that Jesus of Nazareth could be buried in His very own tomb. And there He lay as all who knew him, loved, followed and believed in Him mourned. There was perhaps that day a sense of no hope, the law so tragic that HE would never be replaced. Like doubting Thomas, none really believed what would happen that third day.
But on that third day, they hurried, they ran to the tomb, the women did. They were so anxious lovingly to attend His body. Instead, they found in the tomb the Angel of the Lord. The stone which had covered the tomb had been rolled back. The event was so terrifying it overwhelmed the Roman guards. The women announced that they had come looking for Jesus of Nazareth, He who had been crucified, buried and laid in this tomb. They demanded to know who took His body. But the Angel of the Lord said to them, words which would change the world:
HE IS NOT HERE
HE IS RISEN
HE IS ALIVE. Death as we know it had no power over Him. For millions, that is impossible for us to believe. But for us who do and especially those of us never having seen, heard or been in His physical presence, we who believe the truth and reality of the Resurrection are entitled to the power and the eternal victory over death even as it was with Him. Even as He returned to the Father, so shall we at our appointed time be with Him and the Father as well. The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is not a myth, not symbolic, but the most real event in all of human history.
The Apostle Paul states that the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the most fundamental event, thecrux of Christianity. If, says Paul, there was no Resurrection, then Christianity is a farce and more importantly our FAITH is in vain. If the Resurrection was myth, or symbolic and not real, actual, factual, a bodily resurrection, then our faith is in vain. But thank the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, as Paul did, that the Resurrection was real, it endures with everlasting power even now and for all eternity. OUR FAITH IS NOT IN VAIN. The tomb was empty and the empty lives of all mankind could now be filled with the power of this incredible resurrection. The words again which changed the world:
HE IS NOT HERE!
HE IS RISEN!
And so came the Resurrection witness. The resurrected and risen Christ was seen, heard, touched, and otherwise fully experienced as living once again. There were those who doubted, demanding proof. They touched the nail pierced hands and the side pierced with that Roman spear. And they said with the words of doubting Thomas:
MY LORD AND MY GOD
Their eyes were opened and they recognized Him. They fellowshipped with Him and ate with Him. And He said to them “why are you disturbed and troubled.” Why do such doubts and questionings arise in your hearts? He told them to see His hands and feet and know that it is I MYSELF. No mere spirit, He said, has flesh and bones as I have. His disciples were filled with sheer joy and marvel. Their minds were open to understand Him and the Scriptures. Now said the Resurrected Christ, you are witnesses of these things. Go and preach this wonderful event and our message to all nations. He blessed them and sent them.
GO YE, He said, into all of the world and preach the Gospel to everyman, to the Jew first but then to the Gentiles. TO ALL MANKIND. The saving power of the Resurrection was for everyone. So many of us doubt in some ways even today. We see through a glass darkly, said Paul. Our understanding of these things is limited, human here and now. But hereafter, we will know, really know when we see HIM:
FACE TO FACE
Blessed are those who have never seen and believe!
There is nothing in this world like this belief, the outpouring of the saving grace of the Resurrection. The power of life and life eternal through Him is the most powerful force on earth. It comes by acceptance and an open heart, the outpouring of this transforming love. It has been my blessing and I hope and pray that you have had such an encounter with THE LIVING CHRIST, that you have experienced the forgiveness of the cross and that you have accepted and believed in the power of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. That is Easter, that is what Easter means. It is life anew, one born again. A decision to encounter is the most important decision any person can make. It changes life here and it creates life hereafter. It allows the unfolding of the Kingdom of God now and fellowship in that Kingdom for eternity. We become ONE WITH HIM now, and then forevermore.
And so, we who believe sing on Easter Sunday and all year long:
CHRIST THE LORD IS RISEN TODAY
Let the heavens and the earth sing with joy and praise and fill the mind and heart with the power and love of the Resurrection. May the meaning of Easter be with you always, and firmly fasten in your mind the words of the angel, the Messenger of God who stated to those women so many years ago and consequently to all mankind:
HE IS NOT HERE!
HE IS RISEN!
Christ the Lord is in fact risen and our faith is not only NOT in vain but the greatest thing in life. As He was with them in those days following His Resurrection, so He will be with us. His words to that effect are unforgettable.
I AM WITH YOU ALWAYS!
EVEN UNTO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH!
Christ is Risen!