Good Friday Miracles

Hidden Gems in the Easter Accounts

During the Easter celebration most people focus their attention on the events surrounding the resurrection.  Clearly, this should be the focal point because in the resurrection, Jesus defeated death, he won the victory over the grave.  Without the resurrection Christianity would just be another religious system that has a dead prophet, a dead teacher, and/or a dead leader.  Christianity is completely different - the resurrection sets belief in Christ as a unique faith system that actually delivers hope beyond the grave - not some faint hope in a guy who is in a grave.  Jesus conquered the power and grip of death!  He is risen and we all should be glad the tomb is empty. 

We think of Friday as the day of darkness because most of the events are necessary to get to the resurrection on Sunday! After-all, it is the day Jesus died.  But what is most distressing is what he had to experience.  He endured the mental torture of betrayal on Thursday night, and the countless lies that were stated during the religious and political trials that Jesus listened to throughout the night and pre-dawn hours of Friday.  He was then emotionally tortured as he watched hundreds of people yell out "Away with Him, crucify Him!" as Pilate asked the crowd if Jesus was their King (John 18: 14-15).  Then Jesus was physically tortured by the brutal scourging and humiliation at the hands of the Roman soldiers at the Praetorium on Friday morning (Mark 15: 15-19).  All of this before the horrific events surrounding the barbaric execution of crucifixion on the Roman cross on a hill called Golgotha.  Yes, Friday is seen as a day of darkness for a good reason.  The perfect Lord Jesus was crucified at 9 AM on Friday to pay for the sin of humanity taking on our penalty.

Miracles 1 & 2 - Earthquake & Darkness

After three pain-filled agonizing hours on the cross, at 12PM, all three synoptic gospels record that "from the sixth hour darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth hour.  It was not for three more hours (3PM) that Jesus would cry out  "Eloi, Eloi, Lama Sabachthani" in Aramaic meaning "My God, My God, Why hast Thou forsaken Me?" (Matt 27: 45-50, Mark 15:33-37)  This indicates that Jesus really did experience separation from the Father because of our sin.  Jesus The Perfect One became sin in our behalf. This is known as imputation (see footnote).  The sinless one, Jesus, voluntarily took on our sin.  At this precise time, Jesus died.   

And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.  And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split.  Matt 27: 50-51

Matthew documents that great phenomena took place. Remember, in the final moments before Jesus cried out, darkness fell over the land for 3 hours (Between 12PM and 3PM).  Most people believe that some type of eclipse took place which would explain the darkness. While an eclipse is a common and normal function in the solar system and Earth's normal routines, some might explain this as a natural phenomenon.  In addition, at the same exact moment when Jesus died (3PM), Matthew also records that the "earth shook and rocks split."  It is common knowledge that earthquakes are somewhat common in Judea and the middle east region. Perhaps similar to California, it is a place where seismic activity is customary.  Simultaneously, with the eclipse there is a sizable earthquake!  It is interesting to note that while it may have been common, it was uncommon for an event to take place at the precise time when Jesus died.  God was sending a message to the entire world likely through a lunar eclipse and geological earthquake that Jesus had died.  While earthquakes and eclipses are common, the timing of this phenomena it is completely uncommon or should we say phenomenal! We call this a miracle - it was a divine communique that there was victory over sin to all of humanity!

Miracle #3 - The Veil in the Temple

All three synoptic gospels record the fact that the veil was torn in two (Matt 27: 51, Mark 15: 38, Luke 23: 45b).  Only Matthew and Mark record that it was split from top to bottom.  This is significant because the veil was the divider between the place and the the holy of holies within the Temple.  This is a miracle because the veil was torn from top to bottom where God performed the act as opposed to men. It is significant because the only people that could go into the holy of holies was the priest who acted as an intermediator between God and man.  God tore the divider in two indicating that all men (and women) have direct access to himself because of Christ's death!  We no longer must go through an approved Priest to have access to God!  

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

For a more scholarly article about the temple veil and it's significance, click on the following link.  The veil in the Temple in history and legend. JETS March 2006.

