For the longest time I dreaded Easter Sunday. Don’t get me wrong; I loved shopping for a new dress, I loved waking up to chocolate bunnies, I loved hearing about Jesus. But I dreaded Easter Sunday. The problem lies in the fact that at our church on Easter Sunday, they would show “graphic” clips on the big screen of Jesus dying. As a young girl, blood and gore were not things that I relished seeing. Even now I’m not particularly fond of it. I feared watching Jesus suffer. I told myself that if I had been alive then, I would not have mocked Jesus; I would have been crying or I would have ran off to the hills somewhere so I wouldn’t have to watch it and I wouldn’t have to hear it.
We moved and our new church didn’t show such clips in big church on Easter Sunday. But our youth group did. I clearly remember curling up in the plastic seat as a 6th grader my fingers plugging my ears and my earrings digging into the palms of my hands. My eyes shut tightly, humming worship songs and praying. Anything to block out the screams and chants of the crowd and the Passion of the Christ’s depiction of Jesus dying on the cross. I was promising Jesus that if I was there, I wouldn’t have been mean to him. But the thing is, Jesus changed everything about my life. I am the way I am because of him. I was raised to be nice. My parents raised me to be nice because of what Jesus did in their life. And the list goes on and on. If he had walked up that hill and gotten to the top and then decided he didn’t want to go through with it after all, who’s to say I wouldn’t have been one of the people in the crowd. But he finished what he’d begun. He died. Willingly. For me. Even now as a Christian, I suppose I’m comparable to a member of the jeering crowd. I sin, knowing what I’m doing. Laughing in his face as I do it, mouthing the words, “I don’t care about you”. And not just once, over and over again. Multiple times a day. He knew that. He still died for me. You do the same. He knew you would. He still died for you. And that’s what we end with. Jesus loves you. He died for you.
But that’s not how it ends. He didn’t just die. Yes, that was an incredible act of divine love, but the part we seem to miss is that HE ROSE! Easter Sunday was never about graphic scenes of Jesus dying on the cross or long sermons that beg us to understand the torture he went through. That first Easter Sunday was filled with joy! With people running around asking everyone if they had heard the good news. And the good news was that Jesus was alive. He accomplished what no leader of any other religion has been able to do- he rose from the grave. But he didn’t just rise. He defeated death. He defeated hell. He defeated the grave. That is something to dance about. My Jesus is VICTORIOUS! And we have been given the responsibility to tell everyone. Our chains have been broken, he has set us free. His love, grace and mercy have been showered upon us and he conquered all by rising from the grave.
Easter matters so much because it means that Jesus Christ has won the VICTORY! He defeated sin and death by dying on the cross and rising from the grave- all to show his awesome glory and power and rescue us- even as we stood mocking him, wallowing in our sin. No one forced him to be whipped. No one ever forced him on to a cross. He went willingly. He was God, but he loved us so much that he submitted to torture and separation from God on our behalf. He took the punishment that should have been ours. But thank God the story doesn’t end there. He rose! Defeating the things that once would have tied us down and made us powerless. And that same earthshaking power can now dwell in us, and we can share a part of his glory and holiness. He saw something in you and I and everyone else, so much so that he died for us. “To GOD be the glory! Great things he hath done, so loved he the world that he gave us his son. Who yielded his life an atonement for sin and opened the life-gate that all may go in. Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord! Let the Earth hear his voice. Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord! Let the people rejoice! Oh, come to the Father through Jesus the Son and GIVE HIM THE GLORY GREAT THINGS HE HATH DONE!”