In 2800 B.C., when the idea of civilization was still a young one, people already knew there was a problem. An Assyrian tablet inscribed in that period bemoans, “Our earth is degenerate in these latter days…Bribery and corruption are common”—that comment from a military civilization known for its extreme and violent barbarity.
Two millennia later, inscribing with stylus on stone or lead, the prolific Hebrew writer Isaiah observed the same core problem with humanity, saying, “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6). Our ‘own way’, he observes, has led us into “infirmities”, “sorrows”, “iniquities” and a lack of “peace”.
He is a spokesman for every one of us. From the earliest cave dwellers and nomads, to the metropolitan elite of our day, every one of us must concede we suffer the same malady. We are, by nature, a species in pursuit of elusive peace: with God, with others and with ourselves.
But Isaiah’s purpose is not to express a fatalist’s perspective. His intention is to reveal God’s means of resolving the conflict. This is one of the earliest and clearest prophecies outlining God’s proposal: God’s plan for Easter.
Of course, Isaiah doesn’t call it Easter. He’s too busy inscribing words he would likely have had no way of fully comprehending. He was eight hundred years too early to see God incarnate being arrested, “despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.”
Have we thought of that as carefully as we ought to? God Himself, knowing more intimately than anyone else how dreadfully our sorrows and iniquities mar our lives, plans our malady’s resolution to come at His own expense.
He wasn’t planning the lighthearted Easter egg hunts we love to celebrate with children running in green spring fields. He wasn’t devising new ways to wrap chocolate in brightly coloured foil. He wasn’t even insisting it ought to be imbedded in a four-day weekend so that we could gather with loved ones from near and far. Those are joyful add-ons to Easter.
God’s plan was to create a place for Himself to enter humanity’s broken world the way we all had to enter it, in flesh and blood, and bear a crushing blow on our behalf. The One who is rebelled against by every one of us bears the brunt of His own righteous justice. Can we understand it?
It would be like a judge pronouncing with the fall of his gavel the death sentence on a guilty prisoner, and then stepping up to the gallows himself to take the punishment. It is inconceivable, isn’t it?
And yet, that is what God’s plan for Easter was, long before our lives, long before Jesus’ life on earth, even long before Isaiah’s life. The writer of Revelation, the final book of the Bible, describes Jesus as “the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world” (Rev.13:8). What that means is that God, knowing we would each choose rebellion against Him in one form or another, made plans way back at this earth’s birth, to solve the malady we would bring upon ourselves. And He would solve it at His own expense, by His own incarnate death.
That was His plan for Easter.
As we prepare for Easter 2015, let’s begin to think that thought through, and Isaiah’s chapter 53 is a good place to start.
(Photo Credit:Wikimedia Commons; Creator: Luba Petrusha)