Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Beautiful Easter Narrative (Take the Challenge!)

I know it’s a little early for an Easter post, but the Lord laid it upon my heart to consider the Easter narrative right now, so here it goes!

I don’t know about you, but I am always so excited for the holidays, especially Christmas and Easter. I love the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season the music, the smells, the lights, the gifts, the food, the time with family. The problem with Christmas is that it can be overshadowed with and tainted by materialism and commercialism, and the true “reason for the season” can be easily overlooked and unfortunately diminished. The issue with Easter is simply that, because it’s not “hyped up” as much as Christmas, we oftentimes tend to let it creep up on us until all of a sudden it’s here, and we haven’t really taken the time to consider it’s significance much.

So, here’s the challenge. Consider Easter. Study Easter. And no, I’m not talking about how the tradition of the Easter bunny or Easter eggs beganbut the true meaning of Easter. The reason we have anything to celebrate. Don’t let the season come and go without basking in the beauty of the story. As I begin my study of Easter, I am going to be memorizing a passage of Scripture. I’ll list it below for you because it is simply beautiful! It’s kind of long, so I’m not sure if it will be finished by Easter, but my goal is to at least read it through at least once every day. This passage is found in Isaiah, and it lists several beautiful and painful truths of Jesus’ life and sacrifice. Read it carefully and thoughtfully with me, and then we’ll discuss. 

Isaiah 52
13  Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted.  14  As many were astonished at you his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind15 so shall he sprinkle3 many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which has not been told them they see, and that which they have not heard they understand.

Isaiah 53
1  Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces, he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turnedevery oneto his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.

10  Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. 11  Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. 12  Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.

This passage is simply beautiful! For Christ-followers, this passage is a celebration song! We have been redeemed. Jesus has paved the way for us to be accounted righteous. What a reason to celebrate and fall down in awe!

This passage explains how Jesus was made low as He was on the earth. There was nothing in Him that caused people to be attracted to Him. In fact, we rejected and despised him. We did not esteem Him to His rightful place. We even went so far as to cause oppression, shame, and pain for Him. But even deeper than how mankind treated Him, it was our sin in the first place that made his sacrifice necessary. Yes, it was our sin that led Him to the cross. Verse 12 shows us that he was numbered with the transgressors, but that doesn’t really seem fair because He wasn’t a sinner!

As verse 10 painfully points out, it was the will of the Lord to keep Him there. It was God’s will for Jesus to live on earth, to be tempted and yet not sin, to experience the punishment for our sin, and to obey the Lord’s plan completely. Wow! The Lord willed for His own son to be mutilated, mocked, and humiliated. But why? First, the Lord needed to appease His wrath for the evil of sin. (Whose sin?.... Ours.) God is holy and just and has to uphold justice, so He has to punish sin. Second, the Lord loves us, pursues us, and desires for a right relationship with us. However, that right relationship was impossible unless the punishment for sin had been satisfied. So, what did the Lord do? He created a way for the punishment to be satisfiedand that WAY was for His own son Jesus Christ to bear that punishmentOUR punishment. This was God’s will His perfect plan. Because this event took place in history 2,000 years ago, we can know God intimately. We can be saved from the penalty of sin. We can be adopted into God’s family and treated as an heir to His kingdom with Jesus. We can know true, intimate, and lasting love. We can overcome temptation every day. Wow!

So, this Easter season, don’t forget about this event that occurred 2,000 years ago. If you’ve heard the story since childhood, don’t let the depth of it fly over your head because of its familiarity. Relish in the fact that Jesus loves you and did this to obey God and to provide a way for YOUR salvation.

1.      1.  Evaluate yourself: Do you know Him at all? If you don’t, what’s holding you back from embracing the truth of God’s love and salvation? If you do, do you know Him intimately? Are you actively seeking to know Him more intimately every single day?
2.    2.  Evaluate the Easter story: Reread Isaiah 52-53 again. Choose some verses to memorize (or memorize all of it). Read it and study each verse individually. Find some passages in the New Testament that correlate with this Old Testament prophecy. Find a friend to memorize alongside of you.
3.    3.  Evaluate your family traditions: How can you shift the focus to be solely on Christ? How can you personally focus on Him? How can you lead your family in seeing the depth of this beautiful story?
4.    4.  Evaluate your witness: Who do you know that desperately needs this good news? Don’t let this Easter season pass by without opening your mouth to share what you have heard and experienced and received! Pray that the Lord will give you a passion and joy that is uncontainable and contagious! He will!
5.    5.  PRAISE THE LORD FOR HIS GOODNESS! Enough said. J

I love you, and I pray that the Lord grips your heart with the truth of His love found in the beautiful and painful Easter story. God became man in Jesus Christ because He loves YOU!

Are you up for the challenge???  If so....  Get to memorizing, studying, and sharing!

Always, Jacquelyn

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