Happy Easter!

It was Good Friday, but now, as surely as day follows night, sunshine follows rain, and the rhubarb plant in my back garden will eventually provide the principle ingredient for a fruit crumble, it’s Easter Sunday. A day to both remember and celebrate the most significant event in history, a source of hope powerful enough to sustain us through even the darkest of days.

Because Jesus is alive!

But perhaps you’re not so sure. If not, then you’re in good company, because one of Jesus’ disciples wasn’t convinced either.

Though he often gets a bad press, I’d like to put a word in for ‘Doubting Thomas’ and say how grateful I am to him. Why? Well simply because he reassures me that people in first century Jerusalem were just as unlikely to believe a story about a dead man coming back to life as they are today – unless, that is, the evidence was convincing. Which it was, even for a dyed in the wool sceptic like Thomas who could not help but come to believe the seemingly unbelievable when he came face to face with the resurrected Jesus. Because with the scars that the nails had made in Jesus’ hands plain for him to see, Thomas believed, on the basis of the evidence, that Jesus really was risen from the dead.

My faith, therefore, is in part, based on Thomas initially doubting and wanting evidence before believing – he demanded the evidence we all need if we are to put our trust in Jesus. We can believe without seeing because Thomas couldn’t believe until he did.

So thank you Thomas!

Like Thomas we have good reason to believe in the resurrection and can put our trust in Jesus, confident that he is in control just as much today as he always has been. Because despite what some people think, God has always been in control. This is abundantly clear when one considers how the plan of salvation worked out exactly as he intended.

The death of Jesus was long predicted. Way back in the Garden of Eden, God promised that a saviour would one day come who would crush the head of Satan even as he himself was struck on the heel [Genesis 3:15]. Further prophecies of the one who would defeat Satan as he himself suffered occur repeatedly throughout the Old Testament, one of the best known being that of Isaiah who, writing in the eighth century BC, describes how a ‘suffering servant’ would be ‘pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities’ [Isaiah 53:5].

Furthermore, as he himself said, the whole of the Old Testament is about Jesus [Luke 24:44]. As such many of the incidents recorded for us there are themselves pictures of what Jesus would achieve on the cross, a good example of this being the story of Abraham and Isaac that was written more than a thousand years before the crucifixion.many of the incidents recorded for us in the Old Testament are themselves pictures of what Jesus would achieve on the cross, a good example of this being the story of Abraham and Isaac that was written more than a thousand years before the crucifixion.

Like Jesus, Isaac, was a willing sacrifice offered by a loving Father. Like Jesus, Isaac carried the wood on which he would be killed to the place of his execution. And like Jesus, Isaac, figuratively at least, came back from the dead on the third day when Abraham was told to kill a lamb instead. The lamb is a picture of Jesus too. Like Jesus who, as he hung on the cross was adorned with a crown of thorns, the lamb was found with its horns caught in a thicket. And like Jesus who died in the place of others, the lamb died in the place of Isaac.

And if that isn’t enough for us to see how God had predetermined the events of the first Easter, notice that it was to Mount Mariah that Abraham took his son. This hill is the one that hundreds of years later Jerusalem would be built on indicating that the events of both Genesis 22 and Good Friday occurred in very close geographical proximity. Hardly a coincidence! (More on this can be read here – and thoughts on how another Old Testament story points forward to Jesus can be found here).

The New Testament too confirms God’s sovereignty over all that takes place. As had been predicted by the prophet Micah, [Micah 5:2] a baby boy was born in Bethlehem. But this was no ordinary baby – this was God taking on human form. ‘The Word’, as John describes Jesus, ‘became flesh and dwelt amongst us’ [John 1:14. Directed to do so by the angel who told Joseph that ‘he [would] save his people from their sins’ [Matthew 1:21], the child is called Jesus, a name that means ‘God is Salvation’. Then wise men arrive. They come bearing gifts, one of which was Myrrh, a resin commonly used in the preparation of the dead for burial – a singularly odd present for a child – unless, that is, the reason for his being born was so that he would ultimately die.

