Our Hope in Christ: Celebrating Easter
What a day that must have been. One minute, all your hopes, dreams, and aspirations - gone. The One in whom your whole life existed for was dead. There you are at the tomb, drowning in hopeless misery, then suddenly two angels say to you, “He is not here; for He is risen - come, see the place where the Lord lay, and go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him.”
So you leave quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and run to bring the disciples word. And as you are on your way, who should you meet, but Jesus. He says to you, “REJOICE!” (Matthew 28).
What a day that must have been! What joy unspeakable! What abounding hope! But let’s take a look at what it cost Jesus, how He emptied Himself so that we might be full, and how He became poor so that we might be rich (2 Corinthians 8:9).
There was no beauty that we should desire Him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief. Surely He has born our griefs and carried our sorrows! He was wounded for OUR transgressions, He was bruised for OUR iniquities, the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way, and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. (Please read Isaiah 53 in its entirety.)
“The Paradoxes of Christ,” taken from Uncle Ben’s Quote Book
He was the Light, yet He hung in darkness on the cross. He was the Life, yet He poured out His soul unto death. He was the Son of God, yet He died a criminal’s death. He was holy, undefiled, separated from sinners, Yet He was “made sin” when He took our place and suffered instead.
He bade the weary to come to Him for rest, yet not on earth could He find rest until He said, “It is finished,” and gave up His life to God. He was the Mighty God, yet He became a man and was crucified through weakness. He was the image of the invisible God, yet His face was so marred more than any man. All the fullness of God was in Him, yet He took on Him the form of a servant - and was made in the likeness of men.
He spoke and it was done; He commanded and it stood fast; yet He was silent and did not answer back.
He was the desire of all nations; yet He was despised and rejected of men.
He is the Fountain of Life; yet upon the cross He cried, “I thirst.”
1 Corinthians 15:36 - “Foolish one, what you sow is not made alive unless it dies.” In other words, if you want life, you must first die.
John 12:24 - “…unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.” Are you content to just be a seed sitting on a shelf - or do you want to be planted and have fruit?
John 12:25 - “He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” How much do you love your life? You will be the most miserable if you do.
“Make me your slave, Lord, and then I shall be free.” - Spurgeon
Romans 6:4-8 - “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For He who has died has been free from sin.”
“Light after darkness, gain after loss; strength after weakness, crown after cross; sweet after bitter, hope after fears; home after wandering, praise after tears; fruit after sowing, sun after rain; sight after mystery, peace after pain; joy after sorrow, calm after blast; rest after weariness, sweet rest at last; love after loneliness, life after tomb.” - Uncle Ben’s Quote Book
We can find amazing lessons from the Passover Seder (Supper):
The Passover Dinner is a celebration of God delivering His people out of slavery to Pharaoh (Exodus 7-12). Before they went, God promised to visit every house to bring judgement and to take the life of the firstborn - unless they had the blood marked on their door. Then He would pass-over their homes, sparing the life of the firstborn. This plague finally convinced Pharaoh to let God’s people go.
During the Seder, the father is asked four questions by the youngest child:
- “Why is this night different from all other nights?”
- “Why, when on other nights we eat other vegetables, are we eating only bitter herbs?”
- “Why are we dipping our vegetables twice, when other nights only once?”
- “Why on all other nights do we eat sitting up, but tonight, we all recline?”
The questions answered and significance of each item of the Passover Seder:
Thorns, Nails, Spears, and Crowns
- The father answers as he serves the unleavened bread, “This night is different because on other nights we eat bread, but tonight we eat only Matzoh.” Matzoh, wafers of unleavened bread, is to remind us of the fact that the Israelites did not have time to wait for yeast bread to rise because they had to be ready to move when God said. For Christians, this reminds us to live so that we are always “ready to go” when Jesus returns.
- The bitter herbs, maror (usually freshly grated horseradish or another bitter vegetable, such as an onion) remind us of the bitter suffering in Egyptian slavery. This reminds us that many have suffered so that we may know the joy of the good news of Jesus.
- After salt water is passed around, the father explains that this water represents tears of sorrow. The parsley represents the new life, but dipping it in the salt water reminds us of the tears and the sacrifice that made springtime and new life possible. Next we dip the bitter herbs in haroseth (a mixture of chopped apples, nuts, cinnamon, and wine. This represents the mortar with which the Israelites were forced to make bricks to build Pharaoh’s great cities.), which sweetens the bitterness of the herb and reminds us that the sacrifice was sweetened by freedom. This reminds us that Jesus sets us free and sweetens our life!
