The trouble with Easter (something worth celebrating)

I have a confession to make…I do not love Easter.

It’s OK if you’re judging me a little upon reading this revelation. I judge myself. We can just add it to the ever-growing list of things that make me an unfit pastor.

I just don’t enjoy this holiday. I hate the soft, pastel colors that dominate this season. I find the human-sized rabbits that attend our parties and that supposedly deliver candy and lay eggs horrifying. And honestly, in the pantheon of horrible smelling/tasting foods, hard-boiled eggs have to have a seat toward the top.

Before someone sends little Linus out to explain the true meaning of the season, I am well aware of the heart of Easter. Unlike Christmas, however, much of the story of Easter is cold and dark rather than warm and glowing. The heart of Christmas is full and hands are open in anticipation of the coming of Christ. The heart of Easter is broken and fists are clenched in anticipation of his death.

While the end is unquestionably wonderful, the means is unspeakably terrible. Resurrection Sunday is a day to celebrate life and light, but the days that precede it carry the dark pale of the shadow of death. Easter brings the full weight of our sin into view and confronts us with the cost of our salvation. It reminds us that though God’s grace is a free gift to us, it was hard-earned through the suffering of the savior, Jesus Christ.

Grace is one of the most important concepts in Christian belief and practice. It is defined as “the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.”

The clearest picture of the unrelenting grace of God is found in the story of the crucifixion. Luke 23:32-35 tells us that some soldiers led Jesus to a place quite appropriately called “the Skull.” Once they arrived, they crucified him like a criminal, along with other criminals. They nailed him to a wooden beam and hung him, beaten and bloodied, and waited for him to die a slow death by suffocation.

As these men are literally torturing Jesus to death, we are told Jesus prayed a prayer, saying, “Father, forgive them, they do not know what they are doing.” These men were professionals. They absolutely knew how to do what they were doing. They didn’t know to whom they were doing it. Quite literally, as they were killing him, Jesus forgave them. It was favor, both undeserved and unearned, but offered all the same.

What strikes me in this account is that the soldiers never asked for Jesus’ forgiveness. In fact, they were in the middle of the greatest failure of their lives, and before they finished, the son of God sought to make salvation available to them. Jesus had every reason to seek revenge and retribution, but instead, Jesus offered redemption.

The road to restoration was opened wide in spite of and in the middle of their unspeakable rebellion. “This is love: Not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins (I John 4:10).”

Romans 5:8 tells us that we are offered the same forgiveness and restoration he offered the soldiers who killed him. It reads, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Through the cross, Jesus offered forgiveness freely and fully before we asked for it or knew we needed it. Jesus made reconciliation available in the midst of our rebellion. He demonstrated the ultimate act of friendship when we were still his enemies. He offered forgiveness in the middle of our failure, not after we got it all together (which none of us actually does).

The cross has little to do with what we want or what we’ve asked of Jesus and everything to do with him making available what we need.

I do not love Easter. Think of all the things highlighted during “Holy Week.” Jesus was betrayed by one of his best friends. He was abandoned and disowned by almost all the rest. He was convicted of crimes he didn’t commit by a corrupt court. He was beaten and abused beyond imagination. And he was led up a hill to be killed in the most cruel and painful of ways.

He did all of this to serve as “the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” He did all of that to pay the price of my sin and yours. He offered forgiveness for which I didn’t ask. He offered favor I don’t deserve. He offered redemption and restoration which I desperately needed.

He continues to offer amazing and unrelenting grace. It saddens me deeply when I consider the suffering of our savior for my sin.

That’s the trouble with Easter. In so many ways, it’s a season of sadness and unspeakable suffering. But there is hope. The sad realities of Easter are ultimately overcome by the glories of Resurrection Sunday. The shadows of death cast by the cross ultimately give way to the light of life emanating from the empty grave. God’s grace unrelenting, unstoppable and available to all who would believe, that is something worth celebrating.

The Rev. Jeremy Myers is the lead pastor of First Baptist Church in Seymour. Read his blog at Send comments to [email protected].