Easter…What Does it Really Mean? – Part 1, a Look at the Cross

I’ve been mulling over Easter for a few months now.  I truly believe I won’t completely comprehend what Jesus accomplished on my behalf on the Cross until Heaven.  That being said, I do want to acknowledge in my own limiting, limited words, some of what I know Jesus gave me (and all believers) as a result of His death on the Cross many, many years ago.

It is not an easy thing in our self-indulgent culture to rightly understand “sacrifice.”  But the Israelites lived it.  They saw and experienced, first-hand, the tangible cost of sin, in the form of sin offerings, the sacrifices of animals.  The Bible has at least one whole book detailing the sacrifices they were expected to make, in order to please the God they served (Leviticus, anyone?).  As far back as the Garden of Eden, sin was covered over by blood (remember the animal skins God gave Adam and Eve to replace the leaves they covered themselves with?).  When Jesus shed His blood on the Cross, it began a whole new era in how God invites mankind to relate to Him.  Rather than ever needing to shed innocent blood to atone for my sin, He invites me to receive the work of Jesus on the Cross.  

Even more amazing to me is knowing that in addition to allowing His Son’s sacrifice to atone for all my sins, God generously chooses to see me with the righteousness and holiness of Jesus Himself, once I acknowledged my need for a Savior, and invited Jesus into my life.  He gives me the identity of being His child, just as Jesus became the firstborn of His children.  I am His beloved, His sheep, and nothing can change that (Romans 8:28-39).  This New Covenant is an amazing display of grace, indeed.

Another truly incredible display of grace Jesus won for me is the reality that I am welcome in God’s presence at any time.  I can truly “come boldly to the throne of grace” (Hebrews 4:16).  The significance of the torn curtain after Jesus’ death can’t be overstated.  Before Jesus’ death, a single priest, decided by lot, before Jesus, could only enter the Holy of Holies, the inner sanctum of God’s presence, once a year, and only after purification and cleansing rituals were observed.  He even had to tie a rope to his arm or leg, in case God smote him down while he served God in the inner sanctuary.  I have been challenged to grasp God’s holiness more truly as I piece together the way the Israelites related to God, per His instructions.  I believe that my appreciation for Jesus’ work on the Cross has only been deepened as I recognize the differences between the Old and New Covenants.

While on the Cross, Jesus had an amazing conversation with the criminal hanging near Him, recorded in Luke 23:39-43.   39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”   

40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”   42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”  

43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” NIV

My takeaway from this?  Salvation is not based on what I do.  Salvation is based on acknowledging 1) who Jesus is, and 2) my need for Him.  The criminal’s words reveal his understanding of these two things.  He didn’t have time to act on his newfound faith, and yet, Jesus essentially tells him he belongs in Jesus’ kingdom.  I’m not saying I think salvation means I can live my life as I want.  I am saying that my future is secure because of His faithfulness rather than mine.  My gratitude for what Jesus has done, and my desire to love Him well, mean that I desire to bring Him glory and delight in how I live this life, His gift to me.  More on this in a future post.

So, a summary of the personal impact of Jesus’ work on the Cross: 

1) Jesus took my sins fully on Himself, and paid the sacrifice-cost for me.  He died in my place, the death that I deserved to die for my sins.  Love too amazing for me to comprehend….

2) God chooses to look at those who seek Jesus as Saviour as being as righteous and love-worthy as Jesus Himself.  Breath-taking grace!  It will take my whole life for this truth to permeate my deepest being!

3) God welcomes me, through Jesus, into His Holy of Holies, His very presence, at any time, without need for formal cleansing and purification.  I am irrevocably a part of His family.  Happy, quiet, awed sigh here.

4)  My future after this life, like that of the criminal’s, is completely secure.  I don’t need to fear death.  His faithfulness blesses both blesses me in this life, and gives me assurance that after this life, it only gets better.

 

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