The Real Meaning of Easter

Note: to fully grasp this story, may I recommend that as you read, you also follow the hyperlinks to the Scripture passages marked.  They should appear in another window so you can read the story and the Scripture together.

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In the Old Testament, the night before Moses led the Israelites out of bondage and slavery in Egypt, God instructed His people to slay a perfect, spotless lamb and spread its blood over their doorposts.  God was about to bring a final plague upon Pharaoh to persuade him to let His people go. The life of the firstborn of every living creature in Egypt was at risk. Only those whose doorposts were covered by the blood of the lamb would be safe from this terrible plague. Those who followed God's instructions, and trusted in the blood of the lamb, were spared of His righteous wrath. And, in the morning, they were set free. (Exodus 11 and 12)

This was the first "Passover" celebration (named so because the Lord, "passed over" the children of Israel and spared them). Ever since, Jews have celebrated this occasion. In the Old Testament times, this celebration included making a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to rejoice, give thanks, and offer sacrifices of lambs (kind of like our Thanksgiving celebration today where we gather to serve turkey or ham. While we may sometimes think of these sacrifices as "barbaric", realize that they were simply feasts by an agrarian society preparing their choice animals for meals - not really much different than those of us who are not vegetarians, today!)

It was at one of these Passover feasts, nearly 2,000 years ago, that Simon of Cyrene, along with his two sons, Alexander and Rufus ran across another kind of "lamb of God." (Mark 15:21, Matthew 27:32-33, and Luke 23:26) What follows is a beautiful song about this encounter, written by Ray Boltz:

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Walking on the road to Jerusalem.
The time had come to sacrifice again.
My two small sons, they walked beside me on the road.
The reason that they came was to watch the lamb.

"Daddy, Daddy, what will we see there?
There's so much that we don't understand."
So I told them of Moses and father Abraham.
And, then I said, "Dear children, watch the lamb."

"There will be so many in Jerusalem today,
We must be sure the lamb doesn't run away."
And I told them of Moses and father Abraham.
And then I said, "Dear children, watch the lamb."

When we reached the city, I knew something must be wrong.
There were no joyful worshippers, no joyful worship songs.
I stood there with my children, in the midst of angry men.
And then I heard the crowd cry out, "Crucify him!"

We tried to leave the city, but we could not get away.
Forced to play in this drama, a part I did not wish to play.
Why upon this day were men condemned to die?
Why were we standing here where soon they would pass by?

I looked and said, "Even now they come."
The first one cried for mercy, the people gave him none.
The second one was violent, he was arrogant and loud.
I still can hear his angry voice screaming at the crowd.

Then someone said, "There's Jesus!" I scarce believed my eyes.
A man so badly beaten, he barely looked alive.
Blood poured from his body from the thorns upon his brow.
Running down the cross and falling to the ground.

I watched him as he struggled, I watched him as he fell.
The cross came down upon his back, the crowd began to yell.
In that moment, I felt such agony. In that moment, I felt such loss.
Until a Roman soldier grabbed my arm and screamed, "You! Carry His cross!"

At first, I tried to resist him. Then his hand reached for his sword.
And so I knelt and took the cross from the Lord.
I placed it on my shoulder and started down the street.
The blood that he had been shedding was running down my cheek.

They led us to Golgotha. They drove nails deep in his feet and hands.
And yet, upon the cross, I heard him pray, "Father, forgive them."
Oh never, have I seen such love in any other eyes.
"Into thy hands I commend my spirit", he prayed, and then he died.

I stood for what seemed like years. I lost all sense of time.
Until I felt two tiny hands, holding tight to mine.
My children stood there weeping. I heard the oldest say,
"Father please forgive us, the lamb . . . ran away."

"Daddy, Daddy. What have we seen here?
There's so much we don't understand."
So I took them in my arms, we turned and faced the cross.
And then I said, "Dear children, watch the Lamb."

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The Gospel of John recounts of how John the Baptist, a prophet (see Isaiah 40:3 and Matthew 3:1-3), was sent to declare the arrival of the Messiah - the Deliverer. John says of Jesus: "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world! (John 1:29)

Peter tells us that we were redeemed from the slavery and bondage of sin and death not with gold or silver, "but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect." (1 Peter 1:19)

In the book of Hebrews, we learn how the Jewish High Priest would enter the "Holiest of Holys" in the Temple - over and over again each year to offer sacrifices for forgiveness of the sins of the people. We are reminded how this most sacred place in the temple was separated by a heavy curtain or veil from the rest of the temple. Only the High Priest could ever enter in. In Chapter 10 of Hebrews, we learn how the perfect sacrifice-Jesus- ushered in a New Covenant - one in which the yearly sacrifice of animals was no longer necessary. Christ's sacrifice is "once and for all." (Hebrews 7:26-28) We may recall that when Jesus gave up His Spirit on the cross, all three synoptic gospels record that the temple curtain was "torn in two." (Matthew 27:51, Mark 15:38, Luke 23:45) The destruction of the curtain signifies that never again will God's people be separated from Him by a veil. Never again will God's people need a human priest or mediator to reach Him. Jesus Christ is our only High Priest - our only Mediator. (1 Timothy 2:5)

Long before Christ took on human flesh, God spoke through His prophet, in Jeremiah, telling us: 

"The time is coming," declares the LORD, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them," declares the LORD. "This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time," declares the LORD. "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest," declares the LORD. "For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more." 

(Jeremiah 31:31-34)

Because of the New Testament, each Believer is free to worship God "in Spirit and in Truth" (John 4:23). Jesus, you see, came to free us from man's religion, from legalism, from self-centeredness, from sin, from the curse, from death. This wonderful freedom and new life, while it cost God dearly, is free to us. As the children of Israel trusted in the blood of the lamb in Egypt, the only way we can be free is through a similar act of simple faith - placing our trust, our very lives, solely and completely in the Blood of the Lamb that Jesus Christ gave on the cross for you and for me.

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Dear friends, when we celebrate Good Friday and Easter Sunday, may we remember that is by His Death and Resurrection, He has set us free. (John 8:36

"Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13

"Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him." (Romans 4:8)

Old Testament Prophecy of Messiah