The Easter period is drawing near—this is a very important period for Christendom every year. It is the period when Christians of all denominations alike and throughout the world, remembers and celebrates the time deliverance of God came to humanity through His Son, Jesus Christ.
It was during this period that Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God (who emptied Himself by veiling His heavenly glory, setting aside all that was rightfully His to become a man) willingly surrendered His life as atonement for the sins of the world (Philippians 2:5-8). He died a substitutionary death. In other words, He took the place of those who should have died—that means, all of us; all of humankind. Because “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), then all should be punished by God for breaking His law. But Jesus took the punishment for all—He took our place on the cross (John 1:29). Thus, at this time, the reconciliation of God and humankind became a reality through His sacrificial death on the cross of Calvary.
In the Western tradition, Easter is always in late March or early April, on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the “spring or vernal equinox” (the time in the earth’s annual cycle around the sun in which day and night are approximately equal in length. This is the time the Passion, crucifixion, death, and resurrection of our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ is usually commemorated.
It is important to point out here that in Christianity, the celebration of Easter is not the same as the secular celebration of Easter which makes no reference to either the Death or Resurrection of Jesus Christ, but focusing instead on the Easter bunny and candy and decorated eggs: symbols of fertility and springtime.
The Christian Easter celebration usually starts from Palm Sunday—the Sunday before Easter and the day our Lord Jesus Christ began His journey to the cross by triumphantly riding on a donkey into the city of Jerusalem. It continues through the Resurrection or Easter Sunday—the very Sunday that He physically rose from the dead, after being betrayed, arrested, tortured, unjustly tried, crucified, and was buried—just as He said would happen.
This is an eight-day eventful week in the Church year calendar. It is a week of somber reflection as well as rejoicing, for all Christians. It is called or known as the Passion Week or Holy Week—the final week of Jesus’ life on earth during which He remarkably revealed His true passion for us in the sufferings He willingly went through on our behalf.
After days of somber reflections on the sufferings Christ went through (His betrayal, arrest, trial, torture, crucifixion, death and burial in a tomb), every Christian believer rejoices because of His resurrection. God raised Him from the dead, freeing Him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him. In order words, death could not hold Jesus down (Acts 2:24).
If there is no Jesus’ resurrection, then there is no Christianity. Jesus’ resurrection is the fulfillment of His pronouncement: “I am the resurrection” (John 11:25). This is the main reason the Easter (even though the Passion Week or Holy Week is marked with several memorable events and activities) is often considered the most significant event of the Church year. The resurrection of Christ is the cornerstone of our faith and hope. The apostle Paul attested to this with his statement that “if Christ has not been raised, our faith is futile—it is worthless, and we are still in our sins” (1 Corinthians 15:17).
As we celebrate Christ’s resurrection, we must also not forget that His suffering was real, because He took on our human nature. It was our sins that made it necessary for Him to suffer death by crucifixion. He could have backed out of the horrendous situation, but He chose to suffer insults, humiliation, ridicule, excruciating pain, and worst of all, separation from His Father for a while. Not only did He bravely endure the torture and pain of the cross, but He humbly did all that with “passion,” in order to pay the price for the sins of humanity.
The Old Testament book of Isaiah, chapter 53, gives us some helpful insights into the sufferings of Christ:
- Christ was disfigured by suffering (Isaiah 53:2; cf. 52:14; Mark 15:17, 19)
• It was the will of God that He shall grow up like a plant taking root in dry ground.
• He had no dignity or beauty to make men take notice of Him.
• There was nothing majestic or attractive about Him or His appearance that would draw men to Him or that men should desire.
- He was widely despised and rejected by men (Isaiah 53:1, 3; cf. John 12:37, 38)
• He endured suffering and pain.
• He was ignored as if He were nothing.
• No one would even look at Him.
• No one cared or esteemed Him.
- He bore our sins and sorrows (Isaiah 53:4; cf. Romans 4:25; 1 Peter 2:24, 25)
• Endured the sufferings that should have been ours.
• And the pains that we should have borne.
• Men thought that His suffering was punishment sent by God for His own sins.
- He made a blood atonement (Isaiah 53:5; cf. Romans 3:25)
• Wounded and crushed for our transgressions or because of our sins.
• Bruised for our iniquities or because of the evil we did, that we might have peace.
• By His stripes or the punishment He suffered through scourging, we are healed.
• By the blows He received, we are made whole.
- He was our substitute (Isaiah 53:6, 8; cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21)
• All of us were like sheep that were lost, each of us going his own way.
• But God made the punishment all of us deserved fall on Him.
• He was arrested and sentenced and led off to die, and no one cared about His fate.
• He was put to death for our sins.
- He voluntarily accepted our guilt and punishment (Isaiah 53:7; cf. John 10:11)
• He was oppressed and treated harshly, but endured it humbly.
• He was led as a lamb to be slaughtered.
• He was led as a sheep to be sheared.
• In all of these, He did not open His mouth, He never said a word.
- He was buried in a rich man’s tomb (see Isaiah 53:9; cf. John 19:38-42)
• He was placed in a grave with those who are evil.
• He was buried with the rich.
• Even though He had never committed a crime or ever told a lie.
- He justified many for their sins (Isaiah 53:10, 11; cf. Romans 5:15-19)
• His suffering was God’s will.
• His death was a sacrifice to bring forgiveness.
• And so He will see his descendants.
• He will live a long life.
• Through Him, God’s purpose succeeded.
• After a life of suffering, He again had joy.
• He will know that He did not suffer in vain.
• My devoted servant, with whom I am pleased, will bear the punishment of many; and for His sake, I will forgive them.
- He died with transgressors (Isaiah:12; cf. Mark 15:27, 28; Luke 22:37)
• He was given a place of honor, a place among the great and powerful.
• Because He willingly gave his life and shared the fate of evil men.
• And He bore the sins of many.
• And interceded for sinners—that they might be forgiven.
- He was exalted (Isaiah 52:13; cf. Philippians 2:9).
As Christians (true believers and followers of Christ), we must never forget to honor His loving sacrifice.
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