EASTER 101 – GETTING TO KNOW THE FULL STORY OF EASTER! BY KIANG P LEE

Greetings once more friends everywhere! May the season of Easter replenish your spirit, and rejuvenate your heart to serve Him first!

As we enter the season of Easter commemorating the passion of Jesus, I would like to share two vital aspects of His life which depicts to us how He defeated and took care of human sin altogether. We are familiar with His death on the cross I shared with you in my last post. That’s only half the story, we often forget the first part. I will show how they both must come together so we are freed from sin completely. Both are acts of God which reconciles man to Him completely and forever.

True Origin of Sin: The Great Tempter

First, let’s answer how sin entered the human experience – this is vital to our understanding for Easter is about Jesus redeeming mankind from the human sin condition. We know it started with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Our first parents was deceived and led away to disobey God’s instruction to not touch or eat the forbidden fruit. (Gen.3:3) 

The devil had deceived them into believing God lied to them, and eating the forbidden fruit would result in the exact opposite of what God had said – they would not die but live and “they would be like God” (Gen.3:4-5). It was the exact sin which drove him from being an archangel to become Satan. He wanted to usurp God’s authority and power and be God himself. He said, “I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High” (Isa.14:12-14, esp. V.14). He effectively said, “I will take over as King of the Universe” (Isa.14:14, The Message). It is hard to fathom how he imagined He could pull off such a stunt. Perhaps jealousy, pride, and rage consumed him because of God’s grand purpose in man. Lucifer and a third of the angels were defeated in their rebellion and thrown out of heaven and Satan was born. God labelled him, “You who weakened the nations” (V.12b). His one purpose is to destroy man and God’s design and enterprise for man. (Gen.1:26-27).

So right from the outset we see that Satan is the instigator of sin which weakens people. This does not make man guiltless, Adam believed the devil’s word above God’s word. Man sinned, and he has to be atoned for. The Bible calls Satan, “The accuser of our brothers and sisters” before God (Rev.12:10, also 7-9). He is the great tempter who instigates sin in mankind. (1Thess.3:5) So, there is always two attributes to sin: there is the deceiver who instigates sin, the causal agent, and there is the sinner, whose sins has to be atoned for.

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The Great Tempter – Depiction of Devil in John Milton’s Paradise Lost (Wiki Commons)

We have heard the message of Easter through the passion of Jesus at the cross.  Is man saved merely as a victim of sin, and not from the arch-deceiver and instigator of sin himself? This is the missing piece in the Easter story. I believe the Easter message is incomplete if the devil is left out of the picture to account for his deception. The two go hand-in-hand to free man from sin completely.  And we’ll see that the two acts wraps Jesus ministry from the beginning to the end – from start to finish.

How, when, and where did Jesus save man from the clutches of the deceiver? It occurred at the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry after He was baptized in the Jordan by John the Baptist. In fact, this had to be the first act of saving man Jesus had to do before starting His ministry – before dying on the cross. He could not have started his ministry without first taking care of the arch-deceiver and instigator of sin. He could not have begun His ministry before He corrected Adam’s mistake of plunging mankind into sin, and held captive in Satan’s deception. He could not begin without correcting Adam’s wrong and sin. Paul said, “as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive” (1Cor.15:22). The scriptures say that immediately after He was baptized, the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the Judean wilderness to prepare Him for His titanic battle with the devil himself and defeat Satan at his own game of deception, and free man from the grips of sin. He fasted for 40 days in his preparation for this battle.

