What was the mood in Jerusalem after Jesus was crucified? Wherever people were, whatever they were doing, could they feel it? Passover had been celebrated in awe and ended in blood. Jesus was dead. Can you feel it? I didn’t have to see him buried – I’ve seen others. Seen their pale, lifeless bodies, expressionless faces and touched the cold – so cold skin. Dead is dead. Did they whisper to themselves, “God is dead.”?
I can identify with the mind-numbing hopelessness the disciples of Jesus must have felt. Three years of their lives had been invested in the one they thought to be the Messiah. They had such high hopes, such great expectations. Despair gnawed at their souls and I wonder, did they sleep at all, or awaken from nightmares remembering their own roles in their master’s death. Peter was not the only one who struggled with guilt.
Photo credit for blog post: Gardentomb.com
Extravagance beyond expectation
The death of Jesus was an extravagance of God beyond expectation. A gift more costly than any of us will ever know… The He would rise from the dead, from God’s perspective, was a given. There was no doubt about it. Jesus was the WORD through whom the world was created. But at what cost? It is truly amazing, that when the Lord of Life died, only the sun was darkened. But life as we know it did not end. The disciples, the Roman soldiers, even the scribes and pharisees… continued to breathe, their hearts continued to beat. If the creator of life was dead – then all life should have ended too! That it didn’t speaks of a mercy and grace beyond comprehension.
And yet, dead is dead, and his body was certifiably dead.
After the grace, before the resurrection
Where do the dead go? I am no theologian, but it seems to me clear, that if Jesus was going to pay the debt I owed, He did not ascend into heaven – not immediately. To pay the full price, He had to fully die – that meant physical death and spiritual death experienced for me – for you. Before He died, He cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Yet He also declared, “Into Your hands I commend my spirit.”
Forsaken, yet still in the hands of God. As the Psalmist wrote,
“Where can I go to escape Your Spirit? Where can I flee from Your presence? If I go up to heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, You are there.”Psalm 139:7–8
This is where Jesus went, that place called “Sheol” – the place of the dead. He truly paid the full price required for my sin. The sinless one suffered separation from God, physically died, and descended into hell for us – and it was in hell where the truth was revealed – the creator of life, took our place in that awful place, so that we would never have to taste it. And then, because He lived the perfect life that no human, from Adam onward, had ever before been able to live, He, who had the power to create life, literally took His own life in His hands and He arose from the dead victorious.
Only God can forgive sins
At the beginning of His ministry, Jesus told a man that his sins were forgiven. The teachers of the law objected (albeit in their hearts). They said, “Only God can forgive sins.” Jesus challenged their thoughts by asking, “Which is more difficult, to say, ‘your sins are forgiven,’ or to heal, but to show you that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins…” and Jesus healed the lame man who had brought to Him.
In rising from the dead, Jesus proved forever that He has the authority and power to forgive sins and to cleanse our hearts.
Living the resurrection in a COVID-19 world
Many of us are having to practice social distancing right now, to protect ourselves and others from the horrible coronavirus (COVID-19). The news is disconcerting and depressing to say the least. Expert opinions differ and vie for our attention. But what is gained if we are “saved” from this virus, and loose our souls? We are careful to wear face masks, gloves, and keep apart from others because we do not want to die or be the unwitting cause of death to others.
Quite honestly, I have found the situation in the world to be mind numbing. I find myself groping for words in prayer. I read of the numbers who are dead, follow what is happening here in Israel, as well as in many nations, and read the stories of people who are there in the situation. I find it so easy to want to run and hide in my books or tv shows, or games. But when I do this, I am denying the power of the resurrection. I am, in my actions, saying that this pandemic and what is happening in the world are more powerful than my Lord. And so, I must remind myself, over and over of the truth. There is a lot going on out there spiritually. Far more than either you or I realize. We must fight through this spiritual heaviness with spiritual armor, holding up the shield of faith and the sword of the spirit – which is the Word of God (Ephesians 6:10-17)
This Resurrection Sunday will be celebrated unlike any other in all of modern history as we know it. For the first time, churches around the world will hold “virtual” services to remember the resurrection of Jesus. Remembering is one thing, but living the resurrection is another. May we grasp the enormity of all that Jesus has done for us, and take the one action necessary to save our lives – welcome Jesus into our hearts to stay. Accepting His forgiveness, rejoicing in such great love and mercy given to us, let’s live like He is alive – because yes, my brothers and sisters, Christ is Risen – He is Risen Indeed.
Pandemic prayers for ourselves and the nations
I shared with you in a previous post how moved my heart was by prayers that were distributed by Christians in Wuhan, China. Over the past weeks, I’ve been working on my own series of prayers, called “Pandemic prayers for ourselves and the nations.”
There are 17 prayers so far, and if you would like them, you can download them here.
I’ve posted two special ones for Passover and Easter below. May they encourage and bless you, and may you have a blessed Resurrection Sunday.