Then the entire council took Jesus over to Pilate, the Roman governor. 2 They began at once to state their case: "This man has been leading our people to ruin by telling them not to pay their taxes to the Roman government and by claiming he is the Messiah, a king." 3 So Pilate asked him, "Are you the King of the Jews?"Jesus replied, "Yes, it is as you say." 4 Pilate turned to the leading priests and to the crowd and said, "I find nothing wrong with this man!" 5 Then they became desperate. "But he is causing riots everywhere he goes, all over Judea, from Galilee to Jerusalem!" 6 "Oh, is he a Galilean?" Pilate asked. 7 When they answered that he was, Pilate sent him to Herod Antipas, because Galilee was under Herod's jurisdiction, and Herod happened to be in Jerusalem at the time. 8 Herod was delighted at the opportunity to see Jesus, because he had heard about him and had been hoping for a long time to see him perform a miracle. 9 He asked Jesus question after question, but Jesus refused to answer. 10 Meanwhile, the leading priests and the teachers of religious law stood there shouting their accusations. 11 Now Herod and his soldiers began mocking and ridiculing Jesus. Then they put a royal robe on him and sent him back to Pilate. 12 Herod and Pilate, who had been enemies before, became friends that day.
13 Then Pilate called together the leading priests and other religious leaders, along with the people, 14 and he announced his verdict. "You brought this man to me, accusing him of leading a revolt. I have examined him thoroughly on this point in your presence and find him innocent. 15 Herod came to the same conclusion and sent him back to us. Nothing this man has done calls for the death penalty. 16 So I will have him flogged, but then I will release him." F105 17 F124 18 Then a mighty roar rose from the crowd, and with one voice they shouted, "Kill him, and release Barabbas to us!" 19 (Barabbas was in prison for murder and for taking part in an insurrection in Jerusalem against the government.) 20 Pilate argued with them, because he wanted to release Jesus. 21 But they shouted, "Crucify him! Crucify him!" 22 For the third time he demanded, "Why? What crime has he committed? I have found no reason to sentence him to death. I will therefore flog him and let him go." 23 But the crowd shouted louder and louder for Jesus' death, and their voices prevailed. 24 So Pilate sentenced Jesus to die as they demanded. 25 As they had requested, he released Barabbas, the man in prison for insurrection and murder. But he delivered Jesus over to them to do as they wished.
26 As they led Jesus away, Simon of Cyrene, F106 who was coming in from the country just then, was forced to follow Jesus and carry his cross. 27 Great crowds trailed along behind, including many grief-stricken women. 28 But Jesus turned and said to them, "Daughters of Jerusalem, don't weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. 29 For the days are coming when they will say, 'Fortunate indeed are the women who are childless, the wombs that have not borne a child and the breasts that have never nursed.' 30 People will beg the mountains to fall on them and the hills to bury them. 31 For if these things are done when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry? F107 "
32 Two others, both criminals, were led out to be executed with him. 33 Finally, they came to a place called The Skull. F108 All three were crucified there – Jesus on the center cross, and the two criminals on either side. 34 Jesus said, "Father, forgive these people, because they don't know what they are doing." F109 And the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice. F110 35 The crowd watched, and the leaders laughed and scoffed. "He saved others," they said, "let him save himself if he is really God's Chosen One, the Messiah." 36 The soldiers mocked him, too, by offering him a drink of sour wine. 37 They called out to him, "If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!" 38 A signboard was nailed to the cross above him with these words: "This is the King of the Jews." 39 One of the criminals hanging beside him scoffed, "So you're the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself – and us, too, while you're at it!" 40 But the other criminal protested, "Don't you fear God even when you are dying? 41 We deserve to die for our evil deeds, but this man hasn't done anything wrong." 42 Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom." 43 And Jesus replied, "I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise."
44 By this time it was noon, and darkness fell across the whole land until three o'clock. 45 The light from the sun was gone. And suddenly, the thick veil hanging in the Temple was torn apart. 46 Then Jesus shouted, "Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!" F111 And with those words he breathed his last. 47 When the captain of the Roman soldiers handling the executions saw what had happened, he praised God and said, "Surely this man was innocent. F112 " 48 And when the crowd that came to see the crucifixion saw all that had happened, they went home in deep sorrow. F113 49 But Jesus' friends, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance watching.
