BY PASTOR T. O. BANSO
“He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led as a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth. From prison and trial they led him away to his death. But who among the people realized that he was dying for their sins — that he was suffering their punishment? He had done no wrong, and he never deceived anyone. But he was buried like a criminal; he was put in a rich man’s grave” (Isa 53:7-9a NLT).
As we celebrate Easter, it is good to consider the lessons from the events preceding the resurrection of Jesus – His arrest, trial, crucifixion and burial – and main event of His resurrection.
It is true that the word Easter is not in the Bible, just like the word Christmas is not. The only reference to Easter in the Bible, in the King James Bible, is a wrong translation for the word Passover (Acts 12:4). Nowhere in the Bible are believers commanded to celebrate or not to celebrate Easter. We are only commanded to observe the Lord’s Supper in remembrance of Jesus (1Cor 11:23-26). Nevertheless, it is not a sin to celebrate Easter.
There seems to be no agreement on the origin of the word Easter. For instance, some scholars have described as unsupported by much evidence, the claim that Easter has a pagan origin in a holiday for the worship of Anglo-Saxon spring and fertility goddess, Eostre, where the word Easter was said to have derived from. The only reference to this goddess is from the writings of a British monk, Venerable Bede.
Against the backdrop of unconfirmed account that Easter was adopted from a pagan festival, it would be incorrect to say, as some say, that Easter celebration is idolatry. Even if Easter celebration was adopted from a pagan festival, Christians don’t worship any idol or god today as we celebrate Easter; we worship the living God.
Who we worship and how we celebrate any significant event in the Bible is what is important, not the origin of the name or of the celebration. After all, though Sunday is named after the sun, Christians don’t worship the sun on Sunday. Every day is made by LORD and we should be glad and rejoice in it (Ps 118:24). No idol made any day!
The lessons I have considered in this message are neither exhaustive nor in any order of importance. Nevertheless, they are lessons applicable to daily living.
The 16 Lessons
1.God demands that you have unconditional love for others. The Bible says God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16). Jesus came to the earth, abandoned His glory in heaven and died on the cross for humanity after being subjected to an unfair trial. He was denied justice, but he didn’t resist it. “He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led as a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth. From prison and trial they led him away to his death. But who among the people realized that he was dying for their sins — that he was suffering their punishment? He had done no wrong, and he never deceived anyone. But he was buried like a criminal; he was put in a rich man’s grave” (Isa 53:7-9 NLT). Acts 8:32-33 also refers to this.
Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13 NKJV). God commands you to love – give of yourself to others and not live a selfish life. Jesus said we should love our neighbour as ourselves (Matt 19:19; 22:39; Mark 12:31).
Jesus went a step further to ask us to love not just our friends, but also our enemies (Matt 5:43-48; Luke 6:27-36). Beyond the Old Testament requirement to love your neighbour as yourself (Lev 19:18, 34), which Jesus also restated in the New Testament (Matt 19:19, 22:39; Mark 12:31; Luke 10:27), He further raised the bar of love, when He taught His disciples a new commandment on love, which is Christlike love. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (John 13:34 NKJV). He also said in John 15:12, “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (NKJV).
If you walk in love, you would have fulfilled all the commandments. “Love does no wrong to anyone, so love satisfies all of God’s requirements” (Rom 13:10 NLT). Love is our identity card as Christians. Being a Christian but not walking in love is anomalous. The love that God demands of you is agape (verb: agapao), which is the highest and purest form of love. It is not only unconditional love; it is love of the will rather than of emotions; it is not love based on sentiments.
2. Live a life of humility. Jesus rode on a colt to Jerusalem which was a symbol of humility (Luke 19:35-36). This was in fulfillment of the prophecy of Zachariah in Zach 9:9. He was given a royal reception, yet he was humble.
No matter the height you get to in life, be humble. Never remove the garment of humility. Pride goes before destruction (Prov 16:18). The Message renders the verse thus: “First pride, then the crash – the bigger the ego, the harder the fall.” Prov 11:2 says, “When pride comes, then comes shame; but with the humble is wisdom” (NKJV). God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5). Be humble.
