The annual remembrance of an event significant for believers in particular and humanity in general took place last weekend. As a casual bystander, the way it is observed in a “Christian” country is very intriguing. People are freed from weeks of self-imposed penitence, probably done in solidarity with the Man who suffered immeasurably on their behalf. Eggs, bunnies, baskets, egg dye kits, peeps, and all manner of chocolate and jellybeans line the shelves at the store. Baskets are bursting with colorful fake straw and goodies. Dyed eggs and their plastic counterparts filled with pastel M & M’s are hidden about the yard or house for the little ones to find. Families unite around traditional spring meals after attending a church service – maybe. For many this is one of a couple of times they actually go to church all year. As far as I know, the traditional fashion parade has fallen to the wayside. Ok.
I know I must sound cynical and critical. The festivities, however, are so incongruous with the actual facts that propelled them. There is a question about whether the church assimilated cultural or even pagan celebrations to make faith in Jesus more palatable, and I leave it to you to go down that bunny trail (Ha!). No matter, many of the traditions that purportedly celebrate the conquering of sin and death – giving mankind the very tangible hope of eternal significance and superlative life – just seem a non-sequiter. But they are fun for the children. Unfortunately the kids must eventually learn that the main character furtively providing all the goodies is fictitious – suspiciously just like the other guy that dominates the celebration of Jesus’ birth, another magnificent cosmic event. I am sure there will be no underlying suspicion in their minds that the One Whose actions inspired these festivities is also just another good story!
There was a lyric that stuck in my heart as I walked away from a crowded service with a lovely message. We sang that Jesus bore all our sin and the wrath of God. I ‘know’ those things separately, but when I contemplated the weight of both of these horrors, each on its own unfathomable, happening at the same time to the best man who ever lived, I was breathless with adoration. I would not suffer even a fraction of the resentment, rejection, mocking, misunderstanding and mischaracterization that Jesus meekly endured to save my soul. And to add the physical suffering to that – “crowned” with thorns that dug into His head, whipped with a nail-studded weapon, beaten to an unrecognizable pulp – I could not have endured any of that – even to save myself and certainly not on behalf of anyone else! I am a wimp! Add to that the emotional agony of the rejection of both those He was doing this for AND His beloved Father as well!! Punished for things He did not do by the One He loved above all – incomprehensible!!! His Father actually turned away from Him – the ultimate pain. And how did our Jesus respond? He said “Father forgive them!” and asked “Why have You forsaken Me?”. He made sure His mother was taken care of before He laid down His life. This is the One I worship, adore, love and desire to serve.
Such limitless selfless care for the ungrateful and the weak inspires absolute adoration. Unsurprisingly, the resurrection story continues the narrative of God’s humility. The first one who sees Him is a woman – very counter-cultural to say the least. He continued the friendship with His disciples – those who proclaimed loyalty but fled at the first confrontation – one denied Him, one doubted Him, all forsook Him. But He still loved them and entrusted these floundering individuals with the message of the kingdom. So here is hope for the uncertain, the weak, the dismissed, the failure – you and me! Jesus identified with us as a human. He invited us to participate in and propagate His kingdom. And in resurrection He demonstrated that absolutely nothing can keep Him from loving us. He lives in a body that did a trip to the celestial throne of God. He stills identifies with us as a glorified human. He is praying for us right now – even in glory He is thinking of us. The angels and principalities see the marks of mankind in the wounds He bears on our behalf. Their response? “Worthy is the Lamb who was slaughtered – to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing…” (Rev 5:12NLT) I say Amen to the heavenly chorus! The story is breathtaking, unexpected, radical, and best of all – true. He invites us to trust Him. And I say ‘why not’?
So please forgive me if bunnies, baskets and treasure hunts for eggs just don’t do it for me.
Here’s a great musical tribute to the King Who identifies with failures like ourselves. Click here to listen