Growing in our understanding of Easter faith is a challenge we Christians face every post-Resurrection Sunday. Because we put so much emphasis on that particular day and those leading up to it (as well we should), we tend to breathe a sigh of relief when Easter Sunday is over, grateful that we accomplished all the tasks that go along with such a signal celebration. What we too often fail to keep in mind, however, is that Easter is much more than a single day on the calendar; it is instead a way to live our faith throughout the year, especially in those seasons where we experience significant headaches and heartaches.
You’re familiar with the term, “mixed bag?” No, that term doesn’t refer to an Easter basket that’s filled with different kinds of candies and colored eggs. The term actually goes back to the turn of the last century when hunters would bag various types of birds and put them together in a single bag; hence the term, “mixed bag.”
Today is Good Friday and our attention is focused on Jesus’ death on the cross. One of the most striking aspects of Luke’s passion narrative is the way Jesus prays for His tormentors on the cross. In Luke 24, Luke records these words, “And Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’” (Luke 24:34 ESV). If I were being unjustly executed, my natural response would not be to pray the Lord would forgive my executioners. Instead, I would likely be praying for deliverance or justice or for judgement to be poured out on those taking my life. But Jesus does no such thing. Instead, He intercedes for His enemies, asking the Father to forgive them because they do not know what they are doing.
On some level, you and I have each experienced the consequences for our own sins. Think back to a time in childhood when you disobeyed. Did you have some type of punishment for your mischief?
This year’s Easter celebration will be, without a shadow of a doubt, a most unique one. Normally, we celebrate Easter with one of the largest worship gatherings of the year. Everyone is dressed in his finest. The church is brimming with lilies. The choir is at its best, proclaiming the Easter message in all of its glory.
This middle day of Holy Week brings us to the middle stanza in the Suffering Servant poem. As we are halfway between Palm Sunday and Easter, so too in this stanza we find ourselves between two sets of pronouns. The third person singular “He” and the first-person plural “we”. Him, the suffering servant alone; us, all of us, together in our sin.
Have you noticed that most artistic renderings of Jesus portray Him as physically fit with straight teeth? As a Middle Easterner, Jesus likely had a dark complexion and dark hair, but Isaiah’s prophecy warns against depicting Jesus as a man who was particularly attractive. According to Isaiah 53, the Suffering Servant wasn’t handsome, wealthy, or majestic. The prophets declared God would send a deliverer for His people, and the Jews had been waiting in expectation for God to intervene in their situation.
Have you ever heard someone tell you to “look up”? That word of instruction is somewhat unique in that it can come our way either as a warning or as an encouragement. Our attention is either some place it doesn’t need to be, or we can’t see our way forward because of how something in our past has us down. Both situations merit a change in us, which a look upward in the right direction can make happen for the better.
My wife and I moved into our new home a month or so ago, and its physical address is not yet on any of the navigation apps. So, when we have needed people to find us, unless they know the neighborhood, getting to our house is evidently impossible.
Pain is one of the things healthy human beings do their best to avoid. None of us goes looking for it, in all likelihood because we know that it will eventually come our way. Pain is unavoidable in the course of this life.