eikon - blessing everyone
There are many things about Easter that do not make sense.
- The name: Easter, most likely comes from the goddess of spring and sunrises
- The bunny: apparently this comes from German Lutherans this was a bunny who wore clothes, carried colored eggs and judged whether kids were good or not. If they were good, they got eggs.
- The colored eggs: perhaps they came from the Lenten practice of abstaining from eggs, so the eggs would be boiled to preserve them during that time.
- Easter baskets: often containing nest type materials and some form of egg or rabbit, these were the modern-day sweet version of what the original Easter bunny would have carried. If you were a good girl or boy, you would get a basket. Less eggs, more chocolate – a good upgrade?
As I read through the plethora of traditions and folklore that surrounded them, I found many, many authors trying to find a way to spiritualize the meaning behind each of these things, the bunny, the name, the baskets, the eggs. Most of it read like “Mythology Meets Mother Goose, edited by Dr Seuss.”
Frankly, Easter is not truly a religious holiday. It is a festive springtime celebration of bright colors, food, fairy tales and activities for kids.
“Restoration Day”, however, is an amazing HOLY-day. This is a much better title for today than the word Easter as it says exactly what it celebrates.
But to understand what we celebrate on this day, regardless of what you call it, you have to understand the story of God.
There once was a people that were created by their God. They were made to be like Him. God lived among them and was with the people. God gave them all they needed to survive and the be happy.
But the people were evil and wanted more. They didn’t want to simply know God, they wanted to be like God. They were deceived by the enemy of God and rebelled against their God.
So, their God punished them and banished them. But, he never stopped loving them. For hundreds of years God reached out to his creation to restore the relationship he once had with them, but the desire of this people to be their own god remained strong, and their pride led them to much destruction and blinded them from the God that loved them. The people even began to blame God for their condition.
The rebelliousness of the people needed to be punished. But God’s desire was to bless, not punish. God’s desire was still to be with the people he created. He still loved them and wanted them to love him.
Though God knew he had the power to force people to love him [for he created love], He also knew that forced love is not true love at all. So instead, God chose to demonstrate his love for the people he created by sacrificing his very Son as the punishment for the wickedness of the people. Their rebellion deserved punishment, so God sacrificed his son to take the punishment for all the people.
Some people rejoiced in the grace that was demonstrated by God who not only created them in the beginning but made a way to re-create them and restore them into a relationship with him. Others simply mocked and continued in their rebellion, blaming God for their condition.
From that day forward, each person carried one of two signs with them. The first sign said “I am god” and those that carry that sign remain distant from God and God holds them accountable for their rebellion and condemns them to the punishment they deserve.
However, it is God’s desire that everyone carry a different sign, one that says, “Jesus is God” for those that carry this sign are welcomed by God. Not because they are guiltless, but because they carry the name of God’s Son. They have acknowledged God as their creator and are thankful for the sacrifice God made in sending his son. These people have a renewed relationship with their God because their offenses have been put behind them. They not only experience reconciliation to their God, but protection, provision and peace from their God. Though they still struggle with wanting to be gods, God does not cast them away, but instead gives them hope in a day when God will someday completely restore things back to the way they were when He first created them.
That narrative is the big picture story of the Bible. It is not a myth or fairy tale, it is real life.
Reconciliation Day is the time when we remember the key point where God sacrificed his own son to pay for the wickedness and rebellion of people he created.
For about 9 months we have been studying the “story of God” through the Old Testament of our Bibles. Today we are celebrating the resurrection of Jesus. This morning I want us to see how all of that fits together.
God’s promise to Abram:
Genesis 12:1–3 || 1 The Lord said to Abram: Go out from your land, your relatives, and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 I will make you into a great nation, I will bless you, I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, I will curse anyone who treats you with contempt, and all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you. [CSB]
God promised Abram that all the people of the earth would be blessed through him. What the nations needed was a Messiah. Someone who could undo the curse.
From the beginning of time there has been a battle for the heart of man. God created man, and the serpent has been trying to pull man from God ever since.
