BY PASTOR T. O. BANSO
Christmas and Easter are two important celebrations in Christianity. While if there is no Christmas, there can’t be Easter, also without Easter, Christmas will be meaningless. In other words, if Jesus didn’t die and was resurrected, His birth would be of no consequence. That’s why many Christians believe that Easter is more important than Christmas. Nevertheless, they balance each other. There was Christmas in order that there would be Easter. Jesus was born so that He would die on the cross and be resurrected on the third day. He came to earth for this purpose, not only to perform miracles.
In this message, I want to highlight ten powerful Easter truths we should know as we celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
1. Jesus died for our sins and was raised for our justification. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:3, “I passed on to you what I received, which is of the greatest importance: that Christ died for our sins, as written in the Scriptures” (Today’s English Version). But Paul also says, “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification” (Romans 4:25 New International Version). Jesus died for the forgiveness of our sins and our justification. Justification means being made right with God. Jesus died so that our sins will be forgiven and we will be made right with God.
God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). Jesus shed His blood for us on the cross because, without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness (Hebrews 9:22b). “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” (1 Peter 3:18 New King James Version).
At the first Easter, Jesus accomplished our forgiveness and justification. Those who accept Him as their Lord and Saviour are forgiven and made right with God. “Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died — more than that, who was raised to life — is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us” (Romans 8:33-34 New International Version). As verse 1 says, therefore, now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.
2. Jesus died only because He chose to lay down His life because of His love for humanity. Contrary to certain views by some non-Christians, Jesus was nailed to the cross and died. However, He didn’t die because He was weak or overpowered. Neither was He forced to die. He laid down His life. Before His arrest, He talked about laying down His life. He came to the earth for that purpose. Nobody would have been able to arrest Jesus, let alone try and crucify Him, if He did not willingly lay down His life for the sheep (John 10:15). He said in verses 17-18, “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father” (New King James Version).
Jesus laid down His life for us because of His love. Remember that John 3:16 says God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. Also, the Son (Jesus Christ) loved the world so much that He died for us. He says in John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (New King James Version). The Apostle John also says, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us” (1 John 3:16a New International Version).
Jesus didn’t die under duress. He died willingly for us because He loved us. He had the power to lay His life down and the power to take it again.
3. Jesus was not guilty of any sin but God made Him who had no sin to be sin. In Matthew 27:4a, Judas Iscariot, the betrayer, said “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood” (New King James Version). He testified that Jesus was innocent but he had betrayed Him for thirty pieces of silver, which he later returned to the chief priest but they refused to collect back from him (Matthew 26:15; 27:3-10).
When the accusers of Jesus brought Him to Pontius Pilate, the Governor of Judea, he didn’t find Him guilty. He told the Jews he didn’t find any fault in Him (John 18:38; 19:4).
He thought he could release Jesus through the custom of releasing someone to the Jews at the Passover but the people cried that he should release Barabbas, a robber, and not Jesus (John 18:39-40).
Pilate would have released Jesus, having found Him innocent, but he lacked the courage, especially when the Jewish leaders tried to blackmail him. “From then on Pilate sought to release Him, but the Jews cried out, saying, ‘If you let this Man go, you are not Caesar’s friend. Whoever makes himself a king speaks against Caesar’” (John 19:12 New King James Version). After this, he delivered Jesus to them to be crucified. Matthew 27:24 says, “When Pilate saw that he could not prevail at all, but rather that a tumult was rising, he took water and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, ‘I am innocent of the blood of this just Person. You see to it’” (New King James Version).
Jesus was not a criminal. He wasn’t found guilty of any offence, yet Pilate handed Him over to be crucified. But 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “For He [God] made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (New King James Version).
4. The body of Jesus was not stolen; God raised Him from the dead. Paul says in 2 Timothy 2:8, “Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel” (New King James Version). He also says in 1 Corinthians 15:4 that Jesus was buried and rose again on the third day according to the Scriptures.
After Jesus was resurrected from the dead and His tomb was empty, the chief priests and the elders, to save their faces, bribed the guards who were posted to the tomb to lie that the disciples of Jesus came to the grave at night to steal the body while they were sleeping (Matthew 28:11-14). That was senseless propaganda.
