Easter and Emancipation (Hebrews 2:14-15)
I. Which Day?
If you were to say that your favorite day ever was the day you got married or had your first child or enjoyed some once-in-a-lifetime experience, OR if you were to say that your favorite day of the year is Christmas or your birthday or the Fourth of July, I would ask you to seriously rethink those choices. Why? Because your favorite day of this year or any year should always be Easter.
Now how can I say that so adamantly? Well, there are (at the very least) four clear reasons Easter should be your favorite day. And these reasons come from God! Let's consider one each time as we listen to what God has revealed to us through the writings of the New Testament.
II. Condensed Message: “Through Fear of Death” (2:14-15)
Reason #1: Easter should be your favorite day because it's the day you were freed from slavery.
That's a pretty good reason, isn't it? Now, you may be saying to yourself, I've never been a slave, so how could I be 'set free'? Well, listen to how the writer of the almost 2000 year-old book of Hebrews describes this slavery. Hebrews 2:14 and 15...
Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil,  and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.
What kind of slavery are we talking about? “Lifelong slavery”. And how exactly are we shackled as lifelong slaves? “Through fear of death”. Listen, if we're honest, all of us know we're going to die. Again, if we're honest, all of us also know that we don't know when we're going to die. It could be sooner or later, no matter how old... or... how young you are.
So I think what this is saying is... that reality, the reality that your life in this world is temporary, that reality has a power over you. How so? Mainly in two ways: first, the reality of your death can keep you fixated on this life, so that you neglect the life to come. Second, to deal with that reality of death, we are regularly tempted by human, rather than heavenly, solutions.
And as we read in this passage, the one who takes full advantage of our fearful condition is the devil. Not only does he have “the power of death” in that he tempts us to sin and then hangs that sin over our heads (sin that leads to death!), but he also exploits our fear of death by tempting us in the two ways I just mentioned. You see, our Enemy would love nothing more than to keep you fixated on this life, on the idea that this life is all there is, AND, to tempt you with human solutions, rather than heavenly solutions, in the face of your death.
Those 'solutions' include strategies like living in denial; self-medicating, and pinning our hopes on wishful, but baseless, thinking about everyone going 'into the light'. There's also the “let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die” strategy, and the “he who dies with the most toys wins” strategy. But none of these strategies help us find real freedom from that fear of death. They simply tighten the shackles of our slavery.
But the hope of Easter is the hope of freedom from this slavery. How? Because the Son of God (he's the “he” of verse 14) came among us, as one of us, in the person of Jesus. He “share[d] in flesh and blood”. Why? So “that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death”. God cannot die. But when God the Son became the God-man, Jesus, not only was it possible for that man to die, but it was possible for that man to die for us. And that's exactly what he did on the cross, taking, as the spotless Lamb of God, the deadly penalty our sins deserved.
But what about Easter? Good Friday is alluded to here, but what about Easter? Well, how could anyone destroy the One who has the power of death without actually defeating death itself. If Jesus was just another perpetual victim, how could he also be the eternal Victor? You see, the 'great given' throughout Hebrews is the fact that Jesus Christ lives. In fact, as 7:25 puts it, “he always lives to make intercession for [us]”. That means His incomparable victory on Sunday eternally secured for us his substitutionary suffering on Friday.
Therefore, Christian, follower of Jesus, Easter was the day of your eternal emancipation. Your bondage to the fear of death has been broken by the One who died for you, but then beat death. If you truly understand that, how could Easter not be your favorite day? And if you don't already know this freedom, what's keeping you from it? Let today be the day! Trust him for what only he can do.
III. Your Day-to-Day
Now, let's unpack that a bit more as we think about how to really live this out. If Easter is your favorite day because it was the day you were set free, how should your favorite day transform your day-to-day?
Let me suggest that you first ask yourself, “Do I still live like a slave?” Though you might intellectually know that we have hope in the face of death through Jesus, does the fear of death still grip you deep down? And if so, are you pushing that down or turning to human solutions to deal with that fear? Remember, even as followers of Jesus we are susceptible to these temptations and struggles.
We live in a world that encourages us and enables us to live distracted lives when it comes to the reality of death. But God is calling us to face this issue head on. How? Through Jesus. Through the grace he has secured for us, and through the reality that He is “the resurrection and the life” (John 11). Would you take time today to talk with him about that fear? And maybe reach out and talk with me, or another elder, or a mature brother or sister in Christ?
The second thing we might do is think about what the opposite of that lifelong slavery should look like. If the shackles of that slavery are forged from the fear of death, what does lifelong freedom look like; fear-less freedom? If Jesus gives us confidence in the face of death, how should that confidence be on display in your life? It certainly doesn't mean we should be reckless with our lives, right? That would be to neglect the stewardship of the life God gave you.
But it does mean the preservation of your life cannot take precedence over God's purpose for your life. This is how Paul expressed it in Acts 20:24...
But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. [Or as one translation puts it... “my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus...[NLT])
You see, when we come to know Christ by God's grace, lifelong slavery through the fear of death is replaced by lifelong slavery to Jesus, through faith. And to be a servant of Christ means submission to his will. Therefore, both your life and your death are in His hands. As slaves of Christ, we don't simply live for today, as if the here and now was all that mattered. Today does matter. But God calls us to be faithful, not fearful... faithful today in light of his tomorrow.
So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.  For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. (II Corinthians 5:9–10)
As for the rich in this present age, charge them... to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share,  thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life. (I Timothy 6:17–19)
And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they [those “friends”] may receive you into the eternal dwellings. (Luke 16:9)
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.  Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness,  waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God... (II Peter 3:10–12)
Do you see? Not only is a fear-less life one willing to give everything for Jesus in this life (including physical life itself), but it's also one that looks beyond this life; beyond one's physical death to the next life.
Therefore, the resurrection of Jesus should not only free us from the “fear of death”, it should free us for a life of faith... yes, today... but today in light of tomorrow.
However you might be struggling, please know that today, God stands ready to help you. He wants you to know the emancipation of Easter. He wants you to walk in the emancipation of Easter. He wants Easter to be your favorite day, not simply because you were set free. But because you were set free by the Son... to know the Father... through the power of the Spirit.
Let's give thanks to God for the victory of Jesus, and the freedom his life makes possible.
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