Sometimes at Easter time we lose sight of the victory of Christ achieved upon the cross, We celebrate his death on Good Friday but tend only to think of victory in connection with the resurrection. When we do this we are missing an important element of Christ’s work on the cross. The New Testament is quite clear that the cross is a place of victory, I want to examine some of the evidence for this and then look also at a little of the meaning of the resurrection.
The apostle John records the words of Jesus upon the cross and these words show us that Jesus died knowing that he was the victor,
When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
These words are the cry of one knowing that he has completed what he came into the world to achieve, they are not the dying whimper of a person who feels his life is over but the confident cry of one who knew that he had achieved his God given purpose.
Matthewe’s account of the crucifixion also gives an account of the victory Jesus achieved upon the cross,
And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.
51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52 and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.
54 When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!” (Mt 27:50–54).
Although Matthew does not tell us the words Jesus used as he cried out, he demonstrates to us the victory of Christ upon the cross. The curtain of the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom, here the evangelist is showing that God has vindicated his Son and that now it is through him that access is made to the Father. Jesus victory over sin and death is also demonstrated through the resurrection of the saints. There is also the sign of the earthquake, here is no normal death, but it is the death of the one who came to save his people from their sins, all that happens in this account shows that he has achieved his purpose. Both Mark and Luke record that the curtain was torn in two. Luke adds another picture of the confidence of Jesus as he was dying and that is in the story of the two thieves.
One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”
40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
44 It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, 45 for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last. (Lk 23:39–46).
Jesus has the confidence to promise the dying thief that he would be with him in paradise, only one who knew that he had accomplished a great victory could guarantee what seems to be impossible.
The Apostle Paul demonstrated the victory achieved by the cross in many places, this passage from the book of Colossians is a good example of his belief,
For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— (Col 1:19–22).
Here, Paul shows that what Christ achieved upon the cross, our reconciliation with God depends upon what Christ achieved upon the cross, notice how Paul stresses the physical nature of the death of Jesus. It is only through this death that we can know freedom from sin. The death of Christ was truly the death of death and from this cross comes all the fruit of salvation.
The resurrection, we must never downplay the resurrection, it is of vital significance to us as we know that our Saviour conquered death, and the proof of that lies in the fact that he is risen from the dead. In 1 Corinthians 15 Pauls show the centrality of the resurrection for the Christian faith. the whole chapter pays careful study, but I just want to look at the concluding argument.
So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.
If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. 46 The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. 47 The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven. 48 As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man.
50 I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
55 “Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. (1 Co 15:42–58)
In this chapter our resurrection is guaranteed by the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, we can only participate the victory that Christ achieved through his resurrection, the resurrection demonstrates that Jesus achieved all that he came to do. This being the case we can have the assurance that we are caught up in his victory. that is why Paul can conclude with a few words of practical application that shows that our service of the Lord is not in vain. The resurrection shows once and for all that Christ is the victor, and it is in him that we rejoice. As we celebrate the death and resurrection of Christ let us do so remembering that he is the victor.