3. Watch and pray. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus was praying, but the three disciples he took along, who were some metres away from Him, were sleeping. His soul was exceedingly sorrowful unto death, and He told them to watch with Him for one hour and to pray so that they wouldn’t fall into temptation. He wasn’t even asking them to pray for Him, but to pray for themselves. However, they didn’t (Matt 26:36-46). The instruction was: “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation” (verse 41a NKJV). Nevertheless, they didn’t, and after His arrest, they all deserted Him. Peter, who was following him from a distance, eventually denied Him three times. If only they had prayed, they possibly could have been able to respond to the situation better.
4. Deal with envy in your life. Those who conspired to kill Jesus were moved by envy. Pilate who presided over the trial of Jesus is our witness. “Pilate said to them, ‘Whom do you want me to release to you? Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?’ For he knew that they had handed Him over because of envy” (Matt 27:17-18 NKJV). Mark 15:9-10 says a similar thing.
See the envy of the Pharisees in Luke 19:37-40 when they asked Jesus to rebuke the multitude of the disciples who were saying: “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the LORD! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” But what was Jesus’ reply? “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out” (verse 40 NKJV).
Gal 5:21 tells us that envy is one of the works of the flesh. Envy has made many people commit some serious crimes even today. James 3:16 says, “For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there” (NKJV). Get rid of envy before it kills you, and take you to hell-fire. Job 5:2 says, “For wrath kills a foolish man, and envy slays a simple one” (NKJV). Repent of envy.
5. Don’t join people in conspiracy. Conspiring against others is evil. The religious leaders motivated by envy conspired against Jesus and ensured His arrest, trial and crucifixion. They were His Jewish brothers, yet they conspired and killed Him.
Joseph’s brothers conspired against Him and sold Him into slavery (Gen 37:25-28). Miriam and Aaron were Moses’ sister and brother respectively, but they attacked him. They criticized him, using the Cushite woman he had married as a pretext. They were actually envious of his relationship with God (Num 12). Absalom, David’s son, conspired with others, including Ahithophel, one of his father’s counselors, against David, and drove him away from the throne (2 Sam 15:12).
Don’t join a rebellion. Don’t let anyone recruit you into it. Conspiracy against a child of God or a servant of God amounts to conspiracy against God. Be careful! Nah 1:9 says, “What do you conspire against the LORD? He will make an utter end of it. Affliction will not rise up a second time” (NKJV). The New Living Translation renders the verse thus: “Why are you scheming against the LORD? He will destroy you with one blow; he won’t need to strike twice!” (NLT).
6. Develop courage to do what is right. Pilate knew Jesus was innocent – he said He was a just person, He was innocent, he didn’t find Him guilty, etc. (Matt 27:24; Luke 23:4, 14, 22; John 19:6b). Instead of setting Jesus free, he asked the Jews, “Whom do you want me to release to you? Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” (Matt 27:17 NKJV). Verse 18 says, “For he knew that they had handed Him over because of envy” (NKJV).
Despite the warning by Pilate’s wife, he lacked the courage to set Jesus free, because he wanted to please the Jews. Matt 27:19 says, “While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent to him, saying, ‘Have nothing to do with that just Man, for I have suffered many things today in a dream because of Him’” (NKJV).
But what followed Mrs. Pilate’s intervention? Pilate set free a criminal and delivered to be crucified the innocent, yet Pilate claimed to be innocent of the blood of this just Person (verse 26). That can’t be true. Pilate was an accomplice. He is also liable.
7. Be careful the choices you make. Life is about choices and the choices you make today will determine your future. Your choices don’t affect you alone; they affect other people, especially those who have relationships with you.
The chief priests and elders persuaded the multitudes to ask Pilate to release Barabbas, a criminal, to them and Jesus, the innocent, the righteous man to be crucified (Matt 27:20). Not mindful of their choice in asking that Jesus be crucified, they even put a curse on themselves and their children: “And all the people answered and said, ‘His blood be on us and on our children’” (Matt 27:25 NKJV). They cursed themselves and their offspring.
Joseph of Arimathea, a secret disciple of Jesus (John 19:38), a prominent member of the Jewish High Council, the Sanhedrin (Mark 15:43), refused to support the Council in their decision to condemn Jesus to be crucified. He further took a risk to ask Pilate for the body of Jesus, who had been crucified on a charge of treason, and went to bury Him (Luke 23:52-54; Mark 15:43-46; John 19:38). He took a risk by making himself vulnerable to attacks from his colleagues, other Jews and the Roman government for associating himself with a ‘criminal’ executed for treason.
