Easter: He Has Gone Before Us

Easter: He Has Gone Before Us

Mark 15:21 – 16:8

When the women went to Jesus’ tomb on the very first Easter morning they did not find Jesus’ body. Instead they were met by an angel who told them to tell the other disciples, especially Peter (probably singled out because of his thrice-denial of Christ), about the resurrection and the fact that Jesus was going before them to Galilee. He was going before them to Galilee but He had already gone before them to the cross and to the tomb. He had taken on sin and death for His people – not just for His immediate disciples but for all whom the Father had and would give to Him. That means He has gone before us as well, into this death to sin and through the resurrection into eternal life. By faith, we too are called to follow Him, the first fruits from among the dead. We are to follow Him not just to Galilee but to die with Him to our sin and to be raised to new life in Him through His resurrection (Colossians 2:9-15).

The Power of God

On the surface, one might see Jesus as quixotic. Like Don Quixote He foolishly set off on a seemingly impossible adventure. How silly to think that He, a humble carpenter’s son from Nazareth, could be the King of Israel, let alone the Savior King of all the world? Can anything good come from Nazareth? He might as well be swinging a dull sword at windmills, as to think that His entry into Jerusalem on a donkey with His poor disciples waving palm fronds and casting down their tattered cloaks was somehow a world-changing event. On the surface, His visions of grandeur came crashing down to reality when Judas realized the foolishness of it all and went full Benedict Arnold on Jesus and His band of followers. If one only looks with worldly eyes, the cross was the tragic end of a foolish, but otherwise harmless life. Only, the cross was not the end! And, yes, while there is an unjust, tragic aspect to Christ’s suffering and death, being that He was Himself without sin, there is also an eternal power in the cross of Christ that was unleashed that day on Calvary. Jesus was not swinging naively at windmills. By willingly going to the cross He took square aim at our greatest enemies, sin and death, and He won the once and for all victory over both. It was not Jesus who was foolish but all those too blind in their sin to see His triumph for what it was. His disciples mourned or fled from Him. His enemies rejoiced and mocked Him. They looked at Jesus on the cross and saw weakness and failure. They mockingly called for Him to show His power by saving Himself, to come down from the cross. They could not see it was the power of God that kept Him on the cross in order to save others (1 Corinthians 1:18). In the end, it is not Jesus who is foolish but any who fail to recognize Him as Savior and Lord.

The Judgment of God

There was darkness from the sixth hour (noon) until the ninth hour (3 pm). In Exodus (10:21ff), God gave pharaoh and Egypt a judgment of warning by casting that land into darkness for three days. While Jesus was on the cross there were three hours of darkness in the land (most likely of Jerusalem and the surrounding region of Judea). In Exodus, the darkness was the the plague that preceded the plague of the execution of the firstborn sons. On Good Friday, darkness preceded the execution of God’s firstborn Son, Jesus. The darkness was a judgment of warning for unbelieving Israel and any other inhabitants of the land that day, but it was also precursor to the very real and present judgment that Jesus received when He died for the sins of His people. Christ really did experience the wrath of God. His judgment is the deliverance of His people. Just like the Passover Lamb was killed in place of ancient Israel, thereby redeeming her sons, so too is Christ our great Passover Lamb. Surely, “God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have been justified by His blood, much more shall we be saved by Him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by His life,” (Romans 5:8-10).

The Hope of God

Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” It was a gut wrenching cry that shows us the very real agony He experienced as God poured out His wrath on Jesus. The words are also a direct quote from Psalm 22. They come from the beginning of the psalm and recount the psalmist’ sown sense of being forsaken and far from God. But, the psalm does not end with the author’s hopelessness. Instead, the tone changes around v. 19, “But You, O LORD, do not be far off!… For [the LORD] has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and He has not hidden His face from Him, but has heard when He cried to Him.” Jesus was on the cross by the will of God. He went there obediently, trusting in His Father, knowing the work of salvation that needed to be accomplished. His forsakenness was real as was His pain and agony. But, He was not without hope! The cross was necessary but so too was the resurrection. Jesus knew this even if His disciples still lacked understanding (Mark 9:30-32). So, what seemed like the end to them and a cry of hopeless defeat, was in fact a new beginning with the grand hope of an eternal dawn to come!

Discuss & Pray

1. Do you see the power of God in Christ on the cross? In what sense(s) do your neighbors see the cross as foolishness? How can you help them see the truth of His victory?

2. Have you ever felt forsaken or abandoned by God? What sin(fulness) in your own heart did the temporal darkness you experienced help you to see by bringing you to the cross of Christ anew?

3. What hope does the resurrection of Christ give to you, knowing that He was not ultimately abandoned by God?

4. He has gone before us to the cross, tomb, and the right hand of God. In what ways are you going with Him and to Him where He has gone before?

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