Jesus grew up and, as he began his public ministry, gathered around him his twelve disciples. They were eyewitnesses to Jesus’s many miracles. They saw how ‘the blind received their sight, the lame walked, [and] lepers were cleansed’ They watched as ‘the deaf heard, the dead were raised up, [and] the poor had good news preached to them’ [Luke 7:22]. All this had been prophesied in the Old Testament. But it wasn’t just Jesus’ miracles that amazed the disciples. They were amazed by his teaching too. And so the penny eventually dropped and the disciples finally recognised that Jesus was the Christ, God’s chosen king. But no sooner had they done so, Jesus told them how he ‘must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the scribes’. Furthermore he explained how he would ‘be killed, and after three days rise again.’ [Mark 8:31]

And so, determined to do what was always his Father’s will, Jesus ‘set his face to go to Jerusalem’ [Luke 9:51], fully aware of what lay ahead for him there. In the Garden of Gethsemane, he was ‘distressed and greatly troubled’ [Mark 14:33] at the prospect of his being crucified, so much so that he sweated blood [Luke 22:44], a medical phenomenon known as ‘hematohidrosis’ which can occur in those suffering extreme levels of stress. With his soul ‘sorrowful unto death’, Jesus asked, if it were possible, for the cup that he was about to drink to be taken from him. But the cup he was referring to was the cup of God’s wrath, and Jesus knew that, if he was to save others from having to drink it, he would have to drink it himself. And so, sticking with the plan ‘that the Christ should suffer these things’ [Luke 24:26], Jesus finished his prayer by asking that not his will but God’s will be done.

Then Judas, one of the disciples, betrayed Jesus into the hands of the religious leaders who were intent on getting rid of him. Falsely accused they found him guilty of blasphemy and handed him over to the Roman authorities who had the power to sentence him to death. And despite recognising Jesus’ innocence, that is precisely what Pilate does when, fearing the crowd who were baying for Jesus’ blood, he shows himself to be the weak leader he was and hands Jesus over to be crucified.

All this might look like God was no longer in control but the truth was quite the opposite. Though ‘crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men’ Jesus was ‘delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God’. [Acts 2:23]. When Caiaphas, the high priest that year, had said ‘it is better [that] one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish,”’[John 11:50], he was only thinking in terms of political expediency but, unbeknownst to him, he was being used by God to prophesy how Jesus’ death would be for the salvation of God’s people. God, you see, was still very much in control of events, so much so that Jesus, died exactly when the ‘Lamb of God’ was supposed to die – at Passover. And this despite the fact that Passover was the one time those plotting his death wanted to avoid him dying! [Matthew 26:4-5].

Jesus had allowed himself to be arrested and said nothing to prevent himself from being sentenced to death. And so, as was always the plan, Jesus is led out to be crucified and is nailed to the cross on which, three hours later, he dies. But even here we see that God was still in control – for it is Jesus himself who determines the moment of his death. After several more prophecies are fulfilled, Jesus finally declares, ‘It is finished’. This is a statement that refers, not to his imminent death but rather to how he had completed the work he had come to do. Only then does Jesus bow his head and allowed himself to die. Only then does Jesus, a man totally in control, give up his spirit. [John 19:30]

So at just the right time [Galatians 4:4] Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners [1 Timothy 1:15] – and ‘at just the right time, whilst we were powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. [Romans 5:6].

But that wasn’t the end, for the one who had the authority to lay down his own life, also had the authority to take it back up again. [John 10:17-18] And so on the third day, just as he had predicted, Jesus, at just the right time, rose from the dead, his resurrection proving his sacrifice had been sufficient, that the penalty for sin had been fully paid.

And he was seen alive, not only by Thomas, but by hundreds of others [1 Corinthians 15:6]. As such we can be confident that there is ‘therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus’ [Romans 8:1], for those who look to Christ for forgiveness, those who accept him, not only as their Saviour, but also their Lord.

When times are hard it’s good to know that God is just as much in control today as he was in bringing about our salvation. And it’s good to know too that ‘he who did not spare his own Son but gladly give him up for us all’ will surely ‘work all things for good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose’. [Romans 8:32, 28].

This doesn’t mean that everything in this life will always go the way that we would like, but it does mean that, however unlikely it may currently seem, God will bring an end to all that is wrong with the world in which we live. Furthermore, notwithstanding the size of the task in hand, he will also complete the good work that he has begun in us, to make us how we were always meant to be. [Philippians 1:6] That job will not be finished until the day that Jesus returns – but when that day finally comes, oh how great our joy will be.

