We’re getting so close to the end of the Holy Week series! Easter Sunday or Resurrection Sunday is tomorrow and we will celebrate something so wonderful… so amazing that there is nothing we can ever do in return other than give thanks.
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After Jesus’ affirmed death on the cross (I say affirmed because many falsely believe He didn’t really die there—the ‘swoon’ theory—and others believe someone was substituted for Him on the cross—the ‘substitution’ theory); Jesus was removed from the cross before the eyes of many witnesses. Two men—who secretly believed He was the Messiah, yet were afraid to openly proclaim their faith before Jewish leaders—took His battered body and laid it in a garden tomb because the Sabbath was fast approaching. He was wrapped in linen grave-cloths but a complete preparation of the body wasn’t done due to Sabbath laws and time constraints. Witnesses watched as a stone was rolled into place and a seal was set to assure that no one tampered with Jesus’ body. That happened on the same day as the crucifixion—on Good Friday.
Imagine the impact the events of that day made upon the people in Jesus’ life. His mother, Mary, had watched her beloved son humiliated, belittled, falsely accused, beaten, scourged and crucified unto death. The Apostle John, Mary Magdalene and other faithful believers watched as Jesus suffered but also watched the horror of Mary’s darkest day. What about the remaining apostles and disciples of Jesus? In His time of greatest testing… they scattered in fear, hiding and hoping that what was happening to Him wouldn’t happen to them because they had walked beside Him!
Judas Iscariot was dead… but Peter must have felt just as dead inside. He—the attention-seeking boaster who would ‘go to death with Jesus’—had instead denied Him three times during His sham trial. And what about that ‘look’ that passed between Peter and Jesus at the moment of the third denial? How would Peter ever erase that from his mind? That day of entombment must have seemed to stretch on forever for each of these groups of people. Because it was the Sabbath no work or preparations for a proper burial could be done. Can you feel the fear? Can you feel the sorrow? Can you feel the shame? Can you feel the utter hopelessness?
As they faced the future of life without their Messiah… the Jewish leaders gloried in their victory! Jesus was dead! The head of the insurrectionist snake was cut off! Like other trouble-making groups before—the ‘Christians’ would fade away without their leader! V-I-C-T-O-R-Y was theirs… as long as there were no claims of a resurrection from His death. Repeatedly, as they had watched and listened for grounds to accuse Jesus, He had talked about ‘leaving… going where they could not go… returning for them… preparing a place for them.’ They had no idea what those words meant but set guards at the tomb to insure His disciples wouldn’t remove His body and lie about a resurrection. Witnesses watched.
I have talked about ‘witnesses’ throughout this passage and there is an important reason for that. From the time of Jesus’ birth until the dark days of His death, there were always people watching, seeing and observing His life. The shepherds witnessed Him wrapped in swaddling clothes… and told others. His disciples witnessed Him multiply one boy’s lunch to feed thousands… and told others. The Samaritan woman who had an encounter with Jesus at the well… told others. Those who watched His trial, His death on that cross and His burial… told others. Why are eyewitnesses vital to this story? Eyewitnesses attest to the truth of an event.
Eyewitnesses wrote down the events they observed throughout history…that is how we know George Washington was the first President of the United States and Abraham Lincoln was the sixteenth. That is how we know Hitler existed and killed six million Jews. Eyewitnesses have documented the wars in our history, revolutionary medical advances, and transportation changes with railroads, steamships and automobiles. Today, eyewitnesses help the police make an assessment of a crime scene helping law enforcement to find the perpetrator. Eyewitness accounts are absolutely necessary to corroborate or prove a story.
And this story is no different! John witnessed! Matthew witnessed! Jesus’ brothers witnessed! Witnesses gave Luke an account of Jesus’ life! Witnesses would have refuted untruths because their eyes would have seen truths. We can trust this account—and many other non-Biblical accounts of these events—because they were witnessed and written down. In order to dismiss the historical account of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection we have to dismiss every other historical account ever written!
Today, as we picture the events of the end of the Holy Week, let us remember that Jesus willingly walked the journey we have been on with Him. He took our lashes. He became our sin. He substituted Himself for us. This is GRACE: favor we do not deserve and cannot buy. He gave Himself for us. This is MERCY: we don’t get what we deserve; because Jesus took our blows. Hopefully, you fully understand why Holy Week is the consummate celebration of the Christian.
SCRIPTURE: “And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying, “Certainly this man also was with him; for he is a Galilean.” But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are saying.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the cock crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.”