We’re still here. That’s a big thing to say. From the beginning, the historic Christian church has weathered the external persecution of haters. It has faced internal threats from heretics. Sometimes it hasn’t done well in its mission.
And yet here we are, twenty centuries later, having managed to survive. It wasn’t due to weapons or charm or strength of character. It all comes down to those three consecutive calendar days in April when Jesus died for our sins on Friday and rose on Sunday.
We stand on those facts and that’s why we’re crash-proof.
Look at the Pictures, Read the Words
Granted, if you’ve been raised anywhere around western culture, you’ve heard some of these words, but have you seen the pictures that go with them? The Bible works like a graphic novel. There are words and there are pictures. Think about it.
The Old Testament furnishes vivid stories, that is, pictures. The New Testament gives us the words that explain those pictures. In fact, Augustine coined this old rhyme: “The New is in the Old contained; the Old is by the New explained.”
Let’s try this interpretational method out on Exodus 12. In verse 21, Moses instructs the people to “kill the Passover lamb.” That’s the picture, but what does it mean? Those ancient Jews must have wondered. Today, though, we understand it’s actually the crucifixion of Jesus. We know because the words of the New Testament tell us that Christ is our Passover lamb (1 Cor. 5).
Don’t Just Stand There, Apply It!
Great, now what do we do with this information? It’s got to be more than a religious factoid. And yes, God expects that we do something with it.
Moses told the people to take some hyssop—a small brush-like plant—and dip it in the blood of that lamb and then touch the hyssop to the doorway of the house (v. 22). That’s the picture, but the fuller meaning, the “words,” are all about how the blood of Jesus is supposed to be applied to your life.
His blood is meant to mark your life. Our faith touches that blood sacrifice and then applies it to our very souls. We’re supposed to wear it around as a sign that causes us to stand out.
Understand This as a Matter of Life or Death
The importance of this event is easily seen when we look back at the picture again. Those ancient Jews were told “the Lord will pass through to strike” (v. 23). God is coming to judge all sin and unrighteousness.
People try all kind of things to avoid this unpleasant reality and help themselves sleep better at night. For one, they say judgment is probably a scare tactic; it probably won’t happen. Yet that’s a bad strategy, since it contradicts the Bible that assures us the Lord will strike.
So the human mind digs a little deeper and tries to misuse theology in order to get rid of that bad feeling. “God is a god of love,” they say. “He won’t judge.” I agree that He is a God of love—incredible love. Where I disagree with popular notions is how God shows it. He demonstrates His love not by throwing away His judgment, but by providing us a way out of it.
“God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” (John 3:16). It doesn’t say He loved, therefore He decided to just let bygones be bygones—for Hitler and Stalin and Jack the Ripper, and everybody else. He gives the blood of His Son so we can take it and “not perish.”
On the Day of Judgment, “when He sees the blood,” the Lord will pass over you. Just as the Bible firmly says He will strike, it also firmly promises He will pass over. “He will not allow the destroyer to enter,” meaning He won’t let destruction touch you on that day.
God doesn’t tell us about the blood of Jesus as a suggestion. He means for it to be applied. Think what would happen if you decided to save your extra money for a few months and buy your best friend an i-pad for their birthday. You stopped going out to eat, didn’t have any of the little extras.
And then the day came and you were excited, wrapped the gift and brought it to your friend. You couldn’t wait to see their excitement. Then your pal unwrapped it, and with a disinterested look, said, “Weeeeeell…there are all kind of ways to access the internet. This is just one of them. I’d like to try other options first. Thanks, though.” How would you feel?
This happens to God every day, as He offers His Son to people who don’t want Him or feel they need Him or who just think Buddha is a better option. The Son of God is the best God has to give us and has cost the most to give. He is also exactly what we need and nothing less. Some thanks and praise and excitement is definitely called for.
The Danger of Stale Faith
But that’s not where it ends. Going back to the picture for a moment, God tells His people to observe the rite of Passover forever. Again, that’s the picture—the Jews eating a lamb every year on that date.
The corresponding reality for us New Testament folks is the Lord’s supper, the communion of bread and wine, where for the rest of our lives we carry around in our hearts appreciation for the fact that Jesus died for us.
However, there’s a concern in these verses about how the remembrance of salvation gets passed on to children. Kids will inevitably ask their parents why the big deal about religious things. Jewish kids would ask, “What do you mean by this service?” (v.26).
The parents were then supposed to tell them the story of the Passover. Many of us come from Christian families. The same thing happens. “Why do we have the Lord’s Supper?” “How come people get into a tub of water and let somebody dunk them?” “Why do we always talk about Jesus?”
Depending on your parent’s level of commitment to the faith or even just their ability to communicate it, you’ve probably heard a little something from them. But it’s not long before you develop a certain saturation point. You’ve heard things so often that they can start to sound like folk tales.
Without a certain measure of reality, oft-repeated words start to land on dull ears and hearts. “The old, old, story of Jesus and His love” celebrated in the classic hymn, really does become an old, old, dried up story, like a bread wrapper left open, leaving the bread inside to become hard and stale.
If this is the case, something’s missing.
The Secret of Freshness
Good Friday needs Easter Sunday. God made them go together.
That means we have something more than a dead Jesus.
When you have a resurrected Jesus, nothing He has done could ever become old.
Consider the Apostle John. He joined Jesus while he was still a young man. He saw all the miracles, heard all the wisdom, saw Jesus die, and then was there on that Sunday evening to see Jesus resurrected. Then he went on to preach and teach about these things all the rest of his life.
This is way past saturation point—way past the point where a person becomes comfortably familiar with his subject matter. After such prolonged exposure to any topic, it can become difficult for anyone to learn new things.
But then when John was old, Jesus appeared to him again in Revelation 1:17. Guess what? John didn’t say, “Oh yeah, I know that. I’ve memorized all eighty-two points about your death and resurrection. I’ve given thousands of sermons on the subject.”
What did John do? He said, “When I saw Him, I fell at His feet as if dead.” That’s a reaction of awe. Jesus told him, “I died, and behold, I am alive forevermore.” “Alive forevermore” means no possibility of getting old—where the work of Christ is kept forever fresh, forever new.
Consider the angels in Revelation chapter 5:6-10—elders of creation. They saw God create the world, sang when he laid the foundation of it (Job 38:7), and saw all the subsequent history of man unfold under God’s hand. Again, that’s way beyond saturation point. It’s hard to impress an angel. They’ve seen a lot.
But one day the resurrected Jesus appeared in heaven, as a “Lamb standing, as though it had been slain”—and the angels didn’t say, “Oh yeah. That’s good, but we saw the world created. We watched the Grand Canyon form under the twin processes of uplift and erosion. You should watch that one on fast-forward—really something.”
No. Instead, they fell down in front of Christ, singing. They praised Him, saying, “You were slain,” and sang because of His “blood” and because of His redemption. Resurrection life keeps it all fresh. His death is ever new, it’s as though He had just died mere seconds ago. His blood is still wet on the cross, His wounds still present. Even if you’ve already received Him, it might be time for a major re-connection.
The Christ of Easter causes us to be in the moment.
Anytime. Anywhere. At any age.