Today We Celebrate Calvary’s Love
The narration of the last song in the cantata, Victory Medley – gives us the theme for Easter – “Today We Celebrate Calvary’s Love. Jesus Christ’s victor over darkness and victory over the grave. Because He is alive we have hope! We must never forget the amazing and profound words that came from the angel that day, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here! He is risen!”
Calvary’s love is why I am a believer. Let me explain – I believe because of Christ’s grace and love for me personally portrayed in His death and resurrection.
Many of you saw the movie “The Passion of Christ” that came out in 2004 and were aghast by the details portrayed in Christ’s death. The Passion left something out for me – the resurrection didn’t get the same emphasis. The resurrection in the movie was kind of an after-thought and I know that the emphasis was to be on the passion / the suffering of Christ. But that suffering means little to us if we don’t have the resurrection. The Cantata “Calvary’s Love” does a great job in delivering the complete message.
- It begins rejoicing – for Christ Arose victorious over the grave
- Then it reflects on the suffering, the cross and His death
- Then it brings us back to Easter and Christ’s resurrection
- It is important that we look at Jesus’ sacrifice for us. Evidence proves the certainty of Jesus' death on the cross. There have been all kinds of theories about Jesus’ death and resurrection trying to prove the biblical accounts are false which have been argued by apologists like Josh McDowell and Lee Strobel. There is no need for me to argue the points concerning His death and resurrection, but if you are interested in a study on that I would be glad to offer that in a Bible Study. But we do need to know about Christ’s suffering and death.
- After Jesus' trial, John 19:1 says "Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged." A medical expert named C. Truman Davis studied what was involved with this flogging, and he concluded this was a brutal beating that left Jesus on the edge of death.
- Jesus was tied to a post and beaten at least thirty-nine times, probably much more than that, with a whip that had jagged bones and balls of lead woven into it. Repeatedly, the whip was brought down on his bare shoulders, back, and legs.
- The heavy thongs cut through his skin, and as the blows continued, they cut deeper into the underlying tissues, initially producing an oozing of blood from the capillaries and veins and finally the spurting of arterial bleeding from vessels in the underlying tissues and muscles.
- The balls of lead first produced large, deep bruises that were then broken open by subsequent blows. By the end, the skin of his back was left hanging in long ribbons, and the entire area was an unrecognizable mass of torn and bleeding tissue. The scourge was one of the diabolic forms of punishment.
- Many people sentenced to be crucified never made it alive to the cross; they died at the flogging. Undoubtedly, Jesus was in serious to critical condition even before the crucifixion began. It's no wonder that the historical accounts tell us that Jesus was unable to carry his own cross.
- He was then laid on top of the cross on the ground and five- to seven-inch spikes were driven through his wrists, crushing the median nerve, which is the largest nerve that runs to the hand. After his wrists and feet were nailed securely to the cross, the cross was hoisted into the air; and Jesus hung there.
- Death from crucifixion is a slow death by suffocation, because the stress on Jesus' chest muscles was so great that he could inhale but he could not exhale unless he pushed up with his feet to relieve some of the pressure on his chest. For the victims of crucifixion again and again they would push themselves up against this incredible pain, and eventually exhaustion set in
- If the Romans wanted to hasten death, they would come by with a mallet and shatter the shin bones of the person on the cross so he could no longer push up. The person would slowly asphyxiate to death.
- To confirm death, the soldiers plunged a spear between his ribs that punctured the sack around his heart and his heart itself, causing a clear fluid and streams of blood to pour out. Eyewitnesses recorded this, and the Roman experts confirmed that Jesus was dead.
- No one survived the Roman punishment of the cross – No doubt Jesus died on the cross.
- Evidence proves the tomb was empty. Scripture and history of that day tells us Jesus' body was laid to rest in a tomb belonging to Joseph of Arimathea, and the tomb was sealed. An extremely heavy boulder was rolled in front of it, and it was guarded by elite Roman guards. Yet, it was discovered empty on Easter morning, quite significantly, by some women.
- The fact that the Bible says women discovered the tomb empty lends even more credibility to these accounts, because women had low status in Jewish society at that time.
- If the disciples were fabricating this story, surely they would have claimed it was men who discovered the tomb empty because their testimony would have been more credible in that culture.
- This is one more indication the writers were committed to recording exactly what took place, even though that bit of historical truth didn't help their case.
- More importantly, however, even Jesus' opponents admitted the tomb was empty. They bribed the guards of the tomb to say it was the disciples stole the body while they were asleep. That's ridiculous because the disciples didn't have the opportunity. Besides, if the guards were sleeping, how did they know it was the disciples who stole the body?
