Do we really understand all that Easter encompasses?
Written by Luis Palau
Tags: Bible, Easter
"When I survey the wondrous cross, on which the King of Glory died, my richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride."
How often do we consider the cross to that extent today?
At least once a year we take time to reflect on what Jesus Christ has done for us. Every Easter we think of the cross, the tomb, and the resurrection. But do we really understand all that Easter encompasses? All too often we throw around religious, theological words, but we don’t stop and think about what they really mean.
Here are 12 crucial, biblical terms to ponder. As we speak these words this Easter we can appreciate anew the reason we celebrate.
Sin is choosing our own will over God’s will. This turning to self instead of God has infected every human since the Garden of Eden—separating us from our God and each other. The devastation of sin is why we so need to have an Easter.
If we look at the underlying motive that results in a “sinful” action, we’ll realize that overcoming sin is not about changing behavior; it’s about changing where we place our heart and will; it’s about changing from self-rule to God-rule. But we can’t even do that on our own power. Easter celebrates that the power of sin was broken by Jesus Christ when he died for our sins and rose from the dead. His victory is the basis for our victory (Romans 6:5-11).
Repentance is not just saying, “I’m sorry.” It’s turning away from the sin that separated us from God; reaching out, instead, to receive God’s forgiveness and the new life he offers. Repentance is necessary for salvation (Acts 3:19). We must agree with God about our sin and turn toward him. We do not need to be perfect before we come to God, and we will still sin while we’re in this human body. But too often we shrug off our sins by saying, “Well, God’s forgiven me, so I’m okay.” That is not repentance. Repentance puts action to our words. True repentance means letting the forgiveness you’ve experienced change your life.
Throughout history, God has been merciful and forgiving to those who repent of their sin. But that doesn’t mean forgiveness is automatic. Because the penalty for sin is death, God’s law says there can be no forgiveness without the sacrifice of a life. Jesus’ death paid the ultimate price, and now our sins are wiped out, gone forever. It is true that we will still sin in this life, but God continues to forgive us when we come to him (1 John 1:9).
When God forgives us, he cleans us. When he cleans us, we’re clean all the way through to the depths of our being. As part of his forgiveness, God cleanses us from all our sin and declares that we are now as “white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18; Hebrews 10:22).
Jesus Christ gave his blood on a torturous Roman cross to pay the penalty for our sin and to give us new life through a relationship with him. Centuries before Christ’s death, as a picture of what was to come, God told the Israelites to apply splotches of lamb’s blood on the doorframes of their houses. It was a sign that they believed in God and trusted him to spare their families from the angel of death whom God sent to Egypt (Exodus 12:21-23). The blood of animals could never really forgive sins—they only anticipated the blood of Jesus Christ’s ultimate sacrifice— his perfect, sinless, loving life (Hebrews 10:4-7).
A true sacrifice involves giving up something that is cherished. Abraham showed that he loved God by his willingness to sacrifice his long-awaited son Isaac as God commanded. The Israelites showed their obedience to God, worshiped God, and received the promise of forgiveness through the giving of animal and grain sacrifices.
It is no accident that the Crucifixion and Resurrection occurred during Passover. As the most important sacrifice in the Old Testament, Passover paints the most vivid picture of the greatest sacrifice ever made: the one made by God the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus sacrificed his place in heaven to become human; he then sacrificed his life by dying on the cross to pay the price for our sins (Philippians 2:8). Giving our total lives as a living sacrifice to him is our natural and appropriate response of worship (Romans 12:1).
Some people call for God to save them only when they are desperate and in immediate danger. In the Old Testament, when God’s people called out to him for salvation, they were looking for deliverance from their enemies. We may not have an army on our doorstep, but we’re all in immediate danger from the effects and consequences of sin. We can’t save ourselves from this— we need a rescue operation. Thankfully, God executed the rescue operation for salvation. He sent his Son to save the world by paying the penalty for sin and bringing us back to God (John 3:16). Our salvation is the accomplishment of the Crucifixion and Resurrection—the beautiful fruit of Easter.
Jesus Christ’s death replaced our spiritual death. He redeemed, or paid the price for, our sins to bring us back to God. Sometimes the devil tries to make us doubt that we really belong to the Lord, but our redemption is solid. Jesus’ resurrection from the dead proves that (Colossians 1:14). We know that there is nothing we can do to nullify the redemption Christ bought for us (Ephesians 1:7).
The cross points to God’s rescue plan of the world. When we think of the cross, we should think of Jesus Christ, who was painfully stretched out and nailed to it, whose blood was shed, whose side was pierced and whose death paid the price of all sin (Isaiah 53:5). Without Jesus’ death on a cross, Christians cannot inherit God’s gift of salvation. We also associate the cross with Christ’s call on our life. He asks us to take up our own cross, in denial of ourselves and in commitment to him (Mark 8:34).
Jesus’ grave is empty because he came back to life after being dead three days. God had this planned from long ago. Prophets of old, given visions by the Holy Spirit, talked about Christ’s coming death and his triumph over the grave (Acts 3:21).
Christians have eternal life, but it doesn’t mean we’ll never die a physical death. We all have to leave this life sometime. But Jesus’ empty grave means we don’t have to fear death anymore. In fact, we’re told that he defeated death and Hades. His resurrection means that we can have life even after our bodies die and that one day our bodies will be raised anew (Romans 6:4). We can live in peace with the Lord forever.
The belief in Jesus Christ’s bodily resurrection defines Christianity. His victorious return from death fulfilled prophecy and proved his claims of deity. The resurrection is evidence of God’s satisfaction with the Son’s sacrifice on humanity’s behalf (1 Peter 1:3-5). The Holy Spirit brought Christ to life again. That same Holy Spirit dwells within believers; therefore, Christians can trust that we, too, will rise to eternal life after we experience physical death (Romans 6:22). All of these truths are celebrated in words of joy that ring out each Easter in many different languages: “The Lord is Risen! He is risen indeed!”
Jesus paid the penalty for the sins of all humankind on the cross. Buried in a borrowed tomb, he rose again three days later as proof that his mission to conquer sin and death had been accomplished. Jesus appeared to his disciples and then returned to heaven 40 days later with the promise that he would return again someday. Jesus’ words and life show us how to live life, but his message was that humanity should respond to God’s love. Jesus claimed to be much more than a wise man or great teacher. He claimed to be God—a God willing to die for his creation so that their love relationship could be restored (Romans 5:10). Through his birth, life, death, and resurrection, Jesus fulfilled the hundreds of prophecies in the Old Testament that foretold of a coming Messiah, a Savior not only for the nation of Israel, but for the whole world (1 Timothy 4:10). How will you respond to Jesus’ life and love?
The point and the pinnacle of Easter celebration is the worship of Jesus Christ, the one who declared, “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades” (Revelation 1:17-18).
Were you surprised by any of the 12 definitions of biblical terms?
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