Uniqueness of Jesus’
Death, Resurrection, and Ascension
By Paul Robison
examples?” asked the teacher to the interviewer.
“Five things that are not in dispute by anybody.”
The interviewer nodded in agreement.
“[First of all], the disciples were willing to die for
something they had seen with their own eyes and touched with their own
hands. … And when you’ve got 11 credible people with no ulterior
motives, with nothing to gain and a lot to lose, who all agree they
observed something with their own eyes—now you’ve got some
difficulty explaining it away….[Secondly,] there were the hardened
skeptics [like James and Paul] who didn’t believe in Jesus before His
crucifixion … [but] who turned around and adopted the Christian faith
after Jesus’ death….[Thirdly,] 5 weeks after Jesus’ crucifixion,
over 10,000 Jews are [not only] willing to follow Him [but also] to
alter all 5 of the social institutions that they [had] been taught since
childhood … These changes to the Jewish social structures … were
nothing short of a social earthquake!
And earthquakes don’t happen without a cause.
[Fourthly,] the partaking of the Lord’s Supper and the using of
baptism for conversions also point to it.
[Fifthly,] when a major cultural shift takes place, historians
always look for events that can explain it.
[So what better explanation is there for the church?]
“Look, if someone wants to consider this circumstantial
evidence and reach the verdict that Jesus did not rise from the
dead—fair enough. But
they’ve got to offer an alternative explanation that is plausible for
all five of these facts. Remember,
there is no doubt these facts are true; what’s in question is how to
explain them. And I’ve
never seen a better explanation than [Jesus’] Resurrection”
(Moreland by Strobel). Yes,
indeed, the Resurrection best explains the changes that took place in
the disciples, in the skeptics, and in the Jews!
It also is the best cause for the existence of the Lord’s
Supper, the practice of baptism, and the church!
In previous sermons, we have looked at the uniqueness of Jesus’
birth, the uniqueness of His teachings and the uniqueness of His
ministry. Today, we want to
focus on the uniqueness of Jesus’ death, of His resurrection, and of
His ascension. So our lesson
will look at the uniqueness of each of these three areas.
was unique about Jesus' death? After
all, thousands of other men were crucified in Jesus' day.
The gospels explain to us the reality of Jesus’ death in all
its grim, gruesome, and gory details, but it’s the epistles that
explain the significance of Jesus’ death.
It is interesting that the descriptions used to explain the
importance of Jesus’ death come from several areas of common ordinary
life in the first century.
of all, we see that Jesus' death brings propitiation.
Now that term comes from the worship of both Jews and pagans
where an animal sacrifice was offered to propitiate or to pacify the
wrath of a divine being. “The
reason why propitiation is necessary is that sin arouses the wrath of
God. ... [God's] anger is neither mysterious nor irrational. ... It is
always predictable because it is provoked by evil and evil alone. ...
[You see], God's anger is poles apart from ours.
What provokes our anger (injured vanity) never provokes His,
[and] what provokes His anger (evil) seldom provokes ours” (Stott).
1 John 4:10 states: “In this is love, not that we loved God,
but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation [or
sacrifice] for our sins.” “In
the OT, sacrifices did not make God gracious; [no], they were provided
by a gracious God in order that He might then act graciously toward His
sinful people ... The initiative [to appease His own wrath] was taken by
God Himself in His mercy, [and] such holy love should evoke our
[thankful] worship” (Stott). Jesus'
death is unique because His perfect sacrifice appeased God's wrath so
that He could act graciously towards us as well!
Jesus' death brings propitiation.
we see that Jesus' death brings redemption.
This term comes from the market-place and refers to a ransom.
In the OT, “property, animals, and persons were all 'redeemed'
by the payment of a price. ... There was a decisive and costly
[payment]. Somebody paid the
price necessary to free property from mortgage, animals from slaughter,
and persons from slavery” (Stott).
1 Timothy 2:5-6 affirms: “For there is one God and one
Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a
ransom for all, ...” We
were held in captivity to the taskmaster of sin, and a payment was
needed to set us free. Of
course, that expensive payment was “the precious blood of Christ” (1
Peter 1:19). The apostle
Paul states in 1 Corinthians 6:20, “For you were bought at a price;
therefore, glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are
God's.” Isn't it
interesting that God made us, God bought us, and then God filled us with
His Holy Spirit! Jesus'
death is unique because it paid the price to free us from our slavery to
sin to become the slaves of a new benevolent Master!
Jesus' death brings redemption.
we see that Jesus' death bring justification.
Now this term comes from a courtroom.
To be justified means that the judge has acquitted us by saying
that we are not guilty of the accused crime.
Romans 5:18-19 declares: “Therefore, as through one man's
offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so
through one Man's righteous act, the free gift came to all men,
resulting in justification of life.
For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so also
by one Man's obedience, many will be made righteous.”