Life remains hard – but God is in control.

And that’s why I’m rejoicing, though temporary sorrowful, this Easter Day.


What follows is an adapted version of what I posted last Easter Sunday. I believe it to be as true today as it was then.


Easter Morning. The tomb is empty and Jesus is raised. Obviously.

I say obviously because it never could have been any other way. Some people have a problem with that – they say irrational things like ‘Dead people don’t come back to life – that’s simply impossible’. But the Bible says just the opposite, the Bible says it was impossible for Jesus to stay dead!

‘God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.’ [Acts 2:24]

Granted, the dead rising to life again is not a common occurrence. But if the rationale for you not believing in the resurrection of Jesus boils down to, ‘It can’t happen, so it didn’t happen’, then you are not being intellectually honest with yourself, drawing your conclusions on preconceived assumptions which are not based on fact. For it’d only take a resurrection to happen once for you to have to change your point of view. 

At the end of a lecture he had given on the reasons for his atheism, noted philosopher Anthony Flew, was once asked the question, ‘But what if Jesus was raised from the dead?’. ‘Well,’ he replied ‘If Jesus was raised from the dead, that would change everything’. His response was consistent with his lifelong commitment to go where the evidence led, a commitment that would, a few years before his death in 2010, ultimately lead to him coauthoring a book which was entitled ‘There is a God’.

It was the apostle Peter who made the above statement regarding the impossibility of Jesus staying dead. It is interesting to note the change that had occurred in Peter since Good Friday. After Jesus’ arrest he had been running scared, denying to everyone that he had ever even known Jesus. But here, on the day of Pentecost, just seven weeks later, he stands and publicly proclaims, to a crowd of thousands, the reality of the resurrection. The reason for the change in Peter isn’t hard to find:

‘This Jesus, God raised up,’ he says, ‘and of that we all are witnesses.’ [Acts 2:32]

Like Anthony Flew, Peter had followed the evidence.

The evidence for the resurrection is well documented. For those who are interested more can be read here and here.

But why was it not possible for Jesus to stay dead? This is a philosophical argument and is based on the nature of death and the underlying reason for it. We tend to think that death is normal – the inevitable end to the wearing out of our bodies after long years of use or, alternatively, the tragic result of some violent insult, overwhelming infection, or malignant growth, something that our bodies cannot withstand. But the Bible says that there is a more fundamental reason for why we die. And that, it says, is sin.

Death is not part of how things should be – rather it is a travesty, the consequence of the presence of the wrong that is in the universe, the penalty for the sin of which we are all guilty – myself more than anyone. An awareness of this opens the door to our being able to better understand how Peter can make his assertion that it was not possible for Jesus to stay dead. 

It is because Jesus was sinless, that death could not hold him. 

If we struggle to believe anything about the Easter story, it shouldn’t be the resurrection of Jesus – that bit stands to reason. The amazing part of the story is that he ever died at all. That the author of life should die is a great mystery – but die he unquestionably did. As it is for his resurrection, the evidence for Jesus’ death is overwhelming, even being attested to by a paper published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1986. You can read it here.

So what then was the reason for Jesus’ death? The answer to that can be given in one word: Love. The love he had for those he came to save, those he was willing to lay down his life for, [John 10:15], those for whom his death would bring eternal life. 

The reason that Jesus’ was born in the first place was ‘to seek and save the lost’ [Luke 19:10]. As the apostle Paul once wrote, the ‘saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’ [1 Timothy 1:15]. 

Jesus knew this and understood that the salvation he had come to achieve would be realised through his death. ‘The Son of Man must suffer many things’ he said, ‘and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.’ [Luke 9:22)]. That is the reason why, when the time of his crucifixion drew near, Jesus ‘set his face to go to Jerusalem’. [Luke 9:51].

Jesus went to Jerusalem on purpose, with the expressed intention of dying there. 

But why did he have to die? More than that, why did he have to be killed? Why couldn’t he have simply slipped away quietly in his sleep at a ripe old age? The answer to that question is that ‘the wages of sin is death’ [Romans 6:23]. If justice is to be upheld, sin must be punished, and the penalty for sin is death.

