You may have forgotten with everything else going on in the world, but Easter is this Sunday!
For many, Easter is a time for celebrating spring and an excuse to gather with family, but for the Christian church, it’s a date marked by events upon which the entire faith hinges; namely, Jesus’ death, crucifixion, and resurrection from the dead.
The 40-day period of Lent leads up to Holy Week, which began on Palm Sunday with the remembrance of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem astride a donkey.
On Maundy Thursday, Jesus ate the Passover feast with his disciples, now known as the Last Supper. The word “maundy” is a derivation of the Latin “mandatus,” meaning “command.”
That day, Jesus said to his disciples that he was giving them a new commandment: “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” ~ John 13:34-35.
Soon after the Passover meal, Jesus was betrayed to Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of the Jewish province of Judea, and arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane. Though Pilate could find no legal reason to convict Jesus, he caved to the pressure of the Pharisees, whose teachings of the Bible Jesus undermined by declaring himself to be the son of God. Jesus was sentenced to death by crucifixion, reserved for those who rebelled against the Roman empire.
On Good Friday, Jesus hung on a cross for 6 hours, enduring a torturous death. He was buried inside a tomb, which was guarded by Roman centurions. But on Easter Sunday, the stone from the tomb door had been rolled away, and Jesus was nowhere to be found. He appeared first to Mary Magdalene and a few female disciples, before appearing to Peter and the other disciples.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,” Jesus said, “teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you, even unto the end of the age.” ~ Matt. 28:19-20
This year, Easter could not have come at a more necessary time: the nearing height of a global pandemic. With the suffering, fear, anxiety and depression collectively prevalent in the current time, what hope can we glean from Holy Week?
In a word: salvation! It is the essence of the faith which provides eternal peace and joy, in spite of the most daunting fears.
As Paul writes in chapter 8 of his letter to the Roman church, the death of Jesus allows us to hope.
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” ~ Romans 8:35-39
So what, then, are many Christians afraid of? We’re afraid of the end of a comfortable way of life we’ve always known. We are frustrated we can’t gather with the ones we love in the same carefree manner we have always enjoyed. We are concerned our finances will disappear, and with them, our plans for the future. We are fearful for the lives of those we love. We are afraid of uncertainty. But here’s the kicker: we never had more than a marginal level of control to begin with.
I’ve been quoting an old Jewish proverb a lot lately: “Man plans, God laughs.” Try as we might to fit our worlds into orderly little spheres, the God of the universe has a plan beyond comprehension. During good times, it’s easy to delude ourselves into believing we’re following God or some right path, when we’re just chasing after our own notions. He is right here with us every step of this journey, asking not only to be let into our lives, but to be placed at the center. Only when we cede our idea of control to the One who has ultimate power can we feel experience peace. It’s not a one-time thing, either; it’s day-by-day, moment-by-moment sacrifice.
Peace during this Holy Week looks like shifting our focus to God.
Let’s use this time to our best advantage and seek out God. It’s ok if you don’t feel like praising the Lord right now. It’s ok if you are depressed, angry, anxious, frustrated, afraid. Sometimes, when people ask how I am dealing with a certain situation, I’ll tell them I’m currently arguing with God about it. He can take it.
All He asks is that we seek Him in good times and bad. Whether you approach the throne of mercy with a broken heart or one full of gratitude, God hears you. He can handle both our praise and our pain. The Christ who rose from the dead and guaranteed our eternal salvation took away the suffering of the world once. We have the knowledge and hope that He will do it again.
Peace be with us all, as we walk down the road with Him to the cross this Easter.