By LEON YOUNGBLOOD
When I was younger than I will ever be again, my instruction regarding Easter was often misguided. Commercially, the symbols of the holiday were sentimental cards, chocolate bunnies, marshmallow chicks, decorated eggs, and that sort of stuff.
In nature, the symbols were trees budding out, springtime flowers, real bunnies and chicks—again, you know the sort of stuff. For me as a child, this was pretty much what Easter was about.
A turning point came when I was older. I was in a certain Sunday School class as the teacher explained, “To many people, these things are symbolic of the resurrection of Jesus. When you hunt Easter eggs, you’re looking for, and finding, hidden spiritual truths. Eggs and flowers, and the birth of baby rabbits, and other things that happen around Easter, appeared out of the ‘dead of winter’ to ‘resurrected life’—Mother Nature herself tells the Easter story. At least, many people believe this.
And the money they spend on candy, Easter baskets, egg decorations, Easter suits and dresses—that symbolizes the ‘cost of discipleship.’
“But really, there are only two appropriate symbols for the Easter season: The cross, and the empty tomb.”
Our instructor gave us a moment to absorb his statement. Then, he said, “Apparently, eggs, bunnies, spring blooms, and the like came from pagan religions, and somehow in the course of history got shuffled into Christianity.
The only thing they represent is a primitive belief in fertility rituals intended to stimulate reproduction in crops, livestock and clans. These ancient peoples worshipped nature. But they were not that naive.
They recognized there are reproductive cycles in the natural order of things. They knew there was a difference between something dormant and something dead. For our purposes, that settles it for the candy rabbits, the baskets, and egg-hunting.
These are merely vestiges of old superstitions.
“Jesus, on the other hand, died on a cross. You know the story. There was nothing ‘dormant’ about it, He was dead. There was nothing pretty about it, either. Those who took down His body, who removed the crown of thorns from his head, who washed the corpse as it was oozing blood—they knew Jesus was dead.
When they took the corpse to the ‘Garden Tomb’ and wrapped it in a shroud—no doubt about it, Jesus was dead. He was not like the bulbs you get the Easter lilies from, that goes dormant until the next spring, or the egg a chicken uses to produce another chicken; Jesus was dead.
“Can you imagine the desperate hopes those pre-Resurrection followers of Christ suddenly lost, and the new desperate hopes they had to deal with? The desperate hope that maybe this was all a bad dream?
The desperate hope that maybe, just maybe, the Jewish authorities and the Romans would not find them?—for they would darn sure have to keep low profiles. Imagine Simon Peter, desperately hoping he could forgive himself for lying to his interrogators, cursing and swearing that he did not know Jesus.
Or the Magdalene, the exorcised prostitute, with a desperate hope that demons would not return to ravage her body and soul. And the devastating disappointment that Jesus wasn’t the Messiah. After all, if he was, this would not have happened.
Imagine the disappointment the disciples must have had in themselves. In Gethsemane, they ran. They abandoned their Lord.
“Then came Sunday. Three women go to finish the job of embalming Jesus’ body. The tomb is empty, and someone—exactly who or what, they are not sure—tells them, ‘He is risen.’ Imagine the fear, the confusion, the desperate hope that this news is true!
“Subsequent events verified it: Christ is risen!
“So, ‘Why the cross?’ God’s Sacrifice for our redemption. ‘Why the Resurrection?’ For one thing, the validation from God Himself that, ‘This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’
Only because of Jesus’ Resurrection, desperate hopes became blessed assurance. Regardless of whatever would happen to those who believe, they would come back impervious to any evils afflicting the mortal body.
Jesus Himself, breathing, eating, rejoicing and enjoying the companionship of his own, was living proof.
“The Resurrection validated Jesus’ words about Himself, too, such as: ‘I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father but by me.’ Jesus isn’t a ‘desperate hope’; He’s our only hope. And, ‘How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?’”
Wishing you a blessed Easter.
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