Easter is always a special time of year. It reminds us that warmer weather is arriving after the long winter’s cold, and spring is beginning to show its colors! It’s a time of renewal as new plant life exemplifies rebirth by poking through the covering of a late snow, leaf buds begin to swell and emerge from their long winter’s sleep, and early flowers showcase their gorgeous colorful blooms.
It’s a special time for children as they have fun decorating eggs, enjoy the search for hidden eggs to fill their baskets, and savor scrumptious chocolate treats and marshmallow peeps. I also remember a time, way too many years ago, when it was fashionable to buy a new spring dress and white bonnet for Easter service at church. When the Covid pandemic kept many of us from attending church, I drew Easter chalk art on our sidewalk to celebrate the joy of Resurrection Day. And I also admire the Polish/Ukrainian Pysanky a friend makes – gorgeous delicate painted artwork on eggs.
But, there’s so much more to the meaning of Easter. Each year we are reminded again of all that took place about 2000 years ago. That precious little baby whose birth we celebrated just a few short months ago grew up with a purpose. As my husband’s niece, Rebecca, once said, “That God would become a man and understand our struggles on earth just blows my mind. [That’s] true humble love.”
Yet, in contemplating God’s love, I sometimes find it hard to think of such unconditional love for me… After all, what about that little thing I did? Was it really wrong? Maybe I can just excuse it away. Will my family, my friends, or even God, forgive me for certain errors I’ve made? I know He has, as have friends to whom I’ve apologized over the years. How could God still love me when my temper flares… again…? What does He see in me? I can never measure up… Well, actually, none of us can. We all sin and fall short of the glory of God… “for the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 3:23) So, why would God care so much for me… for each of us? Because of one man, Jesus…
That one man, perfect in all he did or said, willingly took my unworthiness, my shame, my heavy load of sin, and endured the penalty of the cross, just for my soul, is overwhelming. I cannot repay such a debt! Wait… I don’t have to? My debt is paid in full? Because Jesus gave His life that I might live, all I have to do is believe and accept His free gift? Jesus really loves us that much? Yes! That’s the grace and mercy of God’s love… it does not define and cancel us for our failures, but rather shows that we are each created unique by God, worthy of His love and forgiveness, redeemed through Christ from a life of sin. (Colossians 2:13-14) Now that’s unconditional love… as He blesses us with His wisdom, courage, compassion and peace.
I am reminded of Johnny Hart’s “B.C.” cartoon column. He was a good friend of my husband’s Uncle Mart and Aunt Tilly and their family in Ninevah, NY, members of the same Presbyterian Church where Hart also taught Sunday School. How succinctly Hart put the thoughts of this holy week into perspective in his comic strip:
“I hate the term, Good Friday.”
“My Lord was hanged on a tree that day.”
“If you were going to be hanged on that day and he volunteered to take your place, how would you feel?” “Good.”
“Have a nice day!” [Johnny Hart in B.C., 04/09/03]
Which brings to mind a similar thought-provoking cartoon I had also saved years ago from “The Wizard of ID”, a joint venture written by Johnny Hart and Brant Parker, illustrated by Parker:
Friar: “Happy Good Friday Sire!”
To which the king grumbles: “What’s so good about it?”
The friar replies: “It took an act of God, but they finally found somebody willing to die for you.” …with the king left standing there speechless. [Copyright Creators Syndicate Inc.]
But, after the brutality and agony of Jesus’ crucifixion and death, His friends are devastated. All their hopes and expectations for Jesus as the earthly king of the Jewish nation appear to be dashed.
Yet, envision with me the beauty of an early morning sunrise. Birds are beginning to sing as the sun’s first rays appear. The dew has settled gently on the flowers in the garden as they open their buds to the sun’s warmth. According to Mark 16:1-5, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome quietly arrive at the tomb just after sunrise on the first day of the week. They carry spices with them to anoint their beloved friend and teacher, Jesus, who had died a horribly painful death on a cross… only to see in astonishment that the great stone has been rolled away from the entrance. Upon entering, they see the tomb is empty. Already sad, now they are also afraid.
Suddenly, two men stand before them in brilliant light. Knowing their fear, an angel speaks gently to reassure them. “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples…” (Matthew 28:5-6) Trembling and bewildered, the women run from the tomb. Despite their confusion and fear they run to tell the disciples. Peter and John arrive after hearing Mary Magdalene’s report, look into the empty tomb, and also see only the burial cloths which lay neatly in place. (John 20:3-8) They wondered and believed.
As the others return to their homes, Mary Magdalene stays at the empty tomb, crying, missing her Lord. As a man she presumed to be the gardener speaks to her, she asks where he put him. On hearing the man speak her name, “Mary,” she recognizes him as her dear friend, Jesus, and calls out, “Rabboni!” (Teacher). After their conversation, Mary hurries to share the good news with the disciples that she “has seen the Lord!” (John 20:10-18) Jesus truly is alive!
And to think that with a simple child-like faith in Jesus who willingly gave His life for me… for each of us… He will live in our hearts now and for eternity. As John 3:16 reminds us, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him, should not perish but have everlasting life.”
What pain there is to realize that I fall short of His tender love every day. But what joy in humbling myself to recognize and confess my sins, and to ask for forgiveness for the errors of my ways from those around me and from my Lord, and then to feel the forgiveness… as the Lord’s love and peace with mercy and grace surround my soul. That’s what Easter is all about… God’s great love! Hallelujah!! Christ is risen!! What a Savior!!
Besides… I love you!
Linda A. Roorda
Who am I? My soul doth ask.
What am I worth? And to whom?
I see only failure as I take the reins
And do not give my Lord the lead.
How can you love the me who I am
When all I see are my struggles?
Yet, Lord, You do love even me
In ways that I cannot comprehend.
To sight unseen You guide my path
Ever at my side, gently calling.
And as you wrap loving arms around
You cover my soul with tender mercies.
For You opened wide Your arms on a cross
Giving Your life that I might live,
And in return You ask for my love
With all my heart, my soul and my mind.
But you didn’t stay within that tomb
For on day three You rose from the dead.
Seen by many, in the hearts of more,
Eternity waits Your Gift of Love.
Where once I felt the crashing waves
That overwhelm and burden my soul,
Now peace and joy have filled my heart
With love to share for those on my path.
Your presence surrounds me with Your peace
As You offer grace to light my way,
And then I hear You whisper soft
Besides… I love you!
A Happy and Blessed Easter to all!