Easter is on Sunday April 12, 2020. Easter if of course when we celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus died on the cross for our sins, taking the punishment for our sins, past, present and future and allowing us to be made right in God’s sight. God demands perfection and because we aren’t perfect and aren’t capable of being perfect, God in His great love for us sent Jesus to be the sacrifice for our sins. Jesus took our punishment, what we deserved because of our actions and took it upon Himself on the cross which literally killed Him. But the greatest part of all was that Jesus didn’t stay in the grave right? He took our sin, died for our sin and then came back to life beating death.
The concept of there being a sacrifice for the sins of the people wasn’t new right? All throughout the Old Testament, sacrifices were exactly how the people’s sins were forgiven. The people sinned, God required a sacrifice, the people would slaughter an animal, often a lamb, blood would be spilled, God would forgive the people for their sins and everyone would move on until the next time.
But the two big differences this time were that 1.) there didn’t need to be a “next time”. Jesus was the ultimate once and for all sacrifice and 2.) those lambs that were killed as a sacrifice for the forgiveness of the people’s sins never came back to life, but Jesus did. So not only did Jesus take away our sins through His death but then He takes up a notch and beats death by coming back to life. That’s the ultimate sacrifice. It’s because of what Jesus did on the cross that you and I can have the opportunity to accept the sacrifice of Jesus and have our slate wiped clean in God’s sight once and for all. That is the story of Easter in a nutshell.
As we head to Easter allow me to challenge you to evaluate the role that you are called to play. BibleGateway has it like this in the book of John.
John 1:6-8 (NASB) says, “There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light.”
So in this passage we’re introduced to a guy by the name of John. John was the son of Zacharias and Elizabeth and we learn about this couple over in the book of Luke chapter 1. This is a lengthy passage but it’s important for our understanding of what we’re talking about.
Luke 1:5-17 (NASB) says, “In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah; and he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. They were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both advanced in years. Now it happened that while he was performing his priestly service before God in the appointed order of his division, according to the custom of the priestly office, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And the whole multitude of the people were in prayer outside at the hour of the incense offering. And an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. Zacharias was troubled when he saw the angel, and fear gripped him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John. You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord; and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God. It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
There is a boat load of stuff to unpack here but let’s just highlight a few things to help us better understand what’s happening:
1.) This is pre-Jesus’ birth. Jesus had yet to come into the world as a baby, in fact if you keep reading in this Luke passage you discover that almost immediately after this account, the birth of Jesus is foretold and occurs in the 6th month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy with John.
Luke 1:26-27 (NASB) says, “Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.”
John is pre-Jesus’ birth.
2.) From the very beginning John’s life was going to be “set apart”. The angel told Zacharias, “…For he will be great in the sight of the Lord; and he will drink no wine or liquor…” That may not sound like much to us but in this culture wine was almost like water, it was really common, everyone drank wine, except for those that were set apart for the purposes of God. The angel was telling Zacharias that John was going to be different than the people around him. John was going to have a very distinct purpose for his life.
3.) Which leads to the third thing I’ll highlight, John’s sole purpose was to prepare the way for Jesus. Luke 1:16-17 (NASB) says, “And he will turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God. It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
This doesn’t really even apply at this point in history but John didn’t grow up going to college fairs trying to figure out what he was going to do with his life, it was clear from the beginning that he was going to “prepare the way of the Lord”.
I share all of that with you so that I can loop us back around to John 1:6-8 (NASB) which says, “There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light.”
Here’s what I want us to start with as we head towards the Easter season.
1.) God has laid claim on your life regardless of whether or not you see it, agree with it or accept it. God had already laid claim to John’s life before Jesus had even been formally introduced to the world.
In fact if you read just a few verses earlier than where we’re at now it says in John 1:9-11 (NASB), “There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him.” That sounds a lot like today’s world right? Jesus comes as a light to the world and the yet the world does not know Him. Here’s what I want you to understand, Jesus is still the Light of the World and still has a plan for your life, even if you don’t see it yet.
2.) Like John, you are called and set apart to be a witness for Jesus. You might even read John 1:6-8 like this…
“There came a man sent from God, whose name was (insert your name here). He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light.”
Does that describe how you live your life? If not, let's push for some changes so that as many as possible might experience this Easter season having truly seen and embraced the Light of Jesus. Be encouraged and keep moving forward.