After the death of Jesus on the cross, most of the people went home in utter defeat, disappointment, and despair because they didn’t know the power of resurrection.
When Jesus died, there was darkness, an earthquake, and even damage that occurred in the temple. Now all was quiet, Jesus had been placed in a tomb, and all had gone home because the Sabbath began at sunset. Only a few of Jesus’ closest followers remained watching from a distance.
Was everything really quiet with no activity?
Though not recorded in the Gospels, the Epistles reveal the undercurrents that were happening. Although Jesus’ body was in the tomb for three days and three nights, His spirit was working!
HE WAS INVADING THE REALM OF DARKNESS!
How do we know this? Peter said, “For Christ also suffered, once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, by whom He went and preached to the spirits in prison” (1 Peter 3:18, 19). Paul wrote that Jesus first descended into the lower parts of the earth (Ephesians 4:9). Likewise, Jesus Himself said to John “And I have the keys of Hades and of Death” (Revelation 1:19). The Lord went to the caverns of the damned to release those from sheol. While there, He also sealed the fate of the fallen angels. Again, Paul stated that when Jesus ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives (see Ephesians 4:8).
But what does it mean that Jesus ascended?
The gospels all tell that the day after the Sabbath, very early in the morning, Mary Magdalene and several other women went to the tomb. They saw that the large stone had been rolled away. Matthew even said an angel came down from heaven, rolled the stone away, and sat on it. The women were perplexed and the angel asked them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen! Go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him” (Luke 24:5, 6; Matthew 28:7).
The book of John describes a Man asking Mary why she was weeping. Mary thought he was the gardener until He spoke saying, “Mary!” She knew that voice! She turned to Him and said, “Rabboni,” meaning Teacher. Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father.” What exactly did that mean?
Jesus was taking His blood to the altar in heaven.
The writer of the Hebrews explained that Jesus is the kind of High Priest needed because He is holy, blameless, and unstained by sin. Jesus has now been set apart from sinners! He has been given the highest place of honor in heaven! He did not need to offer sacrifices every day like the other high priests. They did this for their own sins first and then for the sins of the people.
But Jesus did this ONCE FOR ALL when he sacrificed himself on the cross.
Furthermore, “Christ came as High Priest…of the more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood, He entered the Most Holy Place ONCE FOR ALL, having obtained eternal redemption. And for this reason, He is the Mediator of the New Covenant” (9:11, 12, 15, emphasis mine).
Now we can enter the Most Holy with boldness–not timidity, because His blood has given us access. Praise the Living God!
Back in Jerusalem, Jesus met the women as they were on their way to tell the disciples about the tomb. Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me.” For the disciples, the words “He is risen” brought hope to those who had gone home defeated, disappointed, and in despair. Those words also meant that Jesus would continue bringing healing to the sick and being light to those in darkness.
The Cross demonstrated the love of God for mankind. The resurrection demonstrated His power over sin, death, hell and the grave. Hallelujah!
But not all resurrections are the same.
The disciples had seen Jesus resurrect three people! At one time, one of the rulers of the synagogue approached Jesus because his twelve-year-old daughter was sick. During that meeting, some from the synagogue came and said she was dead. In compassion, Jesus said to the distraught father, “Don’t be afraid; only believe.” He came to their house and said, “Little girl, I say to you arise.” Immediately she arose from the dead (see Mark 5).
The second was in the city of Nain. As He approached the city, a funeral procession was happening. Again, with compassion, Jesus told the mother, “Do not weep.” Then He said to the corpse, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” And he who was dead sat up (see Luke 7).
Last, but not least, was Lazarus.
Jesus was told that Lazarus was very ill. So, after four days, He went to Bethany. Martha, Lazarus’ sister, rushed out to Him and said that if He had been there (implying, been there on time) then Lazarus would not have died. Jesus made this statement, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.”
So, they went to where Lazarus was buried, and Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!” And he did! But all three of these died again. Their spirits remained alive, but their bodies were dead, again. Jesus, however was raised from the dead and He is still alive. Remember, He said “I am alive forevermore.”
What Jesus Christ did during that Holy Week changed time and history.
Hopefully, it has changed you too! Let’s enter this season pondering all the benefits and blessings that we now enjoy because of that week. The life and power of Jesus’ resurrection caused the fearful and hiding disciples to go out and “turn the world upside down!”
Let us do the same as we are sent out to be salt and light to a dying world.
One of my favorite readings on the events following the resurrection is in Luke (24:41). At the time the disciples were still awestruck and trying to wrap their minds around all that had happened. Then Jesus showed up where they were gathered and didn’t even bother to use the door. He just appeared and said, “Peace to you” but it frightened them. Then, just as a friend would ask, He asked if they had anything for Him to eat. So, they gave him some bread and a honeycomb.
I can just imagine their wide-eyed gaze as they watched Him eating it in their presence.
Their minds were probably racing, wanting to ask a million questions. Over the next forty days, Jesus did answer their questions. He appeared several times to His disciples and He explained the scriptures to them concerning Himself and concluded saying, “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. Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high. For John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now” (Luke 24:46-49; Acts 1:5).
Though Jesus was returning to heaven, He was not leaving them helpless.
He was sending the Comforter. Do you remember back on the night of the Last Supper, when Jesus was having an intimate talk with His disciples? He told them “I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever–the Spirit of Truth … for He dwells with you and will be in you” (John 14:16, 17).
That promise was to come within just a few short days … so stay tuned Pentecost is coming!
What aspect of Holy Week has impacted you this most? What is something you learned this week that you didn’t know before? Share with me your experiences during this incredible Holy Week in the comments below!