When we think of our favorite holidays, many of us land on Christmas. It makes sense. We have an entire genre of music dedicated to that holiday; it celebrates a spectacular story of how God puts on flesh and comes to live among us; the fresh fallen snow covers the ground with an immense beauty; and of course, we give each other presents.
Of course Christmas is an important holiday, and its true meaning is worth celebrating every year. But we don’t often ascribe that same kind of magic to Easter.
And it’s not all that surprising to some extent. Easter expects a lot out of us. Before it arrives, we’re to have traditionally practiced fasting for the last 40 days. And on top of that, we have to relive the story of injustice, as we watch that same Christmas baby be nailed on a cross and left to die there.
This kind of story is hard to bare. Perhaps that’s why we give bunnies attention instead.
We want the same kind of magic on Good Friday that we see on Christmas. Many of us would join our voices with those at the scene of the crucifixion: “If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross… come down now from the cross, and we will believe in you.”
Give us that magic to go off of. Do something great. Call down angels from Heaven. We want the mountaintop experience. God becoming a human baby is miraculous! God giving up his life is not!
Or so it seems…
But that’s not how the God of Easter rolls. There is so much Jesus could have done to avoid this moment before and after the sentencing happened—but he chose not to. Instead he prayed God would lead Him however God needed to, even though he would have preferred a different path.
Fasting. Crucifixion. Death.
That’s not the story we would choose. But that is God’s story. And we admire it, but we struggle to celebrate it. It’s not how we would have done things—which seems to be over and over again how Jesus does life: very differently from how we’d expect. It provokes us time and time again to wonder how He would handle things in our own life—how the cross fits into things like Brussels.
But of course, Good Friday is not the final word. On Friday we remember the death of Jesus on a cross, but on Sunday we celebrate the resurrection! It’s the magic we’re looking for—though its relation to death first is still enough to keep some of us at bay.
In the end, God’s final word is not death, but life. He is greater than any force we have ever known. Even death can’t keep him in the graveyard! He breaks its power and walks out of his tomb before anyone has even noticed.
He walks around the land and visits his friends, breaking the other forces we know are always at work. He rises from the dead and beats death. He eats with his disciples and then walks through a wall and breaks logic. He breaks bread with some other friends and vanishes instantly, destroying the rules of movement. He ascends into Heaven and offends gravity. He even led Peter who had denied knowing him after he was crucified, towards wholeness and greatness, obliterating the rules and behaviors of bitterness and vindictiveness with complete grace.
Easter is a beautiful thing. It’s a beautiful ending to a difficult season. It’s a bitter winter entering into a new spring. It’s the birds returning to trees again to sing their songs of worship.
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
It’s swallowed up in the resurrection of King Jesus and the victory of God.