Joseph made a right choice of identifying with Jesus, just like Nicodemus, apparently another secret disciple of Jesus (John 3) and fellow Council member. Nicodemus had, in John 7:51, spoken in favour of Jesus, saying, “Does our law judge a man before it hears him and knows what he is doing?” (NKJV).
This same Nicodemus, obviously, did not support the conviction of Jesus by the Jewish High Council or the Sanhedrin. After Jesus’ death, he, together with Joseph Arimathea, gave Jesus’ body a befitting burial. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds and both of them wrapped Jesus’ body in a long linen cloth with the spices according to the Jewish custom of burial (John 19:38-40).
These two members of the Sanhedrin, which consisted of a minimum of twenty-three members and a maximum of seventy-one members, made a right choice. Make a right choice wherever you are. Don’t use others’ negative influence as an excuse for making wrong decisions. Don’t follow a crowd to do evil (Exo 23:2a).
8. Avoid spiritual pride. After Jesus’ arrest, Peter denied Him three times (Matt 26:69-75). Before, Peter had declared that he loved Jesus, and even said that he could die with Him (Matt 26:31-35; Mark 14:27-31; Luke 22:31-34; John 13:36-38). But Peter went ahead to deny Him three times.
9. Always protect your heart. The forces that will rule your life reside in your heart. Prov 4:23-27 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it affects everything you do. Avoid all perverse talk; stay far from corrupt speech. Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you. Mark out a straight path for your feet; then stick to the path and stay safe. Don’t get sidetracked; keep your feet from following evil” (NLT). What you see, say and hear, and where you go, influence what enters your heart.
Before Judas went to confer with the chief priests and captains on how to betray Jesus to them, Satan had first entered into him (Luke 22:3-4; John 13:27). Protect your heart; don’t let Satan sneak in and take you over.
10. Avoid the love of money. Money is not everything. Judas Iscariot, moved by the love of money, sold his master for thirty silver coins (Matt 26:14-16). Eventually, he couldn’t enjoy the money. He returned it, but it wasn’t collected from him because the givers knew it was blood money. Judas died a miserable death (Matt 27:3-10). Verse 4 says, “‘I have sinned,’ he declared, ‘for I have betrayed an innocent man’” (NLT). But it was too late for him. He lost his soul and the proceeds from his treachery.
Joseph’s brothers sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver (Gen 37:28). They could remove his coat of many colours, but they couldn’t dispossess him of his destiny! They could sell him into slavery, but they couldn’t sell his destiny! Joseph’s dreams still came to pass despite his brothers’ wickedness. “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (1 Tim 6:10 NKJV). Beware!
11. Be committed to doing the will of God for your life. The will of God is superior to your comfort. Jesus did not promote His comfort above the will of God. We see this in His prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matt 26:36-46). Jesus subordinated His comfort to the will of God. He lived and died for the will of God.
The psalmist said, “I delight to do Your will, O my God, and Your law is within my heart” (Psalm 40:8 NKJV). Heb 10:7 and 9 also refer to this scripture. Doing the will of God should be your delight too. “Teach me to do your will, for you are my God. May your gracious Spirit lead me forward on a firm footing” (Ps 143:10 NLT).
12. Forgive, no matter the wrong against you. Jesus asked God to forgive those who conspired to kill Him. He prayed for them rather than curse them. He was not bitter (Luke 23:34). Even when He was being arrested, He still did a miracle for one of His enemies – He fixed the right ear of the servant of the high priest that was cut off by one of His (Jesus’) men in the process of defending Him (Luke 22:49-51). Jesus taught forgiveness and lived it (Matt 6:12, 14-15; 18:21-22). You should emulate Him and forgive those who wrong you.
13. Don’t neglect your parents. Jesus taught care for parents and lived it. For instance, Jesus rebuked the Pharisees and teachers of religious law for their wrong teaching, which made their listeners neglect their parents (Mark 7:11-13). He taught “honour your father and mother” (Matt 19:19; Mark 10:19; Luke18:20).
Right there on the cross, Jesus arranged for His mother’s care before He died, despite the fact that he had family members. “When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold your son!’ Then He said to the disciple, ‘Behold your mother!’ And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home” (John 19:26-27 NKJV).
