Summary: There are two defining images of Easter, death and resurrection
Easter is the longest of the Christian ‘sacred’ holidays. Although Christmas gives us two days off, one for Christmas and one for Boxing Day, Christmas day itself is the only ‘sacred’ holiday. For many people in Australia Easter means a four-day weekend. For Christians Easter is about two sacred days. Good Friday and Easter Sunday. I want us to think a little bit about those two days and what they mean. I’m going to read two passages from the Scriptures. Neither of which is from ‘Good Friday’ or ‘Easter Sunday’. But each passage speaks of the significance of those two days.
The first passage is from Matt 26:36-40. It is actually the night before Jesus’ Crucifixion, the beginning of the passion.
What do we see in these verses? We have the picture of a very vulnerable person; a person who is facing death; a person who is facing betrayal; a person who is facing incredible pain and suffering; and a person finding loneliness in the midst of all that. The real significance of this scene is that this person is God. This isn’t just some guru, this isn’t just some holy person, and this isn’t just some very wise person. This person is God. This person is Jesus. This person is God coming down as a person. And this was the purpose of him coming down. He came to save us. But he came to experience life. He came to experience pain. He came to experience what it is like to be tested. To have your feet hurt, your stomach empty, your friends turn away from you, your flesh pierced. He came to have experiential knowledge of our life. There is a difference between being told what something is like, watching what it is like and really experiencing something. And here we have a picture of Jesus really struggling to come to grips with God’s plan for his life. In a way He is really struggling to find his heavenly father in the midst of all his difficulties.
If you’ve ever been to somewhere totally different. You can sit and watch what people do there, what they eat, how they do things and you will have some knowledge of how they live. But if you eat the food, if you try their cooking methods, if you walk the paths they walk, then you will have a greater understanding, a greater insight to what it is like.
You can sit back and look at food, but if you don’t taste it, you will never know what it tastes like. You can sit back and watch somebody jump out of a plane but unless you’ve had that sensation of free falling towards the ground you can’t really relate to it. I can sit and watch all the (professional) football in the world, talk to the player, smell the smells, wash the mud off their feet, but I’ll never be out there playing the game knowing what it is like. But God didn’t just sit back and watch the game. He came and played, he tasted, he jumped.
What does that mean for us? It means that we have a God how knows, not just theoretically but experientially what it feels like to suffer, to have pain, to be betrayed, to be ignored, to be forgotten, to die. That means we can share our pain with God. We can draw near with a confidence that he knows and he understands and yet he tells us he still loves us.
The image of Thomas seeing Jesus with the holes in his hands and feet
The second image of Easter is the picture of the resurrected Christ. Our second passage comes from John 20:24-29.
What does this tells us about the suffering of the passion? The effects of pain and suffering don’t just disappear. Christianity isn’t about denying our pain. Christianity isn’t about ignoring the scars of our life. Jesus still have the holes in his hands and his feet. Thomas could see them, feel them, touch the flesh around it. The scars don’t just magically disappear. They will still there. They are significant. They are something we all share with God. But they aren’t the end. There is hope. There is the resurrection and with it healing.
When I was younger in the summer between primary and high school. I lived in a quiet street in Nowra. My brother and I used to get together with some of the other boys in the street and play cricket in the spare block a few houses down. We would get out the mower and mow a pitch, put up stumps and have a game. There was one particular day when I was going for a run and it was going to be very close as to whether or not I would make it. I put all my effort into concentrating on getting to the other end, but wasn’t really paying attention to where exactly I was heading. After I crossed the line I realized a little bit too late that I was heading straight for the stumps. I ran straight through them. Unfortunately for me stumps just don’t fall over, the chart wheeled and one them came up and stabbed me in the back of the leg. I went down in a screaming heap, my friends gathered around and one said something like I think I can see his guts. I couldn’t walk. I was taken up to hospital and sewed up and a few days later I was fine – but I still carry the scar in the back of my leg.