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Apr18ThuA weekend that changed the world. April 18, 2019 by Lieutenant Devin Reid
It seems like only yesterday I heard the warm tenor voice of Andy Williams heralding the Christmas season with It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year. Now we find ourselves in the Easter season, the most wonder-filled time of the year. We journey through Lent and Holy Week, culminating with Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday. On that weekend, we contemplate the significance of the three most important days in history, when Christ Jesus suffered, died, was buried and rose from the dead.
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These days are not always so wonder-filled. Sometimes the wonder is subdued by the secularization and commercialism of Easter. Other times we allow busyness and the wear and tear of life to prevent us from experiencing this season to the fullest.
This year, let’s commit the time and effort to plumb the wondrous depths of these three days. I invite you to return to this article, with your Bible, over the Easter weekend. Fold down the corner of this page and come back each day. These words are only one potential piece of the puzzle—the Holy Spirit will honour your offering of reflection and engagement with him. Whatever you decide to do, hold yourself accountable and carve out time in your schedule. It will be worth it.
Read Matthew 27:1-61.
Good Friday was a painful day for Jesus, as well as those who followed and loved him. As we ponder what happened that day, it should be painful for us, too. The problem is we don’t like to experience hurt and heartache. Sometimes we skip over the sobering anguish of Jesus’ suffering and death on Good Friday to get to the uplifting joy of the Resurrection on Easter Sunday, like fast-forwarding a movie to get to our favourite part. In his book Let Justice Roll Down: The Old Testament, Ethics, and Christian Life, Bruce C. Birch observed: “The church often chooses to celebrate resurrection as if its necessary prelude were not the cross and God’s suffering there.”
A few years ago, I asked someone if they would like to watch The Passion of the Christ with me. As he glanced away, he replied, “I can’t—it’s too awesome.” He had heard about the graphic scenes and couldn’t bring himself to view it. Although each of us is different and some people may not want or be able to watch such vivid visual depictions— and that’s OK—there is something to be gained by bearing witness to the reality of what Jesus endured, whether in a film, described in print or within our imaginations. The truth about that day must not be sanitized. Though the man declined to watch the film, I could tell from his response that he grasped Jesus’ suffering in his mind’s eye. That was sufficient for him.
On Good Friday, it is important that we enter into the pain of that day and dwell there for a time, so that we can appreciate it more fully. We need to explore the rich meaning of what Jesus went through, especially what was perhaps the greatest pain of all, even more than the physical suffering: taking on the weight of humanity’s sin and experiencing separation from the Father so that we may be reconciled to God. Let’s not forget that Jesus suffered and died for you and me, out of love, in response to our sin and inability to save ourselves. He paid the penalty for our sins. Let’s truly value the gift of grace that was given. It was free, but it wasn’t cheap.
Read Matthew 27:62-66 and Luke 23:56.
Scripture records little about the events of Saturday. What else was going on that day, while Jesus’ body was lying in a guarded tomb? The disciples and others who loved Jesus were certainly grieving. We can speculate that they were fearful, wondering if those who had killed Jesus would come for them. They were likely doubtful, maybe confused and disappointed. Their master was dead and they still didn’t fully comprehend what he had taught them about his death and imminent Resurrection. Was something else going to happen? It was a time of waiting; an in-between time with death behind and, little did they realize, resurrection ahead.
Since Jesus’ death, Resurrection and ascension, we, too, live in an in-between time. The good news of Jesus Christ is that the kingdom of God has already arrived. However, it is also yet to come. In The Jesus I Never Knew, Philip Yancey shares these thoughts:
“Good Friday and Easter Sunday have earned names on the calendar. Yet in a real sense we live on Saturday, the day with no name. What the disciples experienced in small scale—three days in grief over one man who had died on a cross—we now live through on a cosmic scale. Human history grinds on between the time of promise and fulfilment. Can we trust that God can make something holy and beautiful and good out of a world that includes Bosnia and Rwanda and inner-city ghettos and jammed prisons in the richest nation on earth? It’s Saturday on planet Earth. Will Sunday ever come?”
Saturday was a rough day for the disciples. Living on “Saturday” isn’t easy for us, either. We, too, experience grief, doubt, fear, confusion and disappointment—the ups and downs of living in a flawed, sinful world. None of us is exempt. But the difference between us and the disciples is that we know what happened on Sunday. Whatever life throws our way, let’s exercise our faith in the crucified and risen Christ. The disciples may have had the blessing of living alongside Jesus, but he said: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29). “Sunday” will indeed come—it came for the disciples, and it will come for us, too.
Read Matthew 28:1-15.
On Christmas morning, children and adults alike wake up excited about the day. Not to diminish Christmas, but Easter Sunday should be just as or more exciting. It is the day we celebrate the fact that Jesus defeated sin and death—he is alive!
The Resurrection of Jesus is the most significant event in human history. It is central to God’s plan of redemption. It is at the heart of the New Testament and our faith. Its importance is paramount, not only historically and collectively, but personally. C.S. Lewis hit the mark: “Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.” The reality of the Resurrection deserves and requires the attention and response of every human being.
Because of the Resurrection, we also have new life and eternal life. When we are saved by grace through faith, we first begin to experience new life in the here-and-now. There is no part of our lives that God is not touching to make new as we co-operate with him on the road of faith and discipleship. Along the way, he restores wholeness from brokenness, transforms us into the likeness of Christ, equips us for service, and much more. It’s not always an easy journey. It can be difficult as God chips away at the pieces of our lives that need to be surrendered and discarded, and as we encounter hardships for the sake of Christ. But it’s the greatest road in life you could possibly take. And best of all, the final destination is heaven.
What I’ve just said about following Christ and new life in him is not some empty sales pitch. I can confirm it’s genuine because of my own experience. I was saved as a young boy at The Salvation Army’s Jackson’s Point Camp in Ontario. Although I don’t recall exactly what was said at one of the evening services, I remember that my heart was stirred. Lying on my bunk in the quietness of the cabin after lights out, I felt the peaceful presence of the Holy Spirit and I prayed, simply asking Jesus to come into my heart. I didn’t fully comprehend what had happened, but I knew I was different. Something about me was new.
Though I didn’t have a dramatic experience like Paul or some other people whose testimonies I’ve heard, it was no less powerful. It was Resurrection power, “the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith” (Romans 1:16). I’ve walked with Jesus, by his grace, ever since.
The Holy Weekend
In Scripture, we are reminded that God’s saving work in Christ was accomplished through both his death and Resurrection. To borrow a phrase from Frank Sinatra, “You can’t have one without the other.” Jesus was “handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification” (Romans 4:25 NRSV; see also Romans 6:3-11, Ephesians 2:4-10, Colossians 2:12-15). Thank you, Lord.
Over these wonder-filled days, I hope you have a fresh encounter with the crucified and risen Christ. As you share a communal meal, remember and give thanks for his body, broken for you, his blood, shed for you. When you settle into the darkness to sleep, remember the tomb where he lay. And when you wake up on Sunday morning, be joyful! Celebrate his victory and what you have gained through it, and share the good news. Jesus is risen—he is risen indeed!
- Contemplating the Cross: A 40-Day Pilgrimage of Prayer by Tricia McCary Rhodes
- The Cross of Christ by John R.W. Stott
- He Chose the Nails: What God Did to Win Your Heart by Max Lucado
- The Resurrection of the Son of God by N.T. Wright
Lieutenant Devin Reid is the corps officer at Lewisporte Corps, N.L.
Photo: © Forgiven Photography/Lightstock.com