Don’t neglect your parents even if they’re wealthy or you have siblings taking care of them. Discharge your responsibility.
In the Old Testament, David also arranged for the care of his parents. After he had escaped to the cave of Adullam from King Saul, who wanted to kill him, his brothers and other relatives heard it and went to join him. Other people joined him, too. “Then David went from there to Mizpah of Moab; and he said to the king of Moab, ‘Please let my father and mother come here with you, till I know what God will do for me.’ So he brought them before the king of Moab, and they dwelt with him all the time that David was in the stronghold” (1 Sam 22:3-4 NKJV).
14. God, not the enemy, has the final say. Satan, working through the religious leaders, could kill Jesus, but they couldn’t stop Him from rising from the dead! Hallelujah! There is resurrection after crucifixion. God had the final say over the life of Jesus and the devil was defeated.
Jesus disarmed principalities and powers and made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it (Col 2:15). I always joke that when Jesus said, “It is finished!” (John 19:30), Satan, who had a hearing defect, thought Jesus said, “I am finished!” However, three days later, Jesus resurrected. Not even the soldiers guarding the tomb could stop Him, because they couldn’t stop the great earthquake that accompanied His resurrection. The soldiers went into coma! They were like dead men (Matt 28:1-6). No man can hinder God. No man can stop His work in your life. You may be down now, but you’ll rise again! There’s resurrection after crucifixion.
15. Resurrection power is still alive today. The power that raised Jesus from the dead is alive. Many scriptures testify that God raised Jesus from the dead. These include Acts 10:40, Acts 13:29-30, Acts 13:36-37 and Rom 10:9.
Peter said, “Let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole” (Acts 4:10 NKJV). Paul said, “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Phil 3:10-11 NKJV).
God raised Jesus from the dead and His power is still active healing, saving, delivering, and so on. “The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as he raised Christ from the dead, he will give life to your mortal body by this same Spirit living within you” (Rom 8:11 NLT). By the power of resurrection, I decree your release from any bondage you may be now in Jesus’ name.
16. There is resurrection for every human being after death. Jesus is the firstborn from the dead. “And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence” (Col 1:18 ASV).
1 Cor 15:12-14 says, “Now if Christ is preached that he hath been raised from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, neither hath Christ been raised: and if Christ hath not been raised, then is our preaching vain, your faith also is vain” (ASV). When Jesus died and rose from the dead, other saints rose also. This was to show that the resurrection of Jesus was a pointer to what is awaiting Christians (Matt 27:50-53).
Don’t be like the Sadducees who didn’t believe there’s resurrection (Acts 23:8). Death is not the end for man; there’s going to be resurrection – resurrection to eternity – eternity in hell or eternity with God. Where will you spend your eternity? Paul said, “I have hope in God…that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust” (Acts 24:15 NKJV). That’s my hope too, and that is my faith in God. Are you a sinner or a saint? There is resurrection for you.
For the child of God, there is resurrection unto eternity with God. That is why you must give your life to Jesus if you love to spend your eternity with God, and not with the devil.
Conclusion: Glory be to God! Jesus didn’t commit suicide; He was crucified! He died on the cross to save you and me. His death is not in vain. He is risen! “He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again’” (Luke 24:6-7 NKJV).
If you’ve decided to give your life to Jesus, you need to take the following steps: *Admit you’re a sinner and you can’t save yourself and repent of your sins. *Confess Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. *Renounce your past way of life – your relationship with the devil and his works. *Invite Jesus into your life. *As a mark of seriousness to mature in the faith, start to attend a Bible-believing, Bible-teaching church. There, you they will teach you how to grow in the Lord and discover and fulfill God’s purpose for your life.
Kindly say this prayer now: O Lord God, I come unto you today. I know I’m a sinner and I cannot save myself. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross to save me and resurrected the third day. I confess Jesus as my Lord and Saviour and surrender my life to him today. I invite Jesus into my heart today. By this prayer, I know I’m saved. Thank you, Jesus, for saving me and making me a child of God.
I congratulate you if you’ve said that prayer sincerely. You are now a child of God. May the Lord make you a Cedar Christian. May you grow into Christ in all things and become all God wants you to be. I’ll be glad to hear from you.
T .O. Banso is the President, Cedar Ministry International, Abuja, Nigeria.
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