The Triumph of Jesus

The Triumph of Jesus

We want to talk about the triumph of Jesus. His triumph was the cross, where He made an atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world, and of course, the resurrection, where God the Father validated the sacrificial offering of His Son by raising Him from the dead. The cross and the resurrection, along with the Incarnation — the birth of Jesus in human form, are cornerstones of our Christian faith. We can call them Points of Reference. 

In Germany during the 1920s, the economy was disintegrating in a death-spiral of hyper inflation. The price of bread was astronomical and multiplying faster than families could calculate. A man pushing a wheel barrow piled with German currency stopped outside a bakery and went inside to negotiate the purchase of a loaf of bread. When he came out, someone had stolen the wheel barrow but left the cash. The wheel barrow was worth more than the pile of money.

A wheel barrow filled with cash means nothing if there is no valid point of reference on which the economy is based.  Governments can print money, put endless zeroes on bills but if there is no foundation of stable value, then the currency is worthless.

In the same way, Christianity has points of reference, absolute and uncompromising truth statements on which we base our faith. To deny these cornerstones of truth is to nullify the foundation of the Christian faith. Let’s state again three primary points of reference which undergird our faith:

1. Christ was born in human form. We call this the miracle of the Incarnation and we celebrate this every Christmas.

2. Christ died for the sins of the world. This is called the Atonement and we celebrate this event every Good Friday.

3. Christ rose from the dead. The miracle of the Resurrection is celebrated every Easter.

We would expect an unbeliever to deny cornerstones of our faith. But it is absurd when people deny these essential points of reference and call themselves Christians. Their profession of faith is as empty and meaningless as a wheel barrow filled with worthless currency. 

The Gospels clearly proclaim the miracle of the Incarnation — the birth of Jesus is nothing less than God manifest in human flesh, or, as the Apostle Paul said of Jesus, In Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form (Colossians 2:9). We talked about this a few weeks ago — the pre-existent Second Person of the Trinity was born in human form. Apostolic, Bible-based preaching is founded on the bedrock that Jesus is God born in human flesh. 

Apostolic preaching also proclaims the interlocking truths of the cross and the empty tomb. Though the cross was to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness (I Corinthians 1:23), it is a cornerstone of our salvation. On the cross Jesus offered Himself as the holy Sacrifice for sin, taking upon Himself the sin of humanity and the judgment of God against sin. There is no salvation, there is no Christianity, apart from the reality of the Atonement.

The empty tomb is God’s validation of the victory which Christ won on the cross. If there was no resurrection, Christ’s teaching has no validity because He said He would rise and if He did not, then He lied or was deceived.  His miracles are open to question because if the supernatural event of the resurrection did not happen, then how can we believe that any other miraculous event happened?

If there was no resurrection then Christ’s atoning work on the cross is worthless because it is the resurrection that demonstrates His triumph over sin and death.  But if he did not rise, then sin and death were victorious over Him. Denying the validity of the resurrection is like pulling the cornerstone out of a building.  Everything collapses.

Salvation is rooted in the faith that God was born in human form, died a sacrificial death for the sins of humanity and rose from the dead. This is the core of our faith.  If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved (Romans 10:9). 

We have examined the wondrous miracle of the Incarnation — the eternal God was born into time, perfect God was born as perfect Man. Over the next several lessons we will examine the astounding miracles in which the holy Creator of all life took upon Himself humanity’s sin and death and then burst the chains of death. Through these mighty works of atonement and resurrection, God offers to humanity the most precious gift in all of history — redemption from slavery to sin and death and the gift of eternal life with God. 

Humanity’s Problem, God’s Solution

Let’s begin by asking the question — why did humanity need a sacrifice for sin, an atonement?  Because in the words of Isaiah, “Each of us has turned to his own way” (53:6). The problem in the world is that humanity has rebelled against God.  All have turned away from God, have violated His truth, His mercy, His moral law, have attempted to live as autonomous beings as if there is no God and as a result of this sinful rebellion, all have become separated from God.

The result is the universal condition known as death: “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). God did not create death. Death is the result of sin which separates humanity from God, the Source of our life and being. Just as a branch, separated from the vine, withers and dies, so a human being, separated from God by sin, will die. 