In the garden, the serpent led Adam and Eve astray with the lure of being like God. The punishment for the serpent was also a glimmer of hope for mankind:
Genesis 3:15 || 15 I will put hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel. [CSB]
The promise in Gen 3:15 was that God would one day defeat the serpent and restore the relationship we had with God.
The promise of Gen 12, that the people of earth would be blessed through Abram, was a statement that when God sends the Messiah to crush the serpent, that Savior will be a descendant of Abram.
The birth of Jesus:
Matt, genealogy – start from Abraham and goes to Jesus. This is intentional. God promised the Messiah in Gen 3. God promised to bless the world through Abraham in Gen 12. In Matt 1 the dots are being connected that Jesus is the fulfillment of those two promises.
Jesus descended from Abram
Matthew 1:1 || An account of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham [CSB]
As we read about Jesus, the first place Matthew takes us is back to Abraham. Why? Because of the 4th promise. Matthew chapter 1 is designed to take us from Abraham to David to Joseph and Mary:
Matthew 1:16–17 || 16 and Jacob fathered Joseph the husband of Mary, who gave birth to Jesus who is called the Christ. 17 So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations; and from David until the exile to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the exile to Babylon until the Christ, fourteen generations. [CSB]
Jesus is the way that God completes the fourth promise to Abram. He sent his son, Jesus.
The mission of the Messiah:
The people of the world will be blessed. That was the message, that is what Jesus, the Messiah, was promised to bring – blessing on all people. We often read about the birth of Jesus, but I think we easily miss its connection to the Abrahamic covenant as well as to the rest of the Pentateuch.
Let’s go back to another passage we studied recently:
Numbers 6:22–27 || 22 The Lord spoke to Moses: 23 “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites. You should say to them, 24 “May the Lord bless you and protect you; 25 may the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; 26 may the Lord look with favor on you and give you peace.” ’ 27 In this way they will pronounce my name over the Israelites, and I will bless them.” [CSB]
The blessing Aaron was commanded by God to pronounce on Israel included protection, presence and peace. As this blessing was pronounced over the people of God, it was like hanging a sign with God’s name on them.
Now read prophecy of Zechariah which took place after the birth of John the Baptist and just before Jesus was born:
Luke 1:67–79 || 67 Then his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied: 68 Blessed is the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has visited and provided redemption for his people. 69 He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, 70 just as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets in ancient times; 71 salvation from our enemies and from the hand of those who hate us. 72 He has dealt mercifully with our fathers and remembered his holy covenant— 73 the oath that he swore to our father Abraham. He has given us the privilege, 74 since we have been rescued from the hand of our enemies, to serve him without fear 75 in holiness and righteousness in his presence all our days. 76 And you, child, will be called a prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, 77 to give his people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins. 78 Because of our God’s merciful compassion, the dawn from on high will visit us 79 to shine on those who live in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. [CSB]
WOW. This prophecy covers it all!
Do you notice what is mentioned in that passage regarding the coming of the Messiah? Protection, presence and peace. Jesus was going to be the fulfillment of the blessing that God intended for all peoples.
It ties the birth of Jesus back to the Aaronic blessing and the Abrahamic promise. It talks about protection, presence and peace! Finally, after hundreds of years, the chapter of the story they have been waiting for has come.
The sacrifice of Jesus:
If you do not know the bigger story, then it makes no sense that Jesus came and died on a cross and rose from the dead. Why would it matter that a man was convicted as a criminal and executed?
The Apostle Paul, as he addresses a Roman audience, one that was not familiar with the story of God, made a point to explain the story to them:
Romans 5:12 || 12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, in this way death spread to all people, because all sinned. [CSB]
He starts with the rebellion in the garden and the condemned condition of all mankind because of it. He goes back to the beginning of the story. Then, he shows the blessing from God:
Romans 5:18–21 || 18 So then, as through one trespass there is condemnation for everyone, so also through one righteous act there is justification leading to life for everyone. 19 For just as through one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so also through the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. 20 The law came along to multiply the trespass. But where sin multiplied, grace multiplied even more 21 so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace will reign through righteousness, resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. [CSB]
Jesus came to earth as a man, followed God obediently without sinning even once, was beat up, whipped, crowned with thorns and executed as a criminal by being nailed to a wooden cross. This sacrifice was necessary to pay the price for our sin, for my rebellion and for yours.
