Last Easter Sunday, I baked a lemon cake for a small group of friends gathering at my place to read the Easter story. We followed along in our Bibles, stopping to discuss interesting points as they struck us, then when it was over, we joined hands and prayed for healing and forgiveness for ourselves, our families, and our friends who couldn’t be with us that day.
I’ve always especially liked Easter. While Christmas is a celebration of joy and excitement for the entire world to take pleasure in—even non-Christians—I feel Easter is a celebration of what Jesus did for each of us as individuals.
Easter is all about the relationship between Jesus and me. As a child, I never understood this relationship. Jesus was my friend, sure, but it didn’t really go beyond that. I guess I sort of saw Jesus as a “get out of jail free” card, someone who was there to be leaned on, but only when necessary.
Each year, when Easter comes around, I find myself overwhelmed by the thought of what Jesus went through for us. So much suffering, anguish, and pain He took in the hours before His cruel execution. Not to mention the mental distress of knowing what was coming. Yes, He knew the purpose behind it all, but it was clearly still terrifying. In fact, Jesus requested an exemption from the cross.1
Easter is one of the most important Christian festivals of the year, celebrating Jesus’ resurrection three days after His crucifixion. Some Easter traditions in various countries may have originated in other faiths or customs, but they are nonetheless imbued with meaning we can relate to.
I recently reread the touching story of a wealthy man and his son who loved to collect works of art. (The story appears in several sermons and books, but the original author is unknown.) It goes like this:
Mahatma Gandhi (1869–1948) is quoted as saying, “I know of no one who has done more for humanity than Jesus.” Much of the world, Christian and non-Christian alike, would agree. Yet have you ever considered how the world wouldn’t have been changed for the better if Jesus’ disciples hadn’t told others what they had seen and heard and learned with Jesus? The teachings of His life would have stopped with them.
I was thinking about Easter the other night when a line popped into my head: “He did not leave my soul in hell.” It sounded like a Bible passage, but I wasn’t sure. Neither was I sure if the writer was referring to Jesus.
I would like to say I pulled out my Bible and flipped to the passage, but no, I pulled out my smartphone and googled the phrase. It was in the Bible, and you can find it in Psalm 16: “You will not leave my soul among the dead.”1
I understand the trying of men’s hearts, the depths of despair, discouragement, and desperation. I understand forsaking, for I had to forsake My Father to go to earth, and then I had to forsake those that I loved so dearly on earth to return to My Father.
If there is anything that Easter reminds us, it is that “salvation”—God’s wonderful gift of peace with Him in this life and in the life to come—is not something we achieve by what we do. It’s something that has already been done for us. Jesus died on the cross for our sins; He rose again on the third day. He did it, not us.
Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song.
—Pope John Paul II (1920–2005)
A man who was completely innocent offered himself as a sacrifice for the good of others, including his enemies, and became the ransom of the world. It was a perfect act.
—Mahatma Gandhi (1869–1948)