What comes to mind as you think about the events of Holy Week? What do you picture in your mind’s eye as you contemplate the Triumphal Entry, the Last Supper, the trial and conviction of Jesus, Good Friday and the crucifixion, and Resurrection Sunday?
For me, all of it seems to be a contrast of sorts between the lostness and brokenness of humanity and the goodness and love of a Savior. Into our world, Jesus arrives and He lives His entire life destined to be a sacrifice. He bridges the gap between our lostness and brokenness and takes sin upon Himself. He Who knew no sin, becomes sin for us.
To me it’s such a powerful scene playing over and over again, composed of polar opposites. Worlds that seem to be in chaos come into contact with each other but are held together by the Son of Man.
Dark vs. light.
Evil vs. good.
Brokenness vs. redemption.
Consider if you will, the way that evil appeared to be in triumph. At least for a brief moment it seemed that evil had won. Jesus was betrayed. He was led off by soldiers to be put on trial. While awaiting trial, he was blindfolded, beaten, and told to prophesy as to who hit him. He stood trial in a kangaroo court with trumped up charges. When the chief priests had “evidence” they deemed sufficient for Jesus’ guilt, they brought him before Pilate.
Consider as well the scattering of Jesus’ closest friends as the darkest hours of his life wore on. In the midst of prayer on the Mount of Olives, the disciples fell asleep while Jesus sweat blood. Peter denied him three times. Judas hung himself. These were men who were in Jesus’ inner circle. Only hours before they had shared an intimate meal together in which Jesus washed their feet. Now they were nowhere to be found.
We start to realize as we recount these events that somehow the divine order of things has changed. Death and sin were given free reign and the power that Jesus had to control such events was laid aside. For those who had followed Jesus for three years, it must have seemed surreal.
And evil continued its onslaught all the way to the cross. Pilate could find “no grounds to charge this man” on the accusations brought before him. The angry mob gathered in front of Pilate and demanded the release of a common criminal, Barabbas, over the King of kings. Pilate was resigned to have Jesus whipped and then released. However, this still was not enough for the mob as they shouted for Jesus to be crucified. Amidst the pressure, Pilate finally caves. Jesus’ fate is sealed. He must go to the cross. He must be put to death.
In what I can only view as mercy time and again, Jesus did not open His mouth. He poured out mercy to those who demanded His life. He extended mercy to His accusers, allowing their sick system of judgment and justice to prevail. But in the end, all of this was to allow God’s plan to unfold, by His choosing and timing.
The Book of Isaiah prophecies several hundred years earlier these events:
He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. Isaiah 53:7
And so the darkest day in history is sealed as Jesus goes to the cross and is put to death. If the story had ended here, it would be a tragedy. It would not have even lived on to our day other than to say “a good man was put to death” and we should learn from His example. The history books might give Him a chapter or a footnote, nothing more.
But this was no ordinary man. And this was no ordinary death. This man was God incarnate. And His death would usher in hope for all mankind.
What happened in those three days within the bowels of hell cannot be accurately defined as we do not have a Biblical record. We know that Paul speaks in Ephesians 3 of Christ “descending into the lower regions of Earth”. We also have Peter saying Jesus “went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits to those who were disobedient long ago…” (1 Peter 3:19,20). From both of these accounts, we can assume that Jesus went to Hell to proclaim His victory over death and that He would rise again.
The darkest day was only a mist as soon it would be replaced by the brightest day! The Resurrection was coming. Jesus was bringing to the physical world the reality the spiritual world already knew: He is alive and He has power over sin and the grave!
We know how the story finishes. Women come to Jesus’ tomb to anoint and perfume His body, fully expecting to find a bloodied corpse. They arrive to find there is no body. The angels standing watch catch the women off-guard:
“Why are you looking for the living among the dead?”
“He is not here, but He has been resurrected!"
“Remember how He spoke to you…saying, ‘The Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men, be crucified, and rise on the third day?”
And they remembered His [Jesus’] words. (Luke 24:5-8)
Ah yes. They remembered His words. This truly was His plan all along.
The chasm between opposing worlds was suddenly bridged. The darkness of evil was met by the brightness and glory of good. The power of sin was no match for resurrection and life. The conquering Savior met the enemy head on and defeated him bringing salvation to all who would believe.
Hallelujah what a Savior!
At Easter this year, my hope and prayer is that you fall in love with this story all over again. Hear me out dear Christian: I truly believe this is the story we must carry within our hearts and have ready to tell to a dying world all around us. We proclaim this message until Jesus returns.
For you and I who are in Christ, we share in His resurrection. We have the same power available to us.
The unbelieving world around us does not have this power.
The unbelieving world is desperate to see and experience truth that outshines darkness.
The unbelieving world is desperate to see something that heals their brokenness.
This world does not even realize the extent of its lostness. But when we live out our faith, the world sees something in us that is desirable because the Gospel story is compelling.
There’s a small amount of homework I must challenge you with this week. (It will only take about 15 minutes). Go back and reread the Easter story from any of the 4 Gospels. Read it from start to finish, watching the events unfold and seeing how the darkest day is replaced by the brightest day. Let the story grip your heart once again. Let it engage you and enthrall you and let your heart be drawn in as it was the very first time you heard it.
And then pray. Pray that God would use your story as a part of His. Pray that God would put someone in your path who needs to hear it. This Easter, someone close to you needs to see hope in the midst of their brokenness. You can be that bearer of hope in their hour of need.
I love you all! I hope you have a wonderful holiday weekend.
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