If they were sleeping, how did they know His disciples came to steal His body? Did they see them in their dream? Were they not posted to the tomb to prevent Jesus’ disciples from coming by night to steal Him away, and then say to the people, He has risen from the dead? That was what they told Pilate and he granted their request to post guards to Jesus’ tomb (Matthew 27:63-66). Were they posted to His tomb to sleep?
The truth is nobody stole the body of Jesus. Matthew 28:2-4 says, “And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men” (New King James Version).
The Bible tells us severally that God raised Jesus from the dead, He was raised from the dead, or He rose from the dead (Acts 3:15; 4:10; 13:30; Romans 4:24; 6:4, 9; 7:4; 8:11; 10:9; Galatians 1:1; Ephesians 1:20; Colossians 2:12; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 2 Timothy 2:8; 1 Peter 1:21). Jesus showed Himself to many people after His resurrection. He didn’t ascend to heaven immediately. He appeared to His disciples at different times (John 20:19-29; 21:9-14). Acts 1:3-4 says, “After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God” (New International Version).
The Bible also says in Acts 13:31 that Jesus was seen for many days by those who came up with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are His witnesses to the people. Jesus’ resurrection truly happened. According to Paul, “He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles. Last of all, as though I had been born at the wrong time, I also saw him” (1 Corinthians 15:4-8 New Living Translation).
It’s a lie that the body of Jesus was stolen. Mary Magdalene, who came with the other women to the tomb of Jesus early on the first day of the week, first thought somebody took away His body. She said that the body of Jesus had been taken away out of the tomb and she did not know where it had been laid until Jesus appeared to her outside the tomb and talked to her (John 20:2, 11-18). Christ is risen! He is alive forever more! He can never die again. “For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him” (Romans 6:9 New International Version).
5. Jesus is the Son of God; it’s not blasphemy. John 3:16 says God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. Because Jesus is the Son of God, He died on the first Easter for our salvation. But His reference to Himself as the Son of God brought Him in collision with the Jewish religious leaders who accused Him of blasphemy.
After His arrest, He was brought to Caiaphas, the high priest, who said to Him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God” (Matthew 26:63 New International Version). Jesus confirmed that He was. The high priest tore his clothes and said He had spoken blasphemy and that they didn’t need any more witnesses. Mark 14:61-64 also records this. Although they hated what Jesus said, it was the truth.
Those who were passing by and saw Jesus crucified mocked Him, saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:40 New International Version). The chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders also mocked Jesus on the cross, saying among other things, “He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God’” (verse 43 New International Version).
But Jesus didn’t make a false claim. Jesus was the Son of God and His Father said so (Matthew 3:17; 17:5; Mark 9:7; Luke 9:35; 2 Peter 1:17). It is significant that after Jesus had given up His spirit, the centurion and those with him, guarding Jesus, testified that Jesus was the Son of God. They said so because of some strange events that happened as Jesus gave up His spirit. “And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people” (Matthew 27:50-53 New International Version). Seeing these, the centurion and those with him, guarding Jesus, were greatly afraid and testified that Jesus was the Son of God. They believed what the religious leaders refused to believe. Jesus is the Son of God.
1 John 4:15 says whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. Have you confessed that Jesus is the Son of God? John the Baptist testified that Jesus was the Son of God (John 1:34). The devil tempted Jesus to prove that He was the Son of God but He refused (Matthew 4:3, 6; Luke 4:3, 9). He didn’t have to prove anything. He knew He was the Son of God. Do you know and believe that Jesus is the Son of God? Have you confessed Him as the Son of God? “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18 New King James Version).
6. If Christ has not been resurrected, our faith is nothing and we are still guilty of our sins. If Jesus was not resurrected, as He had said, He would have been a liar and we cannot believe every other thing He said. Also, the early apostles and those preaching His resurrection today would be liars as well (1 Corinthians 15:14-15). If Jesus had not been resurrected, there would be nothing like Christianity. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:17, “And if Christ has not been raised from death, then your faith is for nothing; you are still guilty of your sins” (Easy-to-Read Version). But Jesus was raised from the dead and our sins are forgiven. Hallelujah!