God clearly warned the first man, Adam, that if he chose to sin, death would enter the perfection of Eden (Genesis 2:16,17). Though neither Adam nor Eve died physically on the day when they first sinned, death entered every aspect of their world. Death entered their relationship with God. Perfect fellowship with God was broken as they now saw God as someone to fear and so they ran from God, hid from God, were separated from God by fear, guilt and shame. 

Death entered their own being. Prior to their sin they were conscious of self without any corrupting qualities but now they perceived themselves through the distorted eye of fear, shame and guilt. This initiated the disintegration, the breakdown of human personality.   

Death entered their relationship with each other. Whereas Adam and Eve had once been joined in perfect union, “Bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh” (Gen. 2:23), now relationship was marred by accusation and distrust (Gen. 3:12). This initial breakdown of human society would result, within one generation, in corruption, violence and murder. In fact, the first city was built by the first murderer, Cain, the first son of the first fallen man and woman.

Death entered creation. Humanity no longer had dominion as the wise, compassionate caretaker-gardener over creation and so creation began to break down. Death also entered the physical being of Adam and Eve, though it took centuries for their bodies to break down, due to the magnificence of God’s creative design.

The problem on earth is not that God is cruel, uninvolved or unloving but that humanity fell from relationship with God. The disintegration and disaster in nature, in human society and in the soul of humanity is the result of sin.

Because God is holy, He must judge sin and sinner. Yet God in His mercy does not desire that we perish under the weight of sin and divine judgment. In fact, before Adam and Eve were expelled from the garden, God promised a someday Deliverer born of the seed of the woman (Gen. 3:15).

The disciples of Jesus and all of Israel were expecting that Deliverer, a Messiah who would drive out the hated Romans and establish the kingdom of God. They could not imagine Messiah dying on a Roman cross. They thought, “If Jesus is truly the Messiah, He will conquer our enemies.” The followers of Jesus were bewildered by His death and their kingdom expectations were crushed. But if Jesus had ushered in the kingdom of God without first reconciling sinners to God, then no one could have entered the kingdom.

The enemy was not the Roman army or the policies of the Roman government. The enemy was not the corrupt religious officials. The enemy was sin. The issue Jesus came to deal with was a world separated from God by sin and dominated by the death and disintegration which sin produces. The problem is that humanity is helpless to bridge that separation and deliver itself from the resulting death and disintegration.

Humanity’s Helplessness

While we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly (Rom 5:16). How is it that we are helpless to save ourselves? Because in our separation from God, humanity is spiritually dead and blind, unperceptive of spiritual truth.

And you were dead in trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1). Separated from God by our sin, our capacity to know God is dead and a dead person cannot change their life in any way and certainly cannot resurrect their own life. 

In our separation from God, we are blind to the truth of our lostness, blind to the truth of God’s saving grace and we are helpless to save ourselves, as Paul reminds us, The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God (2 Cor. 4:4).  

Even if we could perceive our lost condition, we cannot redeem ourselves. We cannot give enough offerings to pay for our sin. We cannot do enough righteous works or perform enough religious rituals to undo the consequences of our sin. We cannot overcome our death. We cannot unravel the entangling cords of darkness. We cannot save ourselves. We are in need of a Savior.

God’s Solution: The Lord laid upon Him the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:6).

On the cross of Jesus Christ, God reconciled the world to Himself by placing our sin, and His judgment of sin, on Jesus: But now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself ... having been offered once to bear the sins of many (Hebrews 9:26,28).

God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them ... He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:19, 21).

The Bible does not say that God did not count our sins. It says that He did not count our sins against us. Our sins were placed on Jesus, who became a sin offering on our behalf.  A holy God cannot ignore our sin and a merciful God does not desire that we perish forever under the weight of sin and judgment. So at the cross an incredible exchange took place, ordained by God. All the evil consequences due to humanity because of our sin came upon Jesus so that all the good due to Jesus through His sinless existence might come upon us.

The death of Jesus on the cross was not an accident, not something forced upon Him nor something God had not foreseen. From the beginning of the universe God decided to do this. When God made human creatures and gave us a free will, He knew there would be sin. Somewhere in the ancient councils of eternity, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit agreed and decreed that the Second Person of the Trinity would be born in human form, that Jesus would be the Lamb slain for the sins of the world and that His work would obtain everlasting salvation for all who believe. He is, The Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8), the lamb, unblemished and spotless … foreknown before the foundation of the world (I Peter. 1:19,20).

