Thursday night, unable to sleep, I gloomily contemplated the world.
I thought of how cruel, how hateful, how unkind everyone was. I thought of those who try so hard to do their duty and help their fellow-man, but are relentlessly criticized by outsiders and hampered by their own who bow to the demands of the ignorant masses. I wondered that there was anyone left, and asked myself how many were full of discouragement and just trying to remain standing.
And as I considered the darkness and cruelty of the world, the words slipped into my mind: That’s why we celebrate Easter. That’s what Easter means.
(In French, we have the same word for Passover, Easter, and Resurrection Sunday—Pâques. To me, it’s all the same thing, so don’t throw me under the bus for using Easter to mean the day we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection from the grave.)
I love Easter. Such a beautiful holiday. Imagine it! The entire world knows that Easter is about Jesus. It’s even more so than Christmas. Easter week IS Jesus—Palm Sunday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday—it all comes down to that Nazarene carpenter who entered Jerusalem to the cries of the crowd and only days after died on an ignominious cross mocked, cursed, and handed over to die by that same crowd.
But the meaning of Easter is so glibly forgotten. We scramble to learn specials and invite people to the services. We sing a few sad hymns about Jesus dying. We might talk about how Jesus died on Wednesday and not Good Friday. We take a day to recuperate from the unusual church attendance, then share a pretty “Happy Resurrection Sunday” on our social media. We go to church and sing a few resurrection songs. We sniff tulips or lilies, stuff our faces with chocolate and ham, have happy get-togethers with family or friends. Then we get up on Monday and go on with life, except maybe with a little more chocolate in the house or plans to get some.
Yet during those three days nominally set aside by the entire world to celebrate Jesus’ death and return to life, how often—or how long—do we, His people, pause and actually recognize why we’re celebrating?
How many times, used to the shocking story in all its graphic details, do we only nod apathetically to a recital of the Passion while secretly considering what’s next on the to-do list?
God help us all, it’s so easy to grow complacent.
But pause for a minute now, and consider the meaning of Easter.
Darkness. Utter darkness. The world plunged in rebellion and wickedness. The Roman Empire soaring upwards into corruption, and just suffering a financial crash. God’s people enslaved and broken, focused on material freedom and buried in a religion of rites and do-it-in-your-own-strength. Political struggles. The year 33 A.D. wasn’t pretty.
Jesus Christ, after three years of preaching the Gospel, curing sick, and raising dead, is seized because of the Truth he preaches. The leaders don’t like His popularity and the threat He poses to their religious influence—He must be eliminated.
Pilate, warned on all sides to stay clear of the matter, nevertheless bows to public pressure and knowingly condemns an innocent Man to death, futilely trying to pass the blame off on others.
Roman soldiers, ordered to beat a Man without sin, take time to crown Him with thorns and mock Him thoroughly.
On the hill of Golgotha, the people of Jerusalem surge about the cross, heaping mockery on the head of the Lamb.
Sounds an awful lot like today’s population, doesn’t it?
It is noon, the sun has reached its zenith, yet all is dark. “And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. And the sun was darkened.”
On that cross the sins—the evil doing—the mistakes and cruelties—every imperfection of every human soul that has or will exist—was placed on a sinless Lamb. God turned His face away from the wickedness of mankind, and His Son cried in agony.
But then, “behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many. Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God.“
Even in the darkness, God’s hand was manifest. His love was shown. A way was made for all to come unto the Father, and the Gospel was proven to heathen men.
Then the Son was taken from the cross and laid low in a tomb. For three days and nights, the darkness remained.
And then the Sun of Righteousness arose.
The Light shineth in darkness.
Jesus Christ triumphed over the power of darkness and spoiled principalities and powers, making a show of them openly. Through death He destroyed him that had the power of death, that is, the devil, and delivered them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. The Kingdom of Light won the victory—forever.
The cost of sin? Death. Jesus tasted that death so that He might give Life Forever to those who asked for and accepted it from Him. The only payment for sin? Innocent blood—which no man can ever pay. Jesus took the debt on Himself—freely, lovingly—and paid it in full.
And He did this not for His friends, but for His enemies.
A Sun shining on the horizon. Hope dawning.
Easter—the story of how the power of darkness was forever broken. The story of how Light conquered.
Until the day the Son returns, darkness will still cover the earth. Yet it is not the victor. It has not, it will not win. The battle is already over, and the results are guaranteed.
This is what Easter means. The darkness must be for a time, but Easter happened because of the darkness. Easter shows God’s power over the darkness. Easter tells us the darkness will not last.
Easter is the story of eternal hope.
Don’t dwell on the darkness. Turn your eyes upon Jesus this weekend. Look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.
He conquered the darkness.