17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”
Jesus said in John 11:25: “I am the resurrection and the life.” And in John 5:26 Jesus said: “26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself.” And so Jesus has within Himself the power to rise up from among the dead. Life can never be defeated by death. Jesus is Life Himself. Jesus is the source of all life.
Jesus did not die as one whose life is taken from Him. In fact, the assumption that Jesus died because of the physical punishment is actually unbiblical. The Scripture records a very stunning fact about Jesus’ death on the cross. John 19:30 says:
30 When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
Jesus gave up His spirit. It was not taken from Him. No power can take His spirit from Him. No power can take His life from Him. He gave it up on His own. Matthew 27:50 also records the same fact: “50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.” Jesus yielded up His spirit. Death was not forced upon Him. He voluntarily gave up His life. And Luke captures the detail in Luke 23:46 saying:
46 Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last.
What Jesus said in John 10 that He has the authority to give His life and to take it again is true. This is the power that Jesus has in His hands.
We often fear death. Death is not something we can overcome. Our human power is useless in the face of death. Even someone as powerful as Qin Shi Huang Di could not overcome death. In fact he was so afraid of death. He sent out so many scholars and scientists in search for the secret of life. His desire was to live forever. But death got to him. Death was inevitable for every man. The power of death overcomes man. With the advanced technology we have, we might be able to delay death for a few hours, weeks, or months, or years. But eventually we will certainly die. We have seen how powerful death is. Death doesn’t discriminate. It comes to the old as well as to the young. It comes to the poor as well as to the rich. It comes to the powerless as well as to the powerful. The world has witnessed the weak died of starvation or diseases. The world has also witnessed the death of mighty people at the peak of their strength. Death comes suddenly. And its power none can resist. So we, naturally, fear death.
And so our soul is searching for the antidote of death. We long for life everlasting. We wish for death to go away. We wish for death to leave us alone. Anything associated with death we try to shun. So we strive so hard to rejuvenate our body. We even desperately try to make ourselves to look younger, with the assumption that younger people live longer. Many people use botox, they go through plastic surgeries, they take supplements, they exercise every day, with the hope to extend their life just a wee bit longer. Stress, depression, starvation, sickness, infirmities, we hopelessly try to avoid because those are signs of the coming death. The bottom line is we want to live. Even those who commit suicide too desire to live. They desire to live differently. Life free from trouble, from despair, from agony, from death. The desire for eternal life is implanted within our soul. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says: “he has put eternity into man’s heart.” We search and we can’t find. We despair and we die. Because we do not search in the right place.
His followers were all in despair as He died on the cross. They thought that life was over. Their hope was all gone buried in the tomb. Death has won. For thousands of year death always won. The presence of Jesus gave some kind of hope. The light of life in the life of Jesus brought people to their feet. They followed the Messiah in the hope that a better life was on the horizon. They followed Jesus in the hope that their misery would be thrown away and life everlasting became theirs. In the last second before His death on the cross, they still hoped to see Jesus coming down from the cross. But their wish was not granted. Jesus died there on the Roman cross. So they went home in desperation. Life went on. Just like the usual. Just like before Christ appeared. So the fishermen returned to their fishing nets. The farmers returned to their farm. For three days breathing was hard. Harder than before the hope. Imagine you are in stage four of cancer. And you only have a few weeks to live. But, then your doctor says that there is hope. He says that you will survive. There is a medication that can cure your kind of cancer. And the research shows that the success rate is 100%. Your doctor says that this medicine is very rare. Only a few could be made in a hundred of years. And there is only one left. This last one is now headed toward your hospital especially to be delivered for you. It is being carried in an airplane from Germany. Isn’t it a cause for celebration? Aren’t your soul lifted up with such great news? But then, your doctor suddenly knocks on your door the next day and brings you a very bad news. That the airplane that carries the one and only medicine that can cure your cancer has crashed somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean. All is lost. What does that news do to you? Our lifted up soul is being thrown down into the very bottom of the bottom. Suddenly you are feeling hard to breathe. Tears flow down. And so the saying: “It is better not to be given any promise, than to be given a great promise and then be taken away in a hurry.” The heart is crushed more than it was before.
