What does Easter mean to you? In a world where Easter represents a long weekend and the eating of exorbitant amounts of chocolate, it can be hard to focus on the truth: that an innocent man lovingly and willingly took the sin of the world upon His own shoulders and died upon a Roman cross for the salvation of all. I am ashamed to admit that I have let many Easters pass me by without truly giving any deep thought to Jesus at all.
It is hard to comprehend what He went through that Friday. I feel like I will never be able to truly grasp the depth of pain and suffering Jesus willingly endured to bring me to salvation. The pain He felt was real – emotional, physical, mental and spiritual. He endured the full emotional pain of having foreknowledge of what He was to face, betrayal by His closest friends, the hatred of crowds who had once praised Him. As the soldiers whipped Him, tortured Him, crowned Him with thorns, drove nails into His hands and feet and hung Him on the cross, He willingly took the pain. He suffered the mental anguish of being called a liar, a fraud, a blasphemer, a sinner; yet patiently and silently endured it all. Most incredibly, Jesus willingly experienced the horror of separation from the Father as He hung on the cross and yielded His Spirit, taking the sins of the world upon Himself.
Yet it is not only understanding the pain Jesus went through to save undeserving sinners like you and me that is important. What we need to understand also is why? Why would Jesus choose to die for us, when we have wilfully rejected Him? Why would God want to reconcile us to Himself when we, as Paul writes in his letter to the Romans, “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Rom 3:23) The answer to that question is life-altering. God chose to show us grace when we deserved wrath, to freely give us life where we deserved death, to die in our place and pay the penalty of our sins, because He loves us! He lovingly made us in His image, lovingly allowed us the freedom to choose to follow Him or to reject Him, lovingly provided a means of reconciliation – Christ himself – so that He could live in relationship with us. He took away our guilt, our shame and chose to forgive us of our sins – no longer counting them against us; He has declared us innocent and free!
Why does our world celebrate a fictional, chocolate-delivering bunny instead of Jesus? For the same reason that we, friends, once saw chocolate as more important than Christ, and maybe in some ways still do. To acknowledge Christ means to acknowledge one’s own sin; to comprehend His love means to understand our own depravity. The world does not want to know Christ because it does not want to change! Even now, despite knowing Christ and knowing His love, I sometimes choose the pleasure of sin over Him. I choose the chocolate over the blood of Christ. Ironically, chocolate is not good for my body*, despite how great it tastes, just as sin is not good for my soul. Yet ultimately, sin only leads to destruction. “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) Take a moment to let that sink in, friends. We deserve DEATH, but God has chosen to freely give us LIFE – in and through Christ. This is the true meaning of Easter. This is what we should be celebrating: freedom from sin and guilt, and the joy and hope of eternal life that has been granted us through the death of an innocent man on a cross 2000 years ago.
So what does this Easter mean to me? I don’t want this Easter to pass me by in ignorance, apathy or indifference. I want the truth of His love for me to change my heart. to transform my life. Friends, I encourage you to do the same. Acknowledge your unconfessed sin, and accept His forgiveness. Recognise that God desires to be in an intimate relationship with you, to make you more like Him. Rejoice in the freedom and hope we now have in Him! Celebrate Christ, not chocolate.