We are nearing the end of what is often referred to as Holy Week in the Church. This was the most climactic week of Jesus’ life, without doubt. The crowds already know who he is, and many of them are still hyped because of the miracle they had witnessed not far from Jerusalem – a man who had been dead for four days was walking and talking again, healthy and alive. So a few days later when Jesus stages his “grand entry” into Jerusalem, naturally the crowds are enthusiastic. They are waving palm branches and hailing the arrival of their king. They are celebrating. He is teaching in the temple or outside Jerusalem every day. The people can’t get enough of him.
And four days later they are calling for his death. After being falsely accused of sedition and experiencing a mockery of a trial, and scorned by the rulers of the day, he is finally taken to be scourged and killed in the most painful and humiliating way the Romans could imagine.
They missed it. Their king had come to them, although they were looking for someone else. Someone who would overthrow their oppressors and deliver their nation back to them. Although, if they had been paying attention…
The Messiah was presented to them on the 10th day of the month, just before the Passover, when the sacrificial lamb was selected. The lamb had to be without blemish, and after its selection it was to be out for all to see until the time of sacrifice. And then, on the 14th day of the month the Messiah was put to death at the same time as the Passover lamb, according to John. So on Sunday the Messiah appeared to the people, and on Thursday they killed him.
He spent three days and nights in the tomb, and sometime Saturday night he was resurrected. When women came to the tomb on the first day of the week, he was already gone.
Jesus’ death and resurrection are the two pivotal points in history upon which all else hangs. Jesus bore our sins on the cross (it was not technically a payment for our sin, which I’ve mentioned in the past but that’s a topic for another time). He was the sacrifice for our sin, our Passover lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7) and the last sacrifice that would ever be required (Heb 10:10-12). Because of this sacrifice, we can be justified before God. We can be forgiven and be spared the wrath of God. We die with him, to use Paul’s terminology, and so we live with him. We are set free from sin and made free to live holy lives, since we have been cleansed of all sin.
But his death would not have meant as much without the resurrection. Indeed, had it not happened, we would be the most pitiable of people. For all that, we would still be doomed to die, because even God would not have been able to conquer death. If he cannot, what hope do we have? If he is not raised, we are all still in our sins. We are all the same way we were when we came to God, and He has done nothing to help us. Thanks be to God that death was defeated that day! We do have hope. We are assured the victory, because it is God who works in us and equips us every day.