The Passover commemorates Jesus’ sacrifice. He told us to continue keeping it in remembrance of Him, and that’s what we did just a couple days ago. And now we’re beginning the holy week following Passover — the Days of Unleavened Bread. It’s the perfect time to reflect on the meaning of His sacrifice.
When Jesus gave His life to save sinners, that was God choosing to die for us. The being John calls “the Word” whom we now know as Jesus was God along with the Father throughout the Old Testament. He gave up that glory to live as a human and sacrificed His life on our behalf; the Creator dying for His creation.
Such a sacrifice as half the original Godhead dying shook the world, both literally and figuratively. In the moment Jesus died the temple veil tore from top to bottom, the earth quaked, rocks split, and dead people rose from their graves (Matt. 27:50-53). And as time passed, the Christian believers learned more about what that moment meant on a spiritual level as well.
End Of The Old Covenant
Covenants are the basis of God’s relationships with people. In the first covenant, God included a revelation of His laws, statutes, and judgements which Ancient Israel agreed to follow (Ex. 24:7). But the people fell short of the Divine standard and that brought on them a death penalty. Someone had to pay for the broken covenant.
In the Greek language of the New Testament, the word used for “covenant” is the same as “testament.” The writer of Hebrews was inspired to use this comparison in explaining what effect Jesus’ death had on the Old Covenant.
For this reason he is the mediator of a new covenant, since a death has occurred for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first covenant, that those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. For where a last will and testament is, there must of necessity be the death of him who made it. (Heb. 9:15-16, WEB)
Jesus’ sacrifice paid the penalty for human transgression of the covenant. Since He was the God who made this covenant, His death also ended its claim on our lives. And it made way for a new and better covenant.
New Covenant Established
Jesus took away the first covenant so “that he may establish the second” (Heb. 10:9, WEB). Being freed from the just demands of the Law (Col. 2:13-14) doesn’t mean we aren’t in covenant with God or required to follow His ways (Matt. 5:17-20). It means that we’re free to become like God and live the law from hearts that have no desire to break it (Heb. 8:9-11).
Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God. (Rom. 7:4, KJV)
Here, Paul compares God’s people to a woman who was married and under her husband’s “law.” Then her husband, the Old Covenant, died and she was free to remarry Jesus in a New Covenant. This is what those of us who keep the Passover just commemorated as we drank wine symbolic of the New Covenant in Christ’s blood (Luke 22:20).
Access Given To The Divine
Access to God was limited under the Old Covenant. While there were people to whom God spoke directly, most went to the temple and interacted with a priest when they had something to do with God. But even the priests who served in the temple didn’t have access to the inner sanctuary where God placed His presence, save for the high priest once a year on Yom Kippur.
When Jesus died, the veil that tore was the thick curtain separating the Holy of Holies sanctuary from the rest of the temple. That physical sign pointed to the spiritual truth that because of Jesus’ sacrifice we have direct access to God. He has removed the separations God placed between Him and us and He’s removed the sins that made us unfit to enter God’s presence.
Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; and having an high priest over the house of God; let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. (Heb. 10:19-22, KJV)
I don’t know whether Jesus held the title High Priest in a heavenly temple of which the earthly one was a “copy and shadow” (Heb. 8:4-5) before His crucifixion or not. But what is certain is that following His death and resurrection, He’s the only one who can claim that title now. There is no other mediator between man and God (Heb. 7:24-25; 1 Tim. 2:5).
Complete Forgiveness Available
In the Hebrew Bible, “forgiveness” is typically translated from two words. One is “to pardon” (H5545 salach) and the other is “to lift or take up” (H5375 nasa). Yet even though sins were described as pardoned after an atoning sacrifice made through the priests (Lev. 4:20; 5:16; 6:7), “it is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins” Heb. 10:4, WEB). Something else was required for complete forgiveness.
We can think of the forgiveness given in the Old Testament as God lifting up their sins and taking it on His shoulders to do away with once and for all at the cross. Jesus’ sacrifice is what all those blood offerings in the Old Covenant pointed toward. And His life is all that’s needed to cover the sins committed back then as well as all the sins that have been or will be committed since His death.
For by one offering he has perfected forever those who are being sanctified. (Heb. 10;14, WEB)
Because Jesus died, all the Old Testament believers sins are gone. And ours are too. Today, complete removal of sins is available the instant that we repent, believe, and follow Jesus (Acts 3:19).
God’s Plan Proven Sure
God had a plan from the beginning to bring people into His family. And since the fall, He’d been letting His people know how He’d do that. Moses certainly knew God would come in the flesh (Acts 3:20-22), as did David (Acts 2:24-31), and many prophets. They treated it as a sure and certain thing because God promised it, but until Jesus died salvation in Messiah was still a future hope.
We’re still waiting for the full realization of God’s kingdom here on earth and Satan’s final defeat. But Jesus’ death and resurrection was the pivotal victory over sin and death (Heb. 2:14-15). The New Covenant He made opened up relationship with God and eternal life to everyone regardless of their background (Acts 10:34-35). His resurrection after His death gave us proof that we’ll also rise again (1 Cor. 15:12-22). And the promises from the Old Testament that He fulfilled show us He can be trusted to fill all the promises in the New Testament.
Nearly 2,000 years ago, God the Son let human beings who He had created kill Him. With that sacrifice, He removed the death penalty every human being earned for sinning against their Creator. He established a New Covenant with believers that lets us call Him our espoused Husband and Friend as well as Savior. He opened the way for us to have a relationship with Him and His Father closer than any available before. And He proved that God’s plan is something solid that we can pin our hope to knowing victory is already won. The things that happened when Jesus died changed the world forever and form the basis of our Christian faith today.