“Four Drivers”

There are four main areas in human life the devil deceives, tempts, and instigates sin. He did it with Adam, and he tried it with Jesus, and he continues to deceive and hold mankind in his devious clutches today. I like to call them the “four drivers” of life. Paul says we ought not to be “ignorant of his schemes (temptations)” (2 Cor.2:11). Satan’s temptations of Jesus explains the “four drivers.”  (Matt.4:1-11) They are: 1/ Bread or physical sustenance – Matt.4:3-4.  2/ Security and happiness – Matt.4:5-7. 3/ Material gain – Matt.4:8-11. 4/ Power and influence. Satan gave his best shot at tempting Jesus to sin like he did with Adam, but he failed. Jesus overcame and defeated Satan in that titanic battle in the Judean wilderness, and God attributed His epic victory to mankind which brings righteousness, just as Adam’s disobedience was imputed upon humanity which brought sin, evil, and human suffering. Paul said, “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive” (1 Cor.15:22). By “alive,” in the spiritual sense, is to be without sin, for Paul says, “the wages of sin is death” (Rom.6:23).

Let’s now look at these four primary areas of human life the devil uses to deceive and instigate sin in man. Satan is well aware these are four drivers essential to human survival, and man values highly, hence I have called them the “four drivers” of life.

1)     Bodily Sustenance: With Jesus, Satan used bread, “If You are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread” (Matt.4:3). Recall, Jesus had fasted for 40 days and He was famished. For some of us, we would consider it being on the verge of starvation. So, to say that bread was a punishing temptation was an understatement. But Jesus was spiritually strong, He said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes out of the mouth of God.” It was by God’s word that the world come into being. Jesus saw the bigger picture than mere bread and the cries of hunger of His human body. With Adam, the devil used the forbidden fruit. (Gen.3:1-6)  The devil tempted Adam and Eve to eat the fruit, “you will be like God, knowing good from evil” (V.5). He managed to convince them that God lied when He said, “you shall not eat it, you must not touch it, or you will die” (V.3). They succumbed to the temptation and sinned.

How does this translate to each of us in our time, as it relates to the “sustenance temptation?” “Bread,” which is made from grain, is proverbially known as the “staff of life.” A ‘staff’ is a support or prop synonymous with human livelihood. We turn to Jesus words, “I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or stow away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not more valuable than they?” (Matt.6:25-26). So “bread,” in a broad sense, is metaphor for a person’s basic occupation in which he earns a living. The society in Jesus’ day was mainly agrarian, so sowing and reaping was the main form of work and livelihood for the average citizen. Today, it’s no longer the case.

“Bread” – Staff of Life (Wiki Commons)

Is Jesus saying we are to not work and support our families – not in the least! Just because the devil used bread to tempt Jesus does not mean bread is now bad food – that’s preposterous. In fact, He said, “I am the bread of life” (John 6:35). He means we’re not to make our work or career into an idol in place of God’s purpose for each of us. It is God who places unique gifts in each of us which we turn into careers and professions. The gift is not for us to turn into a money-making machine. We become mercenaries when gifts are turned into ATM machines. The fundamental purpose of His gifts is to activate His Loving purpose in us. For when we dedicate our gifts and careers chiefly for His purpose, the gift becomes our unique line and mode of communication with God. That’s the pattern of divine communication between God and man revealed throughout the Bible. Otherwise, we are using it for our own self-centered, and self-communicative, purpose. Love is other-centered, not self-centered. Jesus said, “the pagans (unbelievers) run after these things (make their gifts self-centered), and your heavenly Father knows that you need these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness (turn your gifts for His Loving purpose), and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself” (Matt.6:32-34). Jesus is talking about the “care of this life” that’s driven by pride, lust, and self-centeredness. (1 John 2:16; Luk.21:34) So, the devil tempts us to sin through the “sustenance temptation” when we use our gifts for wrongful purpose. Gifts becomes idols and thereby, we sin. Gifts are for God-communicative, not self-communicative, purpose.

So bread is depiction for livelihood, and the devil tried to tempt Jesus by deception to look to him for His livelihood. Jesus brought us the victory by not succumbing to the devil’s wiles.

2)     Security and Happiness:  The devil tempted Jesus, made Him stand at the highest point of the temple in Jerusalem, saying, “Since you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “He will command His angels concerning You, and they will lift You up in their hands, so that You will not strike Your foot against a stone.” Jesus answered, “It is written, ‘Do not put the Lord Your God to the test’” (Matt.4:5-7). God gives His children security through angelic protection. Happiness is not possible without security. Without security we live in fear, not joy. Our happiness is secured through the many promises of God, including angelic protection.

