For those of us with Faith the Easter Holiday's are a time of reflection and rejoicing because from tragedy and betrayal comes rebirth, redemption and grace. But more on that in a bit, it isn't surprising that Easter falls during the lasts weeks of March or the first Weeks of April depending on the leap year and how the calendar falls. Before Jesus trial, execution and entombment and subsequent resurrection the earlier religions and faith's held spring rituals to usher in the new spring growth and the fertility of the land. This custom varied in times and dates as well sometimes it would be held in April or as late as May 1. It was also the annual time of year that the populace would come together in towns, villages, and cities. As the warm spring air denoted the earths return from it's dormant period and prior to the new years crops being sown in the fields, celebrations of life and birth could be found everywhere. Spring is when these ancestors of ours would become betrothed and marriages performed and before the fall a new crop of children would be born. Thus, was the world in ancient times. Today life moves at a much faster pace, and people are waiting later in years to get married and some decide not to get tied down like that. Putting their careers before family, and lets face it in today's world divorces are happening much faster than marriages are these days.
Yes, the earth goes through a long dormant season and when spring burst forth in the land and new growth can be seen and warmer temperatures arrive, we all feel more invigorated and full of life. We do our spring cleaning and we get out in the warmer temperatures and explore the wonders of nature. It is a busy time for farmers, because now work has to begin in earnest if they hope to get their crops planted in time. Fields must be plowed and soil fertilized and livestock must be moved to better pastures. It is also the time when we see life coming back to the land, birds returning from their southern homes and wondrous new birth of our woodland friends. Every year the earth goes through this ritual and the endless circle of life continues. In our modern world though it is almost as if the world awakes from a deep grey slumber that has held the land in hibernation and our moods in a dismal space that is hard for us to break through. Of course we have just come through our Holiday traditions that ultimately begin with Halloween and end with the celebration of New Year, but from that time on we look forward to the first rays of spring with the hope that we will make it through the rest of the hard winter and get to once again have time off. See much of the world has to toil and labor daily with only brief breaks in that endless drone of days in our established and practiced holidays. So from Jan 1 to end of March there are no breaks for those in school or who work for a living. But as spring burst forth on the world hope looks forward to the time when we can once again have another break and spend it however we see fit, this has become known as Spring Break. Which is celebrated across our nation and vary from school to school and also varies as to if you are in grade school or college.
Spring break has become a national tradition here in the U.S. and has made places famous for the millions of teenagers and students that flock to these destinations to celebrate the beginning of spring. Places like Daytona Beach, South Beach, Pensacola, Miami and of course all over the west coast and far and wide in between. Spring break has become major business and has brought billions of tourist dollars into communities all across the nation. But to my dismay our religious holiday has once again become corrupted by the populace and has turned into a moneymaking and money driven beast and it just increases year after year. Just look at how fast stores put up Christmas decorations now a days. Industry and merchandising use these holiday's to pressure us into parting with that hard earned dollar that we struggle so hard to make and work all those extra hours to try and save. Yet, before we know it everything saved has been spent on and around the holidays. So what am I wanting you to take away from this entry is that the holiday is that the holiday isn't for going out and partying with your friends and spending all the money you have been working so hard to save. It is supposed to be a religious holiday a time of reflection and give us time to break from our mundane worlds and for that brief period of time share reverence and fellowship with members of our own faith.
Do you know what the Easter Holiday is supposed to represent? It represents just how fickle the people of the world can really become and how fear and prejudice can turn an adoring populace into a blood thirsty mob. I am pretty sure most of you have heard the Story of Jesus Christ and His life on Earth. But, I would like to remind you that our Lord and Savior just one week prior rode into Jerusalem to the cheering of the crowd and the laying of palm branches before his entry. We call this Palm Sunday and it was foretold by the prophet Zechariah of Jesus's entry into Jerusalem. Remember that even as He rode in to a cheering crowd Jesus was already aware of His fate and continued on into the city and did His Father's work. Thus, on that following Thursday Jesus has His last supper with his disciples and then awaits in the Garden of Gethsemane for arrest. From the wee hours of morning on Friday Jesus was to go through 6 trials and be tortured and ridiculed throughout by the very people He had come to witness to and turn them from their ways. But, no the religious leaders and the very members of the church ultimately passed the buck and asked that the Roman Government do away with this heretic and blasphemer as they called him. Remember when Jesus gave the sermon on Mount Olives He called the leaders of the church hypocrites and vipers, These men would not forget the slights they had heard from Jesus and so they beseeched Pilate the Roman governor to try Him. Yet Pontius Pilate could find no guilt in Jesus and wanted to return free Him. The religious leaders call together were called the Sanhedrin would not accept Pilate's rule and forced him to take Jesus to trial before Herod Antipas, but because Jesus refused to talk Herod return Him to Pilate. Jesus by this time had been beaten repeated, abused in so many ways physically and mentally as well as emotionally, but Pilate repeatedly tried to return Jesus to the people having Him beaten to beyond recognition to try and satisfy the selfish whims of the church leaders. They would not hear of it and so Jesus was forced to carry His own cross, wear a crown of thorns pushed down on his head and beaten all the way from Jerusalem to the hill of Galgatha, where even as the nails were driven into His hands and feet the soldiers gambled for His clothes, cursed Him and spit upon Him and still as He was raised up on that cross between 2 condemned thieves, He cried out "Forgive them for they know not what they do". Even then Jesus still looked upon those who just a week before praised Him and rejoiced in His coming to Jerusalem, with compassion and understanding.
