Easter Challenge: The Cross and the Grave

The challenge of Easter that Jesus faced was a triple challenge; He faced the Gethsemane Challenge involved submitting to His Father’s will, Calvary’s Challenge was about paying the ultimate price and the Grave’s Challenge was to leave a lasting evidence of the completed work of redemption and His promised return. Luke documented this in Acts 10:38-42,

“How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him on he third day and made him to appear, not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead.”

Our response to these challenges is to first submit ourselves to God’s will even when it does not seem clear.  As we face the challenges of our various situations let us imitate Jesus’ behavior.  We can apply these 6 principles to any challenge that we are facing.  I pray that you will allow the Easter Challenge to realign you to the will of God.  For this realignment to occur you must (Matthew 26):

  1. Find a place where you could meet God – verse 36
  2. You must meet your challenges with prayer – verse 36-39
  3. You should have people around you during your challenge – verse 37
  4. You should share your burden or challenges with your intercessory friends – verse 38
  5. You should separate yourself in order to be alone with God the Father – verse 38- 39
  6. Once you are alone with God submitted to His will for your life – verse 39-46

This Easter will you face your challenge with a resolve like Jesus did, will you say I would do what God’s will is for my life.

Good Friday is a day that we focused on the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.  What a challenge Jesus faced on that cross.  This is the Calvary’s Challenge (Matthew 28:21-59) as documented by Luke in Luke 23:39-43, One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Calvary’s’ Challenge was that Jesus had to pay the ultimate price for mankind’s redemptions.  This payment is to bring us back into a right relationship with God.  This was not an easy task; only one that was perfect could have satisfied this ransom.  On the cross Jesus faced:

  • Rejection
  • Loneliness
  • Betrayal
  • False accusation
  • Pain physical and spiritual
  • Death

His disciples abandoned Him; the people that were healed were outnumbered by the shouts of those that were in the crowd; crucify Him.  Those that did not abandoned Him followed close by but it was a stranger that helped Him carry the cross.  They humiliated Jesus, they beat Jesus, they cursed at Him, they mocked Him, and the rejected Him.

John writes in John 1:11, “He came unto his own, and his own received him not.”

We have to respond to Jesus’ death on Calvary.  This response is both active and passive.  Whither we publicly acknowledge or privately deny or turn away from the call of Calvary we are responding to the Calvary’s Challenge.  This challenge says I died for you, I paid the ultimate sacrifice so that you can become one with God the Father.   Jesus faced death for you and I and we must respond to this demonstration of LOVE.

The two thieves that were crucified with Jesus, one on the right and one on the left both had an opportunity to respond to Calvary’s Challenge.  In their response one was ushered into paradise and one was ushered into eternal damnation (Luke 23:39-41).  In a society like the one we now live in, we are faced with a selfish spirit that seems to permeate the atmosphere.  Like the first thief many are only seeking their own pleasure.  They do not consider your plight.  All they want is for you to satisfy them.  Like Jesus we Christians are commanded to love others and look out for the wellbeing of others.

Jesus demonstrated this on the cross, in Luke 23 verse 27-31, Luke state, “ and there followed him a great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for him. But turning to them Jesus said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say,  ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?” ESV

He also commended His mother and brother into each other care.  In His death He was looking out for others.  John said in John 19:26-27 “When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.” KJV

As an indication that the price was paid, Jesus told the thief that today you would be with me in Paradise.  This indicated that salvation purchase was complete. The symbol of the cross is one that constantly reminds us that ultimate love is calling us into a relationship. Today, what will your response be?  While there are many debates as to the resurrection the fact that Jesus died is never in doubt.  I will even dare to say that if Calvary was the finale we still would have to answer the call of Calvary.  While Jesus’ death paid for our sins, the grave left us an evidence of this purchase.

Grave’s Challenge was to left us a lasting reminder of the purchased redemption and Jesus promised return.  If Jesus had only died and not rose from the grave many would dismiss His deity and power.  They would say many prophets and great leaders lived, they did good deeds, and died but their bodies are in the grave they are still dead.  But thank God the empty grave is evidence that Jesus is the risen Lord.  The challenge was his to face on Calvary but the rest was for the Father to do.  Jesus’ obedience to the Fathers’ will led Him to Calvary, His Father exalted Him by raising Him from the Grave and accepted Him into heaven to His rightful place at His right Hand.  Once you have met the Gethsemane and Calvary challenges then the Grave is no challenge for you.  You and I must know that our responses to God’s overt demonstration of love will put us in a position where we do not have to fair Sin, Hell, Death and the Grave (1 Corinthians 1:50-58).

