“When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’ ’Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’”
1 Corinthians 15:54-55 (NIV UK)
Good Friday and Easter set themselves as pivotal dates on the Christian calendar. “Pivotal” because all that we—as Christians—hope and believe hinge upon the events commemorated on these days.
But then, does it seem strange that we don’t know exactly when they happened? Many people place great emphasis on getting the details of Jesus’ arrest, trial, death and resurrection correct. We know that they happened but it is impossible to pin down, beyond all doubt, the exact year.
Most Christians accept that Jesus was crucified on a Friday. Others insist that it was a Wednesday, and some calculate Thursday. Then there are arguments over whether he was in the tomb for three days and three nights or just parts of days. Some believe we shouldn’t celebrate the Orthodox Christian days at all, insisting that the Old Testament Passover observance is the only correct way to remember Jesus’ sacrifice. But is it really so important to know exactly when these things happened?
I don’t mean to suggest that details are not significant. The Bible makes it clear that God carefully orchestrated the events of Jesus’ last week so that prophecies could be fulfilled. But there is ambiguity in the scriptural record. First century writers didn’t record events with the same precision we expect today, so some questions about the timing of events cannot be resolved conclusively. What was most important to them was what happened, not when.
That should also be our focus today. If, about 2,000 years ago, Jesus was executed, and then later resurrected, the destiny of every human being has been changed forever. If this had not occurred then, as Paul writes, “our preaching is useless and so is your faith” (1 Corinthians 15:14). Paul goes on to remind his readers that, because of Jesus’ resurrection, death has been “swallowed up in victory” (1 Corinthians 15:54, see above). Death is our enemy, and we still feel some of its sting when a loved one dies, or when we see innocent people murdered. The great, overarching promise of Good Friday and Easter Sunday is that Jesus conquered this enemy.
God orchestrated events so that they fulfilled the specific prophecies of the Messiah. The writers of the Gospels wanted us to know that this happened. Let’s remind ourselves of this, wherever, whenever and however we commemorate our Saviour’s death and resurrection.
Majestic Father, in the events of that week 2,000 years ago what is of importance to you is what was achieved—that Jesus by his sacrifice and resurrection rescued humanity. It is for that fact, aside from any other consideration, that we praise you, bless you and give you greatest thanks possible. In Jesus’ name we pray.
Study by Joseph Tkach
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