Three Days that Changed the World
Have you noticed how one small choice that you have made in your life can affect the direction of your life? Maybe it was attending an event where you met your spouse. Or possibly it was the choice of where you would live or work. Simple choices will have a lasting impact on our lives.
For me, the choice of where we would attend church when we moved to Cache Valley changed the course of our lives. At the time, we chose one of the smallest churches because it offered us the greatest opportunities for ministry. Little did we know that six years later I would be asked to serve as the church’s pastor.
In the moment, such choices are mere blips on the radar of our life. They are one of countless other choices that we make each and every day. But every now and then, we look back and find how one choice stands out as being a turning point in our lives and the lives of our families.
At Easter, we remember how Jesus’ choice to go to the cross to die for our sins brought us forgiveness. The first hint of Jesus’ journey to the cross comes at his first public miracle at the wedding where he turned water into wine. When Jesus’ mother suggests that he help the distressed couple, he says “My hour has not yet come.” Only later would we know fully what he meant.
Jesus had many opportunities to turned aside from his mission of going to the cross. But, as Luke says, “When the days drew near for him to be taken up [to heaven], he set his face to go to Jerusalem." (9:51) Setting his face towards Jerusalem meant that he went with resolute determination knowing that the suffering and death he had told his disciples about was near.
“He set his face to go to Jerusalem.” Have you considered why? Why would any sane person walk into harm’s way? You don’t need to consider the question long before you think of the soldier or policeman or fireman who walks into the face of danger for the sake others. Jesus’ mission was similar; he didn’t go to the cross for his sake but ours. This is what we celebrate at Easter.
Without Jesus going to the cross we would still be lost, dead in our sins. On Good Friday, we remember how on the cross, Jesus paid the penalty for our sins. Scripture uses the word propitiation to describe what Christ did. Christ is "our propitiation," meaning that on the cross he became “a sacrifice that bears God’s wrath and turns it to favor.” Hebrews 9:22 tells us that it was necessary because, “According to the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.”
Jesus sets His face on Jerusalem knowing it would meancertain death, "Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written of the Son of man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered to the Gentiles, and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon; they will scourge him and kill him." (Luke 18:31)
To appreciate Easter, we must understand the cost of the cross. Yes, there was the physical pain and death, but there was something even more terrifying that the cross brought. When Jesus bore our sins, he takes upon himself the wrath we deserved. This meant that for the first time ever the Father was separated from the Son. “"He himself bore our sins" in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; "by his wounds you have been healed." (1 Peter 2:24) The healing we receive is a restored relationship with the Father that is claimed for us in the resurrection when we believe.
Easter is not merely about a dead man rising; it is about the Father accepting the Son’s sacrifice for our sins. The righteous for the unrighteous. Therefore, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16) We have confidence because Christ’ death full satisfied God’s wrath and opened the means for our forgiveness and hope for eternal life. Christians celebrate Easter because it testifies of our hope that the wages of our sins (death) have been satisfied allowing us to receive, “the free gift of eternal life” (Romans 6:23) because of the resurrection.