This is the time of year when most families embark on buying a multitude of Easter eggs to keep their children quiet! Whilst the Easter egg issue may be a little dry, the fact remains that for so many in our society Easter is reminiscent of bunny rabbits and eggs, as well as a family get-together for Easter Sunday lunch.
I don't want to appear overly negative, however, the true meaning of Easter, I feel is regularly overlooked. By saying overlooked I mean that the whole story is not properly described or illustrated and therefore as Christians we simply accept that Jesus died for us sinners and that there is very little else to the story.
In order to get a better perspective and understanding of this, the most significant event in history, it is important to understand what happened before and what happened afterwards.
To provide holistic illustration I want to present the Easter story in a slightly different way by going back to the beginning when the earth was formed - bear with me as this won't take long, I promise!
God chose to create man in his own image. He then created woman to be a companion for man and they lived in the garden of Eden. They were given complete dominion of the earth and everything in it.
They were also given specific instructions what they could and couldn't do and so life was good. God walked with Adam in the garden of Eden and instructed Adam to go forth and multiply and to populate the earth.
Satan or Lucifer was one of the Archangels and wanted to be adored and worshiped like God. He was perhaps, also jealous of Gods creation called Man. As a result Lucifer rebelled and was cast out of Heaven along with one third of the angels who sided with Lucifer.
It is said that there are three heavens; the first heaven being the Earth, moon, stars, sun and the universe. The second Heaven is where Satan and the fallen angels reside and the third Heaven is where God and the heavenly armies are.
2 Corinthians 12:2 Paul says:
I was caught up to the third heaven fourteen years ago. Whether I was in my body or out of my body, I don't know—only God knows.
Satan, in the form of a serpent mislead Eve and in turn Adam. This deception meant that sin entered into the world. As a result, this separated man from God. This also meant that Adam (man) handed over dominion and authority for the whole earth to Satan.
The first symbolic representation for sin being covered or atoned for or paid for was in Genesis xx. When Adam and Eve were covered by the skins of animals. The next illustration of making a sacrifice or a form of offering to God was by Cain and Abel through farmed produce such as fruit and vegetables which was offered by Cain and an animal sacrifice by Abel.
As man continued to populate the earth, the fallen Angels ( the Nephellim) who accompanied Satan had sexual relations with human women who bore children who became mighty kings and warriors. Their conduct became so bad that God decided to wipe Man off the face of the earth with the exception of Noah, his family and the animals and start again. God also vowed that he would never take such drastic actions in the future (Genesis 6-10). I have included this part to illustrate the wrath of God!
There are numerous illustrations in the Bible of sacrifices being made to God, such as Abraham sacrificing his son Isaac and at the point of bringing down the dagger, God stopped him and provided a Ram instead, that was caught in a bush.
The illustration and attempted sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham was to be an illustration and prophecy of the second Adam, Jesus, being sacrificed centuries later.
Later in the Bible in the book of Leviticus, the bible teaches how different offerings were to be made to atone for varying types of sin. This practice continued up until the point of Jesus's death on the cross (for those Jews who became followers of a Jesus).
Jesus became the final sacrifice and atonement for all our sins on the cross. He was the ultimate blood sacrifice made to God for our sins.
Now it may seem strange to us that any sacrifice should be given to atone for a sin. However the reason for making offerings to atone for our sins was put in place by God to help teach man how to behave. Bearing in mind, we were created in his image and were, are his children. And as Gods children we were killing each other and killing our own children as sacrifices to other gods, I.e. demons and followers of Satan.
Whilst God had created this new location called earth where he fully intended to dwell with man on the earth, man had allowed Satan to become the ruler and in turn Satan had deceived man into doing all manner of despicable acts that abhored God.
Whilst the laws that were put in place in the book of Leviticus were to teach us about the sin and payment for sin, the real point of the laws were to demonstrate that we as humans could never live up to the law and therefore needed to rely on God. Man in his finite wisdom believed that he did not need God.
Throughout the Bible there are over 1000 prophecies and of them, there are approx 500 prophecies about Jesus and over 300 of them have come to pass!
I mentioned earlier about the fallen Angels that had sexual relations with human women. It seems quite clear that this was not supposed to happen and the fact that God virtually wiped man off the face of the earth would indicate that Satan had crossed a certain boundary.
Perhaps this is because of an eternal law that angelic beings are not to have any form of sexual relations with mankind?
If we fast forward to the time of the Immaculate Conception (Mary becoming pregnant) whilst the prophecy and blood line illustrate that Jesus was born of the line of David, however, Scripture says Jesus was born of Mary, meant literally. The bloodline for Joseph is traceable back to David and the bloodline of Mary is traceable back to Nathan also of David however Joseph did not have sexual relations with Mary and neither did anyone else.
Jesus was conceived in Mary's womb by way of the Holy Spirit and not through any form of sexual relations therefore Jesus would be The immaculate being, I.e. the Son of God.
God so loved the world that he gave his only Son Jesus as a sacrifice. Like a covert operative, Jesus got to go in behind enemy lines, to reclaim the earth from Satan.
God knew what had to be done and the only way to carry out this supernatural exercise was for God to be incarnate, to live in the flesh and blood body of Jesus the Christ. Therefore Jesus was fully man and fully God.
Satan knew what was going to happen if Jesus was born, but didn't know where or exactly when. When Satan realised that the birth had taken place, he whipped up King Herod in to a frenzy who then killed all male children under the age of five.
Like man, Satan is a created being and can only be in one place at a time and also cannot read our minds! Unlike God.
When Jesus was baptised, Satan appeared to him after 40 days and tempted Jesus in three ways firstly by trying to get Jesus to turn a stone into bread, and then suggesting that Jesus should throw himself off the top of the temple and that the angels would catch him and finally Satan offered Jesus the world because Satan new it was his to give.
