Over the past several months, we have seen the world plunge into unknown anxiety and tangible fear. Everyone’s faith is being put to the test. Am I ready to face death? Am I prepared to bear the pain of COVID-19’s wake? Is it time for the world to end? What is going on? There seem to be no answers to these questions and men and women are becoming more anxious and fearful. The death toll is rising, and nations are trembling. Is there anything to look forward to in the next many days? Besides, the question of some ‘Church celebrations’ is beckoning; is there any need for these things? This day, as I write, is Silent Saturday, the day after Good Friday and before Resurrection Sunday. What’s the point of commemorating these things in such an era?
Jesus told his disciples in Luke 22:14-19 that they partake of the bread and wine in remembrance of Him. The body and blood of Christ would be broken and spilt for the sake of the eternal hope and salvation of the human race. At his death, Jesus took up the accusations against us, which stem from the original sin in the garden. His death was the death of sins power over us and the sting of death (1 Cor. 15:54-55). As death calls out and fears cripple nations, we need to remember Christ’s victory over Hades and the grave (John 20). As we quarantine, let us celebrate this Easter season because in those three days some powerful things happened.
The Lord was erected upon that cross after a series of floggings and mocking like never seen before (Matthew 27:24-50). The abuses he went through, and the agony of being deserted by close friends; the weight of sin upon his shoulders like no one could ever bear even for a minute. Death was calling but not as we know it. God had become man and taken upon himself the role of finishing the curse of sin brought about in Genesis 3 by the sin of Adam and Eve (John 1:14; Galatians 3:13).
On the eve of the arrest, Jesus had prayed passionately and in joyful surrender that the Father’s will be done and not his while in Gethsemane garden (Luke 26:36-42). This resignation of will and surrender to the Father was the beginning of the dying of death. He was ready to face the lashes, the scorn, the spitting, the clubs, the nails and the grave (Luke 22:42). Hanging on the cross, Jesus looked at the men and women in Jerusalem (John 19:16-30). I believe his eyes saw through all the distant shores of the world. The freedom for each of them as he triumphed over death for their sakes was within sight. Scripture reminds us that the death he died, he died once for all times (Romans 6:9-10, Hebrews 7:24-27). As he hung on the cross for three hours, the wrath of God was filling up in the cup and ready to be poured out against the one who offered himself to satisfy it entirely (Hebrews 9:7, 14). His death was not a loss but an assault against the power of death (Colossians 2:13-15). For many centuries, death had held many in its fear due to the uncertainty of the life to come. Jesus reversed the story at the cross (2 Corinthians 5:21).
1 Corinthians 15:54-55 is a reminder of what that day meant for us. Paul says that we shall face death with amazing rhetorics, “Where is your sting? Where is your victory?” These are words that seem impossible to utter from the human standpoint. Death, or the thought of it, brings a chill down our spines. Not many people are ready for this moment of truth. When material things go, it leaves us with nothing but an expectation of something positive or negative. But that is why Jesus died a death we could never die. His death was an eternal blow to death. Why? Because the creator of all things died and took away from death, the power to cripple humanity in fear (Romans 8:3-4; 1 Peter 2:24).
On the cross, Jesus says the most amazing words ever, “It is finished! (John 19:30)” What was finished? Everything that God expected so that He could bring reprieve to the hearts of men. Sin’s debt got paid for entirely, and his wrath subsided because of Christ’s death (1 John 4:10). Everyone who would call out on Christ’s name had salvation promised to them (Acts 4:12).
Notwithstanding, death got killed! It no longer could wield its power through eternity. Good Friday is an excellent reminder that death has no eternal dominion over the saints. In this time of uncertainty, be reminded that death is dead because Christ died to sin. The power of sin is death (1 Corinthians 15:56). Thank God for Good Friday.
After he had cried aloud, he yielded his spirit to the Father (John 19:30). This death did not only secure hope from the sting of death but also freedom of life here on earth from the binding spell of sin. Backtracking to the day of old, God had destroyed men by the floods and sulphur on account of sin. Nations had gone into wanton sinful lifestyles as history would inform us. Scripture tells us that child sacrifice was something practised in the world, and God was against it (Deuteronomy 18:10, 2 Kings 17:17, Jeremiah 7:31). We may not have time to talk about the prostitution and temple adulteries that are practised all across the false religions we have in the world. Immorality is on the rise. Injustice against the less fortunate in society and many more all go a long way to expose the kind of chains the enemy has laid upon men.
However, when he breathed his last, he was buried in Joseph’s tomb (John 19:38). We do not know much about the Saturday of Easter. The Jews were ‘resting’ because it was Sabbath celebration, and they wanted to fulfil all righteousness. But how could they rest and they had just killed an innocent man? It’s paradoxical but all in God’s plan. Following his death for sin, then, Jesus journeys to Hades, to the City of Death, and rips its gates off the hinges. He liberates Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, John the Baptist, and the rest of the Old Testament faithful, ransoming them from the power of Sheol (Psalm 49:15; 86:13; 89:48). They had waited there for so long, not having received what the promise, so that their spirits would be made perfect along with the saints of the new covenant (Hebrews 11:39–40; 12:23). He brought freedom to those held in Sheol; eternal work accomplished from that afternoon on Good Friday when our Lord breathed his last. He went and messed up the place of the dead and brought forth those that had trusted in him. Finally, they would be with him and we, when we die, can also be with them (John 14, Revelation 20:6). That is why we say that he died our death so that we could live his life (2 Corinthians 5:21). But what about those that were left still alive? What was their gain in this death of the Lord?
ETERNAL LIFE FOR THE LIVING
Before he died, Jesus had in John 17:3 that eternal life was not a life to look forward to when we died but one that we receive while we are here on earth (1 John 5:11-12). He said that eternal life is about knowing the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom he sent (John 17:3). Before his death, souls would be kept in Sheol until the time of release. Jesus brought the freedom and spoke of that time here in John 17:3.
After the death, he went and accomplished the work in the land of the dead and on the third day, he rose early morning (Matthew 28:1-3). He sealed his work. There was nothing else to do in the place of the dead because he had secured our freedom eternally. He rose for our justification (Romans 4:24-25). The scripture reminds us that he appeared to many and stayed for many days before raising to glory (1 Corinthians 15:1-11). As he ascended, he gave them the command to wait in Jerusalem until the infilling of the Holy Spirit of promise (Acts 1:1-10). In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus gives us the great Commission for the good of those who haven’t heard about the gospel. He wants all to get to have this hope that he brings. Eternal life is for all who will receive him today. Jesus is alive. The cross is empty, and so is the tomb (Mark 16:1-8). Why? So that we may have no fear of death, no chains in our lives and when we leave this body, continue in the eternal life he has given because of salvation (John 11:25).
In this wake of the global pandemic, we have a greater need to focus on Christ, our real Easter joy. Whether or not this disease catches up with us is not the biggest deal. The question for us in such times is this, “Have you known eternal life through his death? Have your chains been released? Will you be with him forever when your life here ends?” Because Jesus is alive, let the saints refuse to bow to fear and heart paralysis. Jesus is alive forever. He promised in John 14:1-3 that he has gone to prepare a place for us. It is finished. Come to Christ and celebrate. He is alive!