50 Now there was a good and righteous man named Joseph. He was a member of the Jewish high council, 51 but he had not agreed with the decision and actions of the other religious leaders. He was from the town of Arimathea in Judea, and he had been waiting for the Kingdom of God to come. 52 He went to Pilate and asked for Jesus' body. 53 Then he took the body down from the cross and wrapped it in a long linen cloth and laid it in a new tomb that had been carved out of rock. 54 This was done late on Friday afternoon, the day of preparation F114 for the Sabbath. 55 As his body was taken away, the women from Galilee followed and saw the tomb where they placed his body. 56 Then they went home and prepared spices and ointments to embalm him. But by the time they were finished it was the Sabbath, so they rested all that day as required by the law.
I am trying here to prevent anyone from saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him [Jesus Christ]: "I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept His claim to be God."
That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic -- on a level with a man who says he is a poached egg -- or else he would be the Devil of Hell.
You must make your choice. Either this Man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse .... You can shut Him up for fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great hum! an teacher. He has not left that option open to us. He did not intend to.
The French positivist philosopher Auguste Comte once told Thomas Carlyle that he planned to start a new religion to replace Christianity. "Very good," replied Carlyle. "All you have to do is be crucified, rise the third day, and get the world to believe you are still alive. Then your new religion will have a chance."
The cross and the resurrection stand as the pivotal events at the heart of the Christian faith. Christianity stands or falls with the substitutionary atonement wrought by the death of the incarnate Son of God on the cross and the resurrection of the Son of God on the third day. If Christ did not die in our place, then we are still under the divine verdict. If Jesus was not raised, He was merely a victim, and not the Victor.
The church comes each year to this celebration of resurrection because we must constantly remind ourselves and the world of the resurrection hope, and of the reality of the risen Christ. The church of the Lord Jesus Christ must always remain a company of resurrection witnesses, speaking the Gospel of the cross and the risen Christ to a world desperate for genuine hope.
Yet, the world is not always ready to hear the challenging clarity of the Easter message. Words such as sin, guilt, redemption, atonement, and salvation are often seen as intrusive, impolite, and unsophisticated. Individuals who flee from the admission of their own sinfulness know that the word of the cross and the witness of the resurrected Lord come as judgment, as well as grace.
Some within the church have decided to help the Easter message conform to cultural expectations. David Jenkins, the former bishop of Durham (England) prompted an outcry in the Church of England over his suggestion that the resurrection was "real," but not an historical fact. Christ's resurrection was real, in the sense that the disciples experienced the "livingness" of Jesus. Nevertheless, says the bishop, the resurrection of Jesus was not a bodily resurrection.
Bishop Jenkins' rejection of the biblical doctrine of the resurrection is, as is most often the case, nothing new. The resurrection has been a focal point of theological compromise throughout the history of the church, though some in the contemporary era seem determined to reach new depths of resurrection "redefinition."
The modern flight from the reality of the empty tomb and the resurrected Christ is but another example of the revolt against classical Christian orthodoxy seen in some segments of the church. But the biblical message will not allow such compromise. The gospels record the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead and the appearance of the risen Christ to the disciples and to others.
Paul left no door open to misunderstanding when he stated: "If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins." (1 Corinthians 15:17) If Christ was not raised "we are of all men to be pitied." But, Paul proclaimed, Christ has been raised, the firstfruits of the resurrection of the believers.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the vindication of the Gospel and the eternal sign of the atonement accomplished on the cross. The resurrection was recognized by the disciples as God's sign that Jesus was indeed the incarnate Son, that His messianic claims were true, that His preaching of the Kingdom of God would be realized, and that His sacrificial death was sufficient for the salvation of sinful humanity. The resurrection is also the sign of his return.
Furthermore, the Scriptures make clear the fact that Jesus's resurrection is the promise of our own resurrection and the concrete hope of life beyond the grave. The reality of the resurrection prompted Paul's triumphant cry: "Death is swallowed up in victory."
The church must never apologize for its celebration of the resurrection. Indeed, though Easter is celebrated as Resurrection Day, each Lord's Day is a resurrection day, and each congregation is a body of believers united in the hope and witness of the resurrection.
The two great annual festival celebrations of the church provide for worship and witness. Churches must be faithful witnesses to the reality of the bodily resurrection of Jesus and bold to speak the truth of His resurrection as both judgment and sufficient hope.
Carlyle was right. The unprecedented and objective historical events of the cross and resurrection stand in judgment against all human pretensions and against religion as mere religion. He is Risen! He is Risen indeed.