“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves know—this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised Him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for Him to be held by it.” Acts 2:22-24
Peter preached these words to the international crowd that was gathered by the will of God at the day of Pentecost. This was the day that God the Father chose to pour out His Holy Spirit on the newly formed church, and the day Peter first preached to the world with great boldness. He preached Christ crucified and raised from the dead. This was, and is now, the most amazing news anyone can proclaim. There was a man named Jesus, the very Son of God, miraculously born of a virgin. He lived a perfect, exemplary life, preached God’s truth with authority and power, and performed countless miracles and wondrous signs. But in the end, he threatened the Jewish religious establishment, and those religious enemies falsely accused Him and brought Him before a Roman court. In that court they stirred up the mob to press the Roman judge, Pontius Pilate, to crucify a man he declared to be innocent. The Scriptures tell us that Satan was directly involved with these events, pressing hard to destroy Jesus and His coming kingdom.
Jesus was crucified by Roman soldiers between two criminals. He had a crown of thorns upon His precious head, and a sign nailed to his cross to undermine His claim to be a king. He was spat upon, mocked, and forsaken by His disciples who claimed they would stand with Him through anything. In His agony he was offered vinegar to quench His thirst. The sky grew dark. The veil of the temple, dividing the presence of God from those outside, was torn in two from top to bottom by God Himself. And Jesus, in His infinite mercy, called out that God might forgive those who had done this to Him, because they didn’t know what they were doing. Then He bowed His head and died.
The Jews that opposed Jesus thought they had won a great victory. Satan, our great adversary, thought he had won the defining victory, at long last. But in actuality, the real actions of evil men that were meant for evil accomplished the perfect will of God. From before the foundations of the world, God had a definite plan to glorify Himself through saving sinful men and women. Not by works, so that none of us can boast, but by the magnificent grace and mercy of God. Upon the cross, Jesus satisfied the justice of God so that we might be rightly and truly forgiven. But none of this means anything if Jesus had remained dead. It would be a wonderful story from history – not a transformational message for you and me 2000 years later.
It was not possible that the Creator and Author of Life remain dead. God raised up Jesus from the dead! The “pangs of death were loosed” from Him, never to die again. He is the “first born from the dead.” This is not figurative language. This is not symbolic language. This is a new reality. This is what Jesus offers to those who believe in Him – eternal life. A whole new existence comes to those who believe in this risen Jesus. He will give us His life. When we die, we will not cease to exist. On the last day, our bodies will be raised like His, and we will reign with Him forever in new life. This hope of eternal life changes everything. It changes our future and our present. By the grace of the risen Jesus, we are forgiven our sins and pass from death to eternal life.
This is what Easter is all about. Lift up your face. Look to the heavens. Look up from your struggles today, and seek the risen Savior. Join us Sunday for worship. Bring a friend who needs to hear this good news. Make much of Jesus. He has risen from the dead!
Soli Deo Gloria,