On this Easter, 2018, I am overwhelmed with amazement. Easter is the day Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. But it’s also the day that that recalls a moment in history that changed things forever. When Jesus died on the cross and was laid in the tomb, it looked like the end. What had seemed like the coming of the promised Messiah, turned into the most hopeless moment his disciples had ever known. But in another moment, just 3 days later, Jesus returned to life. What had looked like game over completely reversed, and Jesus – God in human flesh, rose himself back to life, defeating sin, death and the devil, once for all. (1)
As I think about this most dramatic reversal, I am awe-struck at how the entire Bible truly is about one thing: Christ. I see how over and over again the dramatic reversal of his death and resurrection was pictured throughout all of scripture, years before Jesus was ever born. I remember the book of Esther, and how at just the moment when it looked like God’s chosen people, the Jews would be annihilated, the tables turned, and the they gained the upper hand over their enemies. (2) This turn of events occurred because one person was willing to risk death for the sake of the many. Jesus not only risked, but died to save us from our sins. (3) What a beautiful picture of Christ’s redemption of his people we see in the life of Esther, kept for us in God’s holy Word.
I remember Abraham, and the moment he raised the knife to sacrifice his son Isaac, in obedience to God. In that very moment, God stopped him, providing a ram to be the sacrifice instead. Caught by its horns in a crown of thorns, the ram was a picture of how Christ would suffer, many years later: he would step into human history, step into our condemnation, hang on a cross in our place, wear a crown of thorns made to mock him, and take our judgment upon himself. (4) He did this because of his great love for us.
I remember Moses, who at God’s command led Israel out into the desert to journey to the promised land – only to have the Egyptian army corner them at the sea. It seemed again like the end for God’s chosen people. But at the very moment of their dire need, God miraculously parted the sea, making a way for them to pass through to safety. Their deliverance was through the waters – a picture in itself of Christ – his body, torn in two for us, just as the veil in the Jewish temple was torn at the moment he breathed his last. It opened that we might freely enter the Most Holy Place, into a personal relationship with God. (5)
And I remember Joseph, whose own brothers sold him into slavery. As the years went by, they assumed him dead. Famine fell on the their family, and again it looked like God’s chosen people would be exterminated. Little did Joseph’s brothers know that he had risen to second in command of Egypt, and that he – one person, would provide the food that would deliver their entire family. To them it must have seemed as if Joseph had been resurrected from the dead. Joseph too was a picture of the dramatic reversal that would ultimately be fulfilled in Christ. They faced death, but instead found life. And they found that life by the one they had thought dead.
All these historical accounts were pointing toward Christ, and it is almost too wonderful to comprehend; how the God who made us all could coordinate the real lives of people, over thousands of years, in order to tell one story. It is the story of those who recognize the condition of their soul is hopeless, lost, and stained with sin. It is the story of those who faced condemnation, who seemed doomed without an escape – but were saved, by the One who come to die, and live again. Through his death we put our old selves to death; through his life, we are raised to a new life in Him. (6) We all have failed to measure up to God’s holy standard. (7) But he knew that, and in his graciousness, the very God who made us, saved us.
The first dramatic reversal came in the garden of Eden, when sin entered the world through the transgression of the one – that is Adam. Yet even at the beginning of the story of us all, God gave the promise that a seed – Jesus, would come, to deliver those who are his. (8) Throughout all of human history that seed has faced extinction – we see that in all of the pictures of Christ in the Bible. Yet through another One, the sin that had entered the world would be forgiven, for all who turn to Christ, placing their trust in him. (9)
There is yet a final dramatic reversal to come, and we who know the truth of Christ look toward it with hearts yearning: the day when Christ will come again. Then what was completed at the cross will be fulfilled, and the sin, death and the devil which have held us in the grip of mortality, will be swallowed up in life. (10) Then we will sing with the hosts of angels, “Death is swallowed up in victory! O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
1. Through death he destroyed the power of death – Hebrews 2:14-15
2. Esther’s dramatic reversal – Esther 9:1
3. Death in Adam, Life in Christ – Romans 5:12-21
4. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us – Romans 5:6-11
5. The full assurance of faith – Hebrews 10:19-20
6. If we have died with Christ, we will live with him – Romans 6:5-11
7. All have sinned – Romans 3:23
8. The promise of the seed who would save God’s people Genesis 3:15
9. For God so loved the world – John 3:16-17
10. Mystery and victory – 1 Corinthians 15:50-56