Happy Easter, friend. The eggs and Easter baskets are hidden, and I’m reclining in my living room waiting for the kids to get up. I love the mornings. Can I share with you my reflections of this wonderful holiday?
My daughter Tabitha was a dancer in the New Life theater performance for The Thorn. The Thorn is an amazing play, a re-enactment of the story of Jesus. But you know what? There is one thing that bothered me about The Thorn:
If you didn’t know the history, you didn’t catch the plot.
At the beginning of the play, viewers are shot through history up to the point of Jesus. To someone who did not know their Bible, I suppose it was a chaotic mess. Adam and Eve are dancing, then fire swords light up the stage, then a big bearded man leads slaves from an Egyptian-looking guy, then Romans march the same people off the stage.
But if you knew your Bible history, it made an incredible amount of sense. All mankind had been separated from God since the fall of man. God chose the Jewish people to bring eternal unity back into the world, but at the time of Jesus, that dream seemed depressingly impossible. The Jewish people were freed from Egypt, but returned to slavery from the Roman Empire in the time of Jesus.
This is intense history. Jesus came into the world at a significant time. Such darkness over all humanity. Those who aspired to walk with God were—well—out of luck.
Sure, politics was bad. You’d think you’d get some salvation from the church. No…
The religious leaders were just as bad, if not worse.
The religious authorities judged and condemned and set up marketplaces to force payment from people to God. Rather than safe havens in the midst of oppression, synagogues were places of judgment and power struggle.
I suspect this is what made Jesus so loved. He broke through the religious barrier and spoke of God’s love straight to the people. Money wasn’t an issue for him, and he really showed the religious when he flipped the tables in the temple. Jesus refused to get wrapped up in the religious dogma of the day, and instead spoke of love. My, how this irritated the religious leaders.
This is an uncomfortable part of Jesus’ history. If you’re religious, that is. This is unsettling if you believe in curtsies and works to please God. Do we speak enough of love? Are we compassionate to others? Or do we hold up our religion as superior to our love for fellow human beings?
In Jesus’ time, people knew nothing of love. Jesus tried to change that, and he was nailed to a tree for his attempt. Honesty was returned with hatred from the Romans and judgment from the Pharisees. It was such a dark time in history. There was no hope at all.
This story was depressing.
In storytelling, the best climax comes from stories of the worst situations. Jesus’ situation couldn’t have been much worse. He was condemned spiritually and politically, and when he was condemned physically—his life sucked away from him—there was nothing left. Nothing.
Have you ever watched a really good movie where you didn’t know the ending? You know, the kind where you were totally blown away? How was it watching it the second time? Not nearly as good, I bet. But still good!
I think of the depression of the apostles. Their hope was taken away. Jesus was so incredible—but now he’s gone. They didn’t have John 3:16 memorized yet. They knew no ending. The events of the few days before were devastating. Perhaps that was the end.
The resurrection was the surprise ending.
Then Jesus rises from the dead. Not wishful thinking or a narcotic hallucination, like from the dead he shows up. What a twist in the story! He defeats the physical realm and shows himself to thousands. Bam!
This makes Easter Sunday so incredible. It is a time to remember the awesome twist in the most hopeless time. Even if you don’t believe in the physical resurrection, you can still respect the totally awesome story of Jesus.
But it you believe, the story changes your entire life.
Here’s an interesting thought. Jesus didn’t go stick it to Herod and the Romans. Nor did he go to the religious temples and correct the theological inaccuracies of the leaders. He went to his freinds, bypassing the leaders of the day totally. Straight to the people.
And the people believed. They believed in the resurrection of Jesus. This belief is what ultimately freed them from the religious underpinnings of the church, and in time the Roman Empire eventually fell. They believed death itself was not a barrier to the freedom of Christ, they formed communities, they loved each other despite their political and religious oppression. And this belief led to their freedom.
This was more than just a story. It was a revolution of human existence. A total game-changer that uprooted the status quo of sin, corruption and power and replaced it with love and life and freedom.
That’s what I believe. This freedom is what I celebrate on Easter Sunday.
The kids are now up, and we’re going to start gathering eggs and get sugared up on jelly beans. Enjoy this celebration of Christ’s resurrection!