The Lord Jesus Christ is the eternal son of God. The Scriptures declare 1) His virgin birth; 2) His sinless life; 3) His miracles; 4) His substitutionary work on the cross; 5) His bodily resurrection from the dead; and 6) His exaltation to the right hand of God.
This week, we will focus on the last three: 1) His death work on the cross, 2) His resurrection, and 3) His exaltation to the right hand of God.
Only two words can describe the situation in the heavens that day: grudge match. 1,500 years before, the sun god Ra faced defeat at the hands of the one God of the Hebrews. Ra, king of the gods of the mightiest empire in the Middle East, lost to an unknown God of slaves. Ra, now going by the name of Sol among the Roman empire, the mightiest empire of its day, was still the sun god.
Against him this time, for the rematch, was the Son of that God. Sol had been demoted since Egypt. Instead of the king of the gods, he had a much smaller following. On the other hand, this upstart only had a handful of followers, and most had deserted him.
The sun god versus the Son of God. And the sun god thought he had it all in hand. This was the battle of eternity, and the winner would take all.
This battle, part of the central event in history and the central tenet of Christianity, is recorded in all four Gospels. Only eleven events in the life of Jesus are in all four gospels, and seven of them are the last week of his life or later. From the triumphal entry to the resurrection, this is the focus of the life and times of Jesus of Nazareth.
The four Gospels spend more pages on the trial and crucifixion of Jesus than any other event in His life. Only Matthew and Luke tell of the Virgin Birth and spend only a handful of space on it. On the other hand, John spends half of his Gospel on the last week of Jesus’ life and the resurrection. All over the epistles, Paul and the others talk about the crucifixion and the resurrection more than all other events in Jesus’ life combined. The purpose of His life was His death. The purpose of His death was the resurrection to make the way of salvation for us. And finally, He was exalted to the right hand of God.
Scripture Introduction: There are several passages this week, two for each point.
1 Corinthians 15:3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
2 Corinthians 5:21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
Matthew 28:6 “He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying.
Luke 24:39 “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.”
1 Corinthians 15:4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,
Acts 1:9, 11 And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight…. 11 They also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.”
Acts 2:33 Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear.
Philippians 2:9-11 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Hebrews 1:3 And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,
Point 1. His substitutionary work on the cross (1 Cor 15:3; 2 Cor 5:21)
From Adam on, people have died for their own sins. On occasion, someone would sacrifice himself for a greater cause. Sometimes even to die for a good man. However, no one died for a bad man. And we are all bad. Every one of us has sinned at some point. When you do wrong, knowing to do right, that is sin. Whenever you put your interests above those of another, that is sin. When you take instead of giving, that is sin.
In this day, we like to wrangle about what makes a sin. Pages and pages have been written. Some of the definitions very good. Some short definitions have been written, likewise good, but others will argue about extreme cases. But the best definition I’ve ever come across was by the mother of John Wesley. Suzanna Wesley taught all her children as they didn’t go to a town school. Reading, writing, numbers, and theology were on the list every day.
When John Wesley asked his mother to define sin, she thought for a moment and then gave the best answer. “John, anything you do or think that diminishes the sacred calling of God in your life or causes it to be diminished in another person, that is sin.”
Whoa. Sin is what mars you from God and separates you from Him. It is what you do that makes another draw away from Him.
Our scripture today teaches that Jesus knew no sin but became sin for us. This is what we mean by substitutionary. Jesus did not die for His own sins. He didn’t die for good men. He died for the sins of other people. He took on the sins of the world; not because He had to, but because we needed it to happen.
Why did we need it? Because with His death, we had the chance to become righteous. All that needs to be done is to take the righteousness offered. We could not do it on our own. None of us were good enough. In Him, we find our righteousness. In Him, we find that change we need. In His work, not our own, not of works lest any should boast. In His works, we may be redeemed.
It was not for His own pride He went to the cross. It was for our sins. He took the wrath of God on Himself that it might not be poured out on us. He died that we might live.
And when He died, even as the sun god rejoiced in victory, the sun was darkened. It was then known in the Heavens that Sol’s victory would be Pyrrhic at best. Oh, it didn’t look like a victory when He was on the cross and when He was put in the tomb, but Sunday was coming!
Point 2. His bodily resurrection from the dead (Matt 28:6; Luke 24:39; 1 Cor 15:4)
Many skeptics will agree that the good teacher Jesus lived and was executed. The rising from the dead is the part they cannot, nay must not, believe. Many theories have been hammered out to explain the events in purely naturalistic terms. One of them is the swoon theory, that Jesus did not die on the cross. He merely fainted. This is after having been scourged to within an inch of His life by a professional torturer. Now, placed on the cross by professional executioners, He faints from loss of fluids and blood.
These professional executioners are fooled! Even Pilate was astonished that Jesus died so quickly. They stab Him in the side and blood and water flow out. This flow is a sign of severe trauma to the body. The professional executioners, who just missed an easy stabbing, remove Him from the cross, not realizing He has only fainted. They place Him in the tomb; Pilate seals the tomb with a huge stone and stations a guard around the tomb.