Before the execution was complete more atrocities were to befall Jesus, His side would be ruptured by a legionnaires spear, shouts and insults would be hurled and He was forced to drink vinegar and hyssop which would only increase His thirst and agony as He hung there. Jesus' trial, torture and execution were drawn out from Midnight Thursday night/Friday morning to Noon. The next 3 hours the populace stood around and watched as He hung there on that cross, and it was right before 3pm that Friday afternoon that Jesus lifted up His head and cried out in such anguish and pain "My God, My God why hast thou forsaken Me" and in those final moments the cloudy afternoon sky parted and a ray of golden sunlight broke through the heavens and shone upon His face and a white dove was seen to alight from a bush startling several of the roman guards and it flew directly over the 3 crosses that stood upon Galgotha's Hill.
Why have I shared this with you? Because I want to turn you away from the Easter Bunny, the baskets, the coloring of eggs and remind you of the true miracles that took place over this weekend and what it signifies to me and my faith. Jesus knew His fate, the time and hour of His death before ever entering into the city. He would preach to those that gathered around him on Tuesday morning on the steps of the temple and tell that He would be arrested and put to death. Yet, through it all He stayed and did what was expected and required of Him. Men and women have always feared death since the time of Adam and Eve, for knowing that death was to come to them was one of the many truths learned when they ate of the forbidden fruit, yet He remarkably accepted His fate, and only once did He ask the Father to change it and that was while He waited and prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. This is very significant to our walk of Faith for we should be fearless because through the sacrifice of Jesus, death has no hold over us any longer. What else would I like you to know? That He forgave those that persecuted, tried Him, condemned Him, and eventually killed Him. But He didn't stop there, He heard the confession of the thief that hung next to Him and forgave Him too. "He spoke that I will go there and prepare a place for you also". So compassion, forgiveness and sorrow are traits that we as Christians should strive to emulate and share to the world around us. But even more than that I would like to explain to you my belief as to why Jesus cried out in those final heartrending moments of His life "Why has thou forsaken Me?" In that instant Jesus felt the Father's gaze turn away from Him and He was troubled. But in that moment it was not weakness, it was not fear, it was the acceptance of sin into Him and upon Him, for He was blameless and pure. He took on our sins, now and forever, He became our sacrifice, He became the bridged that crossed the divide that resulted from Original Sin. God could not look upon sin and took His eyes off of Jesus so that the promise of sacrifice could be fulfilled and the gap forever bridged. Jesus became the intercessor.
But here are some other interesting things that you may not know that is significant about the Crucifixion of Jesus. That golden beam of light that broke through the clouds and the white dove are both significant as well as the loud clap of thunder that took place as Jesus took His last breath. The three things taken together are very significant indeed. They mark the promise that God made to Abraham. They also mark the end of being saved by Law. Up until that point man was still under the law and yearly sacrifices had to be made and the high priest was the only one that could intercede on our behalf before God. For you see the temple veil was torn in two, this veil separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the temple and it was where God Himself resided on Earth in the temple. Only the high priest was allowed to enter. Thus it marked the old testament and as such we are no longer bound by the law, for we are no saved by grace. Jesus' teachings if heeded give us all the necessary ingredients we need to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. He only gave some very simple to follow rules and guidelines to follow. So why is it so hard for today's Christians to get it together? Why is there so much separation and strife within the Church?
In all of the teachings of Jesus, He stressed love for fellow man and to be accepting and forgiving. Now many Bible scholar's believe that there are quite a few commandments given by Jesus throughout His ministry. Yet, some of what these scholars deem as commandments are actually Jesus laying out the foundations for a whole new church that was not based on the original ten commandments that are in the Old Testament. When Jesus was asked which is the greatest commandment Jesus replied " Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second Is love your neighbor as yourself." Jesus stated that "all the law and the prophets hand on these two commandments." This can be found in Matthew 22:36-40). I hope you realize that this is my interpretation and I did not write the versus directly as they appear in the Bible. I also find that the Golden Rule pretty much summarized the statements above. For those of you that don't know the golden rule it can be found in Matthew 7:12 and it goes like this "Do unto others what you would have then do unto you",again not the entire verse, but the meaning has not been altered. Jesus said "children obey your parents so that your days upon the earth may be many" and "go out and be fishers of men." and "I am the way the truth and the light no man may come before the Father without me." To me this sums up what is now expected of us. Again, Bible scholars list quite a few more, but they are self explanatory and show a stark difference from the original ten commandments.
Jesus wants us to love and honor one another, to build up and not tear down each other. Our reward is not here on earth but when we get to heaven. Life is our proving ground and as a believer we should strive daily to live our life as Jesus did. None of us are perfect and we must pick ourselves up and rebuke sin and our wicked self daily.
Easter to me is about remembering the sacrifice of our Savior, and it is a celebration of His life, His teaching and His death and Resurrection. It shouldn't be another merchant corrupted holiday that is carefully crafted with bunnies, baskets and eggs. We should remember that through Grace we are saved and sanctified with salvation. For without the blood shed by Jesus on that cross the great divide that existed between God and man caused by eating of the forbidden fruit wouldn't have been bridged.
This is the time for us to reach out to our fellow man with a hand of love and compassion, to give of ourselves and turn away from vengence. We are to hate the sin and love the person, our greatest gift we can give to those around us is compassion and love. How much better a place the world would be if it was full of love. That we could break the bigotry and hate that is so prevalent today. Beware of any church or organizations that teach divisiveness and intolerance. Who ostracize others because the are different in some way or don't believe the way they do for this is not the teachings of my Lord and Savior.
So as I leave you tonight I would like to remind you that each and everyone of us was created in the image of God, but we are human and we make mistakes. How we handle and come back from those mistakes makes us unique and stronger. Each of us has within us the capacity to do great good or great evil and the line between the two is very thin indeed. So, appreciate those that love and care for you, pray for those that don't and be ever vigilant. Love often and completely, you will be amazed at how much love you get in return.
As always my hopes and dreams are with you,