“Yes, Jesus died on the cross for our sins on Easter about 2,000 years ago,” but we don’t reflect on the depth of what happened. The details of Easter are quite intricate and started long before Jesus was even born.
The first of the three passages we’ll be covering today, is from John 14:30-31. Just before his arrest, Jesus tells his disciples:
I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. (John 14:30-31)
Shortly after, when they come to arrest him in Luke 22:53, Jesus remarks to his arrestors:
When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness. (Luke 22:53)
Then, when Jesus had been nailed to the cross for 3 hours, we read from Luke 23:44–45:
It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun’s light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. (Luke 23:44-45)
If you think you already know everything about these passages and Easter, here are just two questions:
Let me set the scene by bringing you back in time to the first ever Holy Week. It was around the year 30 and most of civilization was ruled by the mighty Roman Empire.
In the case of Israel, Rome allowed practicing Judaism and permitted the priests to continue overseeing many daily social matters. Although Israel was under Roman occupation, the Jewish priests wielded considerable power over society, where daily life was strictly controlled by religious law and rituals. Rome hadn’t given Israel total freedom though. Caesar had sent his governor to oversee its interests, especially collection of taxes and prevention of rebellions.
[Discussion: Do you know the name of this Roman Governor of Israel?]
[Note: Throughout the text, you will see bracketed green text insertions. These are suggested discussion questions for small group leaders, who would like to review these topics in an interactive group setting.]
The governor’s name was Pontius Pilate. The Bible, along with official Roman historians, Josephus and Tacitus, tells us he ordered Jesus, also known as the Messiah, meaning “savior”, to be crucified during the Jewish Passover celebration. Josephus and Tacitus were not Christians, by the way, and Tacitus was a Roman senator known for hating them. Thus, they were not writing to confirm some fabricated Christian legends. This historical fact sometimes comes as a surprise to atheists who claim Jesus Christ never even existed. Often, they are speechless when they hear that secular historians and encyclopedias agree that not only did Jesus Christ, the Messiah, exist, but also that he was crucified by Pontius Pilate during Passover.
On the other hand, what often surprises Christians, is when they hear the Jews had been celebrating during the days of Easter for more than 1,000 years before Jesus was born. This was called the feast of Passover.
[Discussion: Do you know when and how the Jewish celebration of Passover started?]
In the second book of the Old Testament, Exodus, the Jews were enslaved in Egypt. Moses repeatedly asked the Pharaoh to let them go, but to no avail. As a result, the Egyptians experienced devastating plagues, such boils on their skin and devastating hail. Finally, God, through Moses, warned the Pharaoh a most terrible plague would come if he didn’t let the Jews go: All the firstborn sons in Egypt would die. However, to those who wished to believe God’s word, he promised a way of salvation from this.
[Discussion: How could one have prevented the firstborns of one’s household from getting killed?]
By God’s instructions, if one killed a spotless lamb and brushed its blood on his doorposts, all the firstborns in that house would be safe. Furthermore, in Ex. 12:14, God instructed the Jews to keep this feast throughout generations. Thus, over a thousand years later, during the time of Jesus, the Jews were still celebrating Passover. And today, around 2,000 years after the time of Jesus, the Jews are still celebrating Passover.
[Discussion: How does the Jewish celebration of Passover tie into the Christian celebration of Easter?]
Just as 3,000 years ago the Jews needed the blood of a sacrificial lamb spilled for salvation, so we today need the same. Why do we need to be saved from judgment? Unlike the Egyptians, we haven’t enslaved the Jews nor are we preventing them from going among us. True, but by default, we are still under judgment. Here’s a 10-step summary explaining why:
What happened in Egypt 3,000 years ago foreshadowed the ultimate spotless lamb to come, whose blood would cover our sins—the redeemer, Jesus Christ. This returns us to the first question of our introduction:
Why did Satan change his strategy of preventing Jesus from going to the cross to getting Jesus on the cross through Judas and the chief priests?
Stay tuned for the 2nd part.
Subscribe to our newsletter for a chance to WIN a LIFETIME SUBSCRIPTION account!
(1 winner picked quarterly)