With around 400 years of silence, the people of God were left waiting and hoping for a king to come, a Messiah who would save his people, leading them in righteousness and ruling over them forever.
All the promises that had been made to Adam and Abraham, Moses and David, were foretelling this coming King. The ways in which God had saved his people from peril and had forgiven their sin were pictures of how this Saviour would do the same, but in a greater way. When leaders had led well, and when prophets had spoken God’s Word, it was as a small taste of the greater leading and speaking of the Messiah.
However, the Messiah actually coming into the world was much less of a spectacle. A carpenter, Joseph, and his young fiancée, Mary, found they were expecting a baby before they had a sexual relationship. This miracle baby, so they were told, would be Emmanuel, meaning ‘God with us’. Having no biological human father, this Messiah was no mere human (after all, what human could fulfil those expectations?), but was as fully divine as he was human in nature.
Given the name Jesus, meaning ‘saviour’, he proved his divinity by living a life free from sin and full of care and compassion. He demonstrated divine power by healing those with sickness, raising up those who had died and controlling the elemental forces of nature. He was utterly perfect, completely sin-free – living in absolute moral uprightness and in loving union with God his Father.
Because he was sinless, he shouldn’t have died, since death can only claim the guilty. Yet Jesus had some people who hated him. These ultra-religious people thought they were good, but since Jesus was better, he showed their flaws, which they didn’t like. So they arranged for false allegations and an unjust trial which resulted in him being executed on a wooden cross. Above his head, a notice hung declaring him to be the king.
Since Jesus wasn’t dying for his own sins, he was able to take upon himself the sins of others. He died in the place of all who would come to him, bearing their guilt and taking their deserved retribution. As he died, he cried out in victory that it had been accomplished – done – paid in full.
In that moment of his death, on the other side of town, the curtain of the temple was torn in two. This symbol of our inability to approach God was ripped from top to bottom. God had given us access to himself in Jesus. What’s more, a hardened high-ranking soldier watching him die said that he must be the Son of God.
Death should not have claimed him, and yet as he bore the sin of his people, so it did. But death could not hold him as he had already paid for the sin he bore.
And so, on the third day after his death, having been buried in a nearby garden in the tomb of one of his followers, he broke through death. A group of women were going to anoint his body with sweet smelling perfume, only to find that the tomb was open and two angels sat there saying he was alive.
A few moments later, Jesus actually turned up, appearing to one of those women. That night, he came into the room where his closest followers were gathered. On at least ten different occasions Jesus appeared to individuals and groups of people. On one occasion it was over 500 people who saw him.
Since he had faced death and overcome it, he couldn’t die again. So a short while later, Jesus went up to heaven, rising up on a cloud. He’s there today, seated on a throne of kingly authority as he brings all things under his rule.
Next in this series: Ecclesia »