Easter is approaching. Actually, it is quickly approaching. Truthfully, I have been behind my game this year, because as of last week I had only gotten my daughter’s Easter dress. And Charlie had outgrown anything that resembled an Easter outfit. So, with the anticipation of stores closing, I ordered Charlie’s and my Easter outfits (can you believe I waited that long to order them?).
They came in the mail today.
This would usually bring me joy, and I would usually try on my dress to make sure I like the fit and color, and it isn’t too short. But today it occurred to me that Easter may look a lot different this year. Last week, my children were supposed to return to school the end of March, and now it is set for the day after Easter.
I want to celebrate Easter but…
Yes, there is the strong possibility that Easter will look a lot different this year. Do I hope that we will all be able to gather together as we normally do to celebrate the fact that Jesus walked out of the grave? Well, yes, I do.
But as school closures are extended, more people are testing positive for this virus, and travel bans are being set into place, I am not sure if that is going to happen.
And if I am totally honest, sometimes it feels like we are walking towards the cross, instead of planning to celebrate that Jesus walked out of the grave.
And we all want Easter. And I think sometimes we want Easter, and the hope, and the resurrection, and the joy that comes with it so badly, that we forget that in order to walk out of a grave you need to die on a cross.
And it’s not a message we want to hear (and you are probably like, yeah, you’re right!). We want the message of Easter, we want to walk in light of the resurrection, without the journey to the cross. But you can’t have one without the other. You can’t have the resurrection without the cross, and because God is so faithful, you can’t have the cross without the resurrection, because He promised He would rise again, and His. Word. Never. Fails. And it didn’t fail, and it never will.
The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever. Isaiah 40:8
He walked out of the grave, but only after He endured the cross.
And here is the thing that is bringing me comfort right now. And it is probably a little different than the truths that usually bring me comfort, but here it is.
Jesus has never asked us to do anything that He hasn’t done Himself. And that is the message I want you to hear today, and the message that makes Him good, and faithful, and loving.
And I remember Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. And it was so apparent during this time as He was praying to His Father, that this wasn’t easy for Him. We like to sit in gardens and admire the beauty, and smell the flowers, but this was not anything like that. He was in agony, and His sweat was like drops of blood. This was Jesus asking God, His Father, to take what was before Him away, if at all possible, but nevertheless He wanted His Father’s will to be done.
He could have could have taken the cup of suffering away from Him. God could have done that. He is God.
He is all powerful, strong and mighty, and He controls the wind and the waves. He could have done it.
What are the things that you have asked God to take away from you? What are the things that cause you pain, that you are begging God to take away from you? I am sure that you are recalling things that you have asked (or are currently asking for), and I will tell you that the list of things that I could name is long.
God could stop this storm in a whisper. But without the storm you can’t walk on water, and you can’t walk out of the grave, until you journey to the cross, and lay it all down.
And that is what Jesus did. He endured it all. This time it wasn’t about His power. This time it wasn’t about turning water into wine. It wasn’t about walking on water. It was about His love. Sacrificial love. The type of love that would experience a horrific death on a cross.
A type of love, that came to earth as a baby, to walk among us. It is the type of love that came near to those who were outcasts, and those considered unclean. Remember the women who bled for 12 years? Yeah people were supposed to stay away from her too, she was unclean. Social distancing much? (Too soon?)
That is why she crept through the crowd in hopes no one would see her, so she could be healed by Jesus. She didn’t even want Jesus to know she had touched the edge of His robe. Yet, He wanted her to know that she was seen, and He wanted the crowd to know it.
*Side note: Please exercise social distancing. Please respect government authority,
and follow the guidelines set before us all. It will only help us get this thing under control.
However, regardless of social distancing, Jesus is still near. He still comes close. He is still reaching out with hope, to those who are reaching out to Him in faith. He is still only a prayer away.
That is one of the messages of the cross. It wasn’t about His strength; it was about His love. And His love endures.
And the resurrection came. It did. Just like He said it would. But not before the cross.
Jesus never asks us to do anything that He hasn’t done Himself. And surely, He endured.
Paul encourages us to run with perseverance the race God set out before us. He goes on in Hebrews 12, and tells us that we do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. And because of the joy set before Him, He endured the cross, and is now sitting in a place of honor beside God’s throne. That is a pretty great place to be. That is the joy set before us as well.
So, let’s endure, because He endured. And just like there was joy before Him, there is joy set before us as well. The resurrection will come, as we keep our eyes on Jesus, the perfecter of our faith, the One who has never asked us to do anything that He hasn’t done Himself.