Celebrating Easter… In the Book of Genesis?

My pastor often preaches that the Bible is one story. Just as in any good, resonating story, there is a significant amount of foreshadowing in Scripture. I can think of no better way to contemplate the magnitude of Jesus’ death and resurrection this Easter than by taking a closer look at the foreshadowings of the cross in several Bible verses in Genesis.

In Genesis 3:15, God curses the serpent saying, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Christians believe that offspring is Jesus, and his death on the cross, though incomparable to any work of man, was a bruise to the heel of the true God; yet Christ’s resurrection from the dead was a deadly blow to the serpent. In order for mankind to have a future, personal pain to the Creator was required. That kind of love is incomprehensible, and it is worth celebrating this Easter.

Flip over a few pages to Genesis 9, and you find people doing “only evil all the time,” so God gives the world a giant bath in the form of a flood. Noah and his family are spared, but their salvation involves spending a ghastly amount of time in a scary storm, bobbing up and down like a cork in the sea with an ark loaded with animals. They finally reach solid ground and Noah gets this message from God in verse 16: “When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature.” People often think of the rainbow as a promise of God not to destroy, but a closer look at Noah’s culture reveals that a bow is a weapon of war. As God promises Abraham not to destroy, he hangs up his weapon of war in the sky, and he doesn’t just put it away, he points it towards himself. Man’s evil is not going to end with a flood, and God is preparing to pay the ultimate price.

After Noah, we meet Abraham, who receives multiple rounds of promises, likely necessitated by his advanced age and the incredibility of producing children with his geriatric wife. In Genesis 12:3, God tells him that “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” God intends to bless everyone through this special family. Matthew 1 shows how Jesus is the ultimate son of Abraham, and the way God intends to bless all the families of the earth.

This next passage is a little tricky, even for the seasoned Bible reader, because it refers to an Ancient Near Eastern covenant ceremony that has no clear match in our culture. The idea was that Abraham would walk between pieces of dead animals calling a curse of death upon himself if he did not keep God’s covenant law. But God puts Abraham to sleep, and this is what dreamy Abraham sees: “When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram.” So rather than Abraham claiming the curse for future infractions, God takes his place, pointing to a time when Jesus would hang in the place of the accused and the guilty.

After Abraham, there’s Isaac and Jacob and Jacob’s 12 sons, one of whom is Joseph. Joseph is a loud-mouthed little brother who ends up being sold into slavery in a mean and impetuous move by his older brothers. He goes to Egypt, and after years of suffering, he eventually becomes like the Secretary of State. In an utterly vindicating moment, his brothers show up to buy food from him, bowing at his feet completely unaware of his identity. After some gamesmanship on Joseph’s part, they become reconciled and Jacob’s family moves to Egypt. After Jacob dies, Joseph’s brothers are afraid of what Joseph might do in their father’s absence. Joseph assures them with these words in Genesis 50:20, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” What could seem more evil than an innocent and perfect man hanging on a cross, dying a criminal’s death? But I celebrate the resurrected Jesus on Easter, trusting that God meant it all for good; and although I often perceive the evil in my life as hopeless, God is in the business of redeeming the bad and working it out for our good and for His glory.

The peace of Christ be with you…

All Bible verses taken from the English Standard Version, Crossway Bibles, 2001.