So Pilate released Barabbas, and he had Jesus flogged and handed over to be crucified.
The governor’s soldiers took Jesus into a great hall, gathered a great crowd, and stripped Jesus of His clothes, draping Him in a bold scarlet cloak, the kind that soldiers sometimes wore. They gathered some thorny vines, wove them into a crown, and perched that crown upon His head. They stuck a reed in His right hand, and then they knelt before Him, this inside-out, upside-down King. They mocked Him with catcalls.
Soldiers: Hail, the King of the Jews!
They spat on Him and whipped Him on the head with His scepter of reeds, and when they had their fill, they pulled off the bold scarlet cloak, dressed Him in His own simple clothes and led Him off to be crucified.
As they were walking, they found a man called Simon of Cyrene and forced him to carry the cross. Eventually they came to a place called Golgotha, which means “Place of the Skull.” There they gave Him a drink—wine mixed with bitter herbs. He tasted it but refused to drink it.
And so they had Him crucified. They divided the clothes off His back by drawing lots, and they sat on the ground and watched Him hang. They placed a sign over His head: “This is Jesus, King of the Jews.” And then they crucified two thieves next to Him, one at His right hand and one at His left hand.
Passersby shouted curses and blasphemies at Jesus. They wagged their heads at Him and hissed.
Passersby: You’re going to destroy the temple and then rebuild it in three days? Why don’t You start with saving Yourself? Come down from the cross if You can, if You’re God’s Son.
Chief Priests, Scribes and Elders (mocking Him): He saved others, but He can’t save Himself. If He’s really the King of Israel, then let Him climb down from the cross—then we’ll believe Him. He claimed communion with God—well, let God save Him, if He’s God’s beloved Son.
Even the thieves hanging to His right and left poured insults upon Him. And then, starting at noon, the entire land became dark. It was dark for three hours. In the middle of the dark afternoon, Jesus cried out in a loud voice.
Jesus: Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani—My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?
Bystanders: He’s calling on Elijah.
One bystander grabbed a sponge, steeped it in vinegar, stuck it on a reed and gave Jesus the vinegar to drink.
Others: We’ll see—we’ll see if Elijah is going to come and rescue Him.
And then Jesus cried out once more, loudly, and then He breathed His last breath. At that instant, the temple curtain was torn in half, from top to bottom. The earth shook, rocks split in two, tombs burst open and bodies of many sleeping holy women and men were raised up. After Jesus’ resurrection, they came out of their tombs, went into the holy city of Jerusalem and showed themselves to people.
When the Centurion and soldiers who had been charged with guarding Jesus felt the earthquake and saw the rocks splitting and the tombs opening, they were, of course, terrified.
Soldiers: He really was God’s Son.
A number of women, who had been devoted to Jesus and followed Him from Galilee, were present, too, watching from a distance. Mary Magdalene was there, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.
At evening time, a rich man from Arimathea arrived. His name was Joseph, and he had become a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked to be given Jesus’ body; Pilate assented and ordered his servants to turn Jesus’ body over to Joseph. So Joseph took the body, wrapped Jesus in a clean sheath of white linen and laid Jesus in his own new tomb, which he had carved from a rock. Then he rolled a great stone in front of the tomb’s opening, and he went away. Mary Magdalene was there, and so was the other Mary. They sat across from the tomb, watching, remembering.
The next day, which is the day after the Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went together to Pilate. They reminded him that when Jesus was alive He had claimed that He would be raised from the dead after three days.
Chief Priests and Pharisees: So please order someone to secure the tomb for at least three days. Otherwise His disciples might sneak in and steal His body away, and then claim that He has been raised from the dead. If that happens, then we would have been better off just leaving Him alive.
Pilate: You have a guard. Go and secure the grave.
So they went to the tomb, sealed the stone in its mouth and left the guard to keep watch.
After the Sabbath, as the light of the next day, the first day of the week, crept over Palestine, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to the tomb to keep vigil. Earlier there had been an earthquake. A messenger of the Lord had come down from heaven and had gone to the grave. He rolled away the stone and sat down on top of it. He veritably glowed. He was vibrating with light. His clothes were light, white like transfiguration, like fresh snow. The soldiers guarding the tomb were terrified. They froze like stone.
The messenger spoke to the women, to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary.
Messenger of the Lord: Don’t be afraid. I know you are here keeping watch for Jesus who was crucified. But Jesus is not here. He was raised, just as He said He would be. Come over to the grave, and see for yourself. And then go straight to His disciples, and tell them He’s been raised from the dead and has gone on to Galilee. You’ll find Him there. Listen carefully to what I am telling you.
The women were both terrified and thrilled, and they quickly left the tomb and went to find the disciples and give them this outstandingly good news. But while they were on their way, they saw Jesus Himself.
Jesus (greeting the women): Rejoice.
The women fell down before Him, kissing His feet and worshiping Him.
Jesus: Don’t be afraid. Go and tell My brothers to go to Galilee. Tell them I will meet them there.
As the women were making their way to the disciples, some of the soldiers who had been standing guard by Jesus’ tomb recovered them-selves, went to the city and told the chief priests everything that had happened—the earthquake just after dawn, the heavenly messenger and his commission to the Marys.
The chief priests gathered together all the elders, an emergency conference of sorts. They needed a plan. They decided the simplest course was bribery: they would pay off the guards and order them to say that the disciples had come in the middle of the night and had stolen Jesus’ corpse while they slept. The chief priests promised the soldiers they would run interference with the governor so that the soldiers wouldn’t be punished for falling asleep when they were supposed to be keeping watch. The guards took the bribe and spread the story around town—and indeed, you can still find people today who will tell you that Jesus did not really rise from the dead, that it was a trick, some sort of sleight of hand.
