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TEXT: Hebrews 13:20-21
SUBJECT: The Passion of Jesus Christ #5: To Achieve His Resurrection
For the last month or two, we've been studying John Piper's little book, The Passion of Jesus Christ. The title may be a bit misleading, because it does not focus on our Lord's passion. Piper says next to nothing about His physical torments, His mental anguish, or even His spiritual pain. The book is not about what or how much He suffered, but why He suffered it all.
We know why He suffered from men and devils-because men and devils are wicked. The Rulers of Israel envied Him; Pontius Pilate was a coward and a cynic; Judas Iscariot was a thief; and of course Satan was a murderer from the beginning. Such reasons are easy to state and understand.
What's not so easy to understand is God's reason for the cross. Why did God permit the cross? Or, to put a finer point on it, why did God send His Son to the cross? The cross did not surprise Him-it shocked Peter and Cleopas, and especially Thomas-but not the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. C.S. Lewis said the cross was the price God paid for man's free will. But that's pure nonsense. God gave Adam and Eve free will, and had He wanted to, He could have kept that free will from sinning-and without doing damage to it. For example, an elephant might have stepped on the serpent just before he opened his mouth!
God was up to something at the cross-and it wasn't a desperate Plan B when He saw Plan A had failed! The cross is Plan A! Jesus Christ our Lord suffered and died according to the eternal purpose of God.
This is what the little book is about. Piper names fifty things God was up to at the cross. So far, we've meditated on about three of them. Now we move on to Number Four.
Christ Suffered and Died.To achieve His own resurrection from the dead.
At first glance, this seems to be a no-brainer. Of course the Resurrection depends on the Cross because you can't rise from the dead unless you are dead. And that's how our Lord entered death-by way of the cross.
Piper knows this, and he's quick to clarify,
The death of Christ did not merely precede His Resurrection-it was the price that obtained it.
What he's saying is quite staggering: Jesus Christ bought eternal life!
Keep in mind what His resurrection was not-and what it was. In rising from the grave, our Lord did not re-enter His old life (as Lazarus did). He entered a New Life, which the Bible most often calls Eternal Life.
I've heard people say, "Eternal Life cannot be bought". But they're wrong-it can be bought. And it has been. Jesus Christ bought it, earned it, won it, whatever word you like!
Thus, Christ suffered and died to achieve His own resurrection-or to win eternal life.
The price He paid for the Resurrection was rather steep. Piper says it is nothing less than.
The blood of Jesus. When the Bible speaks of the blood of Jesus, it refers to His death. Nothing would be accomplished by the mere bleeding of Jesus, His bleeding to death is what makes His blood-shedding crucial.
Now what is the relationship between the shedding of Jesus' blood and the Resurrection? The Bible says He was raised not just after the blood-shedding, but by it. This means that what the death of Christ accomplished was so full and so perfect that the Resurrection was the reward of Christ's achievement in death.
We tend to shy away from terms like earning rewards or winning God's favor. But this is precisely what our Lord did. And it shouldn't surprise us because the very thing was promised in the Bible. Maybe the best-known prophecies in the Old Testament are Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53. When we think of them, what comes to mind? The sufferings of Christ. And, to be sure, both are full of His pain. But not only His pain, but also His reward!
The Righteous King suffers every indignity, but then God hears Him and makes Him Lord of all! The Innocent Servant is despised, rejected, stricken, smitten, and afflicted, but God gives Him he spoils of His enemies.
Animated by the hope of winning God's favor, the saints stood up to the pagans and went into the fiery furnace and lions' den without fear. And they were right to do so, for God had promised a reward to those who lived and died for Him. The one I think of most often is Daniel 12:2-3,
And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever.
Dying for God will be rewarded: His servants will be raised from their dirty and stinking graves and put in places of high honor. That was the Promise of the Old Testament. And a promise God kept to His Son.
The death of Christ won Him God's favor. But not only His favor, it was His public favor that it won. Paul said the Resurrection was not done in a corner. The Lord did not sneak out of the tomb and make His way to heaven by dead of night.
The opposite is true: His resurrection was a public affair. In the forty days that followed it, more 500 people saw Him, touched Him, ate with Him, heard Him. At the end of that time, a few of them saw even more: they saw Him rise into heaven on a cloud of glory. The sight was so amazing that they did just what you and I would do: They stood there, heads up, mouths open, blown away by it all! It took a scolding angel to snap them out of their stupor!
The resurrection was the public declaration of God's endorsement.
In other words, by His suffering and death, Jesus Christ won eternal life and won it in such as way as to leave no doubt about it. We don't have to wonder if Jesus is God; if He's the Messiah; if He did enough to save us. We know He is and we know He did because.the Tomb is empty.
If our Lord's suffering and death won Him eternal life, they didn't win it for Him only. Starting with a quote from Paul, Piper says,
'If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins'. The Resurrection proves that the death of Jesus was an all-sufficient price. If Jesus did not rise from the dead, then His death was a failure, God did not accept His sin-bearing work, and we are still in our sins. But, in fact, Christ was raised from the dead. And if we put our trust in Christ, we are not still in our sins.
The wording is clumsy, but you know it means: Because God raised Christ from the dead, His work was accepted by God. But the work was done for us, which means, in a word: we are accepted by God.
God accepts us. God is for us. He doesn't tolerate us, but He welcomes us and He loves us as much as He loves His own Son. The believer's eternal life is every bit as sure his Savior's eternal life! Christians could not more go to hell than Christ can go to hell!
By His sufferings and death, Jesus Christ won God's favor and earned Eternal Life. And not only for Himself, but for everyone who believes in Him.
Therefore, believe in Christ and have eternal life. Have it now and have it forever. The life an unbeliever has now is no life at all-it is a death march to the grave and worse. So why don't you step out of death and into life? That's done by putting your trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. You don't need a lot of knowledge or willpower. What you need is simple faith. Which God will give you if you want it.
To believers, I can only say: Enjoy the Life Jesus Christ has won for you. Find your assurance, not in your life (which will always be mixed), but in His life. The Tomb is Empty.for you. So why don't you believe it and live as though you do?
Why did Jesus Christ suffer and die? To achieve His resurrection. And ours too! In short, He said,
Because I live, you shall live also.
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