Message by Andrew Chisholm
Life Group Discussion Study by Steve Chao
Easter is a precious time when Christians are reminded of the story of Jesus Christ who died on the cross for our sins and rose again to give us new life in him. One of the most rewarding ways to recapture and to a have deeper understanding of these monumental events is to imagine ourselves retracing and following the footsteps of Jesus through his final days on earth.
Over this Easter period we have been traversing that journey together through Palm Sunday, the Last Supper, the Crucifixion, and finally Jesus’ triumphant Resurrection on Sunday. In this discussion study we want to remind ourselves of the truth, importance, and relevance of these tremendous events in our own lives.Communion and Passover at Easter
In this Easter period it is a privilege to celebrate the events by sharing stories and Holy Communion. It is an opportune time to give thanks for the blessings and salvation that Jesus has given us.‘…The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me”. In the same way. After supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this wherever you drink it, in remembrance of me”. For whatever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.’ (1 Cor.11:23b-26).
The Exodus from Egypt (Exod.12) was a defining moment for the people of Israel. To commemorate this deliverance from slavery and persecution, the Israelites celebrated the event by what has come to be known as the Passover meal. The night before His crucifixion, Jesus reinterpreted and transformed the Passover Meal to the Lord’s Supper. The elements consumed do not change in their nature but have mystical spiritual significance because of the presence of the Holy Spirit in our partaking. The bread has come to symbolize the body of Christ broken for us. The wine represents Jesus blood that was shed for us (cup of redemption in the Jewish tradition) which cleanses us from our sins. The partaking of this Communion is a reminder of the New Covenant that Jesus has instituted between him and the believers.
Jesus reminded all his followers to regularly participate in taking Communion which Christians variously called Communion, Holy Communion or the Eucharist. The Eucharist denotes the sharing and partaking of charis
i.e. the grace of God. At CityLife we simply call it celebrating Communion together.
The celebration of Communion is an outward expression of an inward grace instituted by Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is the partaking of a communion with God through a new covenant which replaces and surpasses the old covenant of Passover meal. The new covenantal celebration symbolizes freedom from the slavery to sin and the promise of eternal life through Jesus’ death on the Cross and his victory by his Resurrection.
At CityLife we encourage the people who have faith in Christ to participate in Holy Communion. However, we should not exclude others in partaking according to their own conviction. None of us are worthy of God’s grace, so all the people are welcome to participate. However, when we celebrate this symbolic meal, it should be taken in a worthy manner with reverent heart and right attitude because we are all sinners saved by God’s grace (1 Cor. 11:27). Additionally, we encourage Life Groups to celebrate the Communion whenever they could within their own contexts.
1. Discuss the place of Communion and its holiness in your personal life and life in the Life Group.
2. The Western world loves the holiday and celebration of Easter with gifts, hot-cross buns, and Easter eggs. Why has the true meaning of this Easter story been marginalized?
3. Have you or when was the last time you share the real meaning of Easter with anyone? Was it difficult to share this message?Crucifixion and God’s Saving Act of Sacrifice‘For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures…’ (1 Cor. 15:3).‘Surely, He took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered Him stricken by God, smitten by Him and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed.’ (Isa. 53:4-5).
God is holy, righteous, pure, and without blemish. As a result of the Fall of man, the righteous God has to punish sin. At the same time God is love and He desires to save mankind. So in His supreme wisdom God determined that the one and only way to save mankind was by sending His one and only Son Jesus. Jesus thus voluntarily came in the form of man, to die for humanity (1 Cor. 15:3) so that whoever believes in Him will have eternal life (Jn. 3:16-17).
How does Jesus achieve His goal? According to Phil. 2:6-10, even though Jesus is divine in essence, He humbled Himself and take on the nature of human and in the role of a suffering and humble servant. His total reliance and obedience as Son of God to God the Father is exemplified by His servanthood and His sacrificial death on the Cross. Jesus’ death on the Cross is the fulfilment of the messianic Psalm 22 and Isa.52:13-53:12.
The Roman philosopher and scholar Cicero explained that crucifixion is the most severe form of capital punishment known to humans. It is a humiliating, demeaning, de-humanizing, excruciatingly painful, exhausting, and agonizing form of torture that leads to death. Under Roman rule, crucifixion by its barbaric nature was a punishment reserved for non-Roman citizens. It was reserved for the marginalized underclass slaves, prisoners of war, violent criminals, rebels, and Jewish rebellious zealots.
Psalm 22:14–17a depicts and prophesies this experience of Jesus graphically, ‘I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted within me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth … they have pierced my hands and feet. I can count all my bones …’
Isaiah prophesied the cause, effect, and consequence of this crucifixion in Isaiah 53:4–5, ‘Surely, He took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered Him stricken by God, smitten by Him, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed.’
Crucifixion was reserved for the most heinous crime. The agony and shame that Jesus suffered on our behalf is very hard for us to imagine. This punishment was practiced even before Roman times as described in Deut. 21:22-23. Jesus in an unfathomable way purposely died on the Cross to demonstrate and fulfil the total payment for our heinous sin against God (Gal.3:13). The magnitude of which is something we can meditate upon this Easter.