The eleven disciples, having spoken to the Marys, headed to Galilee, to the mountain where they were to meet Jesus. When the disciples saw Jesus there, many of them fell down and worshiped, as Mary and the other Mary had done. But a few hung back. They were not sure (and who can blame them?). Jesus came forward and addressed His beloved disciples. *
Jesus: I am here speaking with all the authority of God, who has commanded Me to give you this commission: Go out and make disciples in all the nations. Ceremonially wash them through baptism in the name of the triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Then disciple them. Form them in the practices and postures that I have taught you, and show them how to follow the commands I have laid down for you. And I will be with you, day after day, to the end of the age.
* The disciples don’t know what to think or how to act. Nothing like this has ever happened before.
1 Corinthians 15:1–22
Let me remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I preached to you when we first met. It’s the essential message that you have taken to heart, the central story you now base your life on; and through this gospel, you are liberated—unless, of course, your faith has come to nothing. For I passed down to you the crux of it all which I had also received from others, that the Anointed One, the Liberating King, died for our sins and was buried and raised from the dead on the third day. All this happened to fulfill the Scriptures; it was the perfect climax to God’s covenant story. Afterward He appeared alive to Cephas (you may know him as Simon Peter), then to the rest of the twelve. If that were not amazing enough, on one occasion, He appeared to more than 500 believers at one time. Many of those brothers and sisters are still around to tell the story, though some have fallen asleep in Jesus. Soon He appeared to James, His brother and the leader of the Jerusalem church, and then to all the rest of the emissaries He Himself commissioned. Last of all, He appeared to me; I was like a child snatched from his mother’s womb. You see, I am the least of all His emissaries, not fit to be called His emissary because I hunted down and persecuted God’s church. Today I am who I am because of God’s grace, and I have made sure that the grace He offered me has not been wasted. I have worked harder, longer and smarter than all the rest; but I realize it is not me—it is God’s grace with me that has made the difference. In the end, it doesn’t matter whether it was I or the other witnesses who brought you the message. What matters is that we keep preaching and that you have faith in this message.
Now if we have told you about the Anointed One (how He has risen from the dead and appeared to us fully alive), then how can you stand there and say there is no such thing as resurrection from death? Friends, if there is no resurrection of the dead, then even the Anointed hasn’t been raised; if that is so, then all our preaching has been for nothing and your faith in the message is worthless. And what’s worse, all of us who have been preaching the gospel are now guilty of misrepresenting God because we have been spreading the news that He raised the Anointed One from the dead (which must be a lie if what you are saying about the dead not being raised is the truth). Please listen. If you say, “the dead are not raised,” then what you are telling me is that the Anointed One has not been raised. Friends, if the Anointed has not been raised from the dead, then your faith is worth less than yesterday’s garbage, you are all doomed in your sins, and all the dearly departed who trusted in His liberation are left decaying in the ground. If what we have hoped for in the Anointed doesn’t take us beyond this life, then we are world-class fools, deserving everyone’s pity.
But the Anointed One was raised from death’s slumber and is the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep in death. For since death entered this world by a man, it took another man to make the resurrection of the dead our new reality. Look at it this way: Through Adam all of us die, but through the Anointed One all of us can live again.
If Jesus did not rise from the dead, then the Christian faith is no more valuable than yesterday’s trash, according to the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15. Thanks be to God, Jesus did rise from the dead, and salvation by grace is a reality. Of course, the resurrection story told here is not complete. It’s just a few highlights. Open your Bible and discover more about why Jesus rose again and how His empty tomb stands at the center of human history.
Prophesy of the Resurrection
Long before He was crucified, Jesus knew how the story would unfold. Read Luke 9:22–23 and imagine yourself hearing Jesus say these things to you about the days ahead. How would you have reacted then? Today, are you living the kind of life He describes?
Compares Himself to the Temple
In John 2:18–22, Jesus again foretells what will happen to His body and how he will be resurrected. Who is He talking to? Do they understand what he is saying? His disciples also hear what Jesus is saying. When do they come to understand Him?
Breakfast with Friends
Read John 21:1–14. John paints a wonderful scene with his words. As you read, take note of how Jesus presents Himself initially, how He provides for the disciples and how Peter reacts once he realizes who is helping the men take in a load of fish. How is Jesus similar to His preresurrection self and how is He different?
His Final Words for the Disciples
Before Jesus ascended to heaven, He had many things to tell His disciples. Read Acts 1:1–8. How many days did the resurrected Jesus stay on earth, preparing His followers for His departure? Before ascending, He told the disciples to wait for what gift or promise from God? Who was this gift? After the disciples were empowered, what were they to do next?
God Grants Dominion to Jesus
After Jesus ascended, where does Ephesians 1:20–23 say that He is now? Jesus has power over what realms? What is under His feet? Over what has He been appointed ruler?
We Are Raised with Christ
In Colossians 3:1–10, read about how Christians are raised with Christ to a new life. What are we to focus our minds on in this life? What are we to completely avoid? As you go through the list of sins to avoid, zero in on the ones that vex you, the ones that continue to cause you to stumble. According to verse 3, your life is hidden with Christ in God. If you are covered by the hand of God, can anything snatch you back to your old life and pull you to sin?