What do we think of when we think about Easter? Most of us focus on what Jesus did on the cross, which is a good thing. Without the cross nothing wonderful can happen. But Easter morning is not about the cross; it’s about the empty tomb. It’s not about Jesus’ death; it’s about the gift of Jesus’ life, not only given for us but given to us!
I love how the Passion translates the most famous passage in the Bible. It tells us so much about this crazy good news that brings great joy called the Gospel.
16For here is the way God loved the world—he gave his only, unique Son as a gift. So now everyone who believes in him will never perish but experience everlasting life.
17“God did not send his Son into the world to judge and condemn the world, but to be its Savior and rescue it! (John 3:16-17 TPT*)
Now, “as a gift” is not in the original Greek but it’s implied, and it clarifies something important. First, if God is giving something (or Someone), then it’s a gift. Second, it clarifies the whole point of why the Father sent Jesus in the first place.
Going back to His original intent, we know that God is love (1 John 4:8), but not only that, He’s a Father who wants sons and daughters (Eph. 1:4-6). This is the overarching purpose for why He does everything.
When we read this very familiar passage, we tend to glaze over what we think we know. For instance, we think we know that God gave what was most precious to Him as a sacrifice for us. While this is true, it misses the ultimate point and may lead one to only think of God as a Father who has His son killed to accomplish His goals.
That’s actually not a very good picture of a father.
And God is a very good Father.
I submit to you that we must go beyond this superficial understanding about thinking of Jesus as a gift.
So, then, what is the gift here?
To explain what I mean, let’s look at what Paul tells us about the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. I will show this in the Disciples Literal New Testament (DLNT) to be precise to the original language:
10 For if while being enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, by much more having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. (Rom.5:10 DLNT*)
First, what Paul is saying is that we were reconciled to God through Christ on the cross. We see this also in 2 Cor.5:19)—God (the Father) was working IN Christ on the cross in order to reconcile us (the world) to Himself, not counting our sins against us anymore.
In other words, through the cross of Christ, God removed every barrier between us and Himself, so that the only thing left standing between us and Him exists between our ears and closed heart.
“We were reconciled to God through the death of His Son…”
To “reconcile” means to exchange, which is a Western Greek idea. It’s not wrong, but the Aramaic rendering is closer to Hebraic thought here, which is the idea of God shepherding the world through Christ.
We were lost sheep, estranged from our Father, and as a good shepherd, He rescued us! (see my post, “The Mission” for a more thorough explanation).
But Paul doesn’t end this passage in Romans with Jesus’ death. He goes on to say that we are saved by His life.
“we shall be saved by His life.”
You could say that Good Friday is when we were reconciled to God, but it’s because of Easter Sunday that we are saved.
Reconciliation doesn’t save us; receiving Jesus’ life saves us.
This brings us back to the gift. How is Jesus the gift that the Father gave to us in order to accomplish His eternal purpose in Eph.1:4, which is to have sons and daughters who are holy and blameless before Him?
Of course, we know that through the resurrection He gave us His Spirit to come and dwell in us forever. When we open our hearts to Him, He comes and makes His home in us. We’re no longer orphans estranged and alienated from God but His very own sons and daughters! (John 3:3-8; 14:18-23). This reception of Him births something new in us and we become a new creation, born of His Spirit!
What this means is that we are given Jesus’ life (via the Holy Spirit) so we can begin the cooperative process of transformation as we allow Jesus’ life to effectively work in us.
This is eternal life. We were crucified with Christ; we died and our life is now His life (Gal.2:20; Col.3:3). We now have access to everything Jesus has, seated with Him in heavenly places (John 16:15; Eph.2:6), with the intent to live from heaven to earth (Phil.3:20).
In other words, God, our good Father, gave us the Gift that keeps on giving! It was first given on the cross to remove everything that stood between us and God, but it doesn’t end there. God’s ultimate gift to us is Jesus’ very own life dwelling in us, living in us forever!
That’s just how much this Father loves us. He would stop at nothing to get His kids back. And that’s the crazy good news that brings great joy!
May you and yours have a very blessed Easter.