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Temptation of Jesus on The Pinnacle of The Temple, Brooklyn Museum (Wiki Commons)

What we see in this temptation is the simple truth that the devil believes God’s people are in a special category of protection through God’s angelic hosts. (John 5:18; 91:11) But he turned a divine promise into its negative form to appeal to human vanity: “if you are the Son of God…” or “you will be like God knowing everything…” as with Adam and Eve. Jesus answered the devil’s temptation, and said in effect, ‘this is not about me or my ego, this is about God’s Love for me, His will be done, not mine.’ It’s tempting to apply human wisdom and pride to God’s promises, but humility must always be our mantra, where we say, “Your will be done, not mine;”  “by myself I can do nothing” (Luk.22:42b; John 5:30). We cannot hijack God’s promises for our own manipulation. Once people do that, before they know it, they’ll put their trust in themselves and physical worldly things to provide for their security. Things like money and wealth, their own human wisdom, their reliance on others, and devices for self enhancement, etc. Whatever you place your trust in, you worship. They have drifted as far from God and His promises don’t come through for them, and they wonder why. 

As the devil has, by deceit, made this world look to him for security and happiness, he tried to do the same to Jesus. Thankfully, for man’s sake, Jesus overcame the devil so that we too may do likewise, with His Spirit in us.

3)      Material Prosperity:  The “four drivers” are all connected. If we fail in one, we will fail in the other four. (Jam.2:10) In this third temptation, “the devil took Jesus to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of this world and their splendor, and said, ‘All this I will give you,” showing the earthly glory in all its worldly majesty. Jesus saw and was offered all the splendor of the earth’s kingdoms, material wealth and possessions. But Jesus was not going to be tempted by the material wealth He had created.

4)       Power and Influence: When Satan said, “If You will bow down and worship me” He was offering Jesus worldly power and reign and to acknowledge His dependence on him, rather than God His Father. Jesus replied, ‘Away from Me, Satan! For it is written ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.’” Then the devil left Him, and the angels came and attended to Him” (Matt. 4:8-11). Jesus was not about to live the ‘solitary’ life of the devil in place of the “Triune Life” He had for eternity with the Father and the Spirit. To have done so Jesus would have extricated Himself from the source and life of Love to a life of fear.

These are the four areas which people give 100% of their attention and effort in the pursuit of life. They are not wrong of themselves, for everything, a) sustenance and health, b) happiness and security, c) material wealth, and d) power, are all God’s to give, and are His gifts to mankind. The devil has always offered man counterfeits of God’s gifts and blessing. Satan uses his counterfeits as tools to keep man deceived, and tempting man to turn them into idols to bow and serve in place of God’ blessings. God says, “The gold is Mine, and the silver is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills, the fowls and the wild beasts are mine, the earth and its fullness and all that dwell in it” (Haggai 2:8; Psa.24:1; Psa.50:10-11). The world’s wealth does not belong to the devil to give to anyone. What belongs to the devil is the system he has created based upon fear, greed, lack, and founded upon rebellion, which, if man accepts, will turn God’s loving gifts to reflect his egotistical self. This is the basis of all human sufferings – we worship the created, instead of the Creator. Jesus said, “You can’t serve both God and money” (Luk.16:13). The Bible says clearly, “The one who loves money and wealth will never be satisfied with money” (Eccl.5:10; Isa.55:2; Jer.17:11). In other words, happiness and security is never found in money and material abundance. 