According to Anselm and Augustine of Hippo, human sin defies God’s moral dignity. The only way to satisfy the requirement for atonement of sin is by the voluntary sacrifice of the sinless human in the form of Jesus. This is the encouragement that Paul gives to every one of us, ‘We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors…We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.’ (2 Cor. 5:20-21).
At the cross as He was dying, Jesus uttered ‘It is finished’ (John 19:30). Jesus is not finished, but His task and job on earth is finished. He has achieved the goal; He has acted out His saving act; He has accomplished what He set out to do when He was in heaven before His incarnation on earth. The Passion Journey has concluded and the suffering servant prophesied in Isaiah has completed the atonement process. Jesus has accomplished this by appeasing the wrath of God and paid in full the sin of the world. The crucifixion of Jesus on the Cross is a stroke of genius by God. We will never fully understand it but we can be sure that as followers of Christ we are beneficiaries of the saving grace of God. This is a message we could carry and shared with others.
4. How does the crucifixion achieve God’s purpose?
5. Did Jesus really die? If it is true, how does it matter for all hearers of the Gospel? (You may like to refer to these texts: Rom. 1:16; Col. 1:14; Rom. 5:18; Isa. 53:5; 1 Pet. 2:9; Heb. 9:14).
6. The idea of the ‘suffering servant’ is very much counter-cultural. Read Isa. 52:13-53:12. What can we learn from this prophetic writing?Resurrection and its modern-day relevance‘…that Christ died for our sins…that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to…’ (1 Cor.15:3-8).
At the Cross Jesus paid for our sin through His vicarious death. His death was both a substitution for us and a death that we can identify with. Christ died in our place. Rom. 6:23 tells us that the wages or price of sin is death. Through the Cross we are redeemed, that is our debt of sin is paid. But, the story and the plan of God does not end there. Satan and sin still have to be defeated, so that there will be hope and eternal life available for anyone who has committed to Jesus in faith. The story of the Gospel cannot be complete without the resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ our Saviour.(a) The authenticity of the Resurrection
The Gospels documented the disappearance of Jesus body from the tomb. However, his subsequent appearance authenticates his resurrection. On the third day Jesus appeared to the women close to him (Jn. 20:11-18), and the two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Lk.24:13-16, 35). Later He appeared to the eleven disciples, five hundred followers of Jesus, and finally to Paul (1 Cor. 15:4-8). There have been several theories against Jesus’ resurrection which are easily disproved. If this phenomenon is not true the disciples would not have risked their lives and proclaimed the Gospel with such conviction and peace of mind.(These include: (a) Jesus did not die (b) He only swooned (fainted) (c) Jesus married (d) Someone else was crucified (e) Mistaken identity (f) The disciples hallucinated (g) Deliberate deception by Pontius Pilate and Jewish authority. )(b) The importance of the Resurrection:
The Gospel is only complete with the resurrection of Jesus. Without Jesus’ resurrection, our faith becomes meaningless and untrue (1 Cor. 15:13-19). Jesus’ resurrection from the dead signifies the defeat of death and Satan and his vindication as the one and only true Son of God and Messiah (fulfilling the Sign of Jonah in Matt. 12:39-41; Lk. 11:29-30). Moreover, when Jesus returns in His Second Coming, those who died would be resurrected with him (1Thess.4:14). This is such a great hope for all who believe in Jesus.(c) The result and consequence of Jesus’ Resurrection
Even after discovering the empty tomb the disciples were still perplexed. However, when Jesus appeared to them their faith in him as the eternal Son of God was cemented. The hope of life after death is prophesied by Ezek. 37:4-10 and fulfilled in Jesus’ resurrection. Secondly, it confirms what he claimed to be as the divine God (Mk.14:61-62). Thirdly, the unchanging God keeps his promise of eternal life for those who believe in Christ Jesus (Jn.3:16). In His newness Jesus becomes the prototype as firstborn from the dead (Col. 1:18). As a hymn declared, ‘He lives…He lives…Christ Jesus lives today...You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart (A.H. Ackley).
Isn’t this hymn a wonderful reminder and reassurance for us all?(d) Encouragement to those who still do not know Jesus
Imagine just for a moment that we have just lost hope for something we have been earnestly pursuing. There is no point to continue chasing after it because it becomes meaningless. If there is no hope and certainty at the end of our lives, life almost becomes meaningless. Everything we accumulate on earth will be ultimately gone. It is therefore most encouraging and reassuring that Jesus’ resurrection gives a hope that there is eternal life with God at the end of our lives on earth for those who have faith in Jesus alone. This is something that no other religion can offer. No other founder of a religious order is alive. None of them can claim to be the divine. This is a tremendously important and encouraging Good News that we can share with those who still do not know Jesus as the one and only Saviour of the world.
7. In 1 Cor.13:3-8; 13, we have documentation and testimonies of many witnesses to the death and resurrection of Jesus. Is this evidence enough? What about the testimonies of the martyrs over the centuries?
8. Would you be prepared and energized to share the Easter story more readily since you heard the Easter messages?
9. Discuss the resurrection power of Christ and its attainment as children of God (Rom. 6:5-14; Phil. 3:10-11).