Christ’s Crucifixion, His Resurrection, and Our Salvation

There is no joy on Easter Sunday without the sorrow of Good Friday.

There is no resurrection without the cross.

And there is no salvation without them both.

Without the events of Sunday morning the events of Friday afternoon were merely a terrible tragedy.

The cross was necessary, as it was here Christ bore the wrath of God against sin and took the full weight of its punishment so that our debt of sin against God could be paid in full.

Romans 5:10 says “while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son.”

The Resurrection was necessary, for a dead Savior cannot save anyone. As we read in Romans 4:25, Christ “was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.”

That Christ rose from the dead three days later proves that His sacrifice for sin was accepted by the Father and that Jesus truly has power over both sin and death. The Resurrection proves that Jesus is who Scripture says He is!

As we read in Romans 1:4 – “And Jesus Christ our Lord was shown to be the Son of God when God powerfully raised him from the dead by means of the Holy Spirit.”

The Resurrection of Christ is the most pivotal event of all of human history and it is the foundation of our faith. As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15, “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.”

We gain a full picture of the resurrection of Jesus Christ in Matthew 28. You are likely familiar with this chapter, but I encourage you to take a moment to read through it.

With this chapter as the basis, I want to give attention to three elements of the narrative:

  • First, the Reality of the Resurrection – Jesus truly was truly dead and truly raised to life again
  • Second, The Reactions to the Resurrection – which included denial, doubt, and belief
  • Third, The Right Response to the Resurrection – which is worship, evangelism, and obedience.

THE REALITY OF THE RESURRECTION

Jesus of Nazareth was dead. He was violently abused prior to His crucifixion by beating and scourging with a whip, He was nailed to a cross, a spear was thrust into His side, and Roman soldiers well acquainted with death confirmed that He was killed. His followers took His lifeless body and brought it to a tomb, where He laid for three days.

The first thing we must understand about the reality of the resurrection is the reality of Jesus’ death. He was really, truly, and in every way dead.

The angel confirms that they are at the tomb of Jesus “who was crucified.”

He was not near death and then miraculously healed. He was mostly dead until He was revived by the cold, damp air of the tomb. A person does not recover from the horrors of crucifixion.

Scripture makes it abundantly clear that Jesus’ death was literal and physical.

And when some of His devoted followers came after the Sabbath, they came only to fully prepare His body for burial. They knew just where to go.

We see in Luke 23: “The women who had come with him from Galilee followed and saw the tomb and how his body was laid.” We read in Mark’s Gospel that they wondered among themselves who would roll the stone away.

But before the women reached the tomb something amazing happened:

And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow.  And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. (Matthew 28:2-4)

The angel of the Lord had come, the guards had passed out from fear, and the stone had been rolled away from the tomb’s entrance. And when the women arrive this same angel announced to them that Jesus, who was crucified, dead, and buried, had risen again!

But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified.  He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.  Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” (Matthew 28:5-7)

The stone was not rolled away so that Jesus could walk out – we see later in both Luke and John’s Gospel that the risen Lord has no issues appearing suddenly amongst His disciples, even if they are behind locked doors.

The stone was not rolled away so that Jesus could walk out. It was rolled away so that others could see in

Rather, the stone was rolled away so that others could enter into the tomb to see the place where Jesus had been laid and was no longer – because He was risen from the dead. He had been truly dead, and now He truly lives again.

Just as His death was literal and physical, so too was His resurrection. Jesus’ resurrection was not spiritual – as in He merely appeared to be alive again. Jesus’ resurrection was not metaphorical – as in “He is resurrected in our hearts and lives on through His teaching.”

No. The teaching of Scripture is that Jesus’ resurrection was physical. He was raised to life in human flesh just as He had at His crucifixion days before. Note in our text this morning how the women “took hold of his feet.” A spirit doesn’t have feet to hold on to, and a metaphor certainly doesn’t either.

