Of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ the apostle Peter speaks in his Pentecostal sermon which is recorded in Acts 2, in verse 32: “This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses.” I will not say anything in this Easter message about the context in which these words appear. Space forbids me to do this; besides, this article must be an Easter meditation.
Of what were the apostles and the disciples of our Lord (the 12 met in that upper room) witnesses? The resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ? Indeed not! Neither does Peter say this. No man was a witness of the resurrection of our Lord. The fact of the resurrection as such is nowhere expressed or described in any of the gospel narratives that relate to this event. These narratives all begin after the resurrection has occurred. And this need not surprise us. Fact is, no man could see the resurrection. The resurrection of our Lord simply does not belong to our earthly life, the things we can see and hear with our earthly eyes and ears. It belongs to the things that are heavenly. Hence, no man was a witness of Christ’s resurrection. This also applies to the soldiers. However, what the apostle does declare in this text is that they are all witnesses of the fact that God had raised up Jesus from the dead. For, they had all seen Him after His resurrection.
Jesus was raised up from the dead. What, my young people and friends is so wonderful about that? Was He the only one who had raised from the dead? Had not others been raised up from the dead, both in the Old and in the New Dispensation? Had not the daughter of Jairus, the young man of Nain and Lazarus been raised from the dead? And we also read of such resurrections in the Old Dispensation, as performed by the prophet Elijah and his successor, Elisha. So what, then, is so wonderful about the resurrection of Jesus? Fact is, the resurrection of our Lord is truly wonderful! O, the modernist, denying the physical resurrection of Jesus, may tell you that it really makes very little difference whether Christ has actually been raised from the dead. He will tell you that what actually and really means anything is that Christ’s “spirit” lives on in the minds of the people, and that we emulate him as our example and teacher. But, this is the heart of the gospel: Christ and He crucified. And this includes His resurrection. The resurrection of our Lord is so vital and important that it constitutes the only beam of life, the sole ground of our hope and faith. Without it, we are of all men the most miserable. With it, we are the most blessed. And, fact is: Now is Christ raised and become the first fruits of them that slept.
Why is Jesus’ resurrection so unspeakably wonderful? To answer this question, we will call your attention to three very vital and fundamental truths. First, what death did He die? Jesus died! That, in itself, is not so startling! Everybody dies! That Jesus died could therefore simply mean that what happens to everybody also happened to Him. And if we say no more we say exactly nothing. Jesus died a very special death. That appears from many things. We all die, is it not so, because of our sin. We are all sinners, spiritually dead and corrupt, and also guilty and condemnable. But Jesus was no sinner. Never was guilt found in His mouth. Never was He convicted of any wrong. He was perfectly holy and undefiled, like unto us in all things, sin excepted. Yet, He died. His death must have been a very special death. Imagine: He died, Who was no sinner! The fact that He was no sinner, had no guilt, must mean that He did not die therefore because of His own sin. He had no sin.
What was so wonderful about His death? What death did He die? He died our death. He died for our sins, he suffered for our iniquities. He paid for our guilt. And this is wonderful because it is unique. It never happened before! And it will never happen again! The amazing phenomenon of Calvary is, among other things, exactly this: for the first time in history one man died, before God, for the sins of others! Upon the cross of Calvary, one man bled and died for all the sins of all the elect throughout all the ages!
Christ assumed full responsibility for all the sins of the elect sheep given Him of the Father. He died our death. He stood in our guilty relation to the law. Indeed, the Lamb of Calvary was not innocent. God does not execute innocent people. O, He was surely innocent in Himself, did not die for His own sin. But He was guilty, the guiltiest whoever was under Divine sentence, because the sins of all the elect were upon Him. Never did any man pay such a huge debt! And that He died means that He volunteered to die for His own, to bear, in full consciousness and in perfect obedience, the terrible wrath of God, the full weight of the Lord’s indignation upon our sins. Jesus experienced upon the cross how terribly God is displeased with sin, and He praised God in that terrible manifestation of His wrath. Why was Jesus’ resurrection so wonderful? Because, in the first place, He died our death upon the cross of Calvary. This is the first fundamental truth to which we would call your attention. But, we would mention three such truths.