When people ask, “Why doesn’t God remove evil from the world?”, they reveal that they don’t understand the root cause of evil. Evil is the result of morally free creatures using their freedom to disobey God, to do evil rather than good. God could eliminate evil by removing human freedom but then we would no longer be human. Rather than stand by passively and watch us mutilate our humanity through sin, and rather than remove our freedom, thereby extinguishing our humanity, God was born in human form so that He could bear our sin and His judgment against our sin and take upon Himself our separation from God and the death which our sin and separation created. 

The cross of Jesus is the God-ordained event in which Jesus as our High Priest offered Himself as the holy Sacrificed Lamb slain in the place of sinners. He is now able to offer us mercy instead of judgment, forgiveness instead of justice, eternal life instead of eternal death. In His kindness, the Lord pursues us, awakens us from spiritual death, removes the veil from our eyes and shines the light of the glory of Jesus into the souls of those who will receive His awakening grace. God’s light reveals God’s solution: the Unblemished Lamb of God.

The Apostle Peter testifies, Knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ (I Peter 1:18,19).  

Jesus is the Great High Priest holy, innocent, undefiled (Hebr. 7:26) 

who presented Himself as the holy, unblemished Lamb of God ,

Who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth (I Peter 2:22).

Jesus, our Great High Priest and holy Lamb of God, 

the holy, sinless sacrifice, 

is God’s perfect solution for our impossible dilemma.

Who needs this salvation?

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness (Rom. 1:18).

Who needs God’s gift of salvation? Those who are under the righteous wrath, the holy judgment of God. Against whom is God’s righteous anger directed? Against all who have been unrighteous and ungodly. Who are they? Everyone, For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). That is all humanity beginning with Adam and Eve and extending to each of us.

All humanity is in need of salvation.

It is necessary to understand the reality of God’s righteous anger against sin because if we do not grasp this truth, that we all stand condemned before God, then we will not take hold of the gift of salvation. Why would I want to be saved if there is nothing to be saved from? Why would I ask an offended God to forgive me if I am unaware or unwilling to accept the truth that I have sinned, that God is offended by my sin and I need to be forgiven? How could I appreciate or value the immensity of God’s grace if I do not appreciate the immensity of the penalty which my sin incurs — condemnation by God, death and everlasting separation from God?

The anger of God is not like the anger of people which is an expression of imperfect personalities and unstable emotions tainted by sin. God’s wrath, like all of His actions and attributes, is expressed in perfect harmony with all His other actions and attributes. God loves perfectly and exercises perfect mercy. God’s righteous anger at sin is perfect and His expression of this anger is also perfect and in perfect harmony with His mercy.

God’s wrath is the perfect expression of holiness, love and wisdom violated. How could a holy God not be angry with that which violates His holiness? How could a loving God not be angry at that which violates His love and destroys the objects of His love? How could a wise Creator not be angry at the sin which violates the perfect wisdom of His creative design?

Yet God, in His mercy, has offered salvation to every person who will turn from the darkness of sinful choices and shines light into the souls of all who will receive Him. And what does God’s light reveal to us?

Jesus, the Unblemished Lamb, the Sinless Sacrifice:

He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief ... Surely our griefs He Himself bore and our sorrows He carried ... But He was  pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities ... All of us like sheep have gone astray ... But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him (Isa. 53:3-6).

When the mob came to arrest Jesus, He reminded them, But all this has taken place to fulfill the Scriptures of the prophets (Matthew 26:56). Incredibly, the mob, the Jewish High Priest, the Roman governor, though they all were in rebellion against God and committing abominable sin, were only serving the eternal purpose of God. The arrest, trial and execution of Jesus was not an interruption in God’s plan of salvation, not a defeat. In allowing Himself to be arrested, tried and put to death, Jesus was fulfilling the Scriptures which revealed the preordained plan of God, that a holy Lamb would die as the Redeemer of lost humanity. As Jesus had said, The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28).  

Jesus could have saved His life, 

but then He could not have saved us.

To save us, He would not save Himself.

He gave His life to give us life.

What a wonderful Savior. What an incredible salvation.

Study Questions

1. What did Jesus take upon Himself on the cross?

2. Are we capable of saving ourselves from the consequence of sin?