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“He is risen!”
“He is risen indeed!”
If you didn’t grow up in church, this call and response might surprise you on Easter Sunday as it is heard in hallways, classrooms, and sanctuaries everywhere. Easter comes with a lot of celebration and joy because we serve a risen Savior! It also comes with a lot of Christian terminology that can make Easter even sweeter if we truly understand it. So, for all of us who could use a little refresher from time to time, or those of us who are new to the faith, let’s run through some words you’ll probably hear around and about Easter.
The Triumphal Entry occurred at the beginning of Holy Week, which encompasses the week leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion. Jesus entered triumphantly as the King that He truly is, riding on a borrowed donkey’s colt and worshiped by a large group of people. Cloaks were spread before Him, which was what would be done to welcome home a conquering King from war. This was a direct fulfillment of the prophecy about the Messiah in Zechariah 9:9:
“Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout in triumph, Daughter Jerusalem! Look, your King is coming to you; he is righteous and victorious, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
Yet, Jesus wasn’t the King of Zion that the Jews expected. He hadn’t come to overthrow Roman power, and when that became clear to the crowds, their cries of “Hosanna!” turned to “Crucify Him!” just days later.
There were lots of crowds in Jerusalem because this week was the time of the annual Passover celebration. Passover was a time of looking back to what God had done to deliver the Israelites out of Egypt (found in Exodus 11–14). This was the tenth and worst plague. The Israelites were told to choose an animal for each household without blemish and slaughter it at twilight. They then put some of the blood on the doorposts. After that, they roasted the animal over the fire with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. They ate this meal in a hurry and dressed for travel. The Lord passed through the land that night, and every firstborn was killed from the households that were not covered by the blood placed around the door.
God instructed Moses to tell the people that this festival was to be observed annually (Exodus 12:14-20) and it was this festival that was being prepared the day that Jesus was crucified on the cross. The day that the Passover lambs were being slaughtered, the perfect Lamb of God was also crucified on the cross so that death might pass us by. This is why you may hear Jesus referred to as the Passover Lamb as your pastor celebrates Jesus’ payment for our sin on Easter! The ultimate Lamb was being sacrificed to deliver God’s people from life apart from Him. We also see this imagery in the temple offerings made to cover sin on the Day of Atonement. Jesus has secured our deliverance from and forgiveness for sin by becoming the sacrifice to end all sacrifices, our spotless Lamb.
Through Jesus’ crucifixion on the cross, He was not only our sacrificial Lamb, but He was also our penal substitutionary atonement. If you want to seem really fancy at parties, you should totally pull that vocabulary out to impress your friends. Basically, this is fancy theology talk to explain that Jesus took our place in paying for sin. He died the death that we deserved. He took on the penalty of our sin and swapped places (substituted Himself) with us so that we could be atoned (or forgiven) of our sin. This swapping of places doesn’t just provide us with innocence though. He also gave us His relationship with God as sons and daughters and also heirs to all that is God’s! The work Jesus did on the cross doesn’t just matter for us in eternity, but it has changed our position with God today. We are no longer slaves to sin deserving of God’s wrath but sons and daughters deserving of the most wonderful inheritance because our Father is the King of Kings!
Jesus has also become our propitiation, which means He satisfied the just demands required by God the Father for sin. If you read some of the promises of God shortly after the Ten Commandments in Exodus, you’ll see the intensity with which God hates sin. God cannot be around sin because He is holy, perfect, and His justice demands that sin is paid for rightly. Does this make God hateful? Certainly not. God is infinitely loving, but He is also infinitely just. He always does what is right. Jesus became our substitute and satisfied God’s wrath toward sin by taking on all of that wrath on the cross.
After Jesus took on the wrath we deserved by being hung on a cross, the ultimate Roman instrument of death, He was placed in a tomb. Three days later, He ROSE AGAIN! Don’t let this be lost on you because we talk about it so often. This is the power of God and the testimony that Jesus was indeed the Messiah. We know He is who He said He is because He did what He said He would do. When we say resurrection, we mean that Jesus literally was dead and beginning to decay when He raised through His infinite power: the power of God.
His resurrection is the firstfruits among the dead. This means that Jesus’ resurrection is a pattern that will be repeated in our lives. He is the firstfruit of the resurrection that is to come for all who believe in Him when He returns to reign. This type of resurrection had not been seen before. Jesus would not be raised and then die again, but He would ascend, or rise into the sky, to then be seated at the right hand of the Father. In the Old Testament, firstfruits of any crops were dedicated to God for His faithfulness to provide for them. These were offered on the Sabbath day following the Passover feast (Leviticus 23:9-14).
Just as the giving of the firstfruits was a picture of the faith God’s people had that the rest of the harvest would follow the first, all who have union with Christ will be raised again as He was raised, through the power of God. This union is mysterious, but is founded in two truths: we are in Christ and Christ is in us.
Through this union, we are also united in His ascension. After Jesus was resurrected, He appeared to hundreds of people over the course of forty days. Then, He ascended, or rose into heaven. He is now seated at the right hand of God, interceding on our behalf. We are hidden in Him, made right through our union with Him in His death on the cross for sin and resurrection to display victory over sin and death. This is the good news of the gospel: Jesus lived the life we couldn’t live, paid the debt we owed for our sin that we were incapable of paying, and rose again. He secured the ability for us to have a right relationship with God, which was made impossible by our sin. He has done the work and called us to obey so that we might have both abundant life now with God and eternal life later with Him. It is for both the now and the not yet.
This is why we celebrate Easter. We celebrate Jesus’ death and resurrection because we were hidden in Christ and that victory He secured is also ours! Happy Easter!
“He is risen!”
“He is risen indeed!”
Mary Wiley is the marketing strategist for women’s books at LifeWay Christian Resources. She hosts the Questions Kids Ask podcast and has written for multiple resources and websites. Mary holds a B.A. in English and Theology from the University of Mobile and is currently pursuing an M.A. in Theological Studies at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mary, her husband, and their two two-year-olds live right outside of Nashville, Tennessee. Learn more about Mary at marycwiley.com.