- It is the blood of Jesus that washes away our sins
- It is the blood of Jesus that protect us from death
- It is the blood of Jesus that gives us new life and peace (with God)
God could have chosen any method to reconcile us to him. He demonstrated his amazing love for us by sending his Son, part of himself, to die for us.
Romans 5:6–11 || 6 For while we were still helpless, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For rarely will someone die for a just person—though for a good person perhaps someone might even dare to die. 8 But God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 How much more then, since we have now been declared righteous by his blood, will we be saved through him from wrath. 10 For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, then how much more, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. 11 And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received this reconciliation. [CSB]
Jesus came not as judge, but to be judged for us. He came not to condemn, but to be condemned for us. He came as physical proof of the incredible love of God. He came because God wants a relationship with you and me. Do you see God’s heart for you?
So, if God sent his Son to undo the wickedness of the world, why is there still evil? Why do people do bad things? Why does this world not look any better than it is?
Just as man chose to rebel against God through disobedience, God desires for man to choose to love him through obedience.
This blessing is powerful enough for the whole world. However, not everyone will receive this blessing.
John 3:16 || 16 For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. [CSB]
While God’s love is lavished on all of creation, he asks one thing. That we believe in Jesus. That we believe in his sacrifice on the cross for us, that we choose to live the way Jesus did.
For those who believe, there is reconciliation.
John 1:12–13 || 12 But to all who did receive him, he gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in his name, 13 who were born, not of natural descent, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but of God. [CSB]
The resurrection of Jesus is the proof that there is life after death, that there is victory over death, and that God can and wants to change us, reconcile us and give us a new life with his spirit.
Romans 10:9–10 || 9 If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 One believes with the heart, resulting in righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation. [CSB]
God is a God who blesses. His greatest blessing is seen in the sacrifice he made for us. God wants to give us protection, provision, peace and most of all his presence, but he will not force it on us.
- If we confess that we are sinners.
- If we acknowledge that we are not good enough for God’s standards
- If we believe that Jesus was good enough and that he came, died and rose from the grave to buy our freedom and forgiveness
- If we will humble ourselves before God and surrender to His will for our lives
Basically, if we stop trying to be gods and acknowledge our Creator God and live for Him, THEN we can understand Reconciliation Day, and THEN we can experience the blessing that God has for us!
God’s story is one continuous story. We chop the story up into 66 books, 1,189 chapters and 31,102 verses. But the story is NOT contained in a book. The story started at creation and will be finalized at the consummation of the new heavens and the new earth referred to in Revelation 21-22?
In God’s story, he is the rightful hero and we are:
- The damsel in distress needing to be freed from our captor
- The marooned survivor praying for rescue as the flood waters rise
- The rock climber who has lost his footing and it is hanging on for dear life
Though we often want the story to be about us, it is not. The story is about God. However, what the story demonstrates is the amazing love that God has for people – for you and me.
The story is not about us, but about God’s amazing love for us. God loved you and me so much that he sacrificed Jesus, and only in that one sense we are the focal point of the story. God created US in his image. God created us for relationship. God has delayed his return so that more of US can be reconciled to him.
We are not the center of God’s story, but apparently, we are at the center of his heart.
Today you have a choice:
- Keep wearing your sign that says, “I am god” and remain separated from the God who created you and remain guilty of the punishment you deserve for your rebellion against God.
- Put on a new sign that says, “Jesus is God” and be rescued from yourself, be reconciled to God and experience the life God intended for you.
Romans 1:16 || 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek. [CSB]
Jude 24–25 || 24 Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault. 25 All glory to him who alone is God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord. All glory, majesty, power, and authority are his before all time, and in the present, and beyond all time! Amen. [NLT]
May God bless you with his protection from your past, presence in your present and peace for your future. Amen.