On Easter Sunday we celebrate the reappearance of our risen Lord to the disciples. But what happened between Jesus death around 3pm on Friday afternoon and his reappearance at dawn on Resurrection Sunday?
What happened on Easter Saturday?
The biblical narrative speaks about this, but first let’s go to Revelation 12:10 –
Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.
From this scripture we need to ask: what did God do with the accusations that Satan threw at him to condemn us in God’s final court of justice? Are we as good as dead because the accusations are largely true?
By LAW yes. By GRACE no.
Here is Paul’s case on the matter -
“For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written:
“The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.” (Romans 15:3).
Amazingly the accusations against us were redirected. God took the accusations that were intended for our condemnation and placed them on Jesus on the Cross. This was the cup that Jesus didn’t want to drink, but accepted in his role as our saviour (1 Peter 2:22-24).
Our illeagality was worn by Jesus like filthy rags. The magnitude of this offence on Jesus caused Father God to look away from his despoiled son on the Cross. God could not bear the sight of our sin on his own son – which in turn caused Jesus to cry out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt 27:46).
What happened then between late Friday afternoon and dawn on Sunday?
We again pick up the narrative at Zechariah 3. Here we find Joshua the High Priest being tasked with the reconstruction of Jerusalem after the first tranche of Jews returned from exile in Babylon. It turns out that the High Priest had the same name as Jesus (Joshua in Hebrew = Jesus in Greek). In this prophectic act Joshua symbolically represents Jesus in the outworking of God’s plan of salvation. We are assured of this fact in Zech. 3:8-9. Therefore for clarity we will use the Greek translation of the high priests name in the text at Zech 3:1-5
Then he showed me Jesus the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right side to accuse him. The Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, Satan! The Lord, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you! Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?” Now Jesus was dressed in filthy clothes as he stood before the angel. The angel said to those who were standing before him, “Take off his filthy clothes.” Then he said to Jesus, “See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put fine garments on you.” Then I said, “Put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him, while the angel of the Lord stood by.
Here then is a prophetic act representing Jesus wearing our sins like filthy robes in the presence of Satan following his death on the Cross. Jesus life was snatched from the fire by the resurrection power of God and our filthy rags were removed from him in the presence of Satan. In their place Jesus was given the robes of righteousness and the crown of victory. Can you imagine the full impact of this act in the face of Satan?
Accordingly our sins – past, present and future – have been transported across time courtesy of the the accuser. They were placed on the prince of peace on the Cross from where they were deposited in hell where they belong forever!
Can you see it? Can you see the magnitude of this work of GRACE done for us by Jesus?
In Zech 3 we see Satan confronted by Jesus victory over condemnation, sin and death. Satan realised what was the shocking truth to him - the work of the Cross was perfect and could never be undone. The hairs on the back of his neck went vertical and a cold shiver riveted down his spine. He had lost. Jesus had won.
From this victory Jesus proclaimed:
I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look,
I am alive for ever and ever!
And I hold the keys of death and Hades (Rev 1:18).
When did this Victory Occur?
In Matthew 27:50-53 we learn that the release of resurrection power was so great that it shook the earth, split rocks, broke open tombs and raised holy people to life. Matthew tells us that this happened the moment Jesus gave up his spirit. Accordingly the resurrection power of God invaded hell in the person of Jesus Christ from 3pm Friday afternoon until his appearance to Mary at dawn on Sunday morning.
On Resurrection Saturday he preached the gospel in hades and set the captives free (1 Peter 3:19, 4:5-6). He then took those who responded to him and presented them to God -
But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says: “When he ascended on high, he took many captives and gave gifts to his people.” (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) Ephesians 4:7-9, Psalm 68:18.
- This is why the church cries out Hallelujah!
- This is what we celebrate on Resurrection Sunday.
- This is the victory of the Cross in which we live and walk and have our being.
- This is the greatest celebration of the church.
He is risen, He is risen indeed.