7. The death of Jesus enables us to live for righteousness. Living for righteousness also means living for Christ, not self. 2 Corinthians 5:15 says Christ died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. Because of Christ’s death and resurrection, we can do what God wants us to do or bear fruit to Him. “In the same way, brothers and sisters, you have died to the laws in Moses’ Teachings through Christ’s body. You belong to someone else, the one who was brought back to life” (Romans 7:4 GOD’S WORD Translation).
2 Corinthians 5:21 says Jesus made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. According to the Apostle Peter, Christ bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness (1 Peter 2:24a). The New Living Translation renders the scripture thus: “He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right.” Those who believe in Christ are dead to sin and can live for what is right or righteousness.
Our self-righteousness is like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). It cannot save us. But through faith in Christ, we receive the righteousness of God (Romans 3:22). Thus, we can live for righteousness or what is right. “And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God” (Romans 6:13 New King James Version).
8. The resurrection power is still available to those who believe in Jesus. The power that raised Jesus from the dead is available to every believer. Romans 8:11 says, “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you” (New International Version).
In Philippians 3:10, Paul prayed that he might know Christ and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death. This should be our prayer too. But to experience this power, we must have faith in Jesus and live for Him. The power that raised Jesus from the dead after three days in the grave is available to us through Christ Jesus. As Paul says, we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13).
9. Christ’s death and resurrection have made Him the Lord of the Christians both dead and alive. Christ owns the believers who are dead and living. He purchased them with His blood (Acts 20:28). He is our Lord whether we are living or dead. Romans 14:9 says, “For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living” (New King James Version). The New Living Translation puts it this way: “Christ died and rose again for this very purpose—to be Lord both of the living and of the dead.” Because Christ is the Lord of the Christians, dead and living, Paul says if we live, it’s to honour the Lord and if we die, it’s to honour Him; whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord (Romans 14:8). We don’t live or die for ourselves(verse 7). We belong to Christ in life and death. Therefore, we should live to please Him.
10. Death is not final. Death is not the end for human beings. It only ends their life on earth. Hebrews 9:27 says it is appointed for men to die once but after this the judgment. There will be resurrection after death: the resurrection of life and resurrection of condemnation, as Jesus says in John 5:29. There will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust (Acts 24:15).
Each person determines his choice of resurrection while he is alive by accepting or rejecting God’s offer of salvation through Jesus Christ. “And if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised” (1 Corinthians 15:16 New Living Translation). After judgment, sinners will spend their eternity in hellfire (Revelation 20:15). But Christians will live in eternity with God. Where will you spend your eternity?
Conclusion: Meditate on these powerful Easter truths as you celebrate Easter and even beyond. Give your life to Jesus if you haven’t. Put your faith in Jesus Christ and live for Him. Preach Christ who was crucified, raised from the dead, ascended to heaven, and is coming back.
If you are not born again, you need to give your life to Jesus now. I urge you to take the following steps: *Admit that you are a sinner and you cannot save yourself and repent of your sins. *Confess Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. *Renounce your past way of life – your relationship with the devil and his works. *Invite Jesus into your life. *As a mark of seriousness to mature in the faith, start attending a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church. There they will teach you how to grow in the Kingdom of God.
Kindly say this prayer now: O Lord God, I come unto You today. I know I am a sinner and I cannot save myself. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross to save me and God raised Him on the third day. I repent of my sins and confess Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. I surrender my life to Jesus now and invite Him into my heart. By this prayer, I know I am saved. Thank You, Jesus, for saving me and making me a child of God.
I believe you have said this prayer from your heart. Congratulations! You will need to join a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church in your area where they will teach you how to live your new life in Christ Jesus. I pray that you flourish like a palm tree and grow like a cedar of Lebanon. May you grow into Christ in all things and become all God wants you to be. I will be glad to hear from you. The Lord be with you.
T. O. Banso is the President of Cedar Ministry International, Abuja, Nigeria.
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