From the Pastor
Pastor Mike Burns
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Day 8: Resurrection Sunday
On Resurrection Sunday, or Easter, we reach the culmination of Holy Week. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the most important event of the Christian faith. The very foundation of all Christian doctrine hinges on the truth of this account.
Early Sunday morning, several women (Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Salome, and Mary the mother of James) went to the tomb and discovered that the large stone covering the entrance had been rolled away. An angel announced:
"Don't be afraid! 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." (Matthew 28:5-6, NLT)
On the day of his resurrection, Jesus Christ made at least five appearances. Mark's Gospel says the first person to see him was Mary Magdalene. Jesus also appeared to Peter, to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, and later that day to all of the disciples except Thomas, while they were gathered in a house for prayer.
The eyewitness accounts in the Gospels provide what Christians believe to be undeniable evidence that the resurrection of Jesus Christ did indeed happen. Two millennia after his death, followers of Christ still flock to Jerusalem to see the empty tomb.
My Insights about “Why the Resurrrection Matters.”
3 Reasons the Resurrection Matters
The resurrection of Jesus (alongside his crucifixion) is the central historical event in the Christian faith. Without the resurrection there would be no Christianity.
The resurrection of Jesus (alongside his crucifixion) is the central historical event in the Christian faith. Without the resurrection there would be no Christianity. “If Christ has not been raised,” wrote St. Paul, “then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:14).
I am a Christian because I believe in the resurrection. I am convinced that after dying a violent death on a Roman cross on a Friday afternoon in 30 A.D., Jesus of Nazareth came back to life and emerged from the tomb on Sunday morning.
This is not easy to believe. But if it is true, it is the most pivotal event in human history. Much has been written in defense of Jesus’ resurrection, the most thorough and convincing book being N. T. Wright’s massive 800-page volume, The Resurrection of the Son of God.
What is unquestionable is that the first generation of Jesus’ followers did believe he had risen, and were convinced that everything had changed as a result.
Consider just three of the ways the New Testament highlights the significance of the resurrection.
- Jesus’ resurrection means that his sacrificial death on the cross was sufficient, and therefore our sins can be forgiven.
Paul emphasizes this in 1 Corinthians 15, reminding us that “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (vv. 3-4). Then, in verse 17, he argues that “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.”
In other words, Paul saw a direct connection between the resurrection of Jesus and the sufficiency of his death to atone for our sins. When Jesus rose again on the third day, it was the public announcement that God was fully satisfied with the sacrificial death of his Son. In his resurrection, Jesus was vindicated (1 Timothy 3:16). But in his vindication, we are vindicated too. That’s why Paul says in Romans 4 that Jesus “was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification” (Romans 4:25).
- Jesus’ resurrection means that death is defeated once and for all.
As Peter proclaimed on the Day of Pentecost, “God raised [Jesus] from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him” (Acts 2:24). Death lost its grip on Jesus!
But the resurrection means that Jesus not only defeated death for himself, but that he defeated it for us. He died and rose as a new representative for humanity, as the Second Adam. “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead,” writes Paul, “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:20-22). His resurrection guarantees ours.
Perhaps no one has said this more eloquently than C. S. Lewis. In his 1947 book Miracles, Lewis wrote:
“The New Testament writers speak as if Christ’s achievement in rising from the dead was the first event of its kind in the whole history of the universe. He is the ‘first fruits,’ the ‘pioneer of life.’ He has forced open a door that has been locked since the death of the first man. He has met, fought, and beaten the King of Death. Everything is different because He has done so. This is the beginning of the New Creation: a new chapter in cosmic history has been opened.”
The empty tomb assures us that sickness and suffering, death and disease will not have the final word.
- Jesus’ resurrection means that the material world matters.
Lest there be any misunderstanding, when the apostles said that Jesus rose again, they meant that his physical body came back to life. The risen Jesus wasn’t a phantom or ghost, but a breakfast-eating, flesh-and-bone, human being (see Luke 24:36-43 and John 21:10-14)
When Jesus’ came out of the tomb in a physical body, it was God’s definitive stamp of approval on the creation project with all of its materiality. The resurrection shows us that matter matters. And this is why the early Christians looked to the future with confidence that the created order itself would be redeemed (see Romans 8:18-25).
Though we wait for the full consummation of new creation, the Scriptures also teach that the power that raised Jesus from the dead is already working within us (Ephesians 1:19-20). The resurrection, you see, not only assures of God’s forgiveness and comforts us in suffering as we anticipate the final reversal of death, disease, and decay; it also motivates and empowers us to push back the tide of suffering and evil in the present world, through word and deed, in mercy and in justice, all in Jesus’ name.
