Easter always gets me emotional. When I think of all that Jesus went through on His way to the cross, being mocked, tortured, humiliated, interwoven with the incredible act of complete surrender and ultimate obedience to our Heavenly Father, I’m undone. We know the scripture so well, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). It’s become so familiar to us, we say it off by heart, but when we break it all down, it starts and ends with Love. You see, God is Love. Which means, His heart intentions towards all mankind, is always Love. He displayed His love for us by Jesus taking our place and dying on that wooden cross. Love sacrifices for others. Love gives. Love looked into eternity and paid the ultimate price, for you and for me. Love’s name is Jesus. He took our past, present and future sin upon Himself, so that each one of us could be forgiven, shown mercy and never have to experience the wrath of God or be eternally separated from Him. All we have to do is believe. What an incredible exchange! An invitation has been sent out by the Son of God to the whosoevers, the whole world, inviting each of us to openly declare that Jesus Christ is Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised Him from the dead, so that salvation and eternal life is ours forever (Romans 10:9).
I assume that most of us could confidently say that we’d go the extra mile for those we love. We’d be ok to give away some of our personal belongings, sacrifice some of our precious time, do kind and possibly extravagant things for our friends and family, maybe even donate an organ. But what about strangers, or the people who get on our nerves, or those that irritate, frustrate, hurt or even end up betraying us? Will we sacrifice or go the extra mile for them? I know that I’m not saying “absolutely” in a heart beat, because it’s a challenge, right? Yet our Jesus, Saviour to this messy world, sacrificed His human life for each one of us. Not just for a chosen few, or for His family, friends and disciples, but for every single other person, then, now and still to come here on earth. His love for us is unconditional. He absorbed ALL of our transgressions (our arrogant sin) and iniquities (our pre-meditated choices, when we know it’s wrong but still do it) not just for us who believe who He is, but ALSO for those who condemned Him, lied about Him, plotted against Him, sold Him out for 30 pieces of silver, mocked Him, beat Him, denied Him, ignored Him and crucified Him.
When I think about the crucifixion, I’ve used my imagination and I’ve thought about the people who were part of the crowd watching Jesus die. I imagine it being a mix of spectators and participants. We’re told Jesus’ Mom and some of His disciples were present. There were the 2 thieves on either side of Jesus, one crying out to Him for mercy, the other scoffing at Him. Then the Roman soldiers who nailed His hands and feet to the cross, splattered by His blood, yet later acknowledging Him to be the Son of God. Religious leaders, arrogant and proudly celebrating their death plan unfolding before them. Strangers passing by on their way to Jerusalem, maybe never having heard of this “King of the Jews”. I wonder if any of the ex-lepers were in the crowd, now completely cleansed, accepted and restored back into their community. What about the son who was dead and on his way to his own funeral, now standing next to his Mom, Mary, Martha and Lazarus. Was the man who had spent many paralyzed years just out of reach of the healing whirlpool, no longer desperate and alone, standing alongside the man whose friends did all they could to get Jesus’ attention to heal him by lowering him through the roof during a house meeting? Both completely healed, now able to walk or run to the synagogue, the market place and their friends homes.
I imagine specific women being present, receivers and carriers of Jesus’ kindness and grace. No longer abused or treated like outcasts, but free with their self worth and reputations fully restored. Maybe some children, confused and crying into their mothers robes, who use to bounce up and down on Jesus’ knee, maybe who shared their small lunch, and witnessed it turn into the biggest picnic of their lives! Was the man known as legion whose old stomping grounds were a graveyard, now a new creation, set free and on a mission to tell others about the One who sets the captives free! I wonder if Jesus looked out across this crowd and caught each of their eyes, and in a glance, reassured their trembling hearts. I’m sure they must have felt a spectrum of emotions, horror, confusion, fear, anger, desperation, helplessness. Watching their son, brother, friend, rabbi, healer, deliverer, redeemer, Messiah, slowly and painfully suffer and die in front of them and not being able to do anything about it, except weep, scream and pray. We’re told when Jesus breathed His last breath, darkness consumes the sky, the earth shakes, rocks shatter, witnesses see a curtain in the Holy of Holies split down the middle and tombs in the local cemetery burst open with God fearing people raised from the dead, appearing to many (Matt 27:51-53). Can you imagine that! What would your response have been? Fetch the donkey, I’m out of here!
We’re told that Joseph and Nicodemus take Jesus’ body to embalm Him with myrrh and aloes and place Him in a family tomb of Joseph’s. I wonder what that must have been like for them? Did they speak? Did they stumble and fall. Did His sweat and blood soak their robes? Can you imagine carrying, cleaning, embalming and wrapping the tortured and bloodied body of your friend. Did the shock and unbelief of everything that had just taken place completely overwhelm them? I wonder if they began to question everything He had ever shared and taught them? Did doubt and grief start to cloud their hearts and cause them to wonder if this truly was the Messiah? Imagine Mary, she’s just watched her son be beaten, whipped, crucified and die in front of her. What heartbreak, what grief. I wonder if she remembered the words of Gabriel when he appeared to her as a young teenager and said this about Jesus, “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High God. The Lord God will make Him a king, as His ancestor David was, and He will be the king of the descendants of Jacob forever; His kingdom will never end!” (Luke 1:32-33).
And the disciples, what did they think and do? Those next 3 days must have been excruciating for Jesus’ family, friends and followers. I wonder what they did with their days? What did they talk about? Were shock and silence their comforters? Grief, their hiding place? Did they wonder what would happen next? I’m sure each person had moments where their minds drifted to memories of Jesus teaching from the Torah, sharing those hard-to-understand parables and those hope-filled promises of being their Redeemer. Did they ever doubt and question what they believed to be true in their hearts? Didn’t He say He was the Way, the Truth, and the Life? Each memory of Jesus talking, walking, laughing, healing, eating, resting and sharing His life with them, how could He possibly now be dead? As the disciples sat around or paced back and forth, did they remember some of the last conversations they had with Him? Did they remember Him telling them that the Son of Man was going to be betrayed into the hands of His enemies and be killed, but 3 days later rise from the dead (Mark 9:31).
According to scripture, when Jesus was having that conversation with them, it says they didn’t understand what He meant and were afraid to ask. Did they now regret not asking? 3 incomprehensible days go by and they suddenly hear something outrageous. The Mary’s have encountered an angel at Jesus’ tomb. They’ve been told He is risen and He is alive! The tomb is empty and there’s a message to go and meet Him in Galilee. Can you imagine hearing that kind of news? What would your response have been? Well, maybe the same as the disciples. Scripture says they were so grief stricken they didn’t believe Mary or even the 2 other fellow believers who had walked, spoken and eaten with Jesus after He rose from the dead. Until…their unbelief bowed down to the feet of Jesus when He appeared to them while they were eating a meal together. And then when they saw Him with their own eyes, they worshipped Him! Yet some still doubted.
This Easter, I encourage you to take some time and read the accounts in the gospels of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. Use your imagination. These were real people witnessing a traumatic and miraculous event that still radically impacts and transforms lives today. What will your response be? Let’s worship Him, let’s thank Him, let’s declare together, “He has paid the highest price, He has proven His great love for us. We will praise Him with our lives and proclaim our love for Him”.