The crucifixion certainly seemed to be out of control. It didn’t seem like anybody was in charge: not the mob who changed their minds daily, not the politicians who wanted to escape responsibility, not the executioners who were just following orders, not even the religious leaders who were rushing to get everything done by sundown. Plenty of people have made the case that even God didn’t seem to be in control as this ghastly event unfolded.
But the New Testament says otherwise. Not only does it affirm that God the Father was sovereign over this event, bringing it to pass for his own purposes. It goes on to show that Jesus Christ himself was the lord of his own death and resurrection.
John’s gospel captures Jesus, the good shepherd, saying it most clearly: “I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” (John 10:17-18)
But Matthew’s gospel, without quoting this saying, is just as clear about the fact that Jesus is in charge of the great passover. “You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” (Matt. 26:31-32)
That’s why, when the angel meets the women at the tomb in Matthew 28, he says these words to them:
Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.
He has risen, as he said. And he has gone before you to the place where he has appointed, where you will see him. You came to find the crucified, and you will see him. But you will see him as the crucified one who is risen, the one who was dead and is alive forevermore, and as a result has the keys of hell and death, as a result opens doors that nobody can shut, and closes doors that nobody can open.
He said he would rise, and he has risen just as he said. He said he would go before the disciples into Galilee, and he did, just as he said. He is faithful and true, and not a word that the risen one speaks will ever fail.
The resurrection of Jesus proved many things and accomplished many things. But above all it shows that this man was somebody who had the power to keep his promises even after he went to the grave, which is the absolute limit of anybody’s ability to keep even the best-intended promises. He rose, just as he said. And behold: All authority has been given to him in heaven and on earth, and he is with us to the end of the age. Just as he said!
Christ is risen indeed!