Sunday's events are recorded in Matthew 28:1-13, Mark 16:1-14, Luke 24:1-49, and John 20:1-23.
Published on Tuesday, April 6, 2021 @ 8:25 AM CDT
Day 7: Saturday in the Tomb
Jesus' body lay in its tomb, where it was guarded by Roman soldiers throughout the day on Saturday, which was the Sabbath. When the Sabbath ended at 6 p.m., Christ's body was ceremonially treated for burial with spices purchased by Nicodemus:
"He brought about seventy-five pounds of perfumed ointment made from myrrh and aloes. Following Jewish burial custom, they wrapped Jesus' body with the spices in long sheets of linen cloth." (John 19: 39-40, NLT)
Nicodemus, like Joseph of Arimathea, was a member of the Sanhedrin, the court that had condemned Jesus Christ to death. For a time, both men had lived as secret followers of Jesus, afraid to make a public profession of faith because of their prominent positions in the Jewish community.
Similarly, both were deeply affected by Christ's death. They boldly came out of hiding, risking their reputations and their lives because they had come to realize that Jesus was, indeed, the long-awaited Messiah. Together they cared for Jesus' body and prepared it for burial.
While his physical body lay in the tomb, Jesus Christ paid the penalty for sin by offering the perfect, spotless sacrifice. He conquered death, both spiritually and physically, securing our eternal salvation:
"For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver. He paid for you with the precious lifeblood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God." (1 Peter 1:18-19, NLT)
My Insight on “What Jesus Did While in the Tomb:
What Is Sheol? In the Old Testament, Sheol is the place of the souls of the dead, both the righteous (like Jacob, Genesis 37:35, and Samuel, 1 Samuel 28:13–14) and the wicked (Psalm 31:17).
In the New Testament, the Hebrew word Sheol is translated as Hades, and the description of Sheol in the Old and New Testaments bears some resemblance to the Hades of Greek mythology. It is under the earth (Numbers 16:30–33), and it is like a city with gates (Isaiah 38:10) and bars (Job 17:16). It is a land of darkness — a place where shades, the shadowy souls of men, dwell (Isaiah 14:9; 26:14). It is the land of forgetfulness (Psalm 88:12), where no work is done and no wisdom exists (Ecclesiastes 9:10). Most significantly, Sheol is a place where no one praises God (Psalm 6:5; 88:10–11; 115:17; Isaiah 38:18).
In the New Testament, the most extended depiction of the afterlife is found in Luke 16:19–31. There we learn that, like the Hades of Greek mythology, the biblical Sheol has two compartments: Hades proper (where the rich man is sent, Luke 16:23) and “Abraham’s bosom” (where the angels carry Lazarus, Luke 16:22). Hades proper is a place of torment, where fire causes anguish to the souls imprisoned there. Abraham’s bosom, on the other hand, while within shouting distance of Hades, is separated from it by “a great chasm” (Luke 16:26) and is, like the Greek Elysium, a place of comfort and rest.
While much mystery remains, the picture begins to take shape. All dead souls go down to Sheol/Hades, but Sheol is divided into two distinct sides, one for the righteous and one for the wicked. The righteous who died prior to Christ dwelt in Sheol with Abraham, and though they were cut off from the land of the living (and therefore from the worship of Yahweh on earth), they were not tormented as the wicked were.
Where Did Jesus Go When He Died?
What, then, does this tell us about where Jesus was on Holy Saturday?
Based on Jesus’s words to the thief on the cross in Luke 23:43, some Christians believe, that after his death, Jesus’s soul went to heaven to be in the presence of the Father. But Luke 23:43 doesn’t say that Jesus would be in the presence of God; it says he would be in the presence of the thief (“Today you will be with me in paradise”), and based on the Old Testament and Luke 16, it seems likely that the now-repentant thief would be at Abraham’s side, a place of comfort and rest for the righteous dead, which Jesus here calls “paradise.”
Following his death for sin, then, Jesus journeys to Hades, to the City of Death, and rips its gates off the hinges. He liberates Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, John the Baptist, and the rest of the Old Testament faithful, ransoming them from the power of Sheol (Psalm 49:15; 86:13; 89:48). They had waited there for so long, not having received what was promised, so that their spirits would be made perfect along with the saints of the new covenant (Hebrews 11:39–40; 12:23).