- The point is, when the disciples declared the tomb was empty, Jesus' opponents didn't respond by saying, "You're wrong. He's in the tomb." Nor did they respond, "You just have the wrong tomb. The body is over here." Instead, they admitted the tomb was empty on Easter.
- How did the tomb become empty? Certainly the Romans and Jewish authorities wouldn't have taken the body. They wanted Jesus dead. The Jews or Romans would have loved to produce the dead body of Jesus Christ and kill the doubt right there. But they didn't because they couldn't.
- If this had been a conspiracy, certainly one of the disciples would have broken ranks under the pain of torture and told the truth. But it never happened.
- I have heard some theories that said the disciples defeated the Roman guards – highly unlikely they were a bunch of cowards they were all in hiding, except John who was taking care of Mary, Jesus’ mother.
- How did they move the stone? This stone was rolled into place by levers. Engineers have calculated that the stone / boulder weighed in the neighborhood of 2 tons – 4000 pounds. A Roman seal was placed on the stone. And if anyone would try to remove the seal they would certainly have to deal with Rome. His disciples were in hiding so who removed the stone? God did – the angels took care of moving it. The way the Greek read it is more than just a roll – it was removed tossed aside.
- Remember how our bell was removed? By a crane and it is only maybe a half the weight of the stone. It had to be supernatural strength.
- Jesus had been wrapped in cloth with about 75 pounds of aromatic spices in gummy substance. Here is what the women discovered when they went to the tomb on the first day of the week:
Luke 24:1-8 (NIV)
1 On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. 5 In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, "Why do you look for the living among the dead? 6 He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 7 'The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.'" 8 Then they remembered his words.
- The witnesses of the resurrection are reliable. During the next 40 days Jesus appeared a dozen times to more than 500 different individuals. He talked with people. He ate with people. He even invited one skeptic to put his fingers in his hands where the nail holes were and to put his hand in his side where the spear had been thrust into him.
- A biblical scholar figured that there were 515 eyewitnesses. That is a lot of people. If we had a trial on the question of whether Jesus returned from the dead, and if we were to call each one of the 515 witnesses to give a first-hand account of their encounter with Jesus for just 15 minutes, and if we did it around the clock, we'd be sitting there for nearly six days. I wonder, after sitting through 128 hours of eyewitness accounts, how many people would leave here unconvinced of Jesus' resurrection? This number and quality of eyewitnesses is unprecedented.
Lee Stobel tells about an interview with one of the greatest lawyers.
Who would you guess is the most successful trial attorney in the entire world? (It’s not Perry Mason.) The Guinness Book of World Records says, "Most successful attorney: Sir Lionel Luckhoo, who succeeded in getting his 245th consecutive murder acquittal by January 1, 1985."
- This is an absolutely astonishing feat that nobody else in the world has ever come close to replicating. Two hundred forty-five consecutive murder trials either won before the jury or won on appeal. I would suspect he's a very bright person and that he has tremendous analytical skills. He certainly must be a world-class expert on what constitutes reliable, admissible, and persuasive evidence.
- Wouldn't it be interesting to get an opinion on the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus from a monumental legal expert like Sir Lionel Luckhoo? During his own spiritual journey Luckhoo did take his expertise in law and went through the question of whether the resurrection of Jesus Christ stands up to the test of legal evidence. He ultimately concluded: "I say unequivocally that the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ is so overwhelming that it compels acceptance by proof which leaves absolutely no room for doubt."
- Our everyday experience tells us that dead people do not come back to life. Yet here we have the most successful attorney on the entire planet applying the legal tests of evidence to the historical accounts of Jesus Christ's resurrection and concluding with absolute confidence that his resurrection is a reality. Having looked at the evidence, he then did the most logical thing in the world: he gave his life to Jesus Christ
- The disciples knew first-hand that Jesus had risen from the dead because they were there. Because they knew it was true, they were willing to die for it.
Sir Lionel Luckhoo was right. The evidence is overwhelming: early accounts plus empty tomb plus eyewitness testimony equals the certainty that Jesus Christ was indeed resurrected from the dead as the ultimate authentication of his claim to being the unique Son of God.
Look at every religious leader of history—Confucius, Buddha, Mohammed—they are all in the grave. But Jesus Christ isn't. His tomb is empty. Jesus Christ alone possessed the power to overcome the grave.
Who are you going to invest your hope in for eternal life? Who is it logical to invest your hope in? The evidence points convincingly to Jesus Christ having told the truth when he said in John 11 "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; 26 and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" John 11:25-26 (NIV)
I’m not some famous lawyer with a bunch of legal skills; I am who I am because I have accepted Calvary’s Love – Christ suffered and died for me but that is not the end of the story He is also my resurrection and my life and I believe.