Our Jesus, fainted from loss of blood, comes to in the tomb, the cold air reviving Him. Starved, almost dead from loss of blood, He awakens, pushes the stone aside (even though you couldn’t get a good grip on the stone from inside), breaking the wax seal around it, and emerges into a set of soldiers on guard. Are you still with me? Imagine how He must have looked.
And now, the professional soldiers who knew that if they failed at their duty to guard the tomb would be placed in a tomb themselves, faint. They faint at the sight of a mostly dead traveling rabbi.
Understand that this is one of the best explanations nonbelievers have for the empty tomb. Even more laughable is the wrong-tomb theory. That states that after Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus put the body in the tomb, the wrong tomb was sealed, the guards went to the wrong place, the women went to the wrong tomb, and the Disciples went to the wrong tomb. And no one ever went to the right tomb! That’s the most astonishing part of all.
One of the most ever applicable rules of logic is this: “never multiply causes beyond necessity.” It is also stated as “the simplest explanation that fits the facts is to be preferred.” Rube Goldberg hated this law of logic.
What are the undisputed facts? He lived, was executed, and the tomb was then found empty. (Some do argue that Jesus never existed. Such a stance is recognized as laughable by trained historians. Among them, you will find very few who believe Christ was a myth.)
That purpose of the resurrection was to cause a change in those who believe. And the changes began immediately. The disciples who had run from the crowd and the guards, who hid in the courtyard away from the trial, who denied Him, changed their attitude. They wouldn’t have changed from seeing a half-alive man.
Faith in Jesus’ resurrection changes everyone. Those eleven men preached in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the greater empire. The actions they took in faith turned the world upside down. Those who came after built the greatest civilization known to man.
Faith will do that. It changes people. No other explanation fits besides a bodily resurrection. Some try to make it a spiritual resurrection only, but remember, the authorities wanted to stop the spread of this new religion. If the Apostles were preaching a spiritual resurrection, that can be stopped easily. Produce the body. In fact, the Apostles challenged the authorities that very way. No. The Apostles believed in a physical resurrection.
He was resurrected to show that His sacrifice, made on our behalf, was accepted by God. And now, the redemption of the world, planned from before Adam took of the fruit, would go into high speed.
As He rose to become the first born among many brethren, the changes in His body are what we will see in our bodies after we are glorified. When glorified, the physical aspects of this world did not bother Him. He disappeared from one place and appeared in another. He walked through solid material. He was recognizable but healed.
Point 3. His exaltation to the right hand of God (Acts 1:9,11; 2:33; Phil 2:9-11; Heb 1:3)
Jesus made a promise in the Gospels that if He went away, the comforter would come. After the resurrection, Jesus appeared to people for 40 days. After that, He ascended to Heaven with the Disciples watching. He sat down at the right hand of God. The work of redemption was done.
Now the work of the Godhead would continue through the Holy Spirit empowering the church. The humiliation was over. The exaltation could begin, and we can benefit in several ways.
From Christ’s exaltation, we first receive Him as a friend in Heaven, interceding on our behalf to the Father. Second, He is our Great High Priest who has finished the work before Him. We who still sin have assurance in 1 John 1:9 that “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Third, He promised that in Heaven He would prepare a place for us to be with Him later. And that there would be room enough for everyone.
The fourth and final benefit is that of the Holy Spirit. The Comforter has come and allows us to enjoy genuine union with the Son. Christ promised that the Comforter would take the things we had learned from Jesus and bring them to mind when we needed them. This can only happen if we have first studied.
Because He is exalted, He can be anywhere on the earth at one time. During His earthly ministry, He placed to the side some of His divine prerogatives. They are now His again, and He will be wherever two or more are gathered in His name.
His name will be exalted and at His name, every knee will bow and tongue confess that He is Lord. The only question that remains is when will you do it? You can bow and confess in life and make Him lord. On the other hand, some, many even, will refuse in life and have to confess and bow after death. But then is too late. Decisions made today have consequences that echo throughout eternity.
Our Lord Jesus Christ. The central figure of history. Our calendar is divided into BC and AD on His birth. Born to die. Died to rise again. Risen to be exalted.
That day in the heavens were silent. The sun god had lost again to the God of the Hebrews. Crucified. Resurrected. Exalted. In His defeat, victory was made for us. And in His rising, death was defeated for all.
You don’t have to be the same as you used to be. You can make that change yours. Faith in Jesus will make all the difference. The same benefits He gave to the first believers are available to every believer these days. The promise of the Spirit was given to those who were there at His exaltation as well as to those who were afar off.
Do you want those benefits? Today, take Jesus as your Lord, confess and be saved. Join yourself to the crucified, risen, and exalted King of Kings.
Please visit Frank Luke’s blog where this article is also posted.