“Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”
Easter is approaching and for those who love Jesus Christ, it is a day of unbridled celebration. Easter is after all, the foundation of the Christian faith. If Christ had not risen from the dead, then our faith would be in vain. But our faith is resolute because Christ is risen. Indeed He is risen!
The week leading up to Easter, known as Holy Week, is rich with stories that at once devastate and enrich the heart. We are amazed at the mingling of grief and joy while fully aware of the fact that the sorrowful Good Friday experience was essential to the Easter morning ecstasy. Our feelings span a spectrum of emotions as we consider the days beginning with Maundy Thursday and culminating with Resurrection Sunday.
Charles Dickens is quoted as saying, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” And so it is that often in the midst of some great difficulty or tragedy, something beautiful is birthed and grief and joy are simultaneously experienced. It is frequently acknowledged that during the most desperate of times God’s presence is experienced in most extraordinary ways. We would not wish difficulties and sorrows upon ourselves, but for those of us who have been in the furnace of affliction, we remember the intense intimacy that we shared with God during those valley experiences and we define them as some of our most cherished times with God.
The agonizing and torturous death of Jesus Christ provided us access to God. The paradox of grief and joy commingled is never observed as poignantly as it is in the Easter narrative. Speaking of the moment of Jesus’ death, Matthew 27:50 reports, “And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” This veil separated the holy place from the Holy of Holies, the most sacred part of the entire Temple. Only the High Priest was permitted to pass beyond the veil once each year during Yom Kippur to make atonement for the sins of the people (Leviticus 16). The veil was a constant reminder that sin separated people from the presence of God. The tearing of the veil at the moment of Jesus’ death symbolized that by His blood sacrifice the way into the Holy of Holies was now open to those who come to God through Jesus Christ as mediator.
Regarding Jesus, John 1:11-13 explains, “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God — children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”
As children of God, we understand that our finite mind cannot fully comprehend an infinite God. However, to the degree to which we are able, God empowers us to know him through his word. God’s word encourages us in Luke 24:45, “Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.” 2 Corinthians 3:16, “But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.” Matthew Henry speaking of the veil said, “When any particular person is converted to God, then the veil of ignorance is taken away; the blindness of the mind, and the hardness of the heart, are cured.” And in Colossians 1:13 we learn, “For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
Although the enigma of death for life and joy with sorrow may disquiet our hearts, we have come to appreciate the paradox and embrace it for ourselves. Enraptured and surrendered to Jesus Christ, the veil is taken away and with one voice we exclaim, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).
Father God, Jesus we thank you for your passion, your intense love for mankind, that compelled you to Calvary’s cross where your innocent blood was shed for the redemption of man. May the Holy Spirit empower us to follow the pattern of your life. In view of God’s mercy, may we offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, as our true and proper worship (Romans 12:1). In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.