As we look back on this past Easter weekend, we should look very closely at what Easter should mean for us? Obviously, Easter has different meanings for different people, but the real question is what did God intend Easter to mean for us?
Way back in history, even before the time Jesus walked the earth. The Old Testament covenants were usually established with a blood sacrifice, as was the case with Abraham’s (Genesis 15) and Moses’ (Exodus 24) covenant procedures with God. The animals were sacrificed so that our sins could be forgiven through the blood shed by the animals in their death. The covenant was established between God and man so that their sins could be covered and so that every person who lived before Jesus came along would not have to go to hell. So when Jesus came along and said “For this is My blood that establishes the covenant; it is shed for many for the forgiveness of sins,” He was following a pattern for a promise that would rock the world and change how sins would be forgiven.
Jesus was also tapping back to the symbolism of the Passover, wherein the Hebrews avoided the plague of death to their firstborns by sacrificing a lamb to God. Jesus took the role of the lamb so we can avoid the plague of eternal death.
Adam Hamilton, senior pastor at United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Kansas used a great analogy in his book 24 Hours That Changed the World to put into perspective what Jesus was doing on those 3 days:
In Jesus, God entered the boxing arena where evil seems to have the upper hand. He took the worst blows of the enemy, being subject to the powers that conspired to destroy hem. He was beaten, abused, and eventually knocked out. But just when the match seemed lost, Jesus arose; and in his resurrection he dealt a finishing blow to the forces of evil, sin and death. Christ became the Victor. With his victory all humankind was offered the opportunity to join forces with him; to be set free from the poser of evil, sin, and death; and to live lives of hope, freedom, and love.
Human beings still must choose to side with him.. They are not forced to leave their enslavement to sin and death. The battle between good and evil will continue until Christ’s return, but his death and resurrection dealt a decisive blow to the forces of evil and demonstrated the ultimate victory of God over it.
I think this is a very good analogy to use. A boxing match can be long and drawn out. In the same way the battle between good and evil seems very long to you and I, but in the grand scheme of time, it probably is not near as long as we think.
Christ’s resurrection is a vindication of his message, his identity, and his death on the cross. In his message, Jesus taught a way of life based upon the love of God and neighbor. He ministered to lost and broken people. One of the things that upset the religious authorities then was that Jesus sat down with drunkards and prostitutes; he let them be part of his ministry. He taught that God was like a father who had two sons, one of whom ran away. That was the approach Jesus embodied in his ministry. His message about what Gad was like was completely countercultural. Blessed are the poor, hungry, the meek, the lowly, the peacemakers. Blessed are you when you are persecuted for my name’s sake. When a Roman soldier beats you on the face, turn the other cheek and let him beat that one as well. When he demands that you carry his pack for a mile, carry it a second mile. Love not only your neighbors, but also your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you. Don’t forgive them just seven times, but seventy times seven times. These were bizarre statements. How could anybody really live that way? But what he taught was vindicated by his resurrection.
After Jesus rose from the dead, he came back to the earth and spent 40 days on earth before returning to heaven. During this time, Jesus appeared to the disciples on a mountain. At this time he gave them what is known as the Great Commission.
19 “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
I would like to paraphrase what Jesus was telling the disciples here. “I want you to preach to good news of the kingdom of God. I want you to make disciples of all people. Teach them what I taught you. Baptize them. Even though you may not see me, you need to know this: No matter where you go, no matter what you do, until this age is over, I will be with you always.”
There is no doubt the disciples were transformed following the Resurrection. These people who had deserted Jesus because they were afraid, who hid behind locked doors rather than help bury him, were now in the streets of Jerusalem proclaiming him to everyone. “Do with us what you want,” they said. “Kill us if you must, but we have to tell you: The one you crucified we have seen raised from the dead. He is in fact the Son of God. He is the King of glory, the Savior of the world.” They went from there throughout the world proclaiming the good news. They faced difficult times. They were arrested again and again, beaten, abused, and thrown into prison. All but one of them were put to death because of their faith, but they would never again dwell in those dark places of the spirit. No more would they feel the doubt and despair they felt before they had seen their risen Lord. They faced life with hope and confidence. When we hear, trust, and celebrate this Easter story, we reclaim the same faith and discover the same joy and hope the first disciples had. Easter has the power to change us.
In response our role on earth is to accept Christ in faith and receive the forgiveness of our sins. But we have a second part to play. We must spread the word. Because of the new covenant with God that Jesus’ death initiated, we can have a personal relationship with Him. No priests, sacrifices, or intermediaries are necessary, just grace and love. But with that comes the expectation that we will boldly proclaim this covenant of love and freedom to the world, so that others will enjoy a relationship with Him and, in turn, spread the news even further.
To end, I would like you to ponder these two very important questions.
What is significant about the claim that Jesus’ blood was shed for many?
How has that truth affected your life?