As I sit here on this beautiful Easter Sunday after a fabulous church service and lunch with family, the realization struck me that I had never taken the time to read the Resurrection accounts in the Gospels for myself. I’ve been in church since nine months before I was born and could describe the resurrection story with a great amount of detail from memory, but I had never taken the time to truly read and digest all four accounts for myself.
Personally, my favorite account of the Resurrection is written by the Apostle Luke in Chapter 24 of his Gospel. Luke was a doctor by profession and is often credited with taking down the most detailed accounts of events in the life of Jesus. Most everyone, and definitely the majority of people who will read this blog, know the Resurrection story at least in a nutshell. Jesus died on a cross, was put in a tomb, and three days later He rose to life again. While that is absolutely true, the language and detail that Luke uses to describe the magnitude of what has happened is what draws me to his account the most.
Although the majority of what Luke writes about the Resurrection can be found in the other gospels as well, the main difference occurs with Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Mary Magdalene’s encounter with the angel at the tomb. Now before we dive into this, put yourself in the position of these women. They have lost someone incredibly special to them and having accepted his death, are going to the grave to adorn the body with spices and pay their respects; much like we today take flowers to the cemetery for loved ones. In doing this, they arrive to see the massive tombstone flung aside and “two men stood by them in dazzling apparel” (v. 4). These angels appeared in the presence of the women to explain what happened here and encourage the women to spread the good news to the others.
The following verses contain my favorite words of the Resurrection story. Here are these two women awestruck and terrified at the presence of these heavenly beings, totally speechless and bewildered about what is going on and where Jesus is, and the angel says to the women, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how He told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise” (v 5b-7).
How good is that??? “He is not here, but has risen. Remember how He told you…?” To me, this is when these women finally GOT it. The very next verse, (verse 8) “And they remembered His words.” This moment of clarity made them remember all the things that Jesus had spoken about and realize the weight of the truth He told them. He WAS the Son of God. He WAS sent to be the ultimate sacrifice. The battle WAS won. It WAS finished. All of this became clear to them in that moment and they immediately ran back into town to tell the others what they had seen and heard.
Although Good Friday, the day of the Crucifixion of Jesus was a very dark day both from a literal and spiritual standpoint, as Christians, we are not called to see it this way. Easter, Resurrection Sunday, would not have been possible without the Crucifixion.
While Luke contains my personal favorite account of the Resurrection, the Gospel of John holds my favorite account of the Crucifixion, again because of one verse that I believe people tend to overlook and not think about beyond the surface. John chapter 19 verse 30 says this, “When Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished,” and He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.”
The greek word translated to English “It is finished” is τετέλεσται (or “Tetelestai” as written in English) and it actually appears only twice in Scripture. The Apostle John uses it both times in chapter 19 of his Gospel but you actually have to go back a couple verses to find the first usage of the term. It is found in verse 26 where John writes, “After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.”
Most people read this phrase “It is finished.” as His time is done, His life is over, the Crucifixion is complete, etc. However, when I read these three words, it is so much more than that. Jesus is not saying that His time or His life is finished, because we all know neither of those is true. He would rise again three days later and spend more time on Earth before ascending to the right hand of the Father. While it is true that the Crucifixion was finished at this time because this was Jesus’ last breath, I don’t believe that is solely what He is saying. Throughout Jesus’ time on Earth, He often said things that although true in the moment, most people would not realize the magnitude of until later and I believe this is the case here.
I read Jesus’ last words on the cross not as “this moment is over,” but as “the BATTLE is over.”
In that moment, the war was won.
The ultimate sacrifice had been given.
The ransom for our earthly sin was paid IN FULL.
The Son set us free from our bondage.
He broke our chains.
He took the weight of the world and the weight of our sin on His shoulders.
He made us new.
And most importantly, He made us His.
It was this moment that the Bride of Christ, the Church, God’s people, were eternally wed to the Groom. The veil was torn away. NOTHING could separate us from His Great Love, ever again.
This is what we celebrate on Easter. Not only the Resurrection, but also the Death, because the Death brought forth new Life. Don’t go through the day looking for the living among the dead. Instead, look at the new life Christ freely gives to all of us not only on this day, but every day.