Miracle #4 - Night of the Living - not Dead

Hollywood via AMC has made an entire phenomena of a series called "The Walking Dead" that just completed it's 7th season. Interestingly enough this dystopian series has dead people who "return to life" but they are zombies.  Matthew records the event where the tombs were opened (likely due to the earthquake) and many righteous people returned to life!  Most scholars believe that this was in the Jerusalem cemetery that was outside the city gates.  The text indicates that they did not appear or come out of the tombs until Sunday after Jesus' resurrection! Most scholars recognize that Jesus is the "first-fruits" from the dead (1 Cor 15: 23) meaning he was the first to rise from the dead.  Righteous dead return to life.  Can you imagine?  Not like the zombies of Hollywood plodding along seeking to eat live people - these righteous ones were fully alive human beings who were once dead and are now living and walking the streets of Jerusalem! Can you imagine the wonder, celebration and excitement?  This event is frequently overlooked and seldom discussed.  But can you fathom the significance and stir that this must have caused?  Uncle Joe or Aunt Elizabeth who may have passed years ago are now alive and well walking around greeting friends who attended their funeral! It is hard to know with precision the exact timing but this is a clear miracle God used to demonstrate the fact that there is victory over death because Jesus arose from the grave! Death was defeated for those who trust in God's provision of a savior!

Is it any wonder that the God of the universe who sent His son to earth to defeat sin and conquer death would do anything different than move the forces of heaven and earth to communicate His love for humanity by miraculous works?  God wanted to communicate to the entire world a monumental event had taken place with the death of His son.  His mercy and grace shine through on one of the darkest but glorious days in history.   Just as with the advent miracles accompanied the birth of Jesus so to, even in his death, miracles were God's grand communique to humanity..... "I Love You."  Remember the hidden gems of miracles God used on Good Friday! 

Isaiah 53: 3-6

3 He was despised and rejected- a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. 

We turned our backs on him and looked the other way.  He was despised, and we did not care. 

4 Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows* that weighed him down. 

And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! 

5 But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. 

6 All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.  We have left God's paths to follow our own. 

Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all. 

 

Imputation

is used to designate any action or word or thing as reckoned to a person. Thus in doctrinal language (1) the sin of Adam is imputed to all his descendants, i.e., it is reckoned as theirs, and they are dealt with therefore as guilty; (2) the righteousness of Christ is imputed to them that believe in him, or so attributed to them as to be considered their own; and (3) our sins are imputed to Christ, i.e., he assumed our "law-place," undertook to answer the demands of justice for our sins. In all these cases the nature of imputation is the same (Rom. 5:12-19; comp. Philemon 1:18, 19).  Easton's Bible Dictionary

The Simple Message of Easter

The story-line of Easter is really a very simple and straightforward message.  Over the centuries the central theme of the gospel message is frequently clouded by numerous ancillary religious traditions or views.  Consequently, people can get confused.  In addition, popular cultural habits or traditions such as colored eggs, the easter bunny, new dresses, hats, ties or coats, spring festivals and numerous other practices and traditions.  Both religious tradition and cultural trends can distract people from the simplicity of these central truths.  The gospel has a straight forward central message that everyone should be able to communicate and articulate with comfort & ease.

It is crucial for all believers to have a strategy for a simple gospel presentation.  Get confortable with a style of sharing the message that is brief and to the point.  Also keep it concise so that it is easy for the person to follow.  I personally like to set the person up with a question before I provide  answers.  So use questions strategically to set up an opportunity to present the central message of the gospel.

God's Quest

John 3:16

"For God so loved the world, that he gave His only begotten son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life."

Psalm 99:3

"Let them praise your great and awesome name!  He is holy!"

Since the beginning of time, He has been on a quest to establish a family of followers.   God seeks to build this family of people who desire to follow Him and worship Him.   He loves people and seeks to have a relationship with as many people as possible.  God's love is boundless and he desires that all men have eternal life - however there is a problem.

God's Position

Matthew 5:48"So then, be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect."

