When I started this series, the first column published asked the question, “Who else do you know who is celebrating their 2,000th birthday?” Today, many countries still celebrate Christmas, even if many of those have changed it from ‘a celebration of God’s greatest gift to the world’ into ‘a celebration of how much money we can spend in 46 days.’
We also celebrate Easter, which is apparently the day a waskiwy-wabbit breaks into the henhouse only to steal and then boil baby chicken eggs. He colors them and then litters the countryside with them for little children to find. I guess Bugs was jacked-up on chocolate at the time, because somehow candy fits into the tradition of this celebration also. Did you know that Easter is America’s second biggest candy-consuming holiday next to Halloween? And according to the empty shelves at Wal-Mart, we all did our part to carry on that tradition. Seriously, we’re lucky our kids have teeth at all.
Oh, and there’s Good Friday. You remember, it’s the day we get out of work and school to prepare for Ea(gg)ster.
Of course I’m kidding! These are not the real meanings of these days, but in our modern world of mentioning God’s son Jesus Christ as few times as possible, the real reason for these days must be hidden and shoved aside as quickly as possible. Thus, for Easter and Christmas we get ‘Bugs and the Fat Man.’
Good Friday was originally a day that Roman soldiers and hecklers did not take off from their jobs. Instead, they crucified Jesus Christ. The leaders of the day, Herod and Pilate, did not want to be responsible for this and had swapped responsibility for it back-and-forth. It was kind of similar to politicos today. But as often happens in modern-day government, the hecklers got their wish.
“Wanting to release Jesus, Pilate appealed to them again. But they kept shouting, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” – Luke 23:20, 21 (New International Version).
And Jesus, the Son of God, died on the first Good Friday. He was tortured, beaten and a wreath of thorns was forced upon his forehead as the hecklers jeered his kingdom, using this as His crown.
“The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, ‘He saved others; let Him save himself if He is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.” – Luke 23:35
But Jesus knew it was His time – time for us humans to receive a way for forgiveness and salvation, and of course, the only way to come back to the side of God and His kingdom in Heaven.
“On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb.” – Luke 24:1.
The first day of the week is Sunday for those not standing next to a calendar and that one in particular was the first Easter. (I hope my writing style isn’t condescending to anyone, but the Bible can speak for itself. However, I will choose to leave Luke and give Matthew’s account.)
“There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; He has risen, just as He said. Come and see the place where He lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see Him.’ Now I have told you.” – Matthew 28:2, 7.
I’m not skipping around to make my point, but these are all Biblical accounts of the same event from different personal perspectives. So let’s go back to Luke’s account.
“When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others.”—Luke 24:9.
“But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.”—Luke 24:11- 12.
Again, Peter. One of the disciples, who had left everything to follow Jesus during His ministry here on Earth, stood and scratched his head in disbelief. Peter, much like many people today, couldn’t wrap his head around the fact that Jesus had risen and returned to life. He had seen the torture. He had witnessed the brutal treatment unjustly given to our Lord, but most importantly he had been there when Jesus released His last breath upon the cross. Because of that, Peter couldn’t fathom how Jesus could now be alive.
I imagine Peter thought someone had stolen the body of Jesus. In fact, I will return to Matthew’s account.
“While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, ‘You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole Him away while we were asleep.” – Matthew 28:11, 14.
The chief priests, those who wanted Jesus dead more than anyone, devised a plan to blame the disciples in an effort to squash the thought that Jesus had risen to life. But it wasn’t the disciples! After all of the time they followed Jesus, believing Him to be the Son of God, now they also were scratching their head in disbelief. Now they were becoming convinced that it was all for nothing. At best Jesus was a prophet, they briefly thought.
“While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself!” – Luke 24:36, 39.
Luke 24:41 goes on to say, “And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement…”
“He told them, ‘This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.” — Luke 24:46, 48.
At all this, they still were unbelieving. At all this, His disciples still had doubts. At all this, today there are those who still don’t believe Jesus is the Son of God and can forgive them of all their wrongdoings. At all this, they don’t believe He arose from the dead and can light their path to the kingdom of God. At all this, they deny Him in their lives.
“When He had led them out of the vicinity of Bethany, He lifted up His hands and blessed them. While He was blessing them, He left them and was taken up into Heaven. Then they worshiped Him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.” – Luke 24:50, 53.
Some, even disciples sometimes, doubt. That’s because we try to dissect the mind-blowing life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ with our human minds and it doesn’t make sense. But if you open your soul – open the eyes and ears of your heart, not your brain – then, and only then, you can truly understand what Good Friday and Easter are really all about.
God, I pray that You will open our hearts and help us to understand and remember the love that was given in those days, the love that You showed us, and that You continue to offer us all. Help us all to know that love, to see that love in the world around us and to project that love to others. Amen!