Take the words of the resurrected Lord Himself as recorded in Luke 24:

See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them.

He had flesh and bones. He bore the wounds of crucifixion. He ate. Jesus’ body after the Resurrection was as real as the body that was beaten, whipped, and nailed to a cross. He was truly dead, and He truly came to life again.

This is the reality that these women have been unexpectedly confronted with. And as they go to tell the disciples what has taken place, they encounter the risen Lord Jesus themselves:

So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”

And we know from elsewhere in Scripture that Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances were not limited to this. As we read Paul’s account in 1 Corinthians 15:3-6:

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: 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, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.

Jesus appeared to a great number of people – many of whom were still alive at the time Paul wrote that passage and could verify the account.

The tomb was empty, as attested to by both the joyful exclamation of the angels and the fearful scheming of the chief priests as we’ll see shortly. Jesus’ Resurrection was literal, as we see from the many appearances He made. And Jesus’ Resurrection body was physical, as we see at several points in the biblical record.

In short, Jesus Christ truly did raise from the dead. As we say in church, “He is Risen…”

We’ve seen the reality of the resurrection – Now let us look to the reactions to the resurrection. As we will see, some deny, some are deceived, some doubt, and others believe.

REACTIONS TO THE RESURRECTION

Matthew 28:11-15:

While they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place.  And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers and said, “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story has been spread among the Jews to this day.

Here we see that the guards have given a report of what has taken place to the chief priests. Their reaction is not to reflect on what this could mean, consider that they may have made a grave mistake in their actions, but only to concoct an explanation as to why the tomb is empty.

And so they came up with what they feel is the most plausible explanation: “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.”

Of course, this explanation is hardly satisfactory – We already know that the disciples were afraid for their lives and had abandoned Jesus to His enemies. As we read in Mark 14, “they all deserted Him and ran away.”

Even if they had summoned the courage to go back, what were these fisherman planning do against highly-trained Roman guards?

Even if they had summoned the courage to go back, what were these fisherman planning do against highly-trained Roman guards?

“But the guards were asleep!” the deniers say. Not possible for two reasons. First, guards were not allowed to sit or lean on anything, and if there were to fall asleep they would be executed. That’s a pretty big motivation to keep awake. Notice how the chief priests have to bribe the guards and assure them they will be kept from trouble.

Secondly, even if they were asleep, can you imagine how hard you would have to be sleeping to not notice eleven men come in, shove a giant stone away from the opening of a tomb hewn in the rock, drag out a body and then sneak off?!

This is just a story made up to explain away a troubling fact: the tomb was empty. The chief priests – although they have irrefutable evidence to the contrary – choose to deny the reality of the resurrection.

And the story that they came up with, we read, “has been spread among the Jews to this day.”

“To this day” of course refers to the time period in which Matthew wrote his Gospel, but the idea that the disciples stole the body continues to be offered as a possible explanation for the empty tomb in our own day.

Other explanations we’ve already touched on – that the women went to the wrong tomb is refuted in the Gospel accounts, and that Jesus could revive after being crucified somehow in a damp tomb without medical attention is an impossibility.

While there are those who ought to know the truth yet are motivated to deny it, there are also those who are deceived by false explanations for the Resurrection. How many believed the story that was spread? How many today believe other theories passed around about how Jesus did not really rise from the dead? They are deceived by such denials.

It is one thing to be convinced that an event did not take place when you weren’t around to see it yourself. It is another thing to be confronted with evidence far beyond another’s words and still not respond in belief.

Matthew 28:16-17:

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 

Note the point at which the text says some doubted that Jesus had truly risen: “when they saw him…”

That is to say, some of the other people that saw the risen Lord doubted, not the eleven disciples. Though they had their doubts as well, as Scripture makes clear –

Mark 16:11: “She [Mary Magdalene] went and told those who had been with him, as they mourned and wept. 11 But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it.”