Few people really think about what it takes to gain entrance into heaven or obtain a relationship with God.  By default, the vast majority of all people who believe that there is a heaven simply hold to a "good works theory."  Specifically they believe people can get into heaven if their good works out - weigh their bad deeds.  The truth of the matter is that God cannot allow any sin into heaven.   Few people really fully realize that without perfection - Heaven is simply a reincarnation of a fallen earth.   The "good works theory" falls short of perfection because no amount of good works we do can make us perfect.  Further - since Heaven is perfect, how could God allow any imperfection (sin) in without ultimately contaminating the whole place.  The reality is, God's must demand absolute 100% perfection for entrance into Heaven.

Our Problem

Romans 3:23

"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."

All men are sinners and sin separates us from having a relationship  with God and experiencing His glory.  Because God is perfect and holy, God cannot allow sin in His presence.  Sin creates a barrier between God and man - it prevents us from having a relationship with God or having fellowship.  Further, because heaven is a perfect place - men cannot enter into heaven due to sin - men and women are alienation from God.   As a result, mankind is unable to bridge the gap  - we are relationally alienated from God because of our sin.  This means sin prevents us from becoming apart of God's family.  Man is in a particularly difficult situation - if fact, hopeless.  It the process ended here, mankind would be without hope, but God provides a solution for any person.

God's Provision

2 Corinthians 5:21

"God made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we would become the righteousness of God."

Pilate found no reason for even an accusation against Jesus (John 19:4).  But Christ voluntarily went to the cross to pay for the sins of all humanity.  He paid our penalty for sin. (1 John 4:10)  Oddly, Jesus was mocked as being "King of the Jews" but the crown that He wore was a victors crown over the power of sin for humanity.  The blood that came from His body is what paid for our sins.  Because of His payment - we can be declared righteous.  People have a means to obtain a relationship with God and ultimate entrance into heaven.

1 Corinthians 15: 3-5"For I passed on to you as of first importance what I also received - that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, then to the twelve."

When Jesus died on the cross he took on our penalty and guilt for sin.  Jesus died on good friday but three days later, he rose again from the grave.  Jesus proved that he had conquered death.  Having faith means that one believes that Jesus did die on the cross and he rose from the dead  - taking on our penalty for sins.  God has made it possible for any person by faith to become apart of God's family.  Christ death becomes the solution to our sin problem.

Our Decision

Romans 6:23

"For the wages of sin is death (eternal separation), but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."

John 1:12

"But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become the children of God to those who believe in His name."

God's solution to Man's sin and alienation problem is solved by Jesus Christ paying the price for sin on the cross.  Each and every person can be declared perfect when they place their trust in Jesus Christ alone.  Jesus paid our price on the cross and His resurrection solidifies the promise of victory over death.  Now anyone who believes that Jesus was the son of God, that he died on the cross, was bodily resurrected on the third day then appearing to the apostles and other before He ascended to heaven will become apart of God's family.

The Gospel message is simple and straightforward.  It is a wonderful opportunity for all of humanity to gain fellowship with God. The cross provides us freedom from the guilt of sin and the empty tomb provides us with the promise of victory over death. The beauty of the gospel message is that it is a simple yet profound message available to anyone who believes.

Sharing the Gospel Message of Easter

It is important that you know how to share the essential message of Easter. Forming great questions customized for the person you know is critical.... think about a great question before you meet with different people.   Here are some questions that might be good for you to ask someone.....

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  • What is your best Easter memory?
  • Did you have any Easter traditions when you were a child?
  • Does Easter have any significance to you?
  • What do you think of the historical Jesus?
  • Do you think the resurrection account is true?
  • Why was Jesus death necessary?

Hopefully this might lead to explaining this simple Easter message.  Five simple points that you can use the fingers of your hand to share the simple gospel message!   Everyone has their own style but the message is fairly straightforward and simple.   Create a mnemonic tool that will help you share the message in a simple and direct manner that gets to the point of the gospel!  As you enter into the Easter season remember to prepare your heart personally but also have a vision to actively share the gospel message with people who simply have no idea that they are alienated from God and how God provided a solution for humanity.