We will be celebrating Good Friday and Easter Sunday this coming weekend. During this time, it is important for us to remember all that God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son did for us around 2,000 years ago.
The Passover, The Lord's Supper, and Jesus' Sacrifice
First, the Passover. The first Passover started when the Israelites were in Egypt. God told Moses and Aaron that every man should take the first male lamb, unblemished, of the first year and make a sacrifice to the Lord for the household. Then they were to take some of the blood of the lamb and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses. Next, they were to eat the flesh of the lamb that same night, after roasting it in fire with unleavened bread and bitter herbs, while they were dressed and ready. (Exodus 12).
‘For I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the Lord. Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt. ‘So this day shall be to you a memorial; and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord throughout your generations. You shall keep it as a feast by an everlasting ordinance. - Exodus 12:12-14
The Israelites kept the Passover, according to God's Word, every year. Before Jesus' sacrifice, He celebrated the Passover with the disciples and announced that one of them would betray Him. (Matthew 26). Even though He knew what Judas would do and that he had already plotted this betrayal, Jesus still sat and ate with Judas. During this evening, Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper (Matthew 26:26-30). The events that followed include Jesus announcing that Peter will deny Him three times and all of the disciples would be scattered, Jesus going to the garden in Gethsemane to pray, Judas leading a great multitude armed to where Jesus was, and Jesus facing the council and high priest. While Jesus was under trial, Peter denied Him three times, the rest of the disciples went into hiding, and Judas hanged himself. The people chose a known and convicted murderer to be set free so that Jesus, God's pure and holy Son, would be crucified. Jesus died on the cross for all of our sins and all hope seemed lost. The disciples were fearful and forgot Jesus' words about this event, evil thought it had won, and the earth went dark.
And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many. So when the centurion and those with him, who were guarding Jesus, saw the earthquake and the things that had happened, they feared greatly, saying, “Truly this was the Son of God!” - Matthew 27:50-54
However, hope was not lost but strengthened, evil did not win but was dealt a powerful and crippling defeat, and the darkness would be turned to brilliant glory!
Notice in the scripture above that "the veil of the temple was torn in two...". The veil represented the separation between God Almighty and humans because of sin. In Exodus 26:33 God instructs Moses on how the veil is to be created and the purpose of it. "And you shall hang the veil from the clasps. Then you shall bring the ark of the Testimony in there, behind the veil. The veil shall be a divider for you between the holy place and the Most Holy." Exodus 30:5-6, "You shall make the poles of acacia wood, and overlay them with gold. And you shall put it before the veil that is before the ark of the Testimony, before the mercy seat that is over the Testimony, where I will meet with you.". God's glory is too brilliant for humans to see, His Word tells us we would fall dead from looking at Him (Exodus 33:20).
There was only one human, that we know of, that was able to speak one-on-one in person with God (Exodus 33:11a), because God allowed it and protected him, and that was Moses. While Moses did not see God's face, he asked God to show him His glory. So God covered his eyes, walked past him, uncovered Moses' eyes, and let him see His back. Because Moses was in the presence of God physically, his face glowed bright and frightened the Israelites so what did he use to cover his face when speaking with the Israelites? A veil! (Exodus 34:29-35).
The Glory of the New Covenant
When the veil was torn upon Jesus' death, it demonstrated that God does not live in a temple made by humans any longer and that we no longer have to make sacrifices for our sins every time we sin, but Jesus is the only way to heaven, He is our redeemer and the ultimate/final sacrifice, and that the gap between us and God is now bridged by Jesus' blood upon our acceptance of His gift of salvation. Jesus is our Mediator and we now have an open line to talk with God we no longer need a priest to speak on behave of us.
Jesus' Moments After Death
Between Jesus' death and resurrection, He went to Hades to get the key to death and the grave. (Revelation 1:17-18). God has always been in control and all-powerful, this was not to "gain control" but all of this is to prove to us physically that everything God has told us is truth, that everything, except the prophecy in Revelation, has been fulfilled, and that God, Yahweh, is the only living God. Also, He went to Heaven to sit at the right hand of God. (Luke 23:40-43).
Jesus, the Son of God, came in human form to live as we live, struggle as we struggle, be tempted as we are tempted however not sinning but preaching His Father's Word and completing everything God the Father had for Him to do. Jesus died a physical death, sacrificing Himself to physically show the world His love for us, His creation, as an atonement for our sin, a debt we could never pay. Love is not saying "I love you" but showing it through actions with love at the core. The source of love is God, for God is love, and the fulfillment of love is a verb. Anyone can say the words, but only those who are true will live it out even if dying is necessary to protect the one you love. God had told us He loves us and this was fulfilled and proven when Jesus Christ, God with us, died to save us.
Jesus is Risen!
Just as when Jesus died on the cross, when He rose from the grave, there was a violent earthquake. With a soul-changing event, creation makes a grand announcement. Jesus didn't just raise spiritually, He physically rose from the dead with a glorified, perfect body that was able to walk, eat, and be felt. This is an example to us of how our bodies will be in heaven. It is not just our soul that goes to heaven but we will get a new, perfect body that resembles our current one but is made holy and glorious. Free from the restraints we currently face (gravity and decay), free from temptation and sin, and free from time and death. Our transformed bodies will be made like Jesus, and we will be forever living with our Lord. Like a caterpillar that struggles to make its way in the world, is limited to the ground, but patiently lives each day, and one day being transformed from the worm-like creature into a beautiful butterfly, we will be made new.
There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.” So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” - Matthew 28:2-10 (NIV)
This Easter, celebrate the hope we have in Jesus, the bright future we will live, the glory of God, and the newness we have each day to do the tasks God has given us while on this earth.
Spring is beautiful, it reminds us of the beauty of life, of new birth, of fresh starts. Don't waste this spring on the same habits and attitudes you've been living, but use this as a start of something new to do more of what we ought to and live bright and hope-filled lives. HE IS RISEN! Celebrate this soul-changing truth!