Mark 16: 12: “After these things he appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country. And they went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them.”

Luke 24:10-11: “Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, 11 but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them”

Of course, there’s Thomas in John 20:25: “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

But all of their doubts were taken away when they interacted with the risen Lord. For others, however, even seeing Him in person was not enough to overcome their doubt. “When they saw Him….some doubted.”

How tragic to have been presented with convincing proof of the reality of the Resurrection – to have every reason not to believe taken away, and to still remain in doubt.

How tragic to have been presented with convincing proof of the reality of the Resurrection – to have every reason not to believe taken away, and to still remain in doubt. How many today are committed to denying the truth of the Gospel? How many are deceived by such denials? How many doubt what they see and hear?

Of course, denial, being deceived, and doubt are not the only reactions we see in this passage. Others reacted to the news of Jesus’ resurrection rightly:

“So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples” (Matthew 28:8).

The women, upon encountering the angel and seeing the empty tomb, depart “with fear and great joy.”

Fear and joy.

Fear because of the shocking and remarkable reality that Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified, had risen from the grave and once again walked the earth. The appropriate response to any powerful working of God is one of fear.

Joy because they believed this to be true, because their Lord was not defeated on the cross after all, and because His resurrection proved Him to be exactly who they’d hoped He was: God’s Son, the long-awaited Messiah, the Savior!

While some at the time of Jesus’ resurrection sowed deception, some were deceived, and others struggled with doubt there were those who believed.

The Resurrection is a reality. What is your response to it?

Do you deny it? – Have you been convincingly confronted with the reality of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection and yet you are still choosing to deny its implications?

Are you deceived? – Have you found other explanations for the empty tomb to be reasonable enough to not investigate the biblical record for yourself?

Do you doubt? – Some have every reason to believe in Jesus. The testimony of Scripture, the redeemed lives of loved ones, the hand of God in their own lives, and yet they doubt, not willing to take the risk of faith and accept the miraculous and supernatural work of Christ.

Or will you believe?  A belief in the reality of the resurrection is essential to saving faith. Romans 10:9 states “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Believing in Jesus is about more than merely agreeing that He is a historical figure and that His Resurrection is an historical fact. To believe in the biblical sense is to put your trust, your confidence, your faith in Him alone for salvation.

It is to see Christ not only as a savior or even the savior, but as your Savior.

Move beyond denial. Break free from deception by looking at the overwhelming evidence for the Resurrection. Don’t hold on to your doubt as a way to put off making a decision on what to do with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Believe.

John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

John 3:36: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”

When we turn from our sin and our own efforts to earn God’s love and turn to Jesus Christ as our Savior the power of His death and Resurrection is applied to us. The events we mark each year at Good Friday and Easter Sunday become intensely personal.

His death brings us life. His victory becomes our victory. The Savior becomes our Savior.

His death brings us life. His victory becomes our victory. The Savior becomes our Savior.

And once you have truly believed – put your faith and trust and hope in Jesus Christ and what He accomplished for you on the cross – you have not graduated beyond the importance of the cross and the resurrection.

Yes, we ought to respond to what Jesus did for us in repentance and faith, but once we are in Christ there are ongoing responses for our entire lives.

THE RIGHT RESPONSE TO THE RESURRECTION

What is the right response of those who believe in the reality of the resurrection?

This is not simply an historical event that we acknowledge happened and then move on with our day. It is not simply an important anniversary that we celebrate annually, like the 4th of July.

The fact that Jesus Christ rose from the dead is a life-changing, life-shaping reality. As others have rightly noted, the resurrection changes everything.

The fact that Jesus Christ rose from the dead is a life-changing, life-shaping reality. As others have rightly noted, the resurrection changes everything.

And we actually see in our passage many of the responses that we ought to exhibit in our own lives as followers of Jesus Christ.

Worship

First, we see that a proper response to the resurrection is to worship the risen Lord Jesus Christ.

