He Is Not Here

He Is Not Here 

April 16, 2022

“Father! In your hands I place my spirit!” ~ Luke 23:46 

He knew before it happened. He and His Father were the only ones who did know. The knowledge brought great agony for Jesus, the perfect man, the Lamb led to slaughter. In the garden before he was arrested, he agonized over his obedience to the horrible, tortuous truth about to unfold. But even more unthinkable to Jesus was his brief separation from The Father…that terrible moment when He would become sin for the whole world. Was there any other way to accomplish what had to be done? 

Luke 22:41-44 “Then He went off from them about the distance of a stone’s throw and knelt down and prayed. “Father,” He said, “if you will, take this cup of suffering away from me” (there must have been a long pause as the man Jesus waited for a reply different from what He knew to be God’s will). “Not my will however, but your will be done. Then an angel from heaven appeared to Him and strengthened him. In great anguish He prayed even more fervently; His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.”  

And then, in a tumultuous swirl, he was arrested, questioned, horribly beaten, convicted, condemned to death, mocked, hated, spat upon, forced to drag his own cross up crude roads, experienced excruciating pain of nails driven through his hands and feet as He was abruptly attached to the cross as the taunting continued…and then, amazingly, forgave the very people who did this to Him as life was passing from his body.  

Luke 23:44-46 “Suddenly God blackened the brightness of the mid-day sun for three hours! At the same time, the huge curtain (approx. 60 feet high) hanging in the temple was torn in two (from top to bottom). Then Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Father in your hands I place my spirit.” He said this and died.” 

“Very early on Sunday morning, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James arrived at the tomb of Jesus to apply the spices and perfumes to his body. They found the stone rolled away and did not find the body of Jesus in the tomb. Suddenly, two men in bright shining robes appeared and the women bowed down to the ground. 

“Why are you looking among the dead for One who is alive? He is not here; He has been raised. Remember what He said to you while He was in Galilee: The Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, be crucified, and three days later rise to life.” 

“Then the women remembered His words, returned from the tomb and told all these things to the eleven disciples and all the rest.” (Luke 22:44-46) 

The impossible happened, Jesus was dead and is now alive. Just as the Bible predicted, He was resurrected from the dead. His sacrificial death, the blood of the Lamb of God, provides eternal life and forgiveness of sins to all who believe.  

Perhaps you are more hesitant to believe such a story, perhaps you are like the apostle Thomas who proclaimed, “Unless I see the scars of the nails in his hands and put my finger on those scars and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” (John 20:25) 

A week later, Jesus appeared to Thomas and said, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands; then reach out your hand and put it in my side. Stop your doubting and believe.” Thomas answered Him, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:27-28) 

Now what? What is Jesus doing now, after His majestic resurrection? The answer is found in Hebrews 1:1-3 “Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he created the universe. The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven.”

“Who then will condemn us? Will Christ? No! For he is the one who died for us and came back to life again for us and is sitting at the place of highest honor next to God, pleading for us there in heaven.” (Romans 8:34-35) 

“Who then will condemn us? Will Christ? No! For he is the one who died for us and came back to life again for us and is sitting at the place of highest honor next to God, pleading for us there in heaven.” (Romans 8:34-35)

The Resurrection!

“I was dead, but look, I am alive forever and ever” ~Jesus

         Without doubt, the most important event on the calendar for followers of Christ, is what is known as Easter or Resurrection Sunday. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the single most important moment in the history of the world. Three days prior to His resurrection, He had completed the most agonizing part of his triumphant purpose by willingly giving his life to pain and death, crumpled on Calvary’s cross. However, that was only the beginning, not the end.

         After three days in the tomb, Jesus rose, shed His death clothes and spent 40 days giving final instructions to His disciples. And because of that, we too have the promise of eternal life just as He gave to the thief on the cross beside him, “I assure you: Today you will be with Me in paradise.”  Luke 23:43

         The resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ is the focal point of our hope as found in the following Scriptures:

         1 Corinthians 15:13-14, 19 “But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is futile and your faith is empty—For if only in this life we have hope in Christ, we should be pitied more than anyone.”

         Acts 2:24, 32 “God raised Him up, ending the pains of death, because it was not possible for Him to be held by it—God has resurrected this Jesus. We are all witnesses of this.”

         Matthew 28:1-10 “Early on Sunday morning, as the new day was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary (the mother of James and Joseph and the mother of the sons of Zebedee) went out to visit the tomb. Suddenly there was a great earthquake! For an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, rolled aside the stone, and sat on it. His face shone like lightning, and his clothing was as white as snow. The guards shook with fear when they saw him, and they fell into a dead faint.

         “Then the angel spoke to the women, “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying. And now, go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and he is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there. Remember what I have told you.”

         Luke 24:46-48 He also said to them: “This is what is written: the Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead the third day, and repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.”

