Here we sit … on the day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday … a day when Jesus had died but is not yet risen … a day when the apostles hid in fear for their own lives and tried to understand what had happened to their Teacher / Mentor / Friend / Son / Brother … a day when they must have been just reeling in their confusion and swirling emotions.
Here we sit … in a country that touts itself as Judeo-Christian … on a weekend which celebrates both the first Seder of Passover AND our own Good Friday / Easter. And I wonder how many people really stop to think about what this time offers us as people of faith.
What does Easter really mean anyway?
I can tell you that for me it is about a New Covenant … a new way of being in relationship with God. And through the act of raising to life that which was dead, God demonstrates that nothing will stand in the way of, or PREVENT, this relationship from being fulfilled. NOTHING is stronger than God’s love … not even death itself. We may be tortured and killed (as Jesus was) but God STILL has the power to break through that and be with us … still has the power to bring great things out of seeming defeat … STILL has the power to bring life where we thought it was impossible to have it.
I read an interesting article: “The real meaning of Easter” by Beth Patch and while I do not hold the same theology as this writer, I do agree that Easter is all about the new covenant — the new promise — the new way of being with God. And she reminds us (the bold, italicized words are hers):
Since the fall of [hu]mankind in the Garden of Eden, people were destined to be separated from God because of their sin. Now, I’m not so sure that I agree with the whole Original Sin thing. I just don’t quite believe that what God created is anything other than good … but I DO believe that by our human nature we are not perfect. If that’s “sin,” then so be it. This whole “separation from God” idea, though, I think WAS true. It was the dominant thought, generally accepted by folks up until Jesus’ time … that God lived in God’s Holy Temple and that only the few who were trained and “good enough” could be close to that God. God’s Spirit rested on the Patriarchs of our faith, but was not poured out on the masses. The Holy of Holies was the innermost and most sacred part of the tablernacle and ordinary people of faith would never get to have access to this place where God’s Presence could be found. We were hopeless … and distanced from God.
And to ameliorate that distance, People of faith offered up animal sacrifices according to the laws given to Moses to ask God to forgive their sins and have mercy on them. Bulls, goats, and lambs each had their significance. But the lamb had special meaning because it was lamb’s blood the Israelites painted on their doorposts to avoid death on the night of Passover. (Exodus 12:11-13)
God gave Moses and Aaron specific instructions on how to honor God with annual Passover celebrations. Lamb is the pinnacle of the Passover meal. The lambs were to be spotless and even lived with the families for several days before they were sacrificed, adding to the understanding that the ultimate sacrifice was close to the hearts of those whose sins were atoned for. Now, the “spotless” part I always got, but this other thing???? Living with the families? Never knew that before. I’ll have to do some research and see if that’s true. I hope it is. It’s a lovely image, really … bringing in the lamb and getting to know it … probably even loving it and then having it sacrificed for us and eating it. (I can only imagine the mothers and fathers who had to deal with young children around that practice … but then again, it brought the idea of God’s forgiveness “home” in a very intimate way!)
But I agree with her that all of the many interesting details of celebrating Passover have significant meaning that point to the ultimate Passover lamb – Jesus Christ – a sinless God-man who lived among the people for a season.
I LOVE this part about Jesus living with us for a season. We all have those “seasons” in our lives which take on an indefinite amount of time according to the calendar year, but we all know when the season has ended and things have shifted. That is precisely what happened with the events of Holy Week: things shifted. The supportive cries of “Hosanna” became the blood-curdling screams of “Crucify Him!!!”
Tradition has it that John the Baptist was the first to call Jesus “the Lamb of God” at the time of Jesus’ baptism. And they all lived in the long tradition of Jeremiah and Isaiah who preached about a coming Messiah who would establish an “everlasting covenant” (Jeremiah 31:31-34, Jeremiah 32:39-42, Isaiah 55:3) between God and God’s people.
A spotless being who lived with his people so they would feel connected to him? Hmmm … sounds like J to me!
Patch ends with: When he rose from the dead three days later, he gave victory over eternal separation from God (death) to all who put their faith and trust in him. That is the new covenant – everlasting life spent with God through faith in all that Jesus Christ has done and continues to do. Now, while I might argue that death does NOT bring about “eternal separation from God,” I would acknowledge that for many in the first century (and even perhaps today in certain circles) that was the held belief.
For me, the meaning of Easter is quite personal: whatever I have done (or left undone) … whatever I have said (or left unsaid) … whatever ways I am imperfect (read that as “human”) … there is NOTHING that can keep God from finding me, reaching out to me and LOVING me … loving life into me!
Nothing. Period. Not even death.
How do I know?
Because death couldn’t contain God’s love from showing on that first Easter morning.
Paul said it even better than I can. Here’s the Message version of it: (Romans 8:38-39)
31-39 So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us? And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God’s chosen? Who would dare even to point a finger? The One who died for us—who was raised to life for us!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture:
They kill us in cold blood because they hate you.
We’re sitting ducks; they pick us off one by one.
None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.
Happy Easter, everybody!
Christ is Risen!
He is risen, indeed!
See you in church tomorrow morning at 10.