Easter lily

The Other Side: An Easter Reflection

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Jay Smith, YTI President and Bridger Professor of Theology & Ethics

April 16, 2017

Crucifixion and Sacrifice

In recent years, I have encountered something very strange on Easter Sunday in churches all over the United States: pastors preaching about the crucifixion and the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for our salvation. Don’t misunderstand me. I give God glory and honor for what was done for the world on the cross at Golgotha. I continually reflect on Jesus’s last week in Jerusalem and his growing understanding of what was to come, and how humanity would fail to understand. But the importance of Easter does not rest upon the cross.

Many Jews died upon Roman crosses during Jesus’s life. During the times of unrest which preceded the rise in open rebellion against Rome (about 30-66 B.C.), “rebels” met with short shrift at the hands of their Roman oppressor. They were crucified as traitors, often dozens at a time. The sons of Judas the Galilean were among those who suffered this fate. Although these rebellious patriots were crucified, this death was not uncommon. Indeed, this fate, though horrific to behold, had become commonplace to the populace. The fact that Jesus willingly assented to this cruel death should have been a clue to the world that something spectacular was yet to follow!

Easter Celebrates Resurrection

The text of the apostles and the earliest creeds of the church make note of what happened, next: “On the third day, he rose from the dead.” What? All people die. I know that fact and so do you. That is common knowledge. No one returns from the dead. Except, of course for the Father’s only begotten Son. The Word of God, made into flesh; Love incarnate. In the greatest turnabout in history, Jesus’s obedience to death upon a cross – out of love for the Father and the rest of creation – resulted in the subversion of death’s finality. The cross means something to you and me because Jesus defeated death though it. The ugliest torture known to man becomes the doorway to the life of Love in God.

Easter is a celebration of eternal life, plain and simple. Jesus rose again. Sing no sad songs, but rather rejoice: “He arose, He arose, Hallelujah, Christ arose!” Death no longer has a hold over human life. At least, it should no longer have a hold on our lives. What does it take then? It takes faith. Believe the good news that Jesus – God – has come for us, paid the debt our sin has incurred, and promised us a life that lasts forever. All we need is to believe.

Easter Celebrates Our Resurrection

Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus, but it must also celebrate the resurrected life that Christ has given to each one who believes. In the great “trifecta” of God’s saving activity, we see the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. On the seventh Sunday after Easter – the completion of time – all who believe in the “Good News” are filled with the very Spirit of Christ – the Holy Spirit. As Jesus is a world changer, we are called to be world changers…and world changers live forever.

This Easter, celebrate the resurrection; the improbable and unforeseeable act of God that has changed the world. Celebrate the life God has given to you. Take great joy in the fact that it is His Spirit that fills your life and blesses your days. Use the season of Eastertide as a time of reflection on what God has for you. Allow God to clarify the vision He has given to you, and let His life become your life…then give it away, just as He did for the sake of our world. For it is only as you give away your life, that you will ever find it.