         1 Corinthians 15:1-8  “Let me now remind you, dear brothers and sisters, of the Good News I preached to you before. You welcomed it then, and you still stand firm in it. It is this Good News that saves you if you continue to believe the message I told you—unless, of course, you believed something that was never true in the first place. I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles. Last of all, as though I had been born at the wrong time, I also saw him.”

         Acts 4:33  “And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus—”

         Acts 26:22-23  “I teach nothing except what the Prophets and Moses said—that the Messiah would suffer and be the First to rise from the dead, to bring light to Jews and Gentiles alike.”

         Romans 10:9-10  If you confess with your mouth, Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.

         There are many scriptures which relate the risen Lord being seen as a living testimony of His resurrection. His absolute victory over death and its decay gives all the  believers in Jesus Christ an unwavering hope of everlasting life with Him. Although we shall die, unless Jesus returns with the trumpet blast and angelic shout first, we shall not perish but taste life that never ends, residing in the New Jerusalem with Almighty God and the resurrected Son.

Bunnies and Eggs?

Dean, Cole and Brad were having their weekly meeting at their favorite coffee shop. Brad was the coffee aficionado who seemed able to discern between every coffee variety. He only drank black coffee…very dark! For Dean and Cole, it was part friendship and part lattes. Their idea of good coffee was espresso (any variety), steamed milk and syrup. As to where coffee originated, they hadn’t the slightest idea. This week was the week before Easter Sunday.

Since Brad was an active Christian, Easter was a special time of the year. “Ok, what does Easter mean to you guys?,” he said.

“Bunnies, eggs, and delicious ham dinners,” said Cole.

“Chocolate bunnies, candy eggs, and fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy at our house,” Dean said. “As I look back on it, I think the candy part was my folks’ way of getting us to behave during that season. If we misbehaved, not so much candy.”

All three chuckled and got off on an obedience tangent for a minute. “Did either of you go to church or even hear about Jesus and the resurrection when you were kids?” asked Brad.

Both men agreed that church or mention of Jesus’ resurrection was absent from their childhood. “My aunt Ethel was a Christian I think. She always gave us Bible stuff around Easter time. One time she gave all three of us kids Bibles with our names in gold. That was cool!” said Cole. “Now that I mention it, she was always a caring, generous woman. I got into some serious trouble once when I was 17 and she bailed me out and paid my fines. She also got me a job which changed my life. Because of my Aunt Ethel, I own my furniture company. She got me a job with her brother who built furniture. That’s how it all began.”

“No church or Jesus or resurrection in my family either,” said Dean. “But my girlfriend in my senior year was a Christian and her father had a rule that anyone who dated his daughters, he had two, had to attend their church. I figured that was simple enough so every Sunday evening I went to their little church. I think that was an important step in my becoming a Christian later. I got pretty attached to the young pastor. It seemed like he could see inside my mind but he was not judgmental, he was full of love. You know, real love without conditions. Funny how I walked away from my faith over the years.”

Savoring another sip of his coffee, Brad said, “I don’t know if you guys know this or not but I never knew anything about Christ or His resurrection until I was in my twenties. We never went to church or even talked about God. Easter was like you both described, egg hunts, chocolate bunnies, candy eggs and other types of treats. We didn’t go to church first but went to my grandparents or aunt and uncle’s place for a ham dinner with all the trimmings. My grandmother, my aunt and mom all cooked the feast while we played outside. Those are good memories too.”

“That brings up a valid question then, Brad, what’s wrong with keeping those family traditions at Easter. You just admitted those are good memories and we all feel the same way. Why do Christians have to make such a big deal about this?,” said Cole.

“You make a good point, Cole. Actually, we shouldn’t make such a big deal about the normal festivities with candies and special ham dinners. We should realize that they are separate things and keep them separate. If you’re not a Christian, you aren’t interested in hearing about the resurrection of Jesus while you’re expecting family festivities; even though it is the most significant event in all of history. To unbelievers it is boring or intimidating or downright frustrating to be forced to hear about that. 

“I guess what has happened is the church has adopted easter egg hunts, chocolate bunnies as prizes and candy eggs as well. It is the church that needs to establish its priorities, not the world. Maybe the church felt like they were being left out or were taking away a treat from their members so they added “Christian” easter egg hunts with candy prizes after a sermon on the resurrection. However,  by combining the two things, the church is diluting the message of His resurrection. How can we spend an hour or more singing and preaching about the risen Lord and then follow that with an easter egg hunt? 

“Let me read from the Book of Matthew guys,” said Brad.

“Early on Sunday morning, as the new day was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went out to visit the tomb.

Suddenly there was a great earthquake! For an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, rolled aside the stone, and sat on it. His face shone like lightning, and his clothing was as white as snow. The guards shook with fear when they saw him, and they fell into a dead faint.

Then the angel spoke to the women. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying.”      ~Matthew 28:1-6