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What We Miss When We Let The Story End

If we stop at Calvary, we are left with Jesus dead on a cross. We are left wondering if we are free. We are left without hope. We are left with out victory. On this Resurrection Sunday, we can rejoice because He has risen from the grave and he is Lord. On this other side of Calvary, we find that we are being transformed from death to life.

by Dr. Henry Johnson

A young man from a wealthy family was about to graduate from high school. It was the custom in that affluent neighborhood for the parents to give the graduate an automobile. “Bill' and his father had spent months looking at cars, and the week before graduation, they found the perfect car. On the eve of his graduation, his father handed him a gift wrapped Bible. Bill was so angry that he threw the Bible down and stormed out of the house. He and his father never saw each other again. It was the news of his father's death that brought Bill home again. As he sat one night going through his father's possessions that he was to inherit, he come across the Bible his father had given him. He brushed away the dust and opened it to find a cashier's check, dated the day of his graduation — in the exact amount of the car they had chosen together. As I thought about this story, I couldn't help but wonder how many people in this world have done the same thing to God. Literally tossed aside a wonderful promise, because they didn't understand it, or they didn't believe that it was possible. I also couldn't help but to think how some people get stuck on the scene in front of the cross. They focus on the life and events that lead to the cross and fail to go any further. They fail to see the other side of Calvary.

I don't know about you, but I have to admit that the events leading to Calvary and at Calvary are very interesting. The very fact that God overshadowed a virgin and she become pregnant is interesting. It is interesting to know that God can be seen as a Trinity and one member is his son who comes from the womb of the Virgin Mary, taking on a wrapping of flesh to dwell among people. It certainly is interesting to know that God's only Son becomes the son of Joseph who is a carpenter. We find Jesus, a member of the Trinity, at an early age in the temple among those who professed to know the Word of God. Then, some years later, Jesus is seen coming to the Jordan river to be baptized by a man, John the Baptist. This man John was baptizing for the repentance of sin and Jesus was without sin but allowed a sinful man to baptize him. After his baptism, Jesus was taken to the desert to be tempted by Satan. Jesus already knew Satan because of the encounter in heaven that caused Satan to be cast out. Now, they meet again and Satan wants to try to tempt the One who cast him out of heaven. I don't know about you but I really find that interesting.

Jesus then begins to teach about the kingdom of God to the people. He chose twelve men who would be trusted with the things of God and given the mission to carry the Good News to all nations. These twelve men were certainly not men that anyone else would choose but Jesus saw their hearts. He even saw the heart of the traitor among them. Jesus began a ministry of healing, restoration, and salvation. His birth was explained by Matthew who said that he would save his people from their sins. The opposition were not impressed with Jesus, in fact they wanted him dead. They plotted until they could find some false charges and a crooked judge. He was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane. Judas betrayed him with a kiss, ten of them ran, and John followed him at a distance. Isn't it interesting that Jesus had put his faith in these men and these men put their faith in him. but in the time of his need one betrayed him and ten ran?

Jesus was found guilty of false charges. Then came the mocking, the beatings — the temple guards putting a blindfold on Jesus — then each taking turns beating Jesus with their fists, the blood pouring from his nose and mouth.... and as they hit Jesus they mocked him, “Come on Jesus! If you are really a prophet, tell us who is hitting you...” It is easy to understand how people get stuck right here as they wonder why Jesus remained humble and didn't not summon angels to kill those who were torturing him. Later, these same soldiers would tie Jesus to a Roman scourging post. They would stretch the skin on his back tight. And then 39 times scourge him.....with a cat of nine tails which is 9 strands embedded with glass, lead, and broken pieces of pottery. As this cat of nine tails ripped across the back of Jesus it tore out chunks of skin, flesh and muscle. Now, the Roman soldier doing this cruel job were very proficient at bringing a man intense pain and at the same time keeping him close to death but not allowing the person to die. Jesus was then led up to Calvary to be crucified on an old rugged cross. It is easy to get stuck on this side of Calvary admiring the life of Jesus....realizing the wonderful work he accomplished....healing the sick.....raising the dead....restoring sight to the blind.....the wonderful teaching....the giving of his life for sinner.....the love expressed by laying down his life for you and for me....yes, it is easy to get stuck right here at Calvary admiring this man named Jesus but there is the other side of Calvary.

But, let's take another look at Calvary:

Friday has passed and we want to go back to this place called Calvary. There are still three crosses on Calvary. The one in the middle, that's the one that we want you to look at. That's the one that Jesus hung on. Take a close look at it. Look up at the top – those bloodstains are from the crown of thorns that were crushed into Jesus' skull. The stains on the ends of the crossbar – they came from the nails that were driven into his wrists. The main beam – it was soaked in blood – blood from his back – blood that was shed when the Roman soldiers beat him with a cat-of-nine-tails. It also has stains from the blood and water that poured from his side when another Roman soldier ran a spear through his side to make sure he was dead. Now, Notice that the cross is empty. The empty cross should push us to see what happened on the other side of Calvary.

We find on the other side of Calvary that there is an empty tomb. It is empty because death has been defeated. The news that went out on Friday saying Jesus was dead. The headlines of the Jerusalem News published by the Sanhedrin might have said Jesus proven to be a fraud but now it must be taken back and a news flash sent out that Jesus is alive. He has risen. Death has been defeated and his the partner grave has lost his grip because Jesus is alive. On the other side of Calvary, we find that even though scripture says all have sinned and come short of the glory of God that there is hope because Jesus is alive. On the other side of Calvary, we find that the wages of sin is death but that our sin debt has been paid so the gift of God is eternal life.

We find the events leading to Calvary show that we have sinned and we deserve God's just punishment. We deserve “eternal death” known as Hell. However, when you look at that empty cross and move to the empty tomb – it is a reminder of God's promise that we have been forgiven. On that cross – Jesus paid the penalty for our sins. God's word tells us that – “God demonstrated His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!” On the other side of Calvary, we find our unbelief transferred to true belief. We now realize that Jesus was more than just another man. He is more than just a good prophet. We find that Jesus is the only begotten son of God who has come to save us from our sins. We have the blessed assurance that he is not a fake nor is he a phony because he died and he got up on the third morning. On this other side of Calvary, we find that we are being transformed from death to life. We were dead in our trespasses and sins, but now we are made alive in Jesus. We are transformed by the renewing of our minds through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus who is the Christ. On the other side of Calvary, the empty tomb reveals the truth of the resurrection and the promise that we too will be raised to eternal life. The empty tomb is God's way of saying to us; "Relax, my child, I took the sting from death. It can't hurt you anymore and I took the power from the grave so it can't hold you anymore.”

There is a lot to claim our attention as we are led to the cross, but if we stop at Calvary.....we are left with Jesus dead on a cross.....we are left wondering if we are free.... we are left without hope.....we are left without victory....we are left to face death alone....we are left with Jesus being placed in a rich man's tomb.....we are left wondering what is beyond the grave. I'm glad that the end was not at Calvary. I'm glad that there is the other side of Calvary. On the other side of Calvary, there is victory......there is an empty tomb.....there is victory over death and the grave....there is a bill for our sins that is stamped paid in full.....there is a renewed relationship with God......there is a home called heaven - a place prepared by Jesus. The other side of Calvary takes us from despair to joy unspeakable. The other side of Calvary takes us from hopelessness to eternal security. The other side of Calvary takes us from a road that was leading to hell and puts us on a road that leads to heaven.

On this Resurrection Sunday, we can rejoice because He has risen from the grave and he is Lord!

Reverend Dr. Henry Johnson
5 April 2004

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