This passage shows us that “justification [gives] us [a]
righteous standing [or status] before God” (Stott).
So when God justifies those accused, does that mean that He is
“declaring that those who were bad are now good or that those who were
sinners are not sinners after all”?
No, not really. Remember,
we are in a courtroom, so God “is pronouncing us legally righteous,
[or] free from any liability to the broken law, because He Himself in
His Son has already borne the penalty for our breaking the law's
[regulations]” (Stott). Seeing
that God has treated us so wonderfully by taking our penalty should
cause us to want to do good works out of gratitude for His goodness!
Jesus' death is unique because it upheld the law's requirements
and took the penalty that we should have received.
Jesus' death brings justification.
we see that Jesus' death bring reconciliation.
This term comes from the circle of our family and friends and
means to restore a relationship or renew a friendship.
In 2 Corinthians 5:18ff, there is a magnificent passage: “Now
all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus
Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, God
was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their
trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were
pleading through us: we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to
God. For He made Him who
knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of
God in Him.” This
passage shows us that God is the author of reconciliation, Christ is the
agent of reconciliation, we are the ambassadors of reconciliation, and
all nations are an audience for reconciliation with God.
Jesus' death is unique because it transforms us from being
enemies of God to becoming friends of God!
Jesus' death brings reconciliation.
four of the descriptions that we have explained show us that we were in
dire need: under God's wrath, captive to sin, guilty, and alienated from
God, but God took the initiative in His saving love to reverse the
situation. Jesus, through
the shedding of His blood at His cruel death, became our
substitute—the sacrifice, the payment, the bearer of the law's
penalty, and the mediator who became sin that we might become righteous!
“He paid that debt at Calvary, He cleansed our souls and set us
free, We're glad that Jesus did all our sins erase,
We now can sing a brand new song: Amazing Grace.
Christ Jesus paid the debt that we could never pay!”
is unique about Jesus' resurrection?
Normally, the Roman soldiers would take a crucified man's body to
Jerusalem's garbage dump where it would be cremated and robbed of the
dignity of a traditional Jewish burial, but Pilate made an exception in
Jesus' case and allowed the friends of Jesus to bury Him in a tomb (Sproul).
Of course, the Jewish leaders asked Pilate to place a guard at
the tomb to make it as secure as possible.
Since the resurrection is a miracle and those who are skeptics
want to accept only scientific or natural data, all kinds of theories
have been invented to explain the resurrection in a natural way: Jesus
only fainted, the apostles had hallucinations, the women went to the
wrong tomb, the apostles just conspired together and decided to invent a
resurrection, etc. But all
these theories simply refute themselves when they are compared to the
gospel's accounts! Surely if
the Bible presents a living and all-powerful God, then eternal life
appearing in the midst of a world of mortality would not be impossible!
So what is unique about Jesus' resurrection?
of all, Jesus' resurrection vindicates or upholds His sinless life.
In the biblical view of nature, “death enters the world as a
judgment upon sin. The
Creator decreed that sin was a capital offense.
The soul that sins shall die. ... Mother Nature became the
paramount executioner. Adam
was created with both the possibility of death and with the possibility
of avoiding it. By his
transgression, he forfeited the possibility of avoiding it ... Jesus
[however] was the New Adam. He
was free from sin ... Death had no legitimate claim on Him ... He was
punished for sin that was imputed to Him, but once the price was paid
and the imputation was lifted from [Him], death lost it power.
In death, an atonement was made; in resurrection, the perfect
sinlessness of Jesus was vindicated” (Sproul).
By His obedience, Jesus gained the possibility of overcoming it.
Perhaps this is the reason that John describes Jesus as the
One who has the keys to Hades and death in Revelation 1:18.
Jesus' resurrection vindicates His sinless life.
Jesus' resurrection vindicates God's justice.
“For God to allow Jesus to be forever bound by death would have
been for God to violate His own righteous character.
It would have been an injustice [on God's part] ... (Sproul).
God would not allow His Holy One to see corruption (Acts 2:27).
In other words, ... by one mighty act, [God] endorsed and
countersigned the noble and unselfish way of [Jesus'] life.
[Now] we know that [God] is on the side of the man who fights the
good fight” (Stewart). You
know, it's sort of surprising that God made Jesus stay in that tomb as
long as He did. Maybe this
was God's way of helping the skeptics to see that Jesus had really died
and that He had not just fainted. Jesus
resurrection vindicates God's justice!
Jesus' resurrection assures our immortality.
The apostle Paul states in 1 Corinthians 15:20-23: “But now
Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those
who have fallen asleep. For
since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead.
For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made
alive. But each one in his
own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterwards those who are Christ's at
His coming.” The
firstfruits meant that more of harvest was sure to come.
Jesus' resurrection is our hope of more to come as well!
