Two Days That Forever Changed The World
By Jeff Lukens

What day do you think was the single most significant day in changing the course of human history?

Perhaps it was the day when Columbus discovered America, or the day when men first walked on the moon. Maybe it was the day Gutenberg invented the printing press, or the day when Edison invented the light bulb. Many turning points in history could arguably be considered the most important of all time.

After pondering this question, I chose two days. I know what you're thinking. I asked for only one day, and I'm already breaking my own rule. But I believe these two days, taken together, make for the most significant turning point in all history.

The first day of these two days was the day that Jesus died.

In that time, Jewish people lived by a promise from God that if they obeyed his laws, he would reward and protect them. Jesus came to make a new promise. He had come to show them a way to live with God forever, and on that day in Jerusalem he had come to finish his work. He had come to die.

It was a Friday, and the start the Jewish Passover observance would begin at sundown. It was no coincidence Jesus had chosen this day to die. The original Passover occurred in the time of Moses. On the night when all the firstborn of Egypt were to die, the Jewish people smeared the blood of a lamb on their doorposts so that death would "pass over" them. Each year, Jerusalem swelled with people to celebrate the Passover holiday.

In the center of Jerusalem was the temple. Inside it was a heavy and ornate curtain, twenty feet high and more than an inch thick. In the room behind the curtain, Scripture said, the very presence of God dwelt. The curtain represented the barrier between a fallen humanity and the perfection of God. Entrance into this room was forbidden to all but the high priest bringing a sacrifice.

For sacrifices in those days, sin symbolized death, and blood symbolized life. Sin could only be washed away with blood. God established an elaborate system of sacrifices where the blood of an animal, often a lamb, was sacrificed for the redemption of human sin. The lamb chosen for sacrifice had to be unblemished.

On this day, however, a different sacrifice would be offered. Jesus' own divine, Godly-conceived, and guiltless (let's just say unblemished) body would shed its blood in exchange for the human sin of all time.

So, on that day, Jesus was arrested, tried, beaten, mocked, flogged, and condemned to a humiliating and disgraceful death. At the crucifixion site, the Roman soldiers offered him a sedative drink to dull the pain. But Jesus needed fully to feel the agony of his payment for sins. He needed to be able to respond to those around him, and to pray. He needed to fulfill all the predictions about him from scripture. The sedative would have dulled his mind, so he refused the drink.

They nailed him to the cross about 9 o'clock in the morning. His agony on the cross was simultaneously both gruesome and glorious. By noon, the skies grew dark as the sins of the world poured upon his dying body.

At 3 o'clock, still conscious and knowing that death was near, he uttered, "I am thirsty." They gave him a sponge soaked in vinegar to wet his throat, enabling him to make one final statement.

Gathering the last of his strength, he loudly cried, "It is finished." Then, in an act of will that only he could do, he released his spirit from his body as he hanged his head and died. He had completed his task. He had died triumphantly.

Nearby, an amazed Roman soldier had been watching his suffering. In executing condemned people, he never before had seen such patience, kindness and dignity as he saw in this man. At the moment of death, his awe turned to fear as an earthquake shook the land.

In that same instant, the curtain in the temple tore apart exposing the room where God dwelt for all to see. The barrier of sin separating people from the holiness of God had been removed. With Jesus, we come into the very presence of God. On that day, the power of sin had forever "passed over" believers by the perfect sacrifice of the Lamb of God.

So, if that was the first day ... what is the second of the two most important days?

You probably already know. It occurred only two days later -- on Easter Sunday. Jesus' death had overcome sin, and then his resurrection overcame death. A never-ending fellowship with God was now open to all who would believe.

Some 40 years later, the temple was destroyed as Roman soldiers razed Jerusalem during a Jewish revolt. With the end of the temple, the practice of animal sacrifice ended as well.

Today, the Western Wall and a mosque -- the Dome of the Rock -- occupy the site where the temple once stood. The sacrificial work of Jesus, however, remains now and forever.

The presence of Jesus on this earth has had an immense historical impact. Those two days have affected humanity more than any other event. His conquering death and resurrection has given a life-altering hope to billions of people. The world has been a far better place because Jesus walked among us.


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Copyright 2000-2007, Jeff Lukens