What is Easter all about?
Why is it the most important point in the Christian calendar, even in all of history?
Easter is celebrated around the same time each year – early spring – and it coincides with an ancient Jewish festival, The Passover.
This was instituted, when the enslaved Jewish nation were about to be freed from over 400 years of slavery under the Egyptians and their King or Pharoah. It was a simple meal, prepared considering the imminent escape and need to travel light. The meal itself included a lamb and this was to be eaten in families or if it was too large, several families. As the lamb was killed some of its blood was to be placed on the door posts of each house.
Why was this necessary?
Well, God had promised to free Israel, but Pharoah did not recognise ‘God’ – who is this God he announced. So God warned Pharoah nine times through awe inspiring plagues to ‘let his people go’, these included water being turned into blood, frogs, gnats, flies, livestock deaths, boils, hail, locusts, darkness and the final plague was that every first born (animal or human) would die unless they had blood on their doorposts. So the blood was protection against the final and most deadly plague. Many trusted the warning and put blood on their door posts, but many did not – including Pharoah, whose first born son was killed and as a result – he finally agreed to free the millions of slaves. You may recall some of this from the animated movie ‘Prince of Egypt’ or from reading the Book of Exodus in the Bible.
Well, that whole episode was just a picture, or a mere sign to demonstrate what the real Passover would look like. This time there would be an even greater deliverance, from an even greater and more long-lasting danger. Jesus was the ‘Lamb of God who took away the sin of the world’ just like the lambs that were slaughtered in Egypt. In the same way his blood was shed, so that many might be saved from their sin (everything bad and evil that we do, mostly to each other, but underneath it all it is against God himself) and receive not just a temporary freedom from human slavery – but an eternal freedom from the power and stain of sin.
What was the big problem in any case?
There was no other way that God could simultaneously uphold his righteous nature (To punish sin – which each of us have, no matter how good, religious, or otherwise have done) and yet at the same time forgive people who turned away from their sin and be merciful. We can understand this by the fact, that no matter how ‘sorry’ a murderer is – we still feel the correct outcome is that they are punished with a lengthy prison sentence. We can’t just ‘let people off the hook and pretend nothing happened’. Similar with God – we stand in horror at evil, and so we should, but God hates evil more than we ever could. Yet, because of his great love for us, he made a daring rescue plan, one that would cost Him everything; His one and only Son. For us, who receive this gift – it is however free.
So, we see how Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane ahead of his crucifixion; there, was no other way for salvation – except through the horrific death of a perfect sacrifice on the awful method of punishment of the time: a Roman cross.
Jesus went to the cross willingly, and as He died, he uttered the most powerful statement in all history “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” [Luke 23:34]. Indicating the reason, why He was there – was for you and I, and even those people who brutally killed and mocked him. Here Jesus asks that we be forgiven and are not ‘guilty as charged’ despite all the evidence against us to the contrary, as He died in our place – known as the great exchange: Jesus died the death we deserved for the sin we committed, to give us eternal life that we could never earn and the eternal forgiveness of our sin.
So, Jesus was killed and died, and was buried. But whilst Jesus was alive, he had spoken of coming back to life – and no one really had a category for that or even believed him. Who would? It is not a realistic or natural thing to say, or even believe. This included his disciples who all abandoned him and had the most reason to be sceptical about these outrageous claims than anyone.
On the third day, Jesus rose from the dead, and evidenced that everything was as He had said it was. The resurrection is proof that we can be and are forgiven and that sin can be dealt with by His shed blood on the Cross.
Happy Easter, as we celebrate the wonderful life, death, and resurrection of Jesus!!