A cartoon that appeared in Leadership Journal shows a couple leaving church and shaking hands with the pastor. The man says to the pastor, “You’re in a rut, Reverend. Every time I come here, you preach about the Resurrection.”
We chuckle at that, but sometimes those of us who faithfully come to church more regularly than on Easter have a similar attitude. We want to have a devoted attitude. Instead we fall into, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead. I know all that.”
It’s tempting to turn the most fantastic event of human history into routine.
Each year, I find I need to slow down and reflect on the events of Easter week so that I can absorb its wonder. Sometimes just walking through those familiar events stirs my heart to remember all that Christ did for me.
Easter week begins with Palm Sunday, which celebrates Christ riding into Jerusalem in great triumph. On this day, all of those following Christ must have been elated. Kings rode horses into battle but rode donkeys at times of peace. The way the crowd responded to Jesus’ entrance that day was the response they would give to royalty. No wonder the Pharisees were nervous and wanted Jesus to rebuke his disciples. And no wonder Jesus said that the stones would cry out if they kept quiet.
The triumphal entry was Jesus’ chance to announce himself as king. He gladly accepted this exultation, knowing he deserved it, but also knowing what was coming a few days later. This day teaches us that crowds are fickle and only true disciples keep walking with Christ to the Cross.
Then on Passover, Jesus celebrated what has come to be known as the Last Supper. It was the last meal Jesus would eat before his death on the cross. In an incredible display of love, Jesus knelt down and washed the feet of his friends, giving them an example of the kind of behavior he expected of them. It’s also astonishing to think that when Jesus knew what he would suffer in a few short hours, he wanted to comfort and pamper his friends, rather than demand that he be comforted and pampered. Perhaps most amazing is that he washed the feet of the one he knew would betray him.
And, of course, Jesus instituted the amazing practice of Communion, saying the bread was his body given for them, asking them to remember him when they took it. Then taking the cup, he declared it to be the new covenant in his blood, poured out for them.
That night led to Jesus’ arrest and his eventual death on the cross. Martin Luther said we all carry the nails that crucified Christ around in our pockets. Mel Gibson also portrayed this thought in his movie, The Passion of the Christ. In the film, his hands are the ones nailing Jesus to the cross.
Until we feel our culpability in Jesus’ death, we will not understand the extent of our sin nature or the expanse of Christ’s forgiveness. We deserve to be the ones punished for our sins. Instead, the faultless one volunteered to take the punishment in our place.
This is the same person that the apostle Paul says in Philippians 2:9 will cause every knee to bow “in heaven and earth and under the earth.” The one who should have been worshiped as king instead died in humility and shame.
Fortunately for us, the story doesn’t end there. We are privileged to have firsthand accounts of his resurrection from the dead. Paul tells us that without Christ’s resurrection, our faith is useless. This is the best news of all. Death has lost its sting and has been swallowed up in victory. We should bring out the band, dance in the streets, and shout from the rooftops this good news. The reality of this hope should surpass a New York ticker tape parade.
Joseph Bayly in “Psalms of My Life,” which appeared in Christianity Today magazine, shares this excellent perspective on Easter:
Let’s celebrate Easter with the rite of laughter.
Christ died and rose and lives.
Laugh like a woman who holds her first baby.
Our enemy death will soon be destroyed.
Laugh like a man who finds he doesn’t have cancer, or he does but now there’s a cure.
Christ opened wide the door to heaven.
Laugh like children at Disneyland’s gates.
This world is owned by God, and he’ll return to rule.
Laugh like a man who walks away uninjured from a wreck in which his car was totaled.
Laugh as if all the people in the whole world were invited to a picnic and then invite them.
As you approach Easter weekend, ponder the story as if you’ve never heard it before. Or ponder it as if you’ve heard it 5,000 times—and it’s just beginning to sink in.