We all want to live in a just universe – we cry out for justice when we see others maltreated especially when that injustice is particularly great or when we find that it is we who are the ones who are experiencing the injustice. The only time we are unhappy with justice is when we are the those who are guilty! I believe speeding drivers should suffer a penalty but many were the excuses I had for why I shouldn’t have had to attend the speed awareness course I was invited to not all that long ago!

God is, by his very nature, holy. He is perfectly right, perfectly just. And if he is to remain just, His standards must be he upheld. We, on the other hand, are not what we should be. We know, if we are honest, that we don’t live up to our own standards, let alone those of a holy and righteous God. Therefore, since as has been already been said, the ‘wages of sin is death’, we have a problem. We all deserve death, myself included and, unless a suitable substitute can be found, we face the prospect of experiencing that punishment ourselves.

But this is where the bad news of the law of God becomes the good news of the gospel. Because, not only is God holy and rightly angry at injustice, he is, at the same time, merciful and gracious. God gave his only son to be a penal substitute, one who would act as the wrath absorbing, justice satisfying, atoning sacrifice for our sins.

One who would gladly take our place and suffer for us the punishment we deserve. 

At this point it is important to remember the mystery of the Trinity. God, though one, is three persons. We are not, therefore, seeing here a loving Jesus who absorbs the wrath of an vengeful despotic God. On the contrary, Jesus is himself fully God even as he is fully man. And the Father and Son, along with the Holy Spirit are one. As the Father loves the son, so the son loves the Father. Therefore, the death of Jesus, planned and agreed by all three persons of the Godhead before time began, and pointed too throughout the Old Testament [see for example here and here] reveals a loving Father every bit as much as it reveals a loving son,

The Old Testament prophet Isaiah had, some 700 years prior to the crucifixion, prophesied how God would one day lay on Jesus our sin and punish him in our place:

‘But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.’ [Isaiah 53:5-6]

Jesus, because of his love, both for his Father and for us, willingly took on our sin and died in our place so that we need not suffer that punishment ourselves. He was put to death so that ‘whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.’ [John 3:16]

‘For our sake [God] made [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.’ [2 Corinthians 5:21]

That is, God treats Jesus as if he had lived like us so that he can justly treat us as if we had lived like Jesus. This is what it means to say that God loves us. It’s not that he thinks everything about us is just peachy, but rather that he treats us well despite how little we deserve his kindness. He loves us, not because we are lovely, but because he is loving.

And how great is that love with which he loves us. We cannot conceive how vast that love is.

‘For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love towards those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us’ [Psalm 103:11-12]

‘In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.’ [1 John 4:10]

‘The wages of sin is [indeed] death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ [Romans 6:23]

‘And this is eternal life, that [we] know…the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom [he has] sent.’ [John 17:3]

This then is how God loves us. Jesus death is not just a sign of God’s love, it is an act of love too, one that achieves our salvation. One that achieves our rescue. Imagine I’m walking along a river with my wife Kaye when I turn to her and say, ‘Darling, I love you – so much so that I am going to throw myself into the river to prove it’. Imagine then that, having made my declaration, I promptly proceed to do as I said I would and subsequently drown. My actions would show me to be, what is commonly known as, an idiot! Imagine now that, whilst we are walking, Kaye slips, falls into the river and begins to drown. Imagine then that, because of my great love for her, I jump in to rescue her but lose my life in the process. In such a scenario I would have acted out of love and demonstrated my love by my actions, by what I had done, by what I had achieved. I would have done a loving thing, but one that is no where near as loving as that which was done by the son of God who, of infinitely greater worth than I, died for those who were only deserving of death.

God then, in the death of his beloved son and at great personal cost, rescues us from himself so that we might enjoy knowing him forever whilst no longer having to live in fear of his righteous anger towards us. God’s justice was satisfied by his wrath being directed toward another, toward Jesus, the one who willingly absorbed it all for us on the cross. So completely did Jesus’ death pay the penalty for our sin that there is now no longer any of God’s anger left over to be directed at us. That is what is meant by Jesus’ death atoning for the sins of those he died for. That is the meaning of ‘propitiation’ in the verse above. God hasn’t merely laid aside his anger at sin only for it to rise up again at some later date – on the contrary, it has gone for good, even as it was fully poured out on Jesus.

