I regularly do devotionals with my children. I’m not on top of it every single day, because there are some days that just get derailed, frankly, by a hectic schedule of our own making, a sick child, school or travel. But, at least five days a week, I sit down with the kids and open up the Bible. Right now they are eight, six and four, so they are just beginning to understand Biblical concepts. They are all accustomed to this being a regular practice in our family–reading scriptures and discussing the application to our lives, but one of my children in particular seems to become distracted as soon as I open the Bible. Whether she’s staring off into space; picking at a decorative pillow on the sofa; subtly (or not so subtly) teasing her little brother or sliding onto the floor with the dog, she seems to lose interest right away and then not remember most of what I read or tried to communicate to her.
This is very frustrating to me as her mother, and I have to resist the urge to compare her to her sister who seems to absorb the Word and know how it’s meant to fit into her reality. Our most recent devotional was, understandably, focused on the passover meal that Jesus shared with the disciples before he was given over to be crucified. And again, the aforementioned child was wiggly and distracted and heard almost nothing that I said. So, I took a deep breath to quiet my annoyance and gently pulled her close to me on the sofa after her siblings had run off to play.
“Honey, do you understand what happened at the Passover meal? Do you understand why Jesus allowed himself to be taken that night even though He knew what would happen?”
She kind of shrugged and muttered, “I don’t know.”
“Do you understand why Easter is so important?”
“Because Jesus died for our sins on the cross?”
“Yes, and then what happened three days later?” I pressed.
“He came back to life?” She answered uncertainly, looking up at me for approval. I nodded my head.
“Yes, and why is that important, honey?” I asked, pushing her a little farther. Again she shrugged.
I sighed and my heart sank a little with that response, because at this time every year, I can barely get through Passion Week without crying a little daily as I ponder the incredible act of love and sacrifice that set me free from a life of selfishness, shallowness and despair. I can scarcely express my gratitude for the gift of forgiveness and freedom that God just GAVE to me when I was unable to repay Him. I can never adequately convey the joy and peace that I can now carry through life, no matter the trial and whether I fail, because I know that He has already won the victory for me through the cross.
But I think many, many of us, Christian and non-Christian alike, miss, forget, or undermine the message of the cross, the whole point of Easter. The scripture says:
This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. Luke 24:45-48.
The crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, predicted by the prophets throughout the Old Testament, recounted by eyewitnesses in all four gospels, and verified by the disciples in later books that trace their evangelism throughout Africa, India, the Middle East, Asia Minor and Europe, was the climax of God’s plan for the world from the beginning. Without Easter, the baby that we celebrate at Christmas doesn’t matter. If He wasn’t meant to give up His throne in Heaven in order to live an unremarkable life–to serve, suffer and die blamelessly in order to save us from our sins and provide redemption for us, then He was just another baby. Without Easter, all the miraculous healings could be attributed to charade and illusion. Without Easter, Christ’s humility and minimalism could just be the admirable traits of an inspirational person who would one day be forgotten.
But the fact that Easter exists, means something. There is a statement behind Easter. The message of Christ’s resurrection is hope, victory, freedom, joy, anticipation, peace and grace. Matthew Henry said:
Come and see the victories of the cross. Christ’s wounds are thy healings, His agonies thy repose, His conflicts the conquests, His groans thy songs, His pains thine ease, His shame thy glory, His death the life, His sufferings thy salvation.”
So what is the point of Easter? The point is, that if we call ourselves Christians, if we have been called to follow Christ, if we identify with Jesus–we should be changed. The point is that we should encapsulate hope, victory, freedom, joy, anticipation, peace and grace, and then we should project it to the rest of the world, to our communities, to our schools, to our workplaces, to our weekend sports leagues, to our gym classes, to our neighbors, to our relatives–every day.
If our comfort is such an idol that being inconvenienced and persecuted for Christ scares us, aren’t we missing the point? If we’ve become so familiar with our fear and worry that we forget how to practice faith in God’s strength and gratitude for what He’s already given us, aren’t we missing the point? If we’re so busy judging people just because they do or say things differently to acknowledge our own need for Jesus, aren’t we missing the point? If we’ve become so exhausted doing things to be “better” instead of resting in Christ’s best work, aren’t we missing the point? If we are so trapped in guilt over past sin that we aren’t walking in the freedom Jesus purchased for us on the cross, aren’t we missing the point? If we hide behind the guise of perfection and control to the point that we stop seeing our flaws and and the grace that covers them, aren’t we missing the point? If we’re working so hard to gain accolades and human adoration instead identifying with Jesus’ triumph, aren’t we missing the point?
After reading that diatribe, there may be some legalists nodding their heads in agreement, ready to drop the hammer on those of us who haven’t checked all the boxes above. But here’s something that turns that upside down–even if we have failed miserably for months on end with every one of those scenarios, the resurrection of Jesus Christ would still make a statement. God’s gift of forgiveness, redemption and victory would still be every bit as powerful for those of us who miss the mark (otherwise known as sinning) over and over again. For, as scripture says, “at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly… but God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
Friends, my hope for us this Easter is that we would take the power point that God made through the resurrection, and apply it to every encounter, every conversation, every attitude, every joy and difficulty throughout the rest of the year. That we would allow the statement of His victorious love to truly change us either all at once or by degrees.
There’s a bit more to the story about my daughter that I began above. As I sensed the frustration rising inside me, I quickly asked God to give me patience and to help me communicate with her. I stretched out on the sofa and pulled her lithe, six-year-old frame against me, felt her “giraffe legs” as I call them wrap around me and proceeded to explain to her why it’s so important that we learn about Jesus. That knowing who God is, and why He sent His Son, is just part of getting to know Him and understanding how much He loves us, so that He can in turn deepen our love for Him and for others. And as she listened and I spoke, I could feel us both relaxing, and I could imagine that this was, in a sense, what Easter was meant to be for us–a sort of caress and embrace. A perfect God looking down and seeing our ugliness, yet drawing us close through the sacrificial love of His Son, that we might hear His voice and experience His love through the changing power of His Spirit.
May He make His point with you. Happy Easter.
Adrienne Gross is a writer based in North Carolina. She is a lover of travel, fitness, wine, good conversation and quality time with her friends and husband and three young children. You can find her blog at presentlysite.blog or on Twitter at @adrienne_gross.