It’s Easter! The time when we remember the sufferings of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Today the world is in terrible pain. Many of the people infected by coronavirus have felt so afraid and alone. As many died, they could not have their loved ones around them. Along with the pandemic of disease, there is loneliness and fear. We feel weak and helpless in the face of this crisis, which in its aftermath will continue to wreak havoc on people’s lives.
Because of all this, maybe this year we can enter into what happened at Easter even more fully. Let’s go together to the Garden of Gethsemane, the Hill of Calvary and then to rejoice at the Empty Tomb.
Garden of Gethsemane
After the Last Supper, they walked in the garden. I have been in the place they believe to be Gethsemane where the olive trees are 2000 years old.
Jesus first separated from the 8 (Judas had left to see the High Priest) and then isolated Himself from the 3 – Peter, James and John. He told them to watch and pray and then went on about 100ft – ‘a stone’s throw’ Luke says.
Why did He do that? Well, Hebrews 5; 7 says, ‘In the days of his flesh Jesus offered up prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to Him who was able to save him from death.’ Bible commentators believe this is the event the writer is referring to, so Jesus distanced himself so as not to cause alarm to Peter, James and John by the sounds He made.
Matthew 26; 38 says, ‘My soul is very sorrowful, even to death.”
‘If it be possible, let this cup pass from me – nevertheless, not as I will but as You will.’ Matthew 36; 39
How did the angel strengthen Him? a) worship b) confirmation from the Father. Luke 22; 43: ‘There appeared to him an angel, strengthening him.’
1 Peter 1; 12: ‘It is all so wonderful that even the angels are eagerly watching these things happen.’ (NLT) If He needed strengthening, he must have been feeling weak.
Luke 22;43,44: ‘Being in an agony, he prayed more earnestly, and His sweat was like great drops of blood falling to the ground.’
He tasted the curse and the sin-bearing and the shame. But ‘for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame’ Hebrews 12; 1-3.
Maybe the angel reminded Jesus of ‘the joy set before him.’
On the cross
‘He was despised and rejected — a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.
It was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down.
He was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins, beaten so we could be whole, whipped so we could be healed. All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all.
It was the Lord’s good plan to crush him and cause him grief.’
These words from Isaiah 53 were written about 700 years before Jesus was born! He must have known it word for word and surely understood He was the fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophecy.
The physical and emotional pain of being wounded, despised, rejected and abandoned by His friends was terrible. But that could not compare with the horror of becoming sin bearer for the whole world. Christ didn’t carry our sins like a heavy burden on His back; He took them into Himself. So, when God looked at His Son on the cross, He literally saw our sin and Jesus experienced the full weight of God’s wrath that was meant for us. Shockingly 2 Corinthians 5:21 says God 'made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.'
Of Jesus’ seven sayings from the cross perhaps the most heartrending is: ‘My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?’ These His final words spoken out into the darkness that now covered the earth. They’re from Psalm 22, which like Isaiah 53, is an incredible foretelling and accurate description of Jesus’ death.
But both these passages hold up such hope!
At the empty tomb
Imagine how Satan celebrated as Jesus’ dead body lay cold and still in a borrowed tomb. Evil had won! There was no longer any hope for the sinful human race; they were lost to eternal death. But, as the sun rose on the third day, God’s almighty power raised Christ from death, and not all the demons of Hell could hold Him down! The verdict was reversed. The devil was conquered. Salvation was won for the whole world.
1 Peter 1; 12 says, ‘It is all so wonderful that even the angels are eagerly watching these things happen.’
It’s great that Easter comes in the spring. Winter’s over. Hope’s rising up. From dead-looking trees beautiful blossoms and tender leaves burst forth. Fresh life sprouts from the ground – all kinds of flowers and other plants. New birth is happening all around us.
And so too in our spiritual lives. This is a precious time for new life in our hearts. God’s loving arms are open wide to receive us with mercy and grace, and because of all that happened - in the Garden, on the Cross and on Resurrection Morning we’ve been saved, forgiven and set free!
Christianity is the only faith in the history of the world whose founder is still alive. He died and rose again! And the Church is the only society that never loses a member through death!
‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for us!’