From The Pastor's Desk
Yesterday was Easter Sunday and once again the words “Christ is Risen” were heard around the world. For the Christian faith, those words, whether said in person or said virtually, continue to have a powerful impact upon our lives. One of the main reasons that they mean so much and bring such joy to people of faith is that they point us to accomplishment. Accomplishment almost always brings us a great deal of satisfaction and even delight. It is how one feels at the successful conclusion of a home renovation project for instance or at the end of an arduous educational journey. Walking across the stage to get the degree or showing off the final result of the renovation work makes all of the effort and pain of getting to the end worthwhile!
In some ways the resurrection is that moment in God's purposes of redemption. God's determination and program to redeem his creation predated even the making of the world. Peter writes that “[Jesus as sacrifice] was foreknown before the foundations of the world” (1 Pet 1:20). Throughout scripture the purpose of God to redeem people through sacrifice is made clear. After Adam and Eve sinned and were ejected from the garden, God provided his first promise of redemption in the words directed to the serpent that “the seed of the woman would bruise your head and you shall bruise his heel” (Gen 3:15). The curse of death would not be the final word.
When God formed his people as a community that would be “my treasured possession . . . a kingdom of priests and a holy nation,” he gave to them the sacrificial system as a way of maintaining their relationship with him. At the heart of it was blood sacrifice as a reminder to Israel that only through the death of a substitute could sin be atoned for. But the repeated daily, weekly and yearly sacrifices all said that their answer was not final.
Then when God raised up a king for Israel after his own heart, he gave him glimpses of what being a leader involved. He had to carry his people for on his faithfulness the well being of the people hung. Reading through the book of Kings it becomes evident that the king's faithfulness or lack thereof determined whether Israel was blessed or suffered God's judgment. David understood that and in his psalms reflected upon it. He knew that standing true even in the face of adversaries who mocked him and derided him was crucial to the well being of the people he shepherded (cf., Ps 22:6-8; 69:19-21). That is why the psalms are full of affirmation of his trust in God in the face of those who are his enemies. These psalms anticipated the greater son of David who would be Israel's everlasting king who would bear their reproach and atone for it.
Later as God raised up the prophets, they become even more explicit in speaking of the suffering servant who would stand in the place of sinners to bear God's wrath against their sin. Isaiah (53) is particularly clear but other prophets like Daniel and Zechariah also pointed to the coming one who would die for the people.
Thus when Jesus came, the angels announced to Joseph that “you shall call his name Jesus for he will save his people from their sins” (Matt 1:21). John the Baptist introduced him at the outset of his public ministry as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn 1:29). Jesus' ministry moved steadily toward his arrival in Jerusalem at Passover to be the great Passover sacrifice. The apostle John wrote during the early ministry years of Jesus that “the hour” had not yet come but then at the appointed time, “the hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified” (Jn 12:23). In the other gospels, Jesus spoke of his upcoming death to his disciples and reminded them that “he must go as it was written of him” (Matt 26:24). In the Garden on the eve of his crucifixion, he prayed that the cup might pass from him but then reiterated three times, “not my will but yours be done.” He would fulfill the Father's purposes. Hence repeatedly, in the crucifixion narratives, the gospel writers note that Jesus did what fulfilled the scriptures (Mat 26:54, 56, Jn 19:23-24, 36-37). Finally when all was accomplished he cried out, “It is finished” (Jn 19:30). The purposes of God for the redemption of the world had been accomplished.
When the angels announced to the women that first Easter morning, “He is not here, he is risen just as he said,” they were heralding "mission accomplished!" The resurrection was God's grand exclamation mark that all was fulfilled. Later Jesus would say to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, “Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” (Lk 24:26). The writer of the book of Hebrews declared that “when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God” (10:12). For believers in Jesus everywhere, the resurrection is God's wonderful declaration that salvation is accomplished and whoever will may be reconciled to him. “In Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their sins against them” (2 Cor 5:19). Have you received that completed salvation personally? May this truth thrill your heart and shape your life at this season of the year because you have entered into that great salvation!