We're good at anticipating Easter, aren't we? I love Easter.
The dresses, the dyed eggs, the jelly beans, the baskets, the ham, the jelly beans, the Cadbury eggs, the jelly beans, the springiness all around us, the celebration, the jelly beans, the joy & fear of Mary Magdalene's discovery, the loved hymns, “Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleluia!” I mean, it’s so absolutely wonderful. I love Easter Sunday....all of it (except the bunny).
Yes. We are good at anticipating Easter. And rightfully so...we should love it. It's the most amazing feat on planet earth...the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. It would be impossible to over-celebrate the most enormous event that has ever happened on planet earth. We actually under-celebrate it severely. So yes, we must anticipate Easter with a holy anticipation. We must live as resurrection people.
Easter joy is the greatest joy on planet earth. The only joy that will ever be better than Easter joy will be Heaven's joy...because Easter is in fact the work of Heaven. Easter is a glimpse of Heaven on Earth.
Yet, we cannot celebrate the joy of the resurrection without first going through the sacred pain & devastation of Good Friday. There is no joy in Jesus being alive again if we don’t humbly remember that before he rose again he had to die.
Between the "Hosanna's" of Palm Sunday and the "He is Risen!" of Easter morning there is the ugliness of "Crucify Him!" and the holy wonder of "It is finished."
Tomorrow is Good Friday. The darkest day in history and yet the day in history that proves the love of God more than anything else in the world. They day that the sun stopped shining because the Son was full of sin. The day the Father had to turn his face away from his Son for the first time in eternity. The day that Jesus took my place in dying the death that my sin deserved. The day that Jesus’ body was filled with all the sin in the world to the point of death. The day that Jesus stripped my sin away from me.
A couple of nights ago as I was tucking my girls into bed, my six-year-old Lillian asked the question that we all wonder sometimes, “Okay, but why is Good Friday called Good Friday? I mean, what’s good about Jesus dying?”
Jesus was arrested, faced an unjust trial, mocked, spit on, stripped, beaten, whipped nearly to death, had cruel thorns thrust into his scalp, nailed to a wooden cross, and executed in one of the worst execution processes in human history. The weight of the sin in Jesus’ body is unfathomable…it makes me ache and hurts my brain to think about it. And yet we call it good? It’s horridly devastating.
Oh, but it’s so good. Jesus stripped away our sin and nailed it to the cross so it no longer keeps you and I in bondage. “He himself bore our sin in his body on the tree, so that we can die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds healed.” 1 Peter 2:24.
As the songwriter expressed in the old hymn:
What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
Oh, precious is the flow that makes me white as snow.
Oh, no other fount I know; nothing but the blood of Jesus.
And that is good news. The day that happened 2,000 years ago was a very good Friday indeed. Tragic, devastating, heart-wrenching, and horrible, and yet so good because the work of Jesus was accomplished. He had finished his work of saving the world. And that is so very good.
But it gets even better. Impossibly better.
Because on Sunday morning, Jesus stripped sin of its power and he stripped death of its sting. As the earth quaked and the women trembled, Jesus conquered sin and death for all time as he rose again, proving that he is more powerful than death itself. Proving that our sin – yours and mine – has been defeated for all time. Proving that when Jesus says that our sin is forgiven and that it is gone…he really means it. Proving that despite the voices of condemnation all around us, we really can be made new. Proving that though we will die, yet we will live.
Jesus strips our sin away, conquers it, and gives us life in return. In doing so He proves that even though we must walk through the valley of the shadow of death during our sojourn on this earth, it’s not where we’ll stay. The valley of the shadow of death is a temporary journey…life eternal is the destination.
Because, friend, life wins.
As Hillsong puts it in their powerful hymn:
There is love that came for us
Humbled to a sinners cross
You broke my shame and sinfulness
You rose again victorious
You are stronger, You are stronger
Sin is broken, You have saved me
It is written, Christ is risen
Jesus You are Lord of all
Our sin has been broken. It was stripped away from us in our Savior who was stripped and nailed to a cross. And then this Savior stripped the sting out of death itself by rising victorious.
As the Apostle Paul explains:
When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:54-57)
My friend, Jesus already died for our sin and conquered it. As Jesus exclaimed on the cross, that saving work has been accomplished, finished once and for all. It’s done. We didn’t have to earn it or deserve it or even ask for it. But my friend, we do need to accept it. Receive it. Come into agreement with the truth that Jesus has set us free. Friend, let's quit trying to save ourselves and simply surrender to the finished saving work that Jesus has already completed.
As you continue making plans for your Easter celebration, may you not only be filled with the amazing joy of the resurrection, but may you also have some quiet space to ponder the holy wonder of the Cross. Tomorrow, let us worship together the Savior who stripped our sin away.
But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. Acts 2:24