After his resurrection, Jesus ascends to heaven and brings the ransomed dead with him, so that now paradise is no longer down near the place of torment, but is up in the third heaven, the highest heaven, where God dwells (2 Corinthians 12:2–4).
Now, in the church age, when the righteous die, they aren’t merely carried by angels to Abraham’s bosom; they depart to be with Christ, which is far better (Philippians 1:23). The wicked, however, remain in Hades in torment, until the final judgment, when Hades gives up the dead who dwell there, and they are judged according to their deeds, and then Death and Hades are thrown into hell, into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:13–15).
Good News for Us
What implications does this have for Holy Week? Christ’s journey to Hades demonstrates that he was indeed made like us in every way. Not only did he bear the wrath of God on our behalf; he endured death, the separation of his soul from his body. His body was in Joseph’s tomb (Luke 23:50–53), and his soul was three days in Sheol, “in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:40).
“But as Psalm 16 makes clear, Jesus is not only like us, but different. Jesus’s body was buried, like ours, but it did not decay. Jesus’s soul went to Hades, like the Old Testament saints’, but wasn’t abandoned there. God raised him from the dead, reunited his soul with a now-glorified body, so that he is the firstfruits of the resurrection harvest.
And this is good news for us, because those in Christ now bypass the land of forgetfulness, where no one praises God. Instead, when we die, we join with the angelic choir and the saints of old to sing praises to the Lamb who was slain for us and our salvation.
The Lord is risen! The Lord is risen indeed!!
Saturday's events are recorded in Matthew 27:62-66, Mark 16:1, Luke 23:56, and John 19:40.
Published on Saturday, April 3, 2021 @ 8:43 AM CDT
Day 6: Trial, Crucifixion, Death, and Burial on Good Friday
Good Friday is the most difficult day of Passion Week. Christ's journey turned treacherous and acutely painful in these final hours leading to his death.
According to Scripture, Judas Iscariot, the disciple who had betrayed Jesus, was overcome with remorse and hanged himself early Friday morning.
Meanwhile, before the third hour (9 a.m.), Jesus endured the shame of false accusations, condemnation, mockery, beatings, and abandonment. After multiple unlawful trials, he was sentenced to death by crucifixion, one of the most horrible and disgraceful methods of capital punishment known at the time.
Before Christ was led away, soldiers spit on him, tormented and mocked him, and pierced him with a crown of thorns. Then Jesus carried his own cross to Calvary where, again, he was mocked and insulted as Roman soldiers nailed him to the wooden cross.
Jesus spoke seven final statements from the cross. His first words were, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34, NIV). His last words were, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." (Luke 23:46, NIV)
Then, about the ninth hour (3 p.m.), Jesus breathed his last breath and died.
By 6 p.m. Friday evening, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea took Jesus' body down from the cross and lay it in a tomb.
My Insights on the Jesus’ words while on the Cross:
In incredible agony, Jesus made seven statements from the cross:
1. “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”
In Luke 23:34, Jesus made this statement following the people’s comment in Matthew 27:42, “He saved others; Himself He cannot save.”
2. “Today you will be with Me in Paradise.”
Found in Luke 23:43, Jesus uttered these hopeful words in response to the one thief beside Him who had come to his senses and asked Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your Kingdom” (Luke 23:42).
3. “Woman, behold your son…[Son,] behold your mother.”
Jesus spoke these endearing words in John 19:26–27 to two of the closest people in His life: His mother, Mary, and His disciple John. Even in death, He refused to think only of Himself. At this point, Scripture records that there was “darkness over all the land” (Matthew 27:45). The Greek word for “land” could be translated “earth,” indicating the entire world. Several historical and extra-biblical sources suggest that such a universal darkness did occur. In fact, history relates that in a report from Pilate to Emperor Tiberius, Pilate assumes the Emperor’s knowledge of a certain widespread darkness, even mentioning that it took place from 12:00 to 3:00 in the afternoon.
4. “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
These words are found in Matthew 27:46. The horrifying presence of sin surrounded Jesus at this dreaded moment: “And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). To be forsaken of God was much more of a source of anguish to Jesus than to anyone else because He was absolutely holy. Never for one moment during His entire earthly life did He ever step outside of intimate fellowship with His Father. Yet, this was something the Father had to do in the life of the Son so that we could come back into the relationship He desired to have with us from the beginning—the relationship that had been forfeited back in the Garden.
Scripture repeatedly speaks of this moment:
- “He shall bear their iniquities” (Isaiah 53:11).
