I grew up as a young lad running the full gamut of emotions through Easter. It’s not that I was unaware of how the story ends, more that perhaps I shouldn’t go there before time.
Good Friday was desperately sad; Jesus had been crucified and the pathway to a new humanity lost. Saturday was confusing. Like walking through a fog. Even as a 13-year-old I remember there being a feeling that we shouldn’t assume anything. Tony Campolo had told me that ‘it was Friday, but Sunday’s-a-coming’, but I thought it best not to be too presumptuous. And then relief…Jesus has risen. Death could not hold him down. Phew! It’s all ok.
I think I’ve changed a little all these years on though there’s still a bit of residue there. I now find that I’m more me-focussed on Good Friday—aware of my sin, sorrow, and shame; aware of the only price that could bring cosmic restoration. Gratitude for God’s grace on Friday gives way to gladness and hope on Easter Sunday. A greater God-focus. And the hope is no longer wishful thinking either—resurrection hope is a living hope.
Peter, who rides the depths of his frailty and the darkness of spirit caused by his betrayal and feelings of abandonment later wrote, in the light of this new hope:
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you.
Easter Sunday changes everything. You can sacrifice a goat and get atonement for a sin: one sin, one person. But when the Lamb of God is sacrificed, He takes away the sin of the world. Yet it only stacks up if the sacrifice is not only made, but deals with darkness.
Paul knew that when he wrote:
It was sin that made death so frightening and law-code guilt that gave sin its leverage, its destructive power. But now in a single victorious stroke of Life, all three—sin, guilt, death—are gone, the gift of our Master, Jesus Christ. Thank God!
…If there’s no resurrection, there’s no living Christ. And face it—if there’s no resurrection for Christ, everything we’ve told you is smoke and mirrors, and everything you’ve staked your life on is smoke and mirrors. Not only that, but we would be guilty of telling a string of barefaced lies about God, all these affidavits we passed on to you verifying that God raised up Christ—sheer fabrications, if there’s no resurrection…
The good gear is that one capable of conquering death was obedient to death. And as much as it was contrary to what he (as fully man) desired, he (as fully God) paid the price all the same. In obedience. We become the beneficiaries of that obedience as his death brings us life. The cross is where it all makes sense. In the shadow of the cross is eternal hope, eternal peace, eternal love and eternal destiny. Freely given, yet inviting response, acceptance and appropriation.
My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.
Lent is over. The tomb is empty. There’s a whole lot that’s amazing about Easter…