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Garza County News

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Pastor Scott Richards, First United Methodist Church, Post

The Coming of the Holy Spirit

Happy Easter

Published April 2, 2012 @ 12:35 p.m.

Easter is here!  Actually, as I write this article we are just beginning Holy Week having celebrated Palm Sunday.  What we don’t always realize; however, is that all of Holy Week intentionally leads us up to Easter.  It is incredible that Jesus died for us so that we could receive forgiveness.  But the whole point of forgiveness is that God is creating in us a completely new life.  Jesus told Nicodemus, “Unless one is born from above, that person cannot see the Kingdom of God.”  Jesus’ death and resurrection makes it possible for us to be born from above!

As we walk through what happened in Jesus’ passion we find three frames of exchange.  The term “redemption” is an economic term that simply means to exchange or person.  In the ancient world it especially referred to a relative buying a person out of slavery.  They would exchange the price required of the slave owner and buy back someone.  In the Old Testament it was incumbent upon a family to buy back their relative if they were sold into slavery.  The term three frames of exchange simply refers to the structure around which we can understand the exchange Jesus made for us.

The first and maybe the most difficult exchange is found in the Garden of Gethsemane.  There Jesus tells the disciples that His soul is, “grieved to death.”  In the ancient world there was a technical definition for soul.  Soul referred to what we fell, what we think, and what we will.  We see the exchange for our soul when Jesus falls down and says to Our Father, “Not my will but your will be done.”  The exchange becomes more obvious when we look back to the first garden where Adam, progenitor and representative of all humanity, chooses his own will above God’s will.  Here is the first exchange.

In the second exchange we are reminded of Isaiah 53, the song of the suffering servant.  Biblical scholars will tell you that this song actually refers to the nation of Israel and they are not wrong as far as they go.  But Jesus, as King of the Jews, is the summation of God’s people and what happens to Jesus happens to all.  Isaiah 53 says, “By His stripes we are healed.”  At the whipping post of the Romans Jesus makes the payment for our broken bodies as the Roman soldiers beat Jesus to a bloody pulp.  I had a friend who told me God gave to him a vision of Christ upon the cross.  Our pictures show this beautiful vision of a man hanging on the cross but in reality it would have been hard to tell that the visage on the cross was really a human being because Jesus had been beaten so badly. 

Finally, Jesus makes atonement for our spirit on the cross.  When Jesus cries out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me” He isn’t just quoting from Psalms 22.  Rather we have already been given this picture when God makes the blood covenant with Abraham but only God walks through the animals that were split in half.  On the cross God is separated from God as the Son becomes our sin so that we can become the righteousness of God.  The Father literally turns away from the Son in that moment of time.  Then Jesus cries out, “Father, in Your hands I commit my Spirit.  Jesus reclines His head and then dies.  No one took Jesus’ life from Him.  Jesus laid His life down for us.

But the cross is not the end.  Neither is the grave.  Rather, Christianity begins with the belief in the empty tomb.  We believe that God has raised Jesus from the dead and because He lives we can live also.  If all Jesus did was purchase our redemption we are still going to all die.  But because Jesus is risen we too have His life – not in heaven after we die – but right here and right now.  That is the next great celebration of the Christian year; Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit. 

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