In this session, we look at Jesus’s trials and crucifixion, and His resurrection and ascension into Heaven. These events are the great turning point in the history of this world, and the key to God’s plan for us and for our world.
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Leader’s Guide for group study
This Group Study Guide contains three questions, with Bible passages to read, together with some notes to help the group leader to guide the discussion.
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It seems fairly certain that Jesus died around the time the Passover lambs were being sacrificed in the Temple – John 18.28 indicates this. The Passover lambs were killed on the 14th Nisan in the Jewish calendar (Leviticus 23.5) – around our Easter-time. Jesus is our Passover lamb (1 Corinthians 5.7).
Every time God’s people celebrated the Passover they recounted the story of how God saved their firstborn from death, defeated their Egyptian overlords and led them to safety through the sea. The firstborn sons of every Israelite family who sacrificed and ate the Passover lamb were saved from death. The Passover lambs died instead of them. Then God led His people Israel out of Egypt. He released them from slavery. Finally, God led them to Mount Sinai. There He made a covenant – in other words, a binding agreement – with them. Through this covenant God brought His people into relationship with Himself.
But the prophets told God’s people there would be another Exodus. The return from Exile in Babylonia did fulfil this prophecy in one way. But there would be another, more wonderful, Exodus.
What was this new Exodus? One pointer is something that we read in the account of Jesus’s transfiguration. Moses and Elijah appeared with Him. They spoke with Him about “his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem” (Luke 9.31). The Greek word for “departure” here is, literally, exodus.
Jesus was crucified at the Festival of Passover because He was going to bring about a new Exodus. This new exodus was His departure – in other words, His death and resurrection and ascension into heaven. Through Jesus, God was going to:
●save people from spiritual death. Sin cuts people off from God, and being cut off from God is spiritual death. But on the Cross, Jesus suffered that penalty Himself; He was cut off from His Father. In the first Exodus, the Passover animals died instead of the firstborn sons. Jesus, our perfect Passover Lamb, died instead of us.
At the Last Supper, Jesus spoke about “my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26.28). God forgives the sin of everyone who repents and trusts in Jesus Christ. Sin – which cuts us off from God – is dealt with, and we can be reconciled to God.
●release people from slavery to sin. God was going put His law “within” His people, and “write it on their hearts” (Jeremiah 31.33). God’s people would have a new character. God would give them a new desire and ability to love and obey Him, and to love other people.
●make a new covenant with people and bring them into a new relationship with Him. God had promised, through His prophet Jeremiah: “I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah”. (Jeremiah 31.31 NIV). Like the old covenant that God made at Mount Sinai, this new covenant would bring people into relationship with God. But it would be a completely new kind of relationship. God was going to live within people (see John 14.15-17,23). They would know God personally and intimately.
Here are three things that we can be assured of because Jesus rose from the dead:
●Firstly, it proves that His death was fully sufficient to atone for all sin. The resurrection proclaims the fact that, as Martyn Lloyd Jones put it: “God is fully and completely satisfied with the work that His Son did upon the Cross.” It proves that Jesus has borne the full penalty of our sins, that all the consequences of sin have been dealt with, and Satan and his dark kingdom are utterly vanquished. Jesus cried triumphantly, “It is finished” – in Greek, tetelestai (John 19.30). In one New Testament Greek dictionary, we are told that the word “was used in ancient times in connection with the payment of rent or poll tax. Receipts were often introduced by the Greek phrase tetelestai, indicating that the debt had been paid in full”.
●Secondly, it means we can be saved from sin – specifically, it means we can have our sins forgiven and be declared righteous.
Paul tells us “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.” (1 Corinthians 15.17). But Jesus has been raised, and so our sins can be forgiven.
Paul also tells us that Jesus “. . . was . . . raised for our justification.” (Romans 4.25). To justify someone means to declare them righteous. One commentator explains that to be justified is “to be acquitted by God from all ‘charges’ that could be brought against a person because of his or her sins.” And, in addition, God credits them with Jesus’s perfect righteousness. He considers us to be as righteous as Jesus! How awesome is that!
How does Jesus’s resurrection connect with our salvation from sin? Because we, as believers, are united with Christ. We are, as Paul often says, “in Christ”. And that changes everything for us! Because we are united with Christ, we died with Christ – “our old self was crucified with him” (Romans 6.6). And we were raised with Christ (Ephesians 2.6, Colossians 2.12) into a new clean life. We are now justified. Our sins are forgiven. But, of course, this could not happen if Jesus had not been raised from the dead! So, His resurrection is vital to our salvation. This glorious truth of our union with Christ is central to our salvation. We’ll look at it more in the next session.
●Thirdly, we can be assured that we, as believers, will rise physically from the dead (1 Corinthians 15.20-23,35-49 Philippians 3.20-21).
Jesus ascended to His Father and is seated at His right hand in Heaven, enthroned in absolute authority over all creation – including Satan and all the forces of evil. He is our great High Priest (Hebrews 4.14-16, 7.23-8.6, 9.11-14,23-26, 10.19-22). Here are some ways in which these truths can help us in our daily lives as Christians:
●Through Jesus, by the Holy Spirit, we have access to the Father. We may stand in God’s presence (see Ephesians 2.18, Hebrews 4.16, 10.19-22).
●Through Jesus as our great High Priest, we may “approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need”. (Hebrews 4.16 NIV).
●Jesus has experienced life as a human on this earth with all its challenges and temptations. He knows about our own struggles and temptations, and is able to help us. The author of the Book of Hebrews tells us “because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” (Hebrews 2.18).
●Jesus “is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them” (Hebrews 7.25 NIV).
●He is our Advocate with the Father (1 John 2.1-2). He stands for us against our accuser, Satan, and He speaks to the Father on our behalf. He asks for our acquittal on the ground of His sacrificial death. Jesus’s advocacy for us in Heaven as our great High priest assures us of forgiveness.
●We’re now seated with Christ in heavenly places (Ephesians 2.4-6). Of course, we’re not physically present in the heavenly realms! But, because we’re united with Christ (as we saw in the previous question) we share in His resurrection life. We may walk “in newness of life” (Romans 6.4). In addition, we participate in His victory over the evil powers.
CREDITS ► Text copyright © 2017 Robert Gordon Betts ► Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ► Scripture quotations marked ‘NIV’ are taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.</p