Finally, Easter Sunday is just about here. And we celebrate with eggs, the symbol of new life. And with bunnies, the symbol of fertility. And with lilies and other flowers, the symbol of springtime renewal. And with 30 pounds of chocolate per person and fancy new clothes (which won’t fit anymore after wolfing down the 30 pounds of chocolate), the symbols of a consumer society obsessed with spending money we don’t even have.
Oh yes, and some folks continue to include in their Easter celebration the curious story about the God-man who died but then came back to life three days later. This also is a symbol of new life and springtime renewal.
It’s actually a rather grizzly story, if you bother to read some of the details. But I guess those ancient story-tellers were obsessed with gore and violence, not sophisticated and civilized like our modern day story-tellers, such as Quentin Tarantino and Oliver Stone.
So this curious fable about the God-man coming back to life fits in nicely with our seasonal theme: springtime renewal. The dark, cold, and dreary season of Winter finally gives way to the sunlight and colors and new life of Spring.
But what if that curious story were actually true? Oh, come on now. We don’t take those things literally anymore. This is the 21st century, for crying out loud. We’re a little too clever and sophisticated and scientific to fall for that kind of stuff.
But what if it’s really true?
What if there really is a personal God who created the universe? What if He really designed and created us with a specific purpose in mind? Wow, that would actually give some long-term meaning to our lives, rather than the short-term, superficial meaning we try to create for ourselves with our consumer spending and our frantic scratching and clawing to achieve some recognition in the world.
And what if this personal God loved us so much that He grieved over the fact that we ignored Him and decided to worship ourselves instead? What if He loved us so much that He sent His only begotten Son to bridge that huge gulf between us, which sin had created? And what if that Son offered His own life as a sacrifice to pay the price for our sins? And most of all, what if He actually rose from the dead three days later, conquering death once and for all?
Sounds kind of fantastic, doesn’t it? But what if it really were true? That would be wonderful, wouldn’t it? That would mean that death is not the final chapter of our lives. That would mean the cruelest irony of life—the fact that everything we ever achieve in this world is destined to be swallowed up by death and forgotten—is no longer true.
Well, I’ve got news for you. IT IS TRUE! The God who created us loves us way too much to let death have the final victory. That curious story about the God-man coming back to life is not an ancient fable, it is a fact. It is the central event in the whole history of humanity.
When we finally realize what Jesus did for our sake, often our first reaction is to ask what we should do to repay Him for such a great sacrifice. Many religious organizations have created vast and elaborate systems for doing good deeds in an attempt to repay Him for what He did for us.
But how can you possibly repay such a sacrifice? At the end of the award-winning movie, “Saving Private Ryan,” it’s 50 years after World War II and Ryan is at the Normandy cemetery. He’s talking to the gravestones of the men who a half-century earlier gave their lives so that he could live. He says, “I lived my life the best I could. I hope in your eyes I’ve earned what you’ve done for me.”
Then he turns to his wife and pleads, “Tell me I’ve led a good life. Tell me I’m a good man.” But the answer is obvious: it doesn’t matter whether he’s led the most noble and productive life of any person on earth, it’s impossible to repay such a debt.
We can’t repay Jesus for what He did. What He did was His precious gift to us. All we can do is accept the gift Jesus gave us with profound gratitude and humility. If we do this, the good deeds will come, not because we HAVE to do them, but because we WANT to do them.
That curious Easter story is not just one little facet of a springtime holiday. It is the most important event ever. It is our path to eternal life. He is risen! Hallelujah!