Secondly, Who died? This, too, is very fundamental. Of course it is! Peter tells us that God raise up “this Jesus.” Who is “this Jesus?” Well, He is very wonderful. His Name already suggests this. His Name is Jesus. And Jesus means: Jehovah, Savior or: Jehovah saves. Jesus is the revelation of the living God as the God of our salvation. Jesus is He Whose Name is Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. Jesus is the Eternal Son of God united with our flesh and blood in the Person of the Son. He is God Who also became man, the Infinite, Who also became finite, the Eternal Who also became temporal, the Lord Who also became a servant, the Creator Who also became creature, Who, becoming a creature, man, etc., is and continues to be true and eternal God. Besides, Jesus is the Head of the elect, the Head of His Church. Indeed, a most wonderful Sufferer is the Lamb of Calvary!
And what does this mean? This means two things. On the one hand, only He may die for our sins. He must die for our sins and guilt. He is Jesus, the Head of the elect and of His Church. He, therefore, represents them, must assume all responsibility for their sins. Their sins rest upon Him. He must stand in their guilty relation to the law. Hence, He must die for them. And, it is for this reason that He alone may die for them. Do we understand the awful implication of this? Let us please presuppose the terrible possibility once that this Jesus should fail to pay for our sins, that He should fail in His attempt to finish the work whereunto He came! What would this mean? This, that we would remain for¬ever in our sins and guilt. Because none would ever be permitted to take His place. It is either He or none! He alone must die for us and He alone may die for us. For this reason, the possibility of our salvation and redemption rests solely upon Him. But, this is not all. On the other hand, He alone can die for our sins. He alone may die for us. He alone can die for us. Who could possibly venture forth to save us, should He fail? He is Immanuel, God with us! He is the Mighty God of Jacob! He is the Almighty One, the God of our salvation! Hence, He alone can save us! Let us, my young people and friends, look upon the cross of Calvary in this light. The Lamb of Calvary is the sole Possibility of our salvation. He with whom our salvation stands or falls, even forever, the only one who may and can die for us, and Who also did die for us. This is the second fundamental truth to which I would call your attention in this Easter message.
Finally, I must call your attention to a third fundamental truth in this article. What does it mean now that God raised up Jesus from the dead? Indeed, we would call your attention to several wonderful benefits that accrue to us because of this amazing event. However, I would single out only one of them, possible the greatest as experienced in the consciousness of the child of God. I would call your attention to the truth that the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ is the Divine seal upon His finished work upon the cross, the Divine verification of that wonderful sixth crossword of our Savior: It is Finished. Let us understand this. Our Lord Jesus Christ had died our death upon the cross of Calvary. He had been nailed to the cross approximately at 9 o’clock in the morning. Upon that cross He had suffered and endured all the vile taunts and ridicule of His enemies. Then, at noon, the awful darkness descends upon the face of the earth. That darkness separates Him from His enemies. It strikes fear and terror into the hearts of men and demons alike. It shuts their evil mouths. And the Man of Sorrows, separated from His hellish tormentors, is now closeted alone with His God. Now He descends into hell. Now He is face to face, in the most dreadful reality, with the unrelenting and uncompromising indignation of His God upon sin. It alone He sees! With it He struggles! The awfulness of that indignation He experiences and tastes. To the very last drop! And, having emptied the cup, He cries out, triumphantly: It Is Finished! What we can never understand, He has borne an infinite wrath of God, He, the Beloved of the Father also upon the cross of Calvary! And now God raises Him from the dead. This is God’s answer to that wonderful cross-word: It is Finished. Jesus’ resurrection means that He has finished His work. Indeed, our Lord’s resurrection is also the pledge of our final and glorious resurrection, the assurance that our vile bodies shall be made like unto His most glorious body. But, fundamentally, and unspeakably wonderful, is the truth that Christ’s resurrection is God’s seal upon His work upon the cross. It means that our sins are paid, all our sins, that our death has been swallowed up of life, that we are heirs, forevermore, of everlasting and immortal life and glory. All thanks unto God for the resurrection of Jesus Christ, our Lord!