Friday, April 2, 2010

Why Easter?

It’s easy for me to say: “I love Christmas!” Ever since I was a kid, it held a certain sense of expectation. First: there’s all the gifts and decorations. Then as I got older: there’s all the gifts and decorations! (just half-kidding)

As I matured, I grew to understand the joy of giving, looking forward to seeing the expression on others’ faces when they open THE package. And of course, I love the REAL message: God the Father extends peace and good will toward men.

But Easter? It never had the same pull for me as a kid. Hard-boiled eggs with fancy colors just didn’t compare to the lights of Christmas trees, especially since I really wasn’t too fond of hard-boiled eggs. And candy in a basket was nowhere near as exciting to wake up to as a mountain of toys supplemented with a stocking of sugary delights.

Of course Easter is no more about the flowery traditions than Christmas, but the fact remains: as a young boy, it was never packaged up very nicely. Still, I remember somewhere around the age of 12 lying in bed the night before Easter, thinking how clueless I had been about the holiday. For example, Good Friday… what made it so “good”? Jesus was beaten nearly to death and ultimately finished off in a harsh, humiliating way. Was THAT “good”?

And now, 2000 years later, we just comment nonchalantly how Jesus rose from the dead after three days in a tomb. Either that or we categorically deny that it ever happened because “people just don’t come back from the dead”. (By the way, that’s called a “circular argument”, which in the academic discipline of Logic and is basically a bad thing to do.)

So as an adult, I still think we package up Easter poorly.

Why “Good” Friday? I watch “The Passion of the Christ” and it still doesn’t feel very good to me. Commenting on the movie, a friend of mine said: “I can’t really say I enjoy the movie. It’s like watching your best friend get beaten to death. How can you enjoy that?” I agree. As an adult, Good Friday still doesn’t feel very “good”.

As a matter of fact, had I been alive at the time, I would have been one of the most disappointed! I can picture myself back in the garden with Jesus as the soldiers come to take Him away, thinking: “Okay! This is when the power of the Messiah is going to be displayed!” I can imagine my disappointment as He is bound up and taken prisoner. I imagine my hopes rising as I picture a new outcome when Jesus is taken to Herod, thinking: “Yes! Jesus will convert Herod and the nation will be united in purpose as we step into our destiny!!” I can even imagine my anticipation as Pilot brings Jesus out with Barabas, knowing in my heart of hearts that Jesus is just going to walk away from the situation!

But Jesus didn’t walk away. Instead, He walked knowingly into a humiliating death. Hanging naked on the cross, struggling for breath, blood pouring down, ridiculed by malicious onlookers, and having to see the heart-break on the faces of those who loved Him dearly, He died. Seeing the growing despair on His followers’ faces, He still had the grace to ask His Father to forgive the perpetrators of this crime. Dying in front of the very ones who had welcomed Him as Victorious King only days before, Jesus did not walk away… because He understood the greater good.

On that truly Good Friday, He took the punishment for me, completing that Christmas message of the Father’s peace offering. He took my punishment so I could be made acceptable and inherit the kingdom of God, unworthy as I am. The Worthy One took my punishment for me so I could live. That is truly a goodness I can’t fully understand, and I confess still I can’t appreciate this gift as I should.

Still all of that would have been a questionable message if He didn’t rise from the grave. If He stayed in that tomb, then I could be tempted to think of Jesus as just another messenger from God. Do you want to shake my faith in Jesus? Prove the resurrection didn’t happen. But Jesus didn’t want to leave a doubt as to His identity, His authority or His mission! So on the third day, just as He predicted, Jesus rose from the dead, affirming that death has no power over the Only Begotten Son of God!

Hallelujah, Christ is risen! The Lord has risen indeed, Hallelujah!!

The Resurrection of the Christ is foundational to all believers, who in the midst of trial and suffering can proclaim with confidence that this world is not our home! We withstand persecution and ridicule for our faith because we can point to the certainty of Jesus. We remain here simply as ambassadors of a great kingdom in service to our Great King.

Since the day of His resurrection, people have been trying to hide the truth. But the attempts to cover up the incident speak just as credibly to His resurrection as the many eye witnesses to the fact. One of the most telling indicators that He actually rose from the grave is that the Roman guards weren’t killed after His body disappeared from the tomb. Roman guard duty policy was essentially: “guard it or be executed.” But in the attempt to keep the guards quiet about what really happened, they were given their lives in exchange for a lie: telling people that Jesus’ followers took the body.

Jesus IS alive… He is risen… and He embraces those that seek Him!

Why Easter? Why do we take the most significant event of all human events and package it up as an inferior holiday? Why do we, in effect, take the best Christmas present ever and put it in a wrinkled, brown paper bag, still thinking: “I can’t wait until they open it up!” I like to think of myself as an out-of-box thinker, but I acknowledge my own difficulty with this problem. Our Easter present needs to be made more presentable, but all I could afford this year… was this blog.

Peace and Good Will to all men!