- “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
- “[He] Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree…” (1 Peter 2:24).
Imagine for a moment how hard this must have been for the Father. He loved His Son! Jesus never had a thought that was out of harmony with the Father’s mind. His Son never spent a moment out of His conscious presence. He had never committed one sin!
5. “I thirst!”
In John 19:28, Jesus said, “I thirst!” In saying this, Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament prophecy, “They also gave me gall for my food, and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.” (Psalm 69:21).
6. “It is finished!”
In John 19:30, we find this “battle cry of the cross.” Never again would He experience pain or be in the hands of Satan. Never again would He, even for a moment, be forsaken of God. He had completed what He had been sent to do (John 5:36; John 17:4).
The word finished is translated in many ways…
- It is made an end of.
- It is paid.
- It is performed.
- It is accomplished.
What was made an end of? Our sins and the guilt that accompanied them.
What was paid? The price of redemption.
What was performed? The righteous requirements of the law.
What was accomplished? The work the Father had given Jesus to do.
Finished was Satan’s stronghold on humanity. “He has made [you] alive together with Him,having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it” (Colossians 2:13–14).
7. “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.”
These final words (see Luke 23:46) signified the restoration of the relationship between the Father and the Son, but they also ushered in the new relationship we can now have with the Father. Immediately the veil in the temple, a visible reminder of the barrier between God and man, was torn in two (Matthew 27:51). In essence, God was saying, “Through the death of my Son, you now have total access into My presence” (see Hebrews 10:19).
What kept Jesus going when His disciples deserted Him, when the crowds screamed “Crucify Him!”, when He underwent the horrible ordeal of taking on all of the sins of the world? You did! Paul said, “[He] loved me and gave Himself for me…” (Galatians 2:20).
Friday's events are recorded in Matthew 27:1-62, Mark 15:1-47, Luke 22:63-23:56, and John 18:28-19:37.
Published on Friday, April 2, 2021 @ 8:35 AM CDT
Follow along with the steps of Jesus Christ from Palm Sunday through Resurrection Sunday, exploring the major events that occurred on each day.
Day 5: Passover and Last Supper on Thursday (Holy Week takes a somber turn on Thursday.)
From Bethany, Jesus sent Peter and John ahead to the Upper Room in Jerusalem to make the preparations for the Passover Feast. That evening after sunset, Jesus washed the feet of his disciples as they prepared to share in the Passover. By performing this humble act of service, Jesus demonstrated by example how believers should love one another.
Then, Jesus shared the feast of Passover with his disciples, saying:
"I have been very eager to eat this Passover meal with you before my suffering begins. For I tell you now that I won't eat this meal again until its meaning is fulfilled in the Kingdom of God." Holy Week Timeline: From Palm Sunday to the Resurrection
As the Lamb of God, Jesus was about to fulfill the meaning of Passover by giving his body to be broken and his blood to be shed in sacrifice, freeing us from sin and death. During this Last Supper, Jesus established the Lord's Supper, or Communion, instructing his followers to continually remember his sacrifice by sharing in the elements of bread and wine (Luke 22:19-20).
Later, Jesus and the disciples left the Upper Room and went to the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus prayed in agony to God the Father. Luke's Gospel says that "his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground" (Luke 22:44, ESV).
Late that evening in Gethsemane, Jesus was betrayed with a kiss by Judas Iscariot and arrested by the Sanhedrin. He was taken to the home of Caiaphas, the High Priest, where the whole council had gathered to begin making their case against Jesus.
Meanwhile, in the early morning hours, as Jesus' trial was getting underway, Peter denied knowing his Master three times before the rooster crowed.
My insight to the Garden of Gethsemane:
- We are shown Jesus as the true “Word (that) became flesh” (John 1:14), the incarnate Son of the Lord God, born of a virgin and called Immanuel — God with us (Isaiah 7:14). This means that Jesus, though very much divine, also shared fully and completely in the human condition. There in the Garden of Gethsemane, He felt sorrow and great distress over the hardship He would need to endure. He sought out the quiet and privacy of this special place so He could go before God and beg for a reprieve — though not a reprieve from the will of God, which Jesus was committed to.
- Jesus’s nonviolent reaction when the armed and angry crowd came to arrest Him underscores His message of peace and love, which He spent a great deal of time teaching His followers during His time on earth.
Thursday's events are recorded in Matthew 26:17–75, Mark 14:12-72, Luke 22:7-62, and John 13:1-38.
Published on Thursday, April 1, 2021 @ 10:04 AM CDT