Why imagine Easter when much of the world has forgotten the heart of it?
Two weeks ago, my wife and I walked along a busy road by a nearby mall. The police were setting up detours and yellow tape across the road. There were no fire trucks or ambulances at the time. When we reached the mall entrance a single blue pick up truck sat angled in the middle of the road. There were no other damaged vehicles in the area and the truck didn’t appear to be damaged.
The police must have arrested some criminal I thought and are investigating the crime scene. “Someone must have been hit by that truck,” my wife said. We continued on our way. A few days later, as we passed that same scene, we noticed a bouquet of roses taped to a light standard. Someone must have died here I thought. Maybe the police had to shoot the criminal and his family is mourning him. “The person hit by the truck must have died” my wife said. We continued on our way.
Two days ago, my neighbour, who my wife shops for every week during Covid, said to my wife over the backyard fence. “My husband’s gone, you know.”
“What do you mean?” my wife asked.
“There was an accident,” my neighbour said. “By the mall.”
My wife knew exactly which accident and was able to offer sympathy. The simple facts related by my neighbour brought clarity and context to the confusion we had because of missing pieces around the accident. This accident took on incredible significance because we understood that it involved someone we cared about.
“Don’t tell anyone,” my neighbour said. “My husband was in a coma until yesterday and we had to pull the plug.”
Our neighbour has been telling us off and on for months that she wants to get together after Covid to talk about heaven because she thinks we might have a different understanding of it than she does. Her husband’s death provides even more incentive now. Should we not tell her the Easter story to bring context and clarity to an event in history that brings confusion to so many people?
There are three reasons to share the Easter story and the first is that imagining Easter will bring context and clarity to the cross. Without the context and clarity of the history before and after the cross there will only be confusion and speculation.
Muslims see the cross, embrace God as just and Jesus as innocent, and can’t put those pieces together without the historical context and a clear understanding of who God is and what he chose to do about a relationship with us. Skeptics mock the teaching on the atonement and the wrath of God as paramount to Divine Child Abuse. Most in our society have reduced the holiday to a day off so that children can scramble for chocolate eggs and bunnies. When we have no context, and confusion threatens to grip us, we pass on by with little more thought than that a tragic accident happened.
This event does not seem to involve us.
In addition to context and clarity, Imagining Easter provides the clues and characters in the human drama. In the story of Progressive Divine Revelation there is a reason why certain stories and characters, and details are included. The shadows in the Hebrew scriptures enhance the light when the Lamb of God walks onto the stage of history. Every clue and every character matters.
In addition to context and clarity, to the clues and characters, we need to understand how Easter spawned the birth of a new calendar, a church and the Christian faith in particular. Without understanding the whole of the Easter story, we are left grappling for understanding with things too big for us.
The Easter story brings light to the darkest event in our history and displays once again that this event so long ago has everything to do with how I live my life everyday and why I can live that life with hope because the story doesn’t end at the grave. Not for my neighbour, and not for me.
A few weeks ago, I conducted a memorial service for my father. This week I will stand by the graveside of another member of my church. I have been involved in 12 memorials during Covid and the hope of those who have embraced the Easter story makes all the difference when you say that final farewell. Hope takes on fresh strength and faith takes on new meaning.
As you ponder the Easter story afresh, take a moment with each character to consider what the story meant for them. Embrace it and share it. More than ever, our world could use some hope.