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Today is Good Friday, the day when we remember the death of our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross. This Easter period is so important to our faith, for the death and resurrection of Jesus form the basis of the gospel message, a message which is good news to everyone, absolutely everyone, at every point in history. Paul wrote to the Corinthian church and said that he wanted to remind them of the gospel he had preached to them and they had received and on which they had taken their stand. (1 Cor 15:1) We need to hold firmly to the word of God at these times, because this word is eternal. (Ps 119:89)
The gospel basics which Paul expounds are ‘that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve.’ (1 Cor 15:3-5)
Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures. We can see from the accounts in all four gospels (Matt 27:32-56; Mark 15:21-41; Luke 23:26-59; John 19:16-37) just how important this is and how this fulfilled Old Testament prophecies. We see not only facts but the reason for His death: God ‘reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.’ (2 Cor 5:18-19)
Christ was buried. He really did die. All 4 gospels again talk of His burial in a tomb purchased by Joseph of Arimathea. (John 19:38-42, Matt 27:57-61, Mark 15:42-47, Luke 23:50-56) This confirms the reality of His death. Many people in history have disputed this, but a burial is pretty incontrovertible.
that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…Resurrection is a fundamental part of the gospel and without this, we have no hope. If Jesus did not rise from the dead, then we have nothing positive to look forward to whatsoever. If this life is all there is, we’re a people to be pitied. Paul is adamant that Jesus was raised on the third day, and again, we have this reminder that it was ‘according to the Scriptures.’ God was not taken by surprise by the death of Jesus: Rev 13:8 tells us the Lamb was ‘slain before the creation of the world.’ Isaiah prophesied, many years before Jesus was born, that the Lord would make His life an offering for sin and said, ‘He will see His offspring and prolong His days.’ (Is 53:10) The early apostles didn’t have the benefit of the New Testament Scriptures as we do, but they discovered that resurrection was there in the Old Testament too! – Peter, preaching on the Day of Pentecost, spoke from Psalm 16 and said, ‘Seeing what was to come, he [David] spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay.’ (Acts 2:31)
… and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. Paul gives us facts and then evidence. Jesus really died. There was a real tomb. His body was placed there with a big stone in front of it as a seal and also with guards. He really did rise from the dead. Not only do we know that because the tomb was empty (which technically doesn’t prove He’s alive, just that He was no longer in the tomb), we know it because He appeared to people. They saw Him! They weren’t expecting to see Him and in many cases (like Thomas, for example), they took some persuading. Our faith rests on solid ground.