Today is Good Friday, and for many of us, it’s nothing more than a nice day off from work, or an obligatory church service with the family.
If we’re really honest with ourselves, we live our lives as if Easter Weekend is nothing more than a box to check off, a family dinner to plan, another holiday to celebrate. It seems so…ordinary. Come Monday, we’ll be back at the daily grind, or taking care of kids, or running errands, or planning summer vacation.
But the empty cross and the empty grave refuse to let us treat this weekend as any other weekend, or just another holiday on a calendar. They testify to the reality that something huge, something earth-shakingly magnificent, happened over 2,000 years ago, and nothing will be same.
This weekend is the weekend that changed the world. Here’s 3 reasons how that’s true.
Jesus put death to death
Before that Friday afternoon of His death, Jesus spent lots of time teaching and preaching. Often the things He said were shocking to His audiences, even perplexing. Here’s an example:
“…”I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.”
– John 11:25-26 (ESV)
Whoever would believe in Him, even though they physically died, they’d still live? What does that mean? It’s claims like this that no doubt left many of His listeners dumbfounded. It sounds cryptic and strange…not to mention impossible.
Unless it’s true. If it is, then Jesus isn’t some nutjob. He’s just telling the truth--that death’s days are numbered. And they’re numbered because Jesus Himself has mastery over death.
Just a few verses later in John 11, Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead–with a single command. A man who had been dead for 4 days comes stumbling out of a tomb. I think it’s safe to assume that the crowd witnessing this stood in stupefied silence for a good while.
But if that’s not amazing enough, Jesus makes this statement about his own life and death:
“For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”
-John 10:17-18 (ESV)
Don’t miss the weightiness of those words, let them sink in for a second. Jesus just made the claim to his listeners that even if He dies, He dies because He chose to die, and He has the power to choose to come back to life.
No person who’s ever lived can make a claim like that. Jesus was telling the truth–that He has power over death, that He alone has the final word.
If this is true, this is gloriously good news. This is jump-up-and-down rejoicing kind of good news.
This means that Jesus has the power to bring the dead back to life–forever. This means that death isn’t the end, that we can possess eternal life. Just as Jesus was raised from the dead to newness of life, so too will those who believe in Him..
It is finished
Around 3pm on a Friday 2,000 years ago, Jesus breathed his last breath. In John’s gospel, the disciple of Jesus wrote down Jesus’ last words:
“…he said,”It is finished,”and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”
– John 19:30 (ESV)
It is finished. In the original language, that’s “tetelestai”. It’s a first-century accounting term used to indicate that an account is paid in full.
When Jesus uttered those words, he was declaring that our debt was paid–with His own blood. Our record of sin was cancelled, and forgiveness of sin was purchased for us.
The reality of Easter is that sinners like us–condemned to separation from God eternally in hell–can be forgiven by a righteous yet merciful God who put our sin on the shoulders of His Son Jesus.
Easter means forgiveness for all who believe, because Jesus willingly took the wrath that was aimed at us for our sin. And if that’s not amazing enough, God credits Jesus’ perfect record of righteousness to us. In other words, for those who believe in Jesus, God will never again see their sin, He will only see the perfection of His Son covering them.
Think of this! To be forgiven and accepted by God forever! And it’s gift that He gives to us, not something we strive to earn.
Now we can draw near
The temple in Jerusalem contained an innermost room called the Holy of Holies. It was where God’s presence and His glory dwelt. But not just anybody could go in there, only the High Priest could after a series of rituals and sacrifices, and only once a year.
A massive curtain separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the temple. It was symbolic of the fact that we too are separated from a Holy God, and just as the High Priest had to wash himself before entering the room, we too need a cleansing before we can enter into God’s presence again.
When Jesus died on the cross, that massive curtain was torn in two. It was as if God Himself ripped it in half with His own hands. The way back to God is now open, and we don’t have to go through any rituals or make any sacrifices–God made the necessary sacrifice.
“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 (ESV)
For those who believe in Jesus, God’s throne is a place we can approach with confident hope, because through His death, Jesus has paid the penalty for our sin, and now God stands ready to accept us through Him. His throne is a place where we can find mercy and help, his arms are welcoming arms that we can run to.
On that Good Friday, Jesus was condemned so we could be accepted and welcomed into relationship with God.
This weekend, while all the family traditions, dinners, get-togethers, and good times may seem to be communicating that this is just another holiday, remember: this is no ordinary weekend. This is a remembrance of the weekend that changed everything. Because of what Christ did for us through His death and resurrection, through faith in Him we’ll live forever, we’ll receive God’s forgiveness of all our sin, and we’ll be restored to a relationship with God.
That’s something worth celebrating.