March 31, 2017

The Meaning and Message of Easter

By Donald G. Mashburn

Many in the world seem to have difficulty in grasping the full meaning and message of the Easter. Even the presumably well informed often seem either unknowing or unbelieving as to what happened on that first Easter morning some 2000 years ago. This was illustrated by NBC’s “Dateline” a few years back when it presented a program on “The Last Days of Jesus.” The narrator, Stone Phillips, in attempting to reconcile “historical” records with gospel accounts of Christ’s crucifixion, theorized that Jesus died on the cross possibly from “collapsed lungs.”

“He probably died of shock or suffocation,” Phillips said, indicating that he and his scriptwriters didn’t understand who Jesus really was and why He came to die an indescribably painful death on a desolate hill of death called Calvary.

Many people today have the same problem at Easter, in that they have difficulty grasping the heaven-made plan that called for the Son of God, God’s Christ, His Messiah, to suffer shame and torture to purchase our redemption to make us acceptable to a Holy God.

And even many who understand and believe that Jesus died to save lost sinners, fail to fully comprehend that He gave His life because He chose to. And after suffering terrible beatings, scourging, being nailed to the cross, and having a spear run into His side, knowing He had obediently carried out His Father’s will, He uttered His victory cry over death, Satan, and sin, when He cried out, “It is finished!”

Agonizing words, but words that brought pardon for our sins and an age of salvation by grace. Then came the resurrection, the empty tomb, and a world changed forever.

It’s not surprising that unbelievers miss the particular significance of the empty tomb. But it’s essential that we realize that if Christ is not risen, then all of us are still lost in our sins. A Jesus still in the grave would make dead our hope for salvation.

If Jesus had not been the Christ – the Son of God, as He said – He could not have appeared immediately to Mary Magdalene, and later miraculously appear to His disciples in a sealed room. Nor could He appear to two of His followers on the Emmaus Road, and later appear to hundreds. Many of these provided spoken and written first-hand accounts that the Savior had risen!

A crucified and risen Christ is still a big obstacle for unbelievers – and some liberal church people – who try to grasp Christ’s birth, death and resurrection in the light of their own thinking.

But we need to understand that the crucified and risen Christ is the very essence of love. That is, God did not have to send His Son to die for our sins – we don’t deserve such grace. Nor did Jesus have to suffer and die a horrible, agonizing death on the cross.

To understand Easter, we must understand that Jesus’ death on the cross was an unselfish, sacrificial act "to save that which was lost.”

Moreover, He willingly gave His life to purchase our redemption. He said, “No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again” (John 10:18 NKJ).

And He did it! The world’s enmity and revisionism can’t change what happened at Calvary, and what’s happened to mankind since. What the Passion of Christ and Easter mean must be seen through the “eyes” of faith. We can accept and believe in a merciful God of infinite love, but only through faith can we can understand the supernatural and divinely-directed birth of Christ, and His crucifixion and resurrection. All directed by an infinitely merciful Creator to redeem those He created in His own likeness.

The message of Christ’s Passion is found in John 3:16 (NKJ): “For “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life”

The important messages of Easter are Jesus’ words on the cross, “It is finished,” and the angel’s proclamation, “He is risen!” To understand these is to understand Christ’s coming, and His crucifixion and resurrection.

The beauty of it all is that His gift of salvation is free! We can’t buy it or earn it. Nor does keeping it depend on our own weak, carnal efforts. And with the gift, we get free insurance. For as Jesus said, “No one can snatch them out of My Father’s hand” (John 10:29 NKJ). That’s one of the most-comforting messages we’ll ever hear.

And that gift is available every day, around the clock, to “whosoever will.”

The Love Plan of Easter

By Donald G. Mashburn

Most people know something about Easter, ranging from the meaning that God intended, to the uninformed ideas held by many in the world. But even believers too often fail to understand that there was a Plan that “caused” or brought us that special time we call Easter.

Most informed people in the western world can tell you that Easter is about Jesus Christ dying on a cross to “save that which was lost” (Matthew 18:11). But even believers oft times fail to ponder at length the purpose and plan that put the Son of God on the road to ridicule, torture, and a cruel death by crucifixion at Calvary, called by locals, the Place of the Skull.

Most Believers do accept the idea that we have been redeemed by the atoning death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, but we stop short of thinking about the Cause of Easter, or the Plan that saved us from the penalty of our sins and gifted us with eternal life through the grace of a merciful God.

That plan was made in heaven, by a merciful heavenly Father: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but has everlasting life” (John 3:16 NKJV). The Plan of our redemption was conceived in love. It was conceived and designed by love! It was carried out in love and implemented by the perfect, sinless life of Jesus Christ.

That life can be summed up in the timeless, majestic statements of our Lord:

“I do not seek my own will but the will of the Father who sent me” (John 5:30). He came – His incarnation.

“I have come that they may have life” (John 10:10), His mission, directed by God.

“A little while, and you will not see Me …and again a little while, and you will see Me” (John 16:17), His crucifixion and resurrection.

“But now I go away to Him who sent me” (John 16:5), His ascension.

As John Phillips, author of “Exploring the Gospel of John,” succinctly put it, “It is love from beginning to end. Love set it in motion and carried it through.”

Jesus Christ, our Savior, Lord, and Redeemer, carried out God’s plan to perfection. His lived His life with perfection, the sinless, holy Lamb of God.

But how could it be otherwise? For as the Apostle John described our Savior, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1)