Jesus did not disagree with the fact that the world was Satan's to give. This concurs with the fact that Satan had dominion over the earth and everything in it because it was given to him by the first Adam.
There was no blood and guts at this exchange. Satan made three attempts at tempting Christ and Christ answered each time with scripture. And Satan left. Do you see? Satan left, no arguments, no "if's" or "buts"! Therefore, Scriptures prove that Satan is subject to the same Scriptures as we are. They are the word of God and Satan has not option but to adhere to them too.
So now we have come to the climax of the battle between good and evil. Satan has been in control of the earth which God had created and now, God incarnate in Jesus the Christ had come to do battle, to wrestle the earth and man away from Satan.
Throughout the four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, Jesus had repeatedly foretold his destiny that he would be executed. Jesus knew that he was going to be the ultimate sacrifice that would enable him to win back the world and man.
No human in their right mind would ever willingly be killed, let alone be executed on a cross and be crucified. The nature in which Jesus died and the deliberate wounds inflicted upon him were done so for a specific reason as they all represented one form or another of the sins and fallen aspects of the world that Satan had established.
God is the most purposeful being in existence. Nothing happens without God planning it and when it came to the sacrifice of Jesus, there were five specific wounds that are identified as follows:
In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross.
God's purpose in all this was to use the church to display his wisdom in its rich variety to all the unseen rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.
This was his eternal plan, which he carried out through Christ Jesus our Lord.
Every word of the Bible is God breathed. Therefore we can be assured that the illustration and sequence of events is accurate and that the meaning is also correct. There are no hidden meanings and as Christians we must accept what the Bible says is the truth.
As was the case upon death at that time, one's soul and spirit was taken to Hades. However in this case although Jesus was taken there he was about to give Satan the shock of his life! Jesus was supposed to be dead and Satan would have believed that he was still in control. However as it says in scripture
I am the living one. I died, but look—I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave.
As prophesied, Jesus rose from the dead by the power of God and the Holy Spirit. As Christians we have the same power residing within us and it is our responsibility to ensure that we let this power flood out of our lives into this world that we living and not restrict it. By this I mean by not covering up and not allowing Gods power to flow through us into this world.
We do this by holding grudges, by not forgiving others, basically by being horrible individuals. This can also happen if we continue to believe the lies that Satan tells us. I will come onto this a bit later.
Jesus, after his resurrection, appeared to his disciples many times as well as to approximately 500 other individuals! During this time he gave instructions about preaching this/the Good News.
Apart from becoming the final sacrifice for our sins and apart from bringing us back into a relationship with God and apart from giving us eternal life, Jesus also gave us the power and authority to do the same and greater things than he did on this earth.
When many preachers talk about the cross I see the eyes of non-believers and even some Christians glazing over simply because they do not fully understand the enormity and supernatural exchange that happened when Jesus died on the cross.
It is very difficult to comprehend however, because it is supernatural and beyond our comprehension there are some things that cannot be explained. I, for one, do not feel compelled to try and extrapolate the meaning of the supernaturalness of the Cross. It happened, I accept it, and I am living a life that I know God has planned for me.
In scripture, Romans 1:18–32 Paul explains how we would suffer God's wrath because of our sin and because of our deliberate attempt to deny him. However this writing relates to non-Christians and as Christians reading from Romans 5–8 it is very clear that we have now become friends of God through Christ Jesus and his death on the Cross.
As born-again Christians we have been made righteous, which means being made right with God, we have been sanctified which means we have been made Holy so that we can exist in the presence of God. We have been justified which means "just as if I had never done anything."
Referring to Christians in Church as poor sinners is wrong and, I believe, emanates from a personal sense of condemnation for whatever reason, that needs to be identified and dealt with. Preachers need to help everyone understand Gods promises from a position of victory and not defeat. Perhaps the language needs to change so that people listening can "get it" without taking a theology degree.
We are redeemed, which means our sins have been paid for, we are free from the curse, free from death and we have complete power and authority over Satan. We are also told that we can boldly approach the Throne of God and ask for whatever we want and He will give it to us if we make our requests in the name of Jesus.
Can you even begin to comprehend how significant this is?
I have seen very few Christians who have actually accepted and realised exactly what this means and are living the life.
Jesus' sacrifice was supernatural. Christianity is supernatural. Our lives are supernatural. If you have been baptised, you have died to the world and are now living "in Christ". But this must not be confused with some form of magic or instant gratification, I.e. Pray and expect a bolt of lightning and an instant result. Jesus died so that we might have life and have it abundantly. It doesn't just relate to "stuff". God does not lie and he will provide us with what we want and what we need, however we must confess (say out loud) Jesus is Lord of our lives, get baptised, repent of our sins, meaning doing a 180 degree about face and be guided to live the life that Jesus intended for us to live.
So you see, we were not a mistake. God planned everything and when it went 'pear-shaped' because of Satan, God had a contingency plan all along in the form of Jesus, his one and only Son.
So this Easter and all those Easters to come, remember that Jesus 'took one for the team' "us" and paid the ultimate price - he gave his life as a man born on the earth. He fully experienced the all the pain of torture and inflicted on him and all because God loved us so much that he knoew he had to go through with this to win us back from Satan.
And on top of that we get to live the most amazing life here on earth before we join Him in eternity. And that eternity will be here on this earth.
Remember how Jesus instructed his disciples to pray when they asked:
Our Father who art is heaven
Hallowed be your name
Your kingdom come
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven
Give us this day our daily bread
And forgive us our trespasses (sins)
As we forgive those who trespass against us
And help us not yield to temptation
But deliver us from the evil one
I pray you have a blessed Easter and live a life that was worth dying for.