Worship is the reaction of the women at the tomb. Look to verse 9 again: “And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him.”

Also look back at 16 and the first part of 17:

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him

In other Gospel accounts we see much the same. After Thomas expressed doubt about the resurrection and Christ appeared to them, he exclaimed “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:27-28)

Don’t miss the significance of this!

Men cannot accept worship. Remember when the pagans began to worship Paul and Barnabas? “They tore their garments and rushed out into the crowd, crying out, ‘Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you.’”

Even angels cannot accept worship. In Revelation, John writes he “fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to me, but he said to me, ‘You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.’”

Yet here and elsewhere we see Christ accepting worship. And rightly so, for He is no mere man. He is God in the flesh; He is God the Son, the 2nd person of the Trinity. Jesus alludes to this truth in instructing us to baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus is God, as proved by His rising from the dead, and we are to worship Him.

Evangelism

In all the Gospel accounts after the invitation is given to “come and see” the empty tomb there is the command to “go and tell.”

But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified.  He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. (Matthew 28:5-8)

And of course we see the command to go and tell of Christ’s death and resurrection – to spread the Gospel – in grand form in the portion of this chapter known as the “Great Commission.”

Matthew 28:18-20:

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

No person has been saved so that they might keep their salvation to themselves until the Lord calls them heavenward. We are all called to not only come and see the truth of the Gospel for ourselves, but after our eyes have been opened and Christ has saved us we are to “go and tell” others so that they, too, might know the risen Savior.

No person has been saved so that they might keep their salvation to themselves until the Lord calls them heavenward.

Shall we keep such good news to ourselves? Or should we go quickly to share it with others?

Obedience

But what is the fullness of the Great Commission? Only that people would share the Gospel and that those who hear it would believe and be baptized? It is not less than that, but it is certainly more than that.

Look again to Matthew 28:19-20:

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

A disciple of Jesus Christ is to observe all that He commanded. And why are we to obey Christ? Verse 18: “…all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”

In case you missed it, having all authority in both heaven and on earth is all-encompassing. There is no place where Jesus is not the sovereign King.

There is no having Christ as Savior without also having Him as Lord. Remember that verse from Romans we referred to at the beginning, about how you must believe that God raised Jesus from the dead to be saved?

Read it again: “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

For Jesus to be your Lord means that He is Lord full time and over all aspects of your life. When we make disciples – that is, when we share the Gospel and people put their faith in Jesus – we are to teach them to obey all that Christ has commanded. And we, too, are to obey all His teaching.

A right response to the Resurrection is obedience. Not only because Jesus has all authority, but because it is through obedience that we show our love to Him. Jesus taught, “He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.”

Worship. Evangelism. Obedience.

These are three of the right responses that believers should have to the reality of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. How are you doing in these areas lately?

CONCLUSION

Jesus Christ truly lived. Though He was God, He took on flesh and lived a sinless life among sinful man.

Jesus Christ truly died. He willingly went to the cross in order to bear the wrath of God on our behalf, paying the full penalty for all sin for all time so that our record of sins against God could be wiped clean and His perfect righteousness could be applied to us.

Jesus truly lived. He truly died. He truly rose again.

Jesus Christ truly rose again. His Resurrection was literal and physical, and because He rose we know that He defeated sin and death and that through Him we too will be raised to eternal life.

And because He lives, we maintain fellowship with Him at all times. As He promises in verse 20: “And Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

What is your response to the resurrection?

What will you do with the empty tomb?

I plead with you to come and see that Christ has risen, and respond by putting your faith in the Son of God.

If you are already a Christian, Scripture reveals that the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ is not merely the means by which you enter into salvation, it is the basis by which we live out our salvation. This is not something that we respond to once in our lives at salvation. It is not something to be remembered and celebrated just once a year.

The Resurrection is a glorious reality that ought to cause us to believe in Christ and rightly respond by living lives marked by worship, evangelism, and obedience.

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