Brothers and sisters, Jesus knows our longing. He knows the deepest desire of our hearts. This death and resurrection of Christ is a one package deal. The two cannot be separated. Jesus has the authority to lay down His life. He also has the authority to take it up again. In Him we find true life. In Him we find the power that conquers death. Our desperation is met with the true hope of eternal life. Death can’t engulf Jesus. On the third day He rose again. In His resurrection He conquers death once and for all. John Owen called it: “The death of death in the death of Christ.” When Christ died, He took down death. In His death He defeated death. The proof of His victory over death is in His resurrection. This is the significance of the resurrection of Christ.
And now our hope is restored. With Christ resurrected from the dead, our soul is lifted up higher than ever before. Jesus rallied all over Judea to bring the despair back on their feet. He showed Himself to His beloved disciples in order to reform their faith. Jesus personally came to each one of them touching their very soul so they could find that the promise is not empty. Even to Thomas the doubter He showed Himself in order to gain him back. The mindset that dictates the conclusion that death always wins must be transformed. This time and forever, in Jesus Christ, death cannot and will never win. Because Jesus has knocked out death. He is the living proof of the defeat of death. And not only the physical death Jesus conquers, but also the spiritual death He defeats. Because on that cross, on the ninth hour, He cried out: “Eli Eli Lama Sabachtani?” “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Martin Luther cried so hard as he reflected on this truth. He couldn’t fathom the deep mystery of God’s love. The inseparable Father and Son in the Trinity had to be separated. Their eternal quality caused the separation to have eternal value. So Jesus cried out the forsaken line. The eternal death is the separation from the Father who is the source of all. That eternal death ought to be ours, but yet Jesus took it upon Himself in order to save us. He knew we wouldn’t be able to handle the separation and live. It would be the death of all of us. Out of His great love Jesus became the One who suffered the separation from the Father. He did that so that we would not need to be separated from the Father. The punishment of sin was taken by Jesus. Jesus died not only the physical death but also the eternal death, once and for all.
Yet He is alive. For our sake He defeats the physical and eternal death in one redemptive act. The cross and the empty tomb forever become the sign for the defeat of human’s last and greatest enemy, death. Brothers and sisters, our life is now ensured. We live in the life of Christ. He is the resurrection and the life, in Him even when we die we live. This is the reality that cannot be denied. But this reality can only be realized in Christ. He is the only One that can defeat death. In fact He has defeated death. No one in this world can defeat death except Him. Human advanced technology can help defeat certain diseases. A deadly disease like the Spanish flu that killed 20-40 million people in 1918, is now no longer a big threat to human health. But even those who survived the Spanish flu eventually died. When we die because of old age, or certain diseases, or accidents, or natural disasters, or any other thing, we can’t prevent death from happening. But One person can and has overcome death. In Him we too will overcome death. This is the power of Christ’s resurrection.
What if the doctor returns an hour later with a bright smile in his face saying that the medicine survives the crash and has been found. And now is on route to your hospital. Your doctor says that the medicine will arrive any minute now. Then when it finally arrives, would you not rejoice? At the prospect that your stage four cancer be cured once and for all, are you not going to celebrate? I believe you will. We all will, won’t we? Now, the resurrection of Christ is much better than that medicine. The medicine can only cure your peculiar cancer, and it will lengthen your life a wee bit longer. But it can’t stop death from taking you. Jesus’ resurrection strips the power of death bare. For even when we die a physical death, death has no power over our soul. It does not have claim over our being. Eternal death has lost its deed of our soul. Because our life deed is in God’s hands. And God has stamped eternal life in our deed. No death can defeat eternal life. We too, eventually, will be resurrected with a new body. The body that can’t die. The body that will never see decay. Brothers and sisters, today is Easter. Today we celebrate the resurrection of Christ. Today is the third day. And on this third day, two thousand years ago, Jesus proved to the entire universe, in the spiritual and the physical realm, that death is dead. Jesus is alive forever. In Him we too are alive forever. This is what we celebrate today. And so we bow before the Lord. We praise God to the highest. We honor Him for all eternity. He has won the battle for us. Praise the Lord! Amen!