There is much about the Easter story that I don’t really understand. Why did so many people hate a Jewish guy who went around teaching, healing sick people and feeding hungry ones? Apparently, they didn’t subscribe to the old adage, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” Jesus’ words seem to incite real hatred. And why did God (Jesus) have to die on a cross? Why not just forgive everybody and start fresh?
To be honest, I know the deeper theological explanations for these things but it doesn’t make them easy to understand. You see, over 2000 years ago a Jewish guy was born in a stable, became a carpenter-turned-itinerant preacher, spoke out against the religious establishment, executed on a cross, buried in a secure tomb but didn’t stay there. He claimed to be the Son of God and apparently was…is. His story, as questionable as it can sound, is what I believe. In fact, I have staked my life and my eternity on that truth. I believe it. Not just hope it is true, but believe it. Trust it.
This weekend my family will come over for dinner after church. We will die eggs and hide them for the youngest. We will eat a fine meal, talk a lot and laugh often. And we will remember together why we do it…why we celebrate Easter: God came to earth… this planet with its wars, hunger, hatred, disease and hopelessness…and settled once and for all the problem of sin (separation from the God who made it all, including us) by paying the ultimate price–death. Its not really all that complicated: you and I can never be perfect enough to be in an intimate relationship with God. God can’t choose to just hang out with hate, judgment, pride, selfishness, and all the rest. So He closed the gap by paying the price so that He could be with us. Amazing. And we simply need to respond and accept His love, recognize our need for something bigger and better than ourselves.
It’s a strange story in so many ways but ultimately it is the greatest story ever told. Its true.
John 3:16-18 “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him. [The Message translation]
Romans 3:22-24 The God-setting-things-right that we read about has become Jesus-setting-things-right for us. And not only for us, but for everyone who believes in him. For there is no difference between us and them in this. Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ. [The Message translation]
Isaiah 53:2-6 The servant grew up before God—a scrawny seedling, a scrubby plant in a parched field.There was nothing attractive about him, nothing to cause us to take a second look.
He was looked down on and passed over, a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand. One look at him and people turned away. We looked down on him, thought he was scum. But the fact is, it was our pains he carried, our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us. We thought he brought it on himself, that God was punishing him for his own failures. But it was our sins that did that to him, that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins! He took the punishment, and that made us whole. Through his bruises we get healed. We’re all like sheep who’ve wandered off and gotten lost. We’ve all done our own thing, gone our own way. And God has piled all our sins, everything we’ve done wrong, on him, on him.
[The Message translation — This was written about Jesus hundreds of years before he was even born]