That is why Jesus, as he hung on the cross, cried out ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” [Mark 15:34]. Remarkably God was turning his back on the son he loves so deeply in order to save we who have ourselves turned our back on God. And it why the apostle Paul can write that ‘There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.’ [Romans 8:1]. All condemnation towards those whose only hope for salvation lies in Christ is gone! The job of satisfying the requirements of the law and, thereby, maintaining God’s justice, even as he forgives we who have sinned and deserve death, is complete. As Jesus died he said ‘It is finished’ [John 19:30]. He wasn’t talking about his life, rather he was talking about his work of atonement. And he was right, the resurrection on Easter morning proving that his sacrifice really was fully effective in paying the price for all that we have done wrong. God’s grace really is completely sufficient, even for those of us who consider ourselves to be ‘the chief of sinners’. [1 Timothy 1:15]

Rest assured, knowing God for all eternity will not be dull like some people imagine. We have all had moments in our lives when we have experienced something truly beautiful – a glorious sunset, a magnificent Mountain View or perhaps waves crashing powerfully against a rocky coastline. These are awesome sights, ones to be fully enjoyed. But they are only a faint echo of what we will one day experience – they will pale into insignificance when we see God face to face. God will then dwell with [us], and [we] will be his people. He will wipe away every tear from [our] eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things [will] have passed away.’ (Revelation 21:3-4).

Seeing God and experiencing that future new creation will be infinitely more satisfying than the happiest times this world has to offer, better even than Easter Day. And the prospect of that future joy might just be enough to sustain us through the saddest times this world affords – days like Good Friday.

Easter morning – the tomb is empty and Jesus is raised.That’s good news – but not unexpected. It was always going to happen.

It was Good Friday.
But now it is Easter Sunday.

Happy Easter.



If you have read thus far, I am (a) surprised [I believe the expression is TL:DR – Too long: didn’t read] and (b) grateful. Thank you.

I am aware that this has been long but some things need more than the length of a tweet if one is to have any chance of conveying their importance.

I am also aware that there will be some, perhaps many, who will consider what I have written as naive, irrelevant and perhaps even offensive. If that is you I trust you’ll accept my words as a genuine attempt to explain things I hold to be of first importance for us all to know and understand. If, as a doctor, I genuinely believed I had a life saving cure for your terminal illness, you’d consider it cruel of me if I withheld that treatment from you even if you didn’t share the belief in its effectiveness. So consider me foolish by all means, but I hope you’ll not consider me unkind in writing as I have. If one can not write of these things at Easter, then when can one write of them?

For all that however, I hope that will be those who agree with what I have written and, rejoicing with me at the news of Jesus’ life death and resurrection, know that this news is simply too good not to share.

Related blogs:

To read ‘What becomes of the broken hearted? Sorrowful yet always rejoicing on Palm Sunday’, click here

To read ‘Why do bad things happen to good people? Sorrowful yet always rejoicing on Good Friday’, click here

To read ‘The Sacrifice of Isaac – Law or Gospel?’, click here

To read ‘Water from a Rock’, click here

To read ‘The Resurrection – is it just rhubarb?’, click here

To read “Suffering- A Personal View”, click here.

To read “Why do bad things happen to good people – a tentative suggestion”, click here

To read “Luther and the global pandemic – on becoming a theologian of the cross”, click here

To read ‘T.S. Eliot, Jesus and the Paradox of the Christian Life’, click here

To read ‘Real Power’, click here

To read ‘Foolishness – Law and Gospel’, click here

To read ‘The Promise Keeper’, click here

To read ‘The Rainbow’s End’, click here

To read ‘True Love?’, click here

To read “Hope comes from believing the promises of God”, click here

To read, ‘But this I know’, click here

To read ‘I’ll miss this when I’m gone – extended theological version’, click here

To read ‘On being confronted by the law’, click here

To read ‘The “Already” and the “Not Yet”’, click here

To read ‘Rest Assured’, click here


  1. What an inspiration our wordsmith has given us this Easter, brilliantly woven themes to make us think about our world and our place in it! So much in this world causes pain to God, internationally, nationally and especially at a personal level …. so I stand in awe at the foot of the Cross!
    Thank you again and may he richly bless you and your family the Easter season.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you – and I wish the same for you and your good lady wife. Happy Easter!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: