Crucified and Risen
From childhood Jesus was conscious that He had come to this earth to fulfill His Father’s will (Luke 2:41–50). He taught, healed, and ministered with an unwavering commitment to obey the Father. Now the time had come, after celebrating the Last Supper, to walk alone, to affirm God’s will, to be betrayed and denied, to be tried and crucified, and to rise victorious over death.
Throughout His life Jesus knew about the inevitability of the cross. Many times in the Gospels, the word must is used in relationship to the sufferings and death of Jesus (Luke 17:25, 22:37, 24:7, Matt. 16:21, Mark 8:31, 9:12, John 3:14). He must go to Jerusalem. He must suffer. He must be rejected. He must be lifted up, and so on. Nothing would deter the Son of God from going to Golgotha. He denounced, as coming from Satan (Matt. 16:22, 23), any suggestion to reject the cross. He was convinced that He “must go . . . suffer . . . be killed, and be raised” (vs. 21, NKJV). To Jesus, the journey to the cross was not an option; it was a “must” (Luke 24:25, 26, 46), a part of the divine “mystery . . . kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people” (Col. 1:26, NIV).
* Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, June 27.
At the dawn of history, God created Adam and Eve and placed them in a beautiful garden blessed with all that they needed for a life of joy. Soon something extraordinary happened: Satan appeared (Genesis 3). He tempted the first couple and then plunged the young earth into a mighty controversy between good and evil, between God and Satan.
Now, in God’s own time, another garden (Luke 22:39–46) became a mighty battleground where the war between truth and falsehood, between righteousness and sin, and between God’s plan for human salvation and Satan’s goal for human destruction raged.
In Eden the world was plunged into the disaster of sin; in Gethsemane the world’s ultimate victory was assured. Eden saw the tragic triumph of self asserting itself against God; Gethsemane showed self surrendering itself to God and revealing the victory over sin.
Gethsemane stands for two crucial things: first, for a most vicious attempt of Satan to derail Jesus from God’s mission and purpose; next, for the noblest example of reliance on God’s strength to accomplish His will and purpose. Gethsemane shows that, however strong the battle is and however weak the self is, victory is certain to those who have experienced the strength of prayer. As Jesus so famously prayed: “ ‘Nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done’ ” (Luke 22:42, NKJV).
All the hosts of Satan were arraigned against Jesus; the disciples, whom He loved so much, were numb to His suffering. Drops of blood were falling drop by drop; the betrayer’s kiss was just a breath away; and the priests and the temple guards were about to pounce. Yet, Jesus showed us that prayer and submission to God’s will give the needed strength to the soul to bear life’s great burdens.
Luke tells how Jesus prayed alone all night in the mountains before He chose His disciples (Luke 6:12–16). And Jesus believed that the Twelve were God’s gift to Him (John 17:6–9). Was Judas really an answer to prayer? How are we to understand what is going on here other than that even in Judas’s betrayal and apostasy, God’s purpose was to be fulfilled? (See 2 Cor. 13:8.)
Judas, who had so much potential, who could have been another Paul, instead went in a completely wrong direction. What could have been a Gethsemane experience for him was, instead, like the Fall in Eden.
“He had fostered the evil spirit of avarice until it had become the ruling motive of his life. The love of mammon overbalanced his love for Christ.”—Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 716.
When Jesus fed the 5,000 with five loaves and two fish (Luke 9:10– 17), Judas was the first to grasp the political value of the miracle and “set on foot the project to take Christ by force and make Him king.”— The Desire of Ages, p. 719. But Jesus denounced the attempt, and there began Judas’s disenchantment: “His hopes were high. His disappointment was bitter.”—The Desire of Ages, p. 719. Obviously Judas, as did others, believed that Jesus would use His extraordinary powers to establish a worldly kingdom, and Judas clearly had wanted a place in that kingdom. How tragic: his desire for a place in a temporal kingdom that never came caused him to lose a place in an eternal kingdom that was sure to come.
Another time, when a devout follower of Jesus chose to anoint His feet with a costly ointment, Judas decried her act as an economic waste (John 12:1–8). All Judas could see was money, and his love of money overshadowed his love of Jesus. This fixation with money and power led Judas to put a price tag on the priceless gift of heaven (Matt. 26:15). From then on, “Satan entered Judas” (Luke 22:3, NKJV). And Judas became a lost soul.
For all else that it entails, the Cross is also the great divider of history: the divider between faith and unbelief, between betrayal and acceptance, and between eternal life and death. There is no middle ground for any human being concerning the Cross. In the end, we are either on one side or the other.
“ ‘He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad’ ” (Matt. 12:30, NKJV). Strong words, and they can make us a bit uncomfortable, but Jesus is simply expressing what is real and what the truth entails for those who are immersed in the great controversy between Christ and Satan. We are with Jesus or with Satan.
Yes, it’s that stark.
Early Sunday morning the women went to the tomb with a single purpose—to complete the burial ritual. Despite the time they had spent with Jesus, they had not truly understood what was to happen. They were certainly not expecting an empty tomb, or to be told by heavenly messengers: “He is not here, but is risen” (Luke 24:6).
The women were firsthand eyewitnesses to the resurrection of Jesus. They rushed to share this good news with others, but no one believed them (Luke 24:11). Instead, the apostles dismissed the greatest story in redemptive history as “idle tales” of exhausted and grieving women (vss. 10, 11).
How soon they were to learn just how wrong they were!
The resurrection of Christ is foundational to God’s redemptive act and to the totality of Christian faith and existence. The apostle Paul makes that very clear: “If Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty” (1 Cor. 15:14, NKJV). It is empty, or vain, because only in Christ’s resurrection can we find the hope that is ours. Without that hope, our lives here end, and they end for eternity. Christ’s life didn’t end in a tomb, and the great promise is that ours won’t either.
“If Christ is not risen from the dead, the long course of God’s redemptive acts to save his people ends in a dead-end street, in a tomb. If the resurrection of Christ is not reality, then we have no assurance that God is the living God, for death has the last word. Faith is futile because the object of that faith has not vindicated himself as the Lord of life. Christian faith is then incarcerated in the tomb along with the final and highest self-revelation of God in Christ—if Christ is indeed dead.”—George Eldon Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1974), p. 318.
The resurrection of Jesus should have been enough evidence to establish the Messiahship of Jesus. Beaten and brutalized before being crucified and eventually pierced, Jesus was then wrapped and placed in a tomb. Even if, as some have ridiculously suggested, He had survived both the cross and the burial, a bloodied and battered and weakened Jesus, somehow staggering from the tomb, would not have been anyone’s idea of a victorious Messiah.
Nevertheless, there Jesus was, alive and well. He walked several miles with the two men on the road to Emmaus. And yet even then, before revealing who He was, Jesus pointed them to the Scriptures, giving them a firm biblical foundation for their faith in Him.
Then, when He appeared to the disciples, showed them His flesh, and ate with them, Jesus did more: He pointed them to the Word of God: “ ‘Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things’ ” (Luke 24:46–48, NKJV).
Here, too, Jesus not only pointed to the Scriptures (besides the evidence that He was actually alive and among them), but He used the Scriptures to help them understand exactly what had happened to Him. Also, He directly linked His resurrection with the mission to preach the gospel to all nations.
So, even with all the powerful evidence proving who Jesus was, He always pointed His followers back to the Word of God. After all, without the Word of God among us today, how would we know of our calling and mission to preach the gospel to the world? How would we even know what the gospel was? The Bible is, then, as central to us today as it was to Jesus and His disciples.
Further Study: “The significance of the death of Christ will be seen by saints and angels. Fallen men could not have a home in the paradise of God without the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. Shall we not then exalt the cross of Christ? The angels ascribe honor and glory to Christ, for even they are not secure except by looking to the sufferings of the Son of God. It is through the efficacy of the cross that the angels of heaven are guarded from apostasy. Without the cross they would be no more secure against evil than were the angels before the fall of Satan. Angelic perfection failed in heaven. Human perfection failed in Eden, the paradise of bliss. All who wish for security in earth or heaven must look to the Lamb of God.”—Ellen G. White, The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 5, p. 1132.