Today, people around the world will be celebrating Easter. The public holiday that Christians know as Good Friday. A couple thousand years ago, it was known as the Passover and was used to remember God saving the Israelites from slavery and death in Egypt. So what happened? Jesus of Nazareth happened.
See, mankind was in a pretty bad state and it still is. We were subject completely to a pretty impossible-to-keep standard in the Levitical Law and essentially separated from God. To get to heaven, to be with God, we would have to be morally and ethically perfect/pristine/immaculate in thought, word and deed from birth to death. We would have to love God with all our mind, heart, soul and strength every second of every day from the moment we take our first breath to our last. You might be thinking, “That’s impossible”. Yeah, it is. I’m not going to lie to you, it’s impossible.
Oh well, right?
Don’t load the gun just yet, there is hope.
See, while we belong in our separation from God, we deserve the punishment of Hell (what it is to be without God), He has extended to us an olive branch. Why? Well, because God loves us. The way the world is now is not what God wanted for us. The state we are in is not what God wanted for us. So God did the impossible; He came to us. The Son of God came to earth to teach us the way we should live, to show us the truth of God and the life He offers us: eternal life. Jesus lived the life we couldn’t, the sinless and perfect life, never once sinning or falling into temptation all so that He could save us.
But there was something He had to do first. Remember what I said earlier, about mankind being in a shoddy state? Yeah see, just because the Son of God tells us what to do in the future doesn’t remove what we have already done. Let me illustrate this to you:
Imagine you get caught stealing something.You’re standing in court in front of the judge and asked to explain yourself. You tell him ‘Your Honour, you’re right, I stole those items. But don’t convict me!’ you cry out. He gives you a perplexed look and you say to him ‘I won’t do it again.’
Do you see the problem here? You’re already guilty. The crime has already been committed. Punishment must be passed. And so God goes to extreme lengths for our punishment to be taken away from us. God pours out His wrath against sin on the Son. Jesus, the Son of God, is taken to a cross over the time of Passover and crucified. God puts the weight and debt of our sins onto the Son so that He would take our punishment of Hell. Jesus, God in flesh, literally died a physical death on earth so that you and I could experience heaven. So that you and I could be with God. Jesus experienced separation from God so that you and I wouldn’t have to. The Son who had been in perfect relationship with the Father eternally would experience our just and righteous punishment so that we could have that relationship with God. He experienced Hell so that we wouldn’t have to.We have been given a free pass. We’re pardoned. Forgiven.
I want to stop here and highlight something that might help you understand this better. This next section is from John 18:36-37, when Jesus is standing before Pontius Pilate, the Roman Prefect in charge of Jerusalem about to be sentenced to death by crucifixion.
Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.” “You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
Just think about what is being said here. Jesus is telling Pilate, to his face, that He is a king. This is the King of Heaven right here. Telling Pilate straight up who He is. And what does that King do? He doesn’t call down armies of angels to strike the Romans down, nor does He show His glory and power and blow His enemies away. Instead, He lets them beat Him, strip Him and mock Him and then nail Him to a massive piece of wood. In fact, He does what kings don’t really do and He dies for His subjects, so that they may know glory and life everlasting.
And today, we celebrate that. We celebrate the victory that Christ has won for us on that cross. The innocent body and blood broken and shed for us. But you see, the death is just the beginning. Because on Sunday, that same king that died for you and me, rose again from the grave by the power of God. Against all belief and convention, a man was raised from the grave. And His name is Jesus.