We have been studying the Book of Esther over the past 7 weeks in preparation for Easter.
The Book of Esther. What a strange choice of books to study in the days and weeks leading up to Easter…
- Esther is in the Old Testament.
- It doesn’t talk about Jesus.
- No one in the story is raised from the dead.
- There is no mention of God in the Book of Esther –
- in fact, there is almost nothing spiritual about the Book at all.
- It seems like God is distant. And silent.
- It feels like He’s not doing anything.
- On the surface, we can be left wondering if God is even involved in the story of Esther at all…
The evil man, Haman – he convinces the Persian King Xerxes to pass this horrible decree requiring the genocide of all the Jews throughout his entire empire in a single day.
Can you imagine being a Jew during those 10 long months that led up to that fateful day?! It must have felt like God had vanished – like He was absent. Silent. Ignorant to the whole situation – not doing anything about it.
So what in the world does Esther have to do with Easter?
If you think about the very end of Jesus’ life, those last few days leading up to His crucifixion, it seems like God is silent. Inactive. Unresponsive. Distant. It feels like He’s not doing anything. On the surface, we can be left wondering if God is even involved in the end of Jesus’ life at all…
And in fact – Jesus dies! That’s it! No miraculous rescue. No last-minute stay of execution from the king – nothing! His lifeless body is taken down from the cross, and He is buried in a tomb! A large stone is rolled over the mouth of the tomb, and it is sealed shut.
That’s it! It’s over! For three long days – nothing happens! No word of consolation. No hint of hope. Nothing but silence. And fear. And confusion. And doubt.
Can you imagine being one of Jesus’ faithful followers during those three long days?! It must have felt like God had vanished – like He was absent. Silent. Ignorant to the whole situation – not doing anything about it.
But then, there is Sunday morning – the tomb is empty – Jesus is alive – God is victorious, and we see that He was at work the whole time. He never stopped working – He had a good plan – and He was present and active all along.
I want to highlight just one verse from Esther today: Esther 9:1 says,
So on March 7, the two decrees of the king were put into effect. On that very day, the enemies of the Jews had hoped to overpower them, but quite the opposite happened. It was the Jews who overpowered their enemies.
Two key phrases in that verse leap out at me from the page: “on that very day” and “quite the opposite happened”. The very thing that the enemy of God had schemed and plotted to be the downfall of God’s people and God’s plan became their greatest source of victory and expansion!
As followers of Jesus, we have been searching for God in the pages of Esther over the past 7 weeks. Where was God? Was He silent? Had He deserted His people? Was He inactive? – doing nothing? Was He ignoring their pain? Rejecting their cries for help? No.
NO! For “on that very day” – on the very day which God’s people and God’s plan were set to be exterminated by God’s enemies – Esther 9:1 tells us that “quite the opposite happened”:
- A death sentence became a life declaration.
- Defeat turned to victory.
- Despair turned to rejoicing.
- Fasting turned to feasting!
And the God who was mistaken for being silent, inactive, absent, and uninvolved, was shown to be wise beyond measure, fully engaged, completely attentive, and sovereignly working a redemption plan that could not be thwarted by the fiercest forces of evil!
So what does the Book of Esther have to do with Story of Easter?
Paul – the great first-century missionary – Paul – the great teacher of the faith, who wrote and encouraged so powerfully regarding our followership of Jesus – Paul writes of Jesus’ resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15:
3I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. 4He was buried, and He was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. 5He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. 6After that, He was seen by more than 500 people at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. 7Then He was seen by James and later by all the apostles… 26And the last enemy to be destroyed is death… 54 Then, this Scripture will be fulfilled: “Death is swallowed up in victory. 55O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 56For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. 57But thanks be to God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.
On that solemn, mournful Sunday morning after crucifixion Friday – on that very day – at the very time in which it seemed that God’s Messiah and God’s rescue plan for humanity had been exterminated by God’s enemies, we see from the New Testament that quite the opposite happened:
- Stillness became earthquake.
- Darkness became radiance.
- Death became life!
- Defeat became victory!
- Despair turned to rejoicing!
- Weeping became shouts of praise!
And in the lives of Jesus’ followers, we see that fear turns into faith, emptiness turns into fullness, and confusion becomes confidence.
The very thing that the enemies of Jesus had schemed and plotted to be the downfall of Him, His message, His purposes, and His followers’ confidence became their greatest source of victory and expansion!
The enemies of Jesus believed that if they could strike down the Shepherd, then His sheep would scatter. And that is exactly what happened – though, not in the way that they had hoped or expected. What changed everything was the Resurrection.
For it was that crushing and fatal blow that came down upon Jesus that would actually result in His followers and His message spreading far and wide! Empowered by the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead (Romans 8:11), the followers of Jesus have been scattered to the ends of the earth, proclaiming the message of God’s loving affection for all humankind – of His perfect and sovereign plan to reconcile humanity to Himself – demonstrated in and secured by the faithful life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of the Living God!
We see it in the Book of Esther; we see it in the Story of Easter! We see it all throughout the pages of the Bible: God sees where we are. God knows what is happening. He is present in our circumstances with us, and He is paying much closer attention than we can possibly imagine. And through it all, He is orchestrating a plan for our redemption and victory that neither the forces of evil nor death itself can conquer!
We can even see it in the first chapters of the Bible – look with me at Genesis 3:14-15, right after the first people in creation had given into temptation and chosen sin over God – look at what God says to their tempter:
14Then the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, you are cursed… 15And I will cause hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”
Have you ever stomped on a bug so hard that you actually hurt your foot? I’ve done that – I’ve hurt myself killing a bug. One time I got bitten by a cow-ant on the toe – not stung, bitten! And it hurt! And I was mad, so I stomped him so hard that I actually bruised the heel of my foot!
After that, my toe was bleeding, and my heel was sore – but that cow-ant, well – he was dead. Flattened into the ground! There was no comparison between the two of us in that confrontation. Here in Genesis 3:15, God says to Satan, “you will cause My Son to experience pain – but by comparison to what He will do to you, Satan, the pain you cause Him would be like comparing a bruised heel to a crushed head!”
Even at the end of the Book of Genesis, we can see the famous (and prophetic) quotation of Joseph to his brothers – who had sought to destroy his life – and how God turned their evil plans into good for the whole world. Genesis 50:20 says,
You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.
The Cross & The Tomb. These were the very things that the enemy of God had schemed and plotted to be the downfall of God, of His creation, and ultimately of His perfect plan for the redemption of mankind.
But the cross – and the empty tomb that soon followed – they became the epicenter of God’s dominant victory over sin and death and of His Kingdom’s unstoppable expansion throughout the earth!
This song perfectly expresses the miracle of God’s sovereignty and love that accomplished The Great Reversal of Easter:
“Forever He Is Glorified”, by Bethel Music:
The moon and stars they wept,
the morning sun was dead:
the Savior of the world was fallen.
His body on the cross,
His blood poured out for us:
the weight of every curse upon Him.
One final breath He gave as heaven looked away,
the Son of God was laid in darkness.
A battle in the grave,
the war on death was waged,
the power of hell forever broken!
The ground began to shake,
the stone was rolled away:
His perfect love could not be overcome!
Now death where is your sting?
Our resurrected King
has rendered you defeated!
Forever He is glorified! Forever He is lifted high!
Forever He is risen: He is alive! He is alive!
We sing hallelujah! We sing hallelujah!
We sing hallelujah! The Lamb has overcome!