Jesus rose triumphantly from the Grave.  When we inspect the grave we can see that there was no fight to get out of the grave.  Jesus rose with all power.  The Roman elite solders were gone, the sealed tomb was open, the burial cloth was wrapped neatly and laid to the side, and most of all Jesus was not there, He was raised.  Many saw him and touched Him after the resurrection.  The evidence is clear, the empty tomb and a risen body. The Grave’s Challenge for Jesus was to leave a lasting reminder of the completion of the restoration process and to leave us a reminder that He will return for those that have accepted the challenges of Easter.  With the empty grave Jesus demonstrated that He has all power, He accomplished the plan, He was victorious over man’s three greatest enemies sin, death and the grave.

The evidences are glaring; we placed a dead body in the grave, left the best guards to watch the grave on penalty of their lives, the disciples were all disperse because of fear and now three days later we have an empty grave.  We cannot deny the evidences and these evidences have left us a constant reminder that Jesus loves us so much that He paid the ransom for us thereby bringing us back into a right relationship with God the Father.  And He has sealed our redemption and secured our place in eternity in the presence of God the Father.

In Conclusion we must respond to the Easter Challenge.  What then is the real meaning of Easter?  Why was it necessary for Jesus to have left Heaven, lived among humans, demonstrated His power and love, died, buried, raised, ascended and promised to return?  It is about the Full Gospel Message.  The challenge you face today is to respond to the challenges of Easter and accept Jesus Christ as Lord of your life.

Therefore, Easter is about the Full Gospel Message.  It is about the Creation, the Fall, Redemption, Restoration & Consummation.  God created the world and all that inhabits it.  There was perfection in the beginning.  Man had unhindered access to God and daily interaction with God.  The perfection of the Garden was given with the stipulation that Adam obeys God.  He could partake of everything in the Garden except from one tree, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  In this state man had no need for anything; his every need was provided for.  Picture man with ultimate dominion over all creation.  The sea had no limit and outer space had no limit.  Dominion means he had ultimate control over creation.  He lost that when he disobeyed God.  He died spiritually, separated from God and He lost his ultimate dominion and he entered time and now would eventually die physically.

Since that time God has always long to be in relationship with us.  It is this desire that has moved God to send His Son, Jesus Christ, to pay the penalty for our transgressions and mend the relationship between God and man.  The penalty for disobedience is death and only the shedding of blood can remedy the sin problem.  That is why in due season Jesus Christ died for the human race.   This process is the redemption and restoration phase of this glorious message, Gospel.  That is why only through Jesus can we be made whole or right with God.  It is only Jesus that has declared His deity and He said that His death remedied the sin problem.  The Bible declared that He would die, He would be buried, He would be raised from the grave, He would ascend to Heaven and that He would return for those that believe and accept Him as their Lord and Savior.  Five of the six events have already come to past only one is left and that is Jesus’ return, are you ready to meet Him.

Easter is more that just about salvation from hell but it extends to a new relationship with God.  Restoring what has been lost.  Since there was dominion and access to God, provided in a place that provided for all man’s needs.  Restoration then is returning back to the original form.  This process of restoration begins with salvation and continues in a relationship with God.   While we do not have the full manifestation of the Kingdom of God, only the inauguration, one day we will have the full access to the Kinndom of God in all its glory, and that is our lively hope, that we will live and reign with Jesus.  We will inhabit the place Jesus went to prepare for us, that place where there will be no more dying, no more sickness, no more goodbyes and no more suffering.  The Bible describes it as a place where the lion and the lamb will play together.  This is a place of peace.   Since Jesus has promised this kind of place wouldn’t be best to try to get to this place by obeying Him and following His instructions as to how to get to this place. Campus Crusade for Christ lay out what they call the four spiritual laws documenting how we can come into relationship with God.  We must recognized and accept that God LOVES us and offers a wonderful PLAN for our life.  We are SINFUL and SEPARATED from God. Therefore, we cannot know and experience God’s love and plan for our lives.  Jesus Christ is God’s ONLY provision for man’s sin. Through Him you can know and experience God’s love and plan for your life.  We must individually RECEIVE Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord; then we can know and experience God’s love and plan for our lives.   This will help us to meet the Easter Challenge in a way that is pleasing to God.

Will you respond to the Easter Challenge.

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