Jesus' resurrection assures our immortality!
Jesus' resurrection assures our victory over evil.
There was a joyful confidence among [the early Christians].
They did not speak of defeat, but of victory.
Perhaps they were taking the apostle Paul's words to heart: “He
gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ, we are more than
conquerors through Him who loved us, and God ... leads us in triumphal
procession in Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57; Rom. 8:37; Colossians
2:14). Their vocabulary was
one of victory, conquest, and triumph!
Why? Because they
knew that Jesus' resurrection was proof positive that the forces of evil
could not overcome them. One
writer correctly observes: “We are not to regard the cross as defeat
and the resurrection as victory. Rather,
the cross was the victory won, and the resurrection was the victory
endorsed, proclaimed, and demonstrated. ... The evil [forces were
deprived of their powers at the cross and were made subject to Jesus at
His resurrection]” (Stott).
resurrection changed everything, didn't it?
It is the hinge event of history and introduced a whole new order
into the world. It changed
the apostles, the skeptics, and the Jews.
It caused the Lord's Supper, the practice of baptism, and the
church. It also vindicates
Jesus' sinless life and God's justice and it assures our immortality and
victory over evil! “Crown
Him the Lord of life, Who triumphed o’er the grave, Who rose
victorious in the strife for those He came to save!
His glories now we sing Who died and rose on high, Who died
eternal life to bring, and lives that death may die!”
is unique about Jesus' ascension? Sometime
we don't give much attention to the ascension, but it is the climatic
moment in Jesus' ministry when His coronation takes place and He becomes
a king ruling at God's right hand. Without
the ascension, the resurrection would have been incomplete, and
Pentecost would never have taken place.
of all, the ascension is unique because Jesus is exalted over all men!
In fact, the ascension shows Jesus to be one of a kind for it has
never happened to anyone else. “No
one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is the
Son of Man who is in heaven” (John 3:13).
Enoch had been “translated” into heaven, and Elijah had been
“taken up” into heaven, but only Jesus, God's only-begotten Son was
qualified, through His descending to the earth, to make this ascension
and be exalted over all men!
the ascension shows that Jesus is exalted over all rulers!
One writer puts it this way: “The ascension was the supreme
political event of world history. Jesus
ascended not so much to a place as to an office.
He departed from the arena of humiliation and suffering to enter
into His glory. He, in one
moment, leapfrogged from the status of despised Galilean teacher to
become the cosmic king of the universe jumping over the heads of Pilate,
Herod, and Caesar Augustus” (Sproul).
“And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written:
‘King of Kings and Lord of Lords’” (Rev. 19:16).
The ascension shows that Jesus is exalted over all rulers!
the ascension shows that Jesus is exalted over all priests!
“He assumed not only the scepter of a king but also the
garments of the High Priest as well.
In His ascension, Jesus entered the sanctuary as well as the
palace. He [enters daily
into the heavenly Holy of Holies to make intercession on our behalf]”
(Sproul). Heb. 9:11-2
states: “But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come,
with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that
is, not of this creation. Not
with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered
the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.”
The ascension shows Jesus' is exalted over all priests!
the ascension shows that Jesus is exalted over all spirits!
One of Jesus' first tasks after His enthronement was to send the
Holy Spirit to help His followers establish and expand the church.
Moreover, all other spirits and demons are subject to Him: “God
raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand far above all
principality and power and might and dominion ... and put all things
under His feet ...” (Ephesians 1:20-23)!
All the forces of evil are under His dominion.
The ascension shows that Jesus is exalted over all spirits!
“We walked not with the chosen few, who saw Thee from the earth
ascend; who raised to heav’n their wondering view, then low to earth
all prostrate bend, but we believe that human eyes beheld that journey
to the skies, but we believe that human eyes beheld that journey to the
day a prisoner in one of Stalin's concentration camps around 1950 became
very weary of the hard labor which he had to endure unjustly.
He laid down his shovel and walked slowly to a crude work-site
bench, knowing all along that a guard could take his shovel and beat him
to death at any moment. While
he sat with his head down, he suddenly felt the presence of another
person. He lifted up his
head and found an older man sitting next to him.
The old man took a stick and drew two intersection lines, a
cross, at his feet. As the
weary prisoner looked at that simple cross, he drew strength, and his
entire perspective shifted. Through
that cross, he realized that anything was possible, so he picked up his
shovel and went back to work—not knowing that one day his writings
about Stalin’s massacres of 40,000 people per month in concentration
camps, about truth, and about freedom would one day inflame the whole
world and earn him a Nobel peace prize (Colson).
cross, the resurrection, and the ascension have given strength to
multitudes since Jesus’ return to rule at God's right hand.
Is He the king of your life?
Will you crown Him at this moment if He is not?
Or will you confess your loyalty to Him and get back in the
battle? Whatever your need,
won't your respond?