Easter is coming April 4th. To the Christian community, it is a day celebrated with the full hope of life after death, a resurrection into God’s Kingdom and a future eternal world without evil. Jesus did not kill Himself, however. He died because His life conflicted with the world around Him. His death, a horrid crucifixion, was brought about by conflicts between God and the gods of this world. There were conflicts between God whom Jesus called His Father, the God of the Law, and how it was being defined by the self=proclaimed guardians of the laws, the Jewish religious leaders along with the political gods of the time, the Romans. To understand the death of Jesus, we need to understand His life and to understand His life, it is important to know who Jesus lived for, God His Father and the people He came to help, the sick and the poor. Yes, Jesus came for sinners, to forgive all sins but that was to be by exposing the necessity of repentance. Jesus did not come to give the evil people of the world a free pass to eternity. It would be a person’s faith in Him and a changed life that would lead to the eternal hope Easter represents.
(John 14:6-11)1NIV New International Version Translations – Jesus answered, I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.’ Philip said, ‘Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.’ Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves.’”
Jesus was the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation and spoke to the world with full authority. His claim, however, was never about His own power, but the power He held through His Father.
(John 5:30) – “I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.”
Jesus was crucified because the earthly gods were evil. Wicked men conspired against Him, falsely accused Him, and then murdered Him. The leaders of Israel were envious of His following (Matthew 27:18). They were afraid that Jesus would gather a large a following which could cause the Roman authorities to crack down on the Jewish nation, resulting in the loss of even more of their authority (John 11:48). The Jewish leaders, the keepers of religious law, hated the fact that Jesus called out their sins publicly (Matthew 23). And, finally, He was accused of blasphemy when He claimed to be the Son of God (Luke 22:66–71).
The Jewish authorities lacked the power to execute someone. Rather than stoning, hanging, drowning, or some other brutal method, Jesus’ execution had to be carried out by the Romans. Crucifixion was the Roman method of execution to make an example of someone and to deter others from committing the same offense. It was normal to post the charges against the condemned on the cross. Pontius Pilate, Jesus’ judge, posted the charge “King of the Jews” on Jesus’ cross (Matthew 27:37).
The ministry of Jesus is found in our Gospels. It was to teach people God’s Truth about a real Kingdom, an eternal Kingdom, that will bring peace and hope of everlasting joy. When we look closely at who Jesus spent time with it was the tax collectors, the sick and the poor. His time with the powerful, the wealthy was spent drawing their attention to the hypocrisy of their lives. Rich did not get richer. The Gospel’s message is that to accept the miracle of Easter is to first accept being bound to the Cross.
What does it mean to be bound to the Cross?
- Jesus is the promised Savior of the world.
- Jesus will be returning for you.
- Jesus paid the full penalty for your sins as a perfect, spotless sacrifice.
- Jesus defeated the power of sin and death and purchased, for you who believe in Him, eternal life.
- The world the hates the truth and hate you if you expose their lies and hypocrisy.
- The gods of the world, power and wealth, place your well-being at risk because of your faith in Jesus.
- The world loves sin, and they love to define sin on their own terms, not God’s terms. The world’s definitions are filled with deceit that can trap you.
- God will not show favoritism. He will judge according to your obedience to Him not your obedience to the world.
- A claim of Christianity is not enough, you must be different than this world.
The costs of being a Christian on Easter can be summarized as follows:
- The denial of our own interests and needs is what we must do to our human nature every day of our lives.
- It is impossible to show love to any living being if you have no time for that person. The life of a Christian must reflect God’s love. It takes your time, talent, treasure and testimony.
- If we really wish to celebrate Easter, we need to be willing to detach from this world and move into His world.
(Luke 9: 61-62) – “Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family. Jesus replied, ‘No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.’”
(Matthew 6:24) – “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money., it is impossible to be a slave of two masters.”
To celebrate Easter means to ask Jesus to be the center of your life, to have Him walk with you all day, every day. Celebrating Easter means that your joy comes from His strength and His promise, not only on this Easter day but every day of your life. Christ’s death on the cross was for us and His resurrection from the cross was before us! “Follow Me” says the living Lord, “I know the Way.”
- What have the costs, the hardships been for you as a Christian?
- Ideas to Explore: Today, hardships are few, maybe some inconveniences, in some circles, a good social move – Is that the cost to you? What about the parts of the world that show hardships, even death? Are you willing to stand by Jesus even in death?
- To you, what does it mean to Follow Jesus?
- Ideas to Explore: How is your life, your family’s life, your co-worker’s lives, your neighbor’s lives, your community’s lives, your country’s lives better because you are a Christian who is celebrating Easter? How are you really different?
- How much pain would you be willing to take on to be/stay a visible Christian?
- Ideas to Explore: Who do you know who has suffered but demonstrated joy in the process? Will you share your personal testimony to others? Are you sharing your talents? Is generosity an attribute that your friends would include when describing who you are?
- How much of Easter in your life is tradition-base?
- Ideas to Explore: What are your memories of Easter? Is Easter a time for baskets, chocolate rabbits, jelly beans, dinner at mom’s? Do you go to church/worship on Easter? Do you go to church/worship on every other Sunday?
- What do you do to keep from succumbing to the world’s deceptions?
- Ideas to Explore: Do you have an accountability partner? Do you regularly pray? Do you spend time with the Bible?
- 1NIV New International Version Translations