We are in the midst of Holy Week, the most significant week ever for those of us who profess to follow Jesus. I’ve been a follower of Jesus for 28 years now, and I have been in church my entire life, so suffice it to say that I’ve had a lot of Holy Week teaching in my years. But if I’m brutally honest, a lot of it has just skimmed the surface of my heart. Sure, I know all the right things to say. I know that the week signifies when Jesus entered Jerusalem riding a donkey just as the prophecies foretold. I know that he cleared the temple when he found money changers cheating people. I know that Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. I know Judas Iscariot made negotiations to betray Jesus. I know about the Last Supper with his disciples and how he washed the feet of those men that night. I know how Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray, and it was there that Judas betrayed him with a kiss. I know Jesus was taken to Caiaphas, the High Priest, where the Pharisees began to make their case against him. I know that he was eventually sentenced to death on the cross- a horrific and torturous death. I know about the nails and the crown of thorns. I know how he breathed his last breath, then was buried in a borrowed tomb, and three days later arose from the dead just as He proclaimed he would.
Chances are, you’ve heard the story as well. And that’s precisely the problem.
We still think of it as just a story. We treat it as a made-up story with tragedy and a fairy tale ending, and we miss out on the heart of it.
I’m experiencing Holy Week differently this year. I’m trying to sit with the reality of what happened during this week all those years ago and how it’s still so real and beautiful and transforming today. I’m trying to grasp the GRACE of Holy Week. Too often, we miss this part. We are too busy trading the Cross for Easter baskets full of eggs and candy, and trading the crown of thorns for frilly dresses and bonnets.
Please don’t hear me say that I’m a hater of Easter traditions. If that’s all you hear from this writing, you’ve missed my point entirely. I’m just saying that I’ve been guilty in the past of focusing on the outward and man-made traditions of Easter that I miss the holiness. I don’t want to be guilty of allowing a bunny or dresses or baskets or honey-baked ham or “Up From the Grave He Arose” be what is worshipped instead of a Savior who gave himself up out of obedience to the Father for the atonement of sin once and for all.
When I think of Easter, I think of healing. Isaiah 53:5 tells us that “by his stripes we are healed”. It’s true. The work is already done; the healing is ours for the taking. It seems too simple, doesn’t it? I get that. But let me tell you this: I have experienced His healing- physically, spiritually and emotionally. I KNOW it’s real. My life is a living testimony of the healing power of Jesus. And Easter is what made it possible. When Jesus died on that cross, it was because he was being obedient to his father to carry the sin of the world on himself. He who knew no sin bore ours. But if the story ended there, that’s not Easter. You see, Jesus defeated death when three days after he was crucified, he rose again to life. No other god of any religion can say they worship a living God. The same power that resurrected Jesus from the tomb can resurrect a marriage that is dead, a relationship that has lost its life, an addiction that is killing you slowly, a mind that tells you that you’ll never be ok. You have healing, and I have healing, because Jesus is alive.
But Easter also makes me think of redemption. Sometimes life hands us things we’d rather not hold. Sometimes we find ourselves facing situations that seem daunting, impossible even. And there are days when we feel the air has been sucked out of the room, and we are just struggling to survive. And it’s in those times when the redemptive power of Easter is alive. Just as the resurrected body of Jesus was restored to fullness, we are too. When we surrender to him, all the broken pieces of our hearts and lives are redeemed. We find purpose in our pain, ministry in our messy-ness, testimonies that point to the power of a loving God who restores. We find that our scars tell a story of his power, emphasized in our weakness.
Friends, Easter is real. And it’s not a bunny or painted eggs or pastel dresses and pictures in front of the freshly planted flower beds. It’s a bloody Savior, broken body on display for a crowd who hurled insults at him. It’s a council of Religious leaders that preferred to kill an innocent man than admit they were wrong about their teachings and religious practices. It’s a mother watching her son die in agony. It’s the Messiah, feeling the weight of humanity’s sin and feeling separated from His Father for the first time ever. It’s darkness, death and destruction.
But it’s also light bursting forth from the tomb when death was defeated forever. It’s victory when Jesus said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do”. It’s beauty of obedience even to death. It’s LIFE arising from death. It’s PURPOSE. It’s HOPE. It’s GRACE. It’s HOLINESS.
And it’s ours.
May the reality of Easter envelop your heart this week. If you don’t know this Savior Jesus, I’d love to introduce you.