What Do You Think Easter is About?
Do you think Easter is about the Easter bunny? Easter eggs? Family dinners with spiral-cut ham? Well these are certainly some things that come to mind when you ask people around you, but I hope that some of your friends mention so much more!
We are almost at the end of our 40-day Lenten journey. We began on Ash Wednesday and will finish this Saturday, March 31. This forty day journey represented the time Jesus spent in the wilderness, enduring temptation and preparing for His mnistry. It has been a time of repentance, fasting and preparation for the coming of Easter. It has also been a time for self-examination and reflection.
On April 1, Easter Sunday, we will hear the true story of what Easter is about. A 2000-year old story of a carpenter from Nazareth, upon turning 30, he spent his time traveling the countryside and speaking publically about God and his redemptive love.
Many religious leaders felt threatened by Jesus' ability to draw a crowd. His compelling stories of God, about the grace and love he showers on us, had many people following Jesus and trusting in him. Not only did he spread the good news but he also healed people in the name of God. Not just colds and fevers, but crippled limbs and blind eyes. Jesus even brought two people back to life after they had died.
In fear, the religious leaders arranged to have Jesus arrested and tried by the Roman governor. Within twelve hours of his arrest, Jesus was convicted and sentenced to die on a cross, sentenced to death for proclaiming the word of God. Six hours after his hanging, Jesus died. This certainly appeared to be the end of his ministry, however, as predicted by Jesus, it was just beginning.
Jesus did not resist his arrest and crucifixion -- in fact, he spoke of this often to all of his followers. Jesus taught them that his death would have incredible meaning -- that his life would be given as a ransom for others. Jesus' death would set others free from their own sins. In fact, while on the cross he prayed for his crucifiers -- "Father, forgive them, for they don't know what they're doing." And he died. A Roman centurion who saw him die said, "Surely, this man was the Son of God."
He died on a Friday late in the afternoon. He was buried in a tomb hollowed out of solid rock, sealed with a huge stone. The tomb was secure. Friday night and all day Saturday his body lay there.
But Sunday morning, the Sunday we call Easter, some women came to complete the burial preparation and they found the stone rolled back and the tomb empty. An angel appeared to them saying, "He is not here, he has risen." Jesus had also predicted this to his followers.
Over the next 40 days, he appeared to his disciples and others, to even 500 at one time. And then he left earth promising to return. His Spirit was poured out on his followers a few days later. Within a single generation his followers travelled with this story to all of the known world. We have never been the same. Because where people believe the story, they find forgiveness and freedom and meaning. They receive the Spirit of God themselves and they begin to love.
This story is transforming. If we would tell this story intead of the one about the Easter bunny, it would be more compelling. Tell this amazing story! It will change lives!