In old western times, when an enforcer of the law determined that someone had done something worthy of death, he would employ the help of the entire community but putting up signs that read, “Wanted Dead or Alive.” This meant that any citizen could find that criminal, catch or kill him or her, and claim the reward.
In the height of Jesus’ ministry, He was wanted dead by the Jewish leaders because they believed that He was blaspheming God by the things He said and did. He called himself God, forgave sin, received worship, healed people on Sabbath, and claimed to be the Messiah who would come on the clouds. He even used for Himself the name that God had given for Himself to Moses, “I Am Who I Am.” The Jews thought that Jesus had sinned and that His sin was worthy of death. Therefore, they arrested Him, beat Him, and crucified Him.
In Luke 23:34 Jesus said "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” He realized that His persecutors believed that they were honoring God. They didn’t understand that Jesus came to die for their sins, not His (as He had none). If we don’t understand that point today, then we are missing out on the whole point of Easter – the hope that His death and resurrection brings to us.
Now it was about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. Then the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was torn in two. And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, “Father, ‘into Your hands I commit My spirit.’” Having said this, He breathed His last. Luke 23:44-46
The veil of the temple was the division which set apart the holy of holies – the place where God’s presence resided. Once a year the high priest would enter the holy of holies to atone for the sins of the people. But upon Jesus’ death and because of His sacrifice, this 30-foot veil was torn away, giving the people direct access to God Himself.
In verse 50, Joseph of Arimathea offers his tomb as a resting place for Jesus’ body. Pontius Pilate sent his highly trained guard to guard the entrance and make sure that no one could steal Jesus’ body or interfere. Yet on the first day of the week (Sunday), when Jesus’ friends came with spices for the body, they found that the stone has been rolled away and Jesus’s body was gone. Instead, they found angels in shining garments, proclaiming: “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’” Luke 24:6-7
If the angels’ words were untrue, then all of Christianity is a lie (1 Corinthians 15:17). But remember, the disciples scattered when Jesus was arrested because they were afraid for their lives. They hid out in fear after Jesus’ death and were devastated and confused. Yet in the months that followed, each one of them exhibited extraordinary confidence, boldness, and courage to the point of dying for his faith! This was because the risen Jesus appeared to them (Luke 24). He spoke to them, instructed them, encouraged them, and gave them a mission. The revelation of a true Messiah who had risen from the dead was more powerful to them than any earthly power or fear they might encounter.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 1 Peter 1:3-5
The promises that God makes to you can never be broken because He is eternally alive to keep them. He promises you a living hope for eternal life, abundant life, a sound mind, forgiveness, purpose, and reconciliation, and an inheritance in heaven.
Remember the veil between God and His people that God tore down upon Jesus’ death? This traditional role was a foreshadowing of Jesus and the atonement He would bring. Rather than requiring the intermediary of a high priest to atone for sins again and again, the people’s sins are atoned for, once and for all, by the death of God’s Son, the Great High Priest.
Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Heb 4:14-16
Take advantage of the opportunity you have now to believe in Him, receive the sacrifice He made for you, and accept the abundant and eternal life He offers today!
Jesus’ death paid for your sin. His rising proved His power over death and secured a place and an inheritance for you in heaven. He intercedes on your behalf every day. Because he ascended, you can be humbly confident that He will forgive you. He will never force you, but He wants you to come to Him, to pray to Him, to trust Him. You don’t get extra points for coming to church on Easter or hearing the message of the Gospel and still rejecting Him. Take advantage of the opportunity you have now to believe in Him, receive the sacrifice He made for you, and accept the abundant and eternal life He offers today!