The final week of the life of Jesus comprises roughly one-third of the Gospel records. The Holy Spirit provokes each Gospel writer, from their unique vantage point to enhance the amount of detail given about what occurred those final days in and around Jerusalem. From Friday to Sunday were in particularly eventful to say the least.
Not only were there the uprising of a Jewish population demanding action from the Roman Procurator, Pontius Pilate, there were also many natural phenomenon’s that surely had to capture the attention of all who were present. Matthew, Mark and Luke all write that when Jesus was on the Cross that from the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness covered the whole land. Each Gospel writer seems to present that the wrath of God eclipsed the noon-day sun ushering in a physical darkness to match the spiritual darkness that was at war.
In addition, there was an earthquake that shook Jerusalem with impeccable timing that correlated with the final saying of Jesus upon the Cross, “Father, into Your hands I commend my spirit.” It must have been inexplicable for those present to describe the darkness from noon until three o’clock in the afternoon, matched with the violent earthquake that rent the veil of the Temple that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies. Even more, Matthew tells us in his record of the events,
“The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many. (Matthew 27:52-53 NASB)
Of course, the apex of all that occurred found its climax with the empty tomb as Jesus proved He would conquer death, hell and the grave.
Each of the Gospel writers close with a triumphant account of Jesus being seen, heard and touched after the glorious Resurrection! Today, we still celebrate, as we should, the glorious Resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Yet, is that the end of the story? Is this the end of the celebration? Are we to go on with our lives, but with greater joy knowing that Jesus has risen?
Pictured above is the church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Garden Tomb
Matthew shares in his writing an appendage to the Resurrection by sharing of a gathering of the disciples on the Mount of Olives. There Jesus will enlist them to “Go” and make disciples in the Great Commission passage. Mark closes in a similar way adding that Jesus’ disciples are to preach the Gospel to all of creation. John brings his record to a close by unveiling that there are an innumerable amount of things that Jesus did that were not recorded. Yet, Luke has much more to say.
Luke closes his Gospel record with a final conversation between Jesus and His disciples that is paramount. He shares that Jesus instructs them (the disciples) to remain in Jerusalem. There is no timeline that Jesus gives, except that they are to remain there until they are clothed with power from on high. In essence, Luke ends with a climatic statement with a spiritual “to be continued”. In fact, that is exactly what it is!
It is here that we grow in curiosity of what happened beyond the Cross and the Empty Tomb. It is here that we must progress forward with zeal and interests to see what Dr. Luke must share. To unveil this sequel, we must break open the book of Acts.
Luke inaugurates this sequel to the life of Christ by sharing with the recipient of the letter, a man by the name of Theophilus this insight:
The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when He was taken up to heaven, after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen. (Acts 1:1-2 NASB)
Luke immediately reveals that this letter, which has been titled “The Book of Acts” is an unveiling of what happened beyond the Cross and the Empty Tomb. Luke voices that there is more to the story. There is more that we have to celebrate and there is more that we have to know.
Dr. Luke reveals that after the Cross and the Empty Tomb, “… He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God.” (Acts 1:3 NASB)
The story of the Resurrection stretches far beyond the Cross and the Empty Tomb. Luke tells us that Jesus remained on the earth for the span of forty days. He presented Himself “ALIVE” by many convincing proofs. The Greek word that is used is “τεκμηριον”. The King James Version translates this as many, “infallible proofs”. In other words, Jesus revealed Himself to be bodily resurrected in such a way that it could not be disputed.
Later on, Paul the Apostle would recount this truth to the church at Corinth by saying,
“and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; 7 then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.” (1st Corinthians 15:5-8)
With this submission we see that the Resurrection of Jesus has purpose beyond the knowledge that the event happened. Jesus’ Resurrection was only the beginning of our celebration and hope. Luke would go on to tell us that after these forty days, Jesus would ascend to heaven and be seated at the right hand of the throne of God the Father. Here, He is making intercession for us. His Resurrection gives Him all authority to represent God to humanity and humanity to God. He is the God-Man even in eternity.
Pause for just a moment and think of how deep this statement is that Paul writes to Timothy, his young protégé. “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus…” (1st Timothy 2:5 NASB)
In other words, there was a time when God the Son had not taken on humanity. Prior to Bethlehem, God the Son reigned with the Father without having a human nature, yet now and forever, Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father serving as the mediator between God and man, as THE MAN CHRIST JESUS! This is worthy rejoicing about! The Resurrection of Jesus stretches beyond the Cross and the Empty Tomb all the way to Heaven where Jesus is our mediator.
Still yet, there is more. The Resurrection and then the ascension of Jesus now affords us the opportunity to be empowered by the Third-Person of the Godhead, The Holy Spirit. He has now come, as recorded in Acts chapter two, to empower us to fulfill the mission Jesus has assigned us in being His witnesses. Presently, we have the privilege to live in an age where the Holy Spirit leads, teaches and fills us to do the work God has set before us. This was made possible by the vicarious suffering of the cross, the physical death of Christ and the glorious Resurrection revealed by the Empty Tomb. All of this shows that there is celebration even beyond the Cross and the Empty Tomb.
Finally, beyond the Cross and the Empty Tomb is the hope that we have in the form of a promise. Between the events of the Upper Room and the Garden of Gethsemane on Thursday evening of Passion Week, Jesus shared with His disciples that He was going to go and prepare for them a place in His Father’s house. When He is finished, He will come again and take them to be with Him there.
The picture is that of a Jewish wedding. The groom would prepare a room addition on to his father’s house and when he was finished, he would go to the bride’s home where they would be married. Then, the week-long wedding reception would take place at his father’s house. This is the hope Jesus gave His disciples and it is the hope we have today. Beyond the Cross and the Empty Tomb, we too have this promise that He will return for us, His bride, the Church and take us where He is for all eternity.
So why share all of this? It is because today is the day after Easter. Today is the day after we celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Today, we are back to the grind of another day. Yet, be reminded that the Resurrection of Jesus stretched beyond the day we celebrate the empty tomb. Insomuch, that we have set aside every Sunday to remind us as we worship of what the Empty Tomb means. I challenge you on this day after Resurrection Sunday, to celebrate the hope we have that stretches beyond the Cross and the Empty Tomb. Let us press on because He is Risen…Forevermore!