By Janet Keefe
It was Palm Sunday, over 2000 years ago. Imagine you were there. People were waving palm branches exuberantly and placing their cloaks on the ground reverently before Jesus, who was riding a donkey. If you were there sometime before Palm Sunday, you might have sat on a hillside listening to Jesus speak until you grew hungry. It was getting late and you began to wonder where you were going to get food. Suddenly, there was more food being passed around than you could eat. You saw Jesus healing the lame and the blind. You heard stories of Him raising a man from his grave. It was compelling. You began to hope that God was fulfilling His promise. You saw yourself living in a land of milk and honey, of ease and joy. You were jubilant.
Then, something happened. You weren’t quite sure what, but the gossip was that Jesus got really mad in the temple. He caused quite a stir. He turned tables over and animals got loose and were running around, birds were flying everywhere and merchants were trying to catch them all. People couldn’t get their sacrificing done and Jesus was saying some weird stuff about being glorified and being God. Maybe you were wrong about Jesus. The Jewish religious leaders said so, and they certainly knew more about the scriptures than you. So, why did your heart tell you otherwise? Why did something deep inside you still hope in Him? Oh, these were dangerous thoughts. Maybe you weren’t spiritual enough to see the truth.
He was arrested. It hit you like a punch in the gut. You couldn’t believe it. There must be some explanation. There was a huge crowd at His sentencing. You had to go see. The crowd was screaming “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” That nagging hope still beat in your heart while the crowd screamed. “Crucify Him!!!”, you found yourself yelling with them, trying to purge that hope from your heart and mind. Everybody felt the same about Him but you. What on earth was wrong with you? You screamed, “CRUCIFY HIM!!!”, as you joined in lock-step with the crowd.
It was such a breathtakingly horrible death. Jesus was whipped, beaten, and crucified. They drove nails into His hands and feet. They crammed a crown of thorns on His brow. They viciously and gleefully mocked Him in His agony. They spat on Him. They stabbed Him in His side. They hung a sarcastic and morbid sign high up on His torture device to justify their brutality towards Him. They tried to subdue Him. They tried to kill Him. They didn’t succeed. His crucifixion didn’t end this story.
That hope you had? That was God. You were right. You are right. Jesus chose this torture and death. He chose it because of you. He chose it so that you could be reconciled to God. Romans 5: 8-9 states: “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him!”
There’s even more to the rest of this story than that. He rose again from the grave three days later. He defeated sin with His blood and defeated death when He rose again. What could this mean to you and I? Remember that hope? Here it is again: “because we know that The One who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to Himself.” (2 Corinthians 4:14 NIV). We have hope, a hope that we are reconciled to God through the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ and hope that we also will be raised again as well. The whole story is this: Jesus conquered both sin and death with His death and resurrection. He did this for us. He did this for me. He did this for you.
Our reconciliation to God and being able to live forever is a gift from God. It requires very little. It does require something of you though. It requires faith in Jesus Christ. It requires a belief that He died for you. Put simply, it requires hope. Hope in Christ alone. This gift doesn’t require that you look shiny and perfect. It doesn’t require that you join the correct political party. It doesn’t help that you are “basically a good person”. It requires that if you “declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9 NIV)
It might not entirely make sense to you. I get it. It’s a vestige of hope whispering in your ear while the world shouts and stomps and says belief in Christ is silly. They laugh and mock and close their ears and harden their hearts. It’s not easy to believe, much less to confess that Jesus is your Lord. You hear it every day, over and over, from bad religious jokes to scandals among religious leaders. From the world’s point of view, it’s hard to trust God when His people are so hypocritical, so wretched. Have you joined in the laughter, the scorn?
Before you start beating yourself up, read this verse: “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18 NIV) Did you notice “Us who are being saved”? Like you, I’m no bible scholar, but I think this might mean that we, who have put our hope in Christ, do so because we know we have no redeeming qualities apart from Him. We depend on Him to lead us to love well, live fully, and live with Him forever when we die. It’s an ongoing process that leads us through life and shepherds us into eternity. We are in the process of being redeemed daily. Do you hear that whisper of hope? It’s real. If you do hear it, talk to Him about it. And welcome to the club of imperfect believers whose hope is in Jesus Christ! And may you have a happy, happy Easter.
If you are looking for a place to worship this Easter I would invite you to join our church at 10am as we celebrate our Savior!