Define Your wealth. “Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich.” 2 Corinthians 8:9. (Gold Nugget – Wiki Commons) 

However, when we receive material riches legitimately from the true Source of wealth, the Bible tells us, “The blessing of the Lord makes a person rich, and He adds no sorrow (toil) with it” (Prov.10:22; Matt.25:14-15; 1Pet.4:10, 8-9). In other words, His blessings comes with joy, not sorrow. Most of today’s stress-related sickness and disease comes from where people spend most of their lives – earning a living (bread). But God’s riches comes without toil (stress). It has been said that when you enjoy what you do, you never have to work another day in your life. Therein lies our destiny – I will share a beautiful word of wisdom about how to live this way. The joys of God’s blessing comes to man through a person’s gift bequeathed upon him/her by God. God does not give us material wealth to be consumed in our selfish ambition, for when we do, we will get caught up with the “deceitfulness of riches” (Matt.13:22). Jesus said, “A man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:13-21). Rather, they are the outcome and consequence of our primary gift which God’s gives in order to serve Him and our fellowmen.    

Two-Pronged Action of Jesus to Once for All Time Defeat Sin

By defeating the devil in the very temptations he holds humans captive, Jesus forever freed mankind from the great tempter. Paul said “I was afraid that the tempter had gotten the best of you, and that our labors might have been in vain” (1Thess.3:5). Think about it, the blood of Jesus –  the cross – undoubtedly the most important work of Jesus, takes care of past sins, but because we are humans in a fallen state of existence, we do sin, whether through human weakness, ignorance, or through rebellion. Man has sins he does not yet know, as the Psalmist say, “How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart? Cleanse me from these hidden faults” (Psa.19:12). Man’s freedom from suffering from his “hidden faults,” his weakness, his rebellion, is commensurate with his liberation from his prison of ignorance and the Spirit’s power in his life.

The greatest teachers in life are wisdom and consequence. Through them we acquire true knowledge in these four areas of life which frees us. We can never be completely free from sin as humans, but Jesus opens our eyes to deal with the sins the Spirit gives us eyes to see. Jesus’ eyes become our eyes through what He did in the wilderness of Judea when He defeated Satan’s temptations in His epic battle to free every man, woman, and child. Paul says “we are not ignorant of his devices” (2Cor.2:11). And that knowledge which frees is not some legalistic knowledge, but an act of God’s Love through the life and cross of His Son, in the power of the Spirit.

“God has spoken plainly, and I have heard it many times: Power, O God, belongs to you” – Psa.62:11

Please not: the two monumental acts of Jesus wraps His ministry from beginning to end – from the temptations in the Judean wilderness at the start of His ministry, and to the end on the cross of Calvary. Both work hand in hand to free man from his sins, past present and future. These two events, Jesus’ baptism and defeat of the devil, His perfect sinless life of doing good, and His death on the cross, and subsequent resurrection and ascension, encapsulates the perfect human life God our Father accepts on mankind’s behalf as the final answer to sin. 

It’s illogical for Jesus to save man from past sins via the cross, and not overcome the very temptations which is the cause of sin in the first place. This is the victory we win everyday in Christ which He has already done for us in the Judean wilderness by defeating Satan. (1 John 5:4) James tells us this, “So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless” (Jam.2:17). Good work, or God’s Love in action, begins at home, or it starts with you personally, before it is played out externally to your neighbor. John said, “The one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked” (1 John 2:6). He has given us example how to face and deal with the “four drivers” of life, and how to overcome the devil. We can’t defeat the devil on our own, we live the “Triune Life” and we do so because Jesus has already overcome him in our place, like He died on the cross in our place, to free us. He said, “In this world you will have trouble (sin). Take heart, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33, emphasis added; Eph.6:13). The Spirit gives us the power so Jesus victory is vicariously ours – He represents us in God’s presence so we can live triumphant lives. The Bible says, “We are complete in Him (Jesus)” (Col.2:10).       

