Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Remembering Israel at Easter

This week, around the world, Jews and Christians will be celebrating Passover and Easter (as it is commonly called in the West). In their separate ways, both religions will take time and ceremony to remember and dwell upon the Lord’s wonderful provision of salvation.

While Passover can clearly been interpreted as a metaphor of Christ’s crucifixion and salvation through the shed blood of the lamb, it’s also worth noting that in both instances there is only one way of salvation provided; in Passover through the lamb’s blood spread on the door post and in Easter through Christ’s blood shed on the cross.

This is an extremely important point to note. There do not exist multiple ways in which to reconcile ones self to God as many people today are want to believe. There has only ever been one way, thousands of years ago in Egypt or across the globe today. Jesus clearly states that no one comes to the Father but through Him.

However, there is a stark difference in the stories of the Jewish salvation in Egypt and the work of Christ on the cross in Jerusalem. While the salvation in Egypt was reserved for a single people group, the Hebrews – the Egyptians were not given instructions on how to save their first-born from the angel of death – salvation through Christ is freely available to the entire world. This is the wonderful New Covenant. This is the fulfillment of the promise to Abraham that through him all the families of the earth will be blessed.

The sad irony in all this is that the Jewish people, who will this week celebrate their national salvation from Egypt, are for the most part as a nation today not partaking in the salvation offered through Jesus. They haven’t recognized His credentials as Messiah nor His direct fulfillment of the redemption towards which Passover spoke.

But, as the Apostle Paul warns us in Romans 11, we should be careful not to “boast against the branches” that are cut off. Many in Church history, and even today, have sadly ignored Paul’s words and have instead chosen to see the Jewish people as despised and rejected by God, not understanding the mystery of what has happened.

Paul clearly explains in Romans 11 verse 25 that “blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.” The prophet Isaiah in chapter 8 of his book clearly foresaw this scenario when he spoke of a “stone of stumbling” to Israel and a time when the Lord would “hide His face from Jacob.”

This is clearly echoed in Psalm 118 verse 22-24 where it says, “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” We’ve all happily sung a song to that Psalm probably not realizing its true context nor its seeming contradiction in that the Lord has caused this rejection and yet it is something to celebrate.

The Church at large needs to comprehend what this mystery means for us as believers, especially as we celebrate the death and resurrection of Christ. Simply said, we should recognize that we would have no salvation were the Jewish people not blinded by God himself from seeing Christ as Messiah.

Paul explains this principle in Romans 11 verse 15 by saying that “their being cast away is the reconciling of the world.” This should lead us to love and appreciate our Jewish brethren who have suffered so much for the sake of the gospel to reach the ends of the earth. They are separated from God for our sakes, for our very salvation.

But, there’s more. On Easter Sunday, churches will celebrate the resurrection of Christ from the dead. Paul states in Romans 8 that creation itself “waits for the revealing of the sons of God”. We have yet to actually receive our salvation, we are “eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8 verse 23). We are waiting for our resurrection that we may truly become like the risen Christ in whom we rejoice.

Paul finishes his sentence in Romans 11 verse 15, speaking of the Jewish people, by saying of them, “what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?” It must be understood therefore that once God removes the Jewish people’s blindness, and they accept Jesus as Lord, this is the trigger that will usher in Christ’s return, at which point we receive our salvation (Hebrews 9 verse 28). Our destiny as God’s people is clearly wrapped up with the people who celebrate Passover.

As we approach the Lord’s Table this Easter and remember all that He has done for us, let us not forget the Jewish people who have also paid such a high price for our salvation. And let us remind the Lord to turn His face towards Jacob again, to free Israel from slavery once more, that they may usher in for all creation the wonderful reign of our King and Savior, Jesus.