EASTER IN A PANDEMIC

No one had ever died like this before. Stephen Mansfield, the author of the book, Killing Jesus, wrote, “Then comes the first strike of the flagellum. It is devastating. The lictor does not slap the leather against his victim. Instead, he swings the flagellum so as to partially wrap its straps around the victim’s torso. Then, once the jagged bits of the leather have bitten into flesh, the lictor yanks the flagellum in reverse. Skin tears. Blood gushes. Pieces of muscle and sinew, even chips of bone, fly into the air. The body is torn apart.”

Even those used to administering such brutal scourging, had never witnessed bloodshed like this. Perhaps they even wanted to stop, but the blood lust of demons provided the moral depravity necessary to drive them on. By morning, He was not recognizable. By afternoon, He was nailed to a cross.

The angels grieved and wondered, “Is the human race worth this?” But something even more terrible lay in store for Jesus.

He became sin. The entire weight of mankind’s iniquity was placed upon Him. And then something even worse happened. A sensation Jesus had never known before—an agony transcending everything He had yet endured. His Father’s presence left Him. His humanity screamed, “Why have You forsaken Me?”

Yet, Jesus remained on the cross, enduring greater suffering than anyone has ever known. Why? Because He chose to suffer for you and for me. He stayed there, knowing He could pull the trigger of global destruction, call 80,000 angels, and in an instant, be safe and pain-free, in heaven. But He chose to remain on that cross, until the price was paid in full.

All through history, Satan had been working toward this moment, ever since the prophecy that a redeemer, the Seed of Adam and Eve, would someday come and bruise his head (Gen. 3:15). The devil did everything imaginable to sabotage God’s plan of redemption. But, in the end, his own evil arrogance was his undoing. He should have known that he could never have brought about the death of the Son of God, unless the Father was involved.

Jesus’ last words were, “It is finished.” Satan took that to mean, that Jesus had surrendered. It was his worst miscalculation.

Plans backfire. But as a description for this debacle of the devil, the word ‘backfire’ isn’t even in the same universe. This was a mistake of such cosmic proportions, that it will take eternity to unpack just how mistaken Satan was.

Even Paul couldn’t grasp its enormity, all he could say was that “…none of the rulers of this age realized; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Corinthians 2:8). The rulers of this age would never have fulfilled so many prophecies In fact, you can imagine the devil muttering for the millionth time, “I never should have done it.”

While Satan was saying, “What have I done?” there was a miracle taking place at the tomb. The enemies of Christ remembered something the disciples didn’t. Jesus had told them that He would rise again. His enemies knew that if someone came and stole the body of Jesus, it would keep the young movement alive.

The Romans positioned soldiers all around the tomb, and they hammered a Roman seal into the stone. That meant anyone violating that seal would be killed. It also meant that the Roman guards would be killed if the body of Jesus, which they were supposed to be guarding, was stolen. That fact not only destroys the argument that someone stole the body—it proves that Jesus rose from the dead.

If they wanted to destroy the narrative that Jesus had risen from the dead, the Jews and Romans had only to produce His body, but they couldn’t. And the reason is that Jesus truly had risen from the dead. Over two thousand years later—after every conceivable argument has been leveled at the Easter story, it remains irrefutable, and will always remain so.

What does that mean to us in the 21st century church, sequestered on this Easter Sunday?  It means so much, that I will barely be able to scratch the surface in this message. First, it means that many things that we only think matter do not matter. God raised Jesus from the dead, and nothing else really matters. No one can argue Christianity isn’t true. Dwell on that for a moment.

The stone was rolled away. Jesus rose from the dead. The Roman seal was broken, the soldiers were stunned like dead men, and then they were paid to lie about what happened. It doesn’t matter that on this Easter Sunday, we can’t meet in church buildings, because we can meet God in power. He is risen!

It doesn’t matter what the government, or the scientists, or the politicians do and say.  He is risen!

We need to stop apologizing for something that is an historically proven event. It really happened. No need to be nice and sweet in telling the world about Jesus Christ, or being in fear that they’ll reject us. We should be bold, because the resurrection is not some inspirational story to warm the soul, like soup. It is an ironclad reality that is to be declared with conviction!

It doesn’t matter what the devil has said. His lies don’t count. His threats don’t matter. Jesus is risen!

Sure, we are at home today, but the angels anticipated that. Sure, we see the pastor on a screen instead of in person, but the Holy Spirit is ready for that. We have lost nothing that matters. The fact that Jesus is risen is the only thing that matters.

Pastor, do not get on Zoom and console the sheep—fire them up! Do not be the therapist this morning, be the lion who shouts, “GREATER IS HE WHO IS IN YOU, THAN HE WHO IS IN THE WORLD!”

Don’t preach to us about ‘making the best of this situation.’ Don’t keep saying, “It will be over soon, and we will be back to normal.” We have lost nothing that matters, in the light of eternity. The fact that Jesus is risen, is the only thing that matters!

HE IS RISEN!                                                                              

HE IS RISEN, INDEED!