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 “Away from Me, Satan! For it is written ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve Him Only.'” (Carl Henrich Bloch, Wiki Commons)

Day of Atonement

One final word to show how vital this aspect of Jesus’ work of dealing with the instigator of sin, the devil, and his death on Calvary. This event was prophesied long ago from the time of Moses. What happened in the wilderness of Judea in the temptations mirrors what Israel did before God on the annual Day of Atonement, known to the Jews as Yom Kippur. It was a high day in ancient Israel, full of symbolism and ritual with profound significance. A whole chapter was dedicated to the meaning of this day – it makes for interesting reading in Leviticus 16. The High Priest played the chief role on this day. The people fasted (so did Jesus in the wilderness) and confessed their sins before God: “Atonement is to be made once a year for all the sins of the Israelites” (Lev.16:34). Once a year, God would appear before Israel in the holy place of the temple to cleanse Israel of all sins. The High Priest performed a unique ceremony with two goats. He symbolically confessed upon the head of one of the two goats all the sins of the people. Then a strong individual was assigned to carry the live goat with all the sins of the people and let go in the desert wilderness. The second goat was sacrificed and its blood brought into the holiest chamber before God’s presence in the mercy seat. The second goat represented Jesus and His death on the cross.

We can see the parallel: Jesus repented and was baptized and took upon Himself the weight of the sins of mankind for all times. Jesus had no sin to repent of, but He repented and was baptized for all mankind. He was Immanuel, the second Person of the triune Godhead. Immediately after His baptism, the Spirit led Him into the wilderness where, and after fasting for forty days, defeated the devil in his epic battle to free mankind from the arch deceiver. (Matt.4:1-11) Just as the goat of the Day of Atonement was taken into the wilderness symbolically heavily-laden with Israel’s sins, Jesus took all of mankind’s sins into the Judean wilderness, and placed them squarely upon the head of the instigator of sin, the great tempter, Satan.

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The two Goats of Atonement of Leviticus 16, Depicting Christ’s Twin Role Of Completely Saving Mankind from Sin  (Wiki Commons)

Jesus is the High Priest, and He is Savior symbolized in the goat sacrificed for our sins, and the second goat who took our sins into the desert wilderness. When Jesus came forth from the wilderness of Judea He proclaimed the Gospel, “the kingdom of heaven has come” (Matt.4:17). Such a proclamation could only be made after Jesus defeated the devil and mankind is no longer under his control. Ever since Adam’s eviction from Eden, the gate to Paradise is reopened by Jesus, the second Adam. (Gen.3:24; John 10:9; John 14:6 1Cor.15:45) We can have access to the ‘tree of life’ which gives us the life of the Spirit, and enter into Loving fellowship with the Father through His Son. Man can now live the “Triune Life.”

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Jesus’ Death on the Cross – Final Answer to Sin and Satan’s Defeat (Eugene Lacroix, Wiki Commons) 

Let’s not miss the utter significance of Jesus twin roles as depicted in the two goats, what He did for man in the Jordan river and the wilderness of Judea – by repenting for mankind in the Jordan, He irrefutably took all of our temptations and sins in the “drivers of life” of life and atoned for them by overcoming the devil on all four counts. Then He proceeded to forgive all human sins by His death on the cross (Calvary). He performed a complete absolution of man’s sin condition and inaugurated the Father’s salvation for man as His very own children. Jesus repented as a perfect human being, so that as imperfect humans, we can repent  and be forgiven vicariously in Him. (2 Cor.5:21) This twin act of Jesus, the Jordan and Calvary, the Father accepts as the final, complete, and unmitigated response (atonement) to man’s sin condition into all eternity.

May the blessings of the season of Easter and Passover be with you all and your families.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to write me in the space provided below, or email me on bulamanriver@gmail.com.

Blessing:

Until we meet again in my next post, may the blessing of the God who ceaselessly expresses Himself in His dependable Triune Love, help you to receive Jesus as your personal Savior and live the “Triune Life” in the Spirit. May the Spirit enliven you and make all things concerning you possible in Triune Living as a Bulamanriver.*

Kiang,                                                                                                                                                          (Your Servant in Christ)            

* Bulamanriver” is the metaphor describing the union of man with the Love of the Triune God flowing in humans, making possible the “Triune Life” – the source of the miraculous life in man. To read the many facets of life of the Bulamanriver, go to my website www.bulamanriver.com where you can order a copy of my Book.

All scriptures are taken from the NIV Version 2011, unless stated otherwise.

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