May I on behalf of Linda and myself wish you all a very happy Easter. From the world’s perspective you would think that Christmas was the Christian’s most important festival. It takes so much time and effort to prepare for. As Protestants we do not believe that any festival has any saving significance, but from the angle of remembrance the events of Easter are of equal significance as Christmas. Christmas is significant because we remember the momentous event when God became a human being. Over the Easter weekend on the other hand, we remember the opposite, but equally important event when God, in Christ, the Giver of Life, suffered death and then conquered death by rising from the grave.
In this letter I want to draw your attention to Truth that was taught that day, not by the friends of Jesus, but in fact His enemies. From the time of Jesus’ arrest until after His death there were some horrible sneers and jeers thrown at Him. Some of them however contained profound truth. One of the most important was recorded by three of the Gospel writers. Matthew and Mark tell us that chief priests mocked him saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself”. Whereas Luke has it as a taunt or a challenge “He saved others; let him save himself, … !”
It would seem that they felt Christ would have proved his credibility far more had He come down from the cross. In effect they are saying “if you are the Christ of God then prove your power by scattering your enemies and escaping the cross. The Truth however is contained in a powerful way in the statement “He saved others; he cannot save himself”. At the time of His conception Joseph was told to call Him Jesus, because He would save His people from their sins. At various times throughout His ministry Jesus told His disciples “that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” (Mt 16:21). It was not an option, because “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mk 10:45)
It was an indisputable fact that in order to save others he could not save Himself. The night before His death He had wrestled in prayer with God whether there was another way, but there was not. If he was going to save others He could not save Himself.
Had Christ again demonstrated His power over human beings and over death, as he had done on a number of other occasions, He would have totally failed in His ultimate purpose, the salvation of God’s chosen people.
It was a sneer, but it is one of the clearest statements in the Bible to explain an aspect of the death of Christ as the substitute for His people. The writer of Proverbs says, “When a man’s ways please the LORD, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.” (Pr. 16:7) In one way Christ’s enemies were in no way at peace with Him that first Easter, because they wanted nothing other than His death and removal from the page of history. In another way however they were incredibly at peace with Him, because they were stating God’s Truth, that there was no other way for God to save the humanity that He had created.
Jesus had come into the world with one intention – to do God’s will. It was God’s will to save His people. His people deserved the judgement of God, because we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Forgiveness is only possible if blood is shed, because the wages of sin is death. These enemies of God and Christ spoke with as much authority as Moses who recorded the promise that the seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent, and as the great Old Testament prophet Isaiah who wrote,
“But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.” (Is. 53:5)
The hymn-writer put it like this,
“There was no other good enough
To pay the price of sin;
He only could unlock the gate
Of heaven and let us in.”
So this Easter let us thank God that Christ did die so that all who believe might be saved, but let us also consider carefully all that we hear, because on that awful day even the enemies of Christ declared God’s Truth. Let us remind ourselves “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil 2:10-11)
Will you do that as an enemy or a friend? As one saved by the death or condemned by the Truth?
May each of us this Easter be able to say humbly and in complete faith the words of the centurion by the cross “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (Mk 15:39)
Your Friend and Fellow Believer,
Bernard Lewis April 2012