Other significances: The shank bone of a lamb is a symbol of the lamb that was sacrificed for sins. To Christians, of course, this represents Jesus - God’s own gift of a perfect Lamb for the sins of all! A roasted egg (hard boiled in the shell) is a symbol of the free-will offering that was given with the lamb. This represents giving more to God than just what is demanded. This is a gift of love. Jesus was God’s ultimate gift. God’s law demanded only justice, but with the gift of Jesus, God gave us more than justice, He gave us mercy, love, and forgiveness. Wine or grape juice represents joy and the fruit of the vine as God’s great blessing. As the service or supper proceeds, as each plague is mentioned (frogs, locusts, hail, etc.), each person sips a little of the juice. This means that until total liberation, joy was incomplete. Jesus said at the Last Supper that the wine represented His own life’s blood, poured out for us. He meant that He must die so that we could know the total joy of freedom and forgiveness. A goblet of juice is placed in the center of the table (Elijah’s Cup), which represents Elijah, whom the Israelites believed would foretell the coming of the Messiah. This cup remains full to welcome Elijah and his announcement of the Messiah’s return. Christians believe that John the Baptist was this “Elijah,” to announce the Messiah’s coming. For Christians this cup is shared by all, in the joy that our hope has come true. The Messiah has come to us and is alive to give our lives eternal joy.
- The father answers the question as to why on this night they recline by explaining that in the days of old, free men sat on soft chairs or on couches, but servants had to stand before their masters, or while eating, had to sit on a hard bench. “Tonight we celebrate our deliverance and freedom, so we sit in comfort and enjoy our freedom.” Jesus said, “No longer do I call you servants…but I have called you friends…..” (John 15:15).
His holy fingers made the bough which grew the thorns that crowned His brow;
The nails that pierced His hands were mined, in secret places He designed;
He made the forest where there sprung the tree on which His body hung.
He died upon a cross of wood, yet made the hill on which it stood.
The spear which spilled His precious blood, was tempered in the fires of God.
The grave in which His form was laid, was hewn in rocks His hand had made;
The throne on which He now appears, was His from everlasting years; but a new glory crowns His brow, and every knee to Him shall bow.
The Best Easter
By Jeremy Pulley (with a little help from Mom)
There once was a boy named Eustice. Easter was coming and the teacher asked the children what they loved most about Easter and why they looked forward to it. The children all raised their hands excitedly. “Yes, Tommy,” said the teacher. “I’m looking forward to Easter because my dad is going to buy me a real bunny, the best one he can find,” boasted Tommy. “That’s nice,” said the the teacher. “Suzie, how about you?” “Well, my mother says she is going to buy me the most beautiful Easter dress she can find, and money is no object,” Suzie said proudly. “I’m sure it will be pretty,” said the teacher. “Johnny, why are you looking forward to Easter?” “My mom said she is going to buy me all the candy I can eat, plus a 20 pound solid chocolate bunny! I’ll bet it’ll last til Christmas - oh, I can hardly wait,” squealed Johnny. “Sounds like we might have to roll you back to school,” laughed one of the boys teasingly. “That’s enough,” said the teacher. “Eustice, why are you excited about Easter?”
Eustice had a solemn, thoughtful look on his face. “I don’t know if I will be getting any candy, bunnies, or new clothes, but I do know what Easter really means. It means Jesus loved us so much that He came down from heaven to die on the cross for our sins. Just when His enemies thought they had defeated Him, and the disciples lost all hope, He arose from the grave! Oh, what joy, what hope! Jesus had conquered death!”
At this point Eustice was beaming from ear to ear and could hardly contain himself. But as he looked around, instead of seeing joyful faces, he saw looks of disbelief, puzzled faces, and worst of all, those dreaded looks that people give you when you have said something stupid or embarrassing.
Eustice sat back down and the teacher dismissed the class for Easter break. Eustice could hear the remarks of the children. “Eustice is going to have a boring Easter if all he is doing is going to church.” Or, “No candy, no new clothes, what a shame!” Nevertheless Eustice did not let their remarks bother him.
Easter vacation was over and all the children gathered back for school. “Welcome back, children,” said the teacher. “How was your vacation?” The teacher looked over the gloomy faces, puzzled. “My, my, you kids were so excited about Easter. What happened?”
“My bunny ran away the day I got him, and I haven’t seen him since. We looked everywhere,” Tommy said sadly. “I got chocolate all over my brand new Easter dress. Mother couldn’t get out the stains, and it’s ruined!” wailed Suzy. “That chocolate bunny looked so good that I couldn’t resist it, so I ate the whole thing in one day when Mom wasn’t looking. Do you have any idea how sick you feel after eating 20 pounds of chocolate? I had to lay in bed for the rest of the vacation, not to mention I got five cavities,” Johnny said disgustingly.
“Sounds like you children didn’t have such a good vacation after all - except for you, Eustice. You are the only one who looks so happy,” replied the teacher. All eyes were staring at Eustice wonderingly, for he was glowing. Could it be he did
have the best Easter after all?
Christ the Lord is Risen Today by Charles Wesley
Christ the Lord is risen today, Alleluia!
Sons of men and angels say, Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
Sing, ye heavens, and earth, reply, Alleluia!
Love’s redeeming work is done, Alleluia!
Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!
Death in vain forbids His rise, Alleluia!
Christ hath opened paradise, Alleluia!
Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia!
Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!
Once he died our souls to save, Alleluia!
Where's thy victory, boasting grave? Alleluia!
We Would See Jesus,