A Custom Worth Greater Consideration

It’s the week leading up to Easter or, more specifically to our conversation here, Resurrection Sunday.

I’ve associated that with various things in the past…when I was young: dressing up in a fancy dress, attending a church service, having a large meal with extended family and finding little plastic eggs hidden with candy in them. After coming into a more intimate relationship with God – really understanding, knowing and accepting who Jesus was – it became a much more personal time of reflection and appreciation for what Jesus did on my behalf. I considered what happened the days leading up to the Sunday that we celebrate. What actually happened on Maundy Thursday? On Good Friday? How must Jesus have been feeling as He completed this task that was the culmination of his 33 years of ministry on planet earth?

I thought about the days before Easter – the days before the one we enjoy and celebrate: the tomb was empty! He had risen as He promised! He overcame death and the grave!

But what about Thursday…when He shared a meal with His closest friends and followers? What about when He washed their feet and shared one of His most important teachings: don’t expect to be served by others, serve them (John 13:12-17)! When He shared another custom we would come to embrace (the Lord’s Supper) where He would provide a symbolic gesture to memorialize what He was about to do for mankind (Matthew 26: 26-29). But it wasn’t just symbolic for Him. He didn’t just break bread and drink wine and pass it to His friends…His body would be broken. His blood would be shed. He wanted them to remember this.

Friday would find Him suffering pain, ridicule and public disgrace – something that would have human-life protesters in an uproar today. He would not fight. He would not plead. He would not argue. He would state the truth and endure the consequences that came about as a result.

I thought of Him on the cross. Almost naked. Beaten beyond recognition. Weakened by lack of food and drink. And betrayed and forgotten by His friends. Worst of all, God His Father, turned away. Wow. I always thought it was interesting that the Bible even included that! “About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani’ (which means ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’)” (Matthew 27:46). I mean, doesn’t this hurt the Christian’s cause? But you see…in some way, it shows the delineation of power between God and Jesus during His time walking among us. “However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows.”( Matthew 24:36). And it shows the humanity side of Christ. Just like it wouldn’t be easy for us, this wasn’t easy for Him.

Yet He went willingly – and He stayed there. For us.

And Sunday was coming! He knew this too. He knew that to endure for a short time meant to settle this sin and atonement business once and for all! The ultimate “short-term pain, long-term gain”  and WE get to benefit from it! That is crazy to me!

This year, I’m thinking even a bit beyond the events leading up to Resurrection Sunday. I’m considering the fact that Jesus and His disciples were honoring their annual Jewish custom of the Passover Feast. This whole thing started with them remembering God bringing their people out of captivity and slavery. Back in the Pharoah/Moses days, the Israelites were instructed to kill a lamb and place its blood on their door so that the homes of God’s people would be “passed over” that evening when the final plague would come.

Jewish customs required the blood sacrifice of an animal in order to be made right with God. Imagine with me for a moment if you had to kill an animal (and not just any animal but one of the best from your own herd) every time you sinned. There was seriously a lot of bloodshed in those days. As there would be today. But fast forward to Jesus – the New Covenant with God that makes us right with Him. You can’t help but see the symbolism between Jesus and that slaughtered lamb. He was (and IS) our modern day Passover lamb! He liberates us from the slavery that is our sin and rescues us from our innate selfishness.

Thank you, Jesus, for going willingly to the cross. Thank you for not only seeing the faces of your friends and your crucifiers as you were there, but thank you for seeing my face. Thank you for offering yourself up as the sacrificial lamb. Help me to remember when you overcame death and the grave but help me also to remember the sacrifice you made to get there. Amen.

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.
Isaiah 53:5

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