“He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces.”
“The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name.”
1 Corinthians 15:55
“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
We’re two weeks away from Easter Weekend. This means we ought to be thinking about what it all means and teaching our children, like we do at Christmas time, that there is more to this story than meets the eye. Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday are two days that represent the pinnacle of what our faith in Christ revolves around – the day he died and the day he was raised; the day our sins were forgiven forever and the day death and Satan were conquered. Sometimes we see Easter as a holiday time and another round of public holidays on the calendar, but we don’t really spend time dwelling on it. If you think about how much you dwell on Christmas when that comes around, you’ll probably find that Easter gets a lot less airtime in your own walk with Christ. Why is that?
The fact is that Jesus died and rose again and it really happened in history. If someone died tomorrow and rose from the dead three days later, I bet you would be pretty shocked. And whatever that person had to say you would deem to be mighty important. But sometimes I think the familiarity of Easter causes us to forget what we ought to be doing with it. As Christians, we are to always look back at what Jesus did so that we can see what He is doing today, and so we can look forward to what He will do – wipe away tears from all faces. We are to live in the story of Easter.
Easter means we no longer have to search for God. He meets us in Jesus. He met us on the cross when Jesus took the punishment of sin for us, so that our conscience is clear when we put our faith in Him, and we are free. We do not live trying to stack up enough good works to impress God so that we will escape judgement. In Jesus, by faith in Him, we have passed through judgement and have already received eternal life.
Here’s a question for you to think about as we lead up to Easter:
Are your sins forgiven? Or are you trying to pay for them yourself?
Easter meeting times across Johannesburg
Contrary to popular belief that Easter (an Old English word for ‘Passover’) is all about chocolate, eggs and bunnies, Easter is celebrated by Christians as a time that represents the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
It would be impossible to delve into all the details of these two events and what they mean in such a short space. But phrases such as “Jesus died for your sins” or “he was raised on the third day” often become clichés that bear no meaning for many people.
So what do these phrases really mean? Their meaning is multi-faceted and often very difficult to grasp unless we really know who Jesus was and how he lived his life. All of that has been recorded in the Bible books of Matthew, Mark Luke and John, and anyone interested in Christianity should start there.
In short, Jesus ‘died for our sins’ on Good Friday by taking them upon himself when he, as an innocent man who brought healing to others, underwent a torturous and unjust death nailed to a Roman instrument of capital punishment – a wooden cross. Justice declares that all of us, one way or another, ought to pay for the wrong things (sin) we have done to each other and even to ourselves. In effect, death is our punishment. But Jesus took the punishment of death upon himself in our place and was raised to life three days later on the Sunday (Easter Sunday) after He himself had conquered death.
By taking the punishment upon himself we no longer have to face what justice requires. Instead, we can go free – live forgiven, restored, in peace and in healing. By being raised to life Jesus declares that he has conquered death and that all who trust in Him live in his victory. In other words, we move from death into life, not death into death, when we trust Jesus. And all it takes is a simple decision to do so!
When Jesus insisted that those who were murdering him and mankind should not suffer justice but be forgiven (Luke 23:34) he ushered in a new order (Kingdom) of grace, mercy and peace. No longer does mankind need to live under an order where wrong must be put right through punishment, but now mankind can live in an order of grace and mercy where wrong is put right through love. This is how the Christian endeavours to live – just as Jesus lived.
There’s more. Jesus gives Christians his Holy Spirit, who is also God, and who lives in Christians, empowering them to live a life of love and grace; empowering them to bring God’s healing, restoration and reconciliation to the world.
And it all boils down to that pinnacle moment – Easter Sunday – when what God will do in the future – raise us up to life – was brought into the present.
The promise of God’s grace, mercy, peace and restoration is open to anyone and everyone. It doesn’t matter who you are and what you’ve done, when you trust in Jesus your sins are completely wiped away.
That’s why we celebrate Easter.