Jerusalem, Easter 2008
Easter is an inconvenient holiday.
Overshadowed by that other big celebration of the Christian faith – Christmas, Easter is increasingly overlooked in our present culture. It seems that once little children outgrow the desire for new Easter dresses and the fun of an egg hunt, that Easter itself gets put on a shelf, tucked inconspicuously behind other outgrown memories of childhood past. Where the real story of Christmas continues to find a place in our culture next to the jolly man in the red suit, the real story of Easter seems all but forgotten.
But can you really blame us? Where Christmas attracts, Easter repels.
The story of Christmas is, at it’s simplest telling, that of a baby born to commoners, simple people, the poorest of the poor. It’s the birth of a baby who grows up to be a disrupter of all that is unjust and wrong in the world. One who teaches and lives by the Golden Rule. One who preaches mercy and love and equality for all, and lives as an example for all to follow. A man who walks his talk.
What’s not to love about the birth of a sweet baby?
And if you can lay aside the one small inconvenience of Christmas – the part that questions this baby’s paternity and asks us to believe that he is the son of God – there is nothing but sweetness and hope and love in this holiday story.
But then there’s Easter.
Easter begins well enough. A triumphal entry into a holy city. The baby has grown to be a man and enters riding on a donkey. The crowd recognizes the significance of this auspicious event and chooses to hail him as their king. Chants of Hosanna erupt all around. Palm branches carpet the roadway of a king.
Just days later, the king is feasting with his friends, and this is where our story takes its inconvenient turn. At table with the king is the betrayer. And the deny-er. Things will spiral downward quickly.
The money is exchanged. Thirty pieces of silver, to be exact. The kiss is given. Swords clash, until the king says, peace, be still. And he is taken away.
Taken away to be tried. Beaten. Flogged. Stripped. Humiliated. Spat upon.
This is no longer a nice little story. This is no longer a celebration tale for innocent young ears to hear. There will be no adoration. No worship of the one hailed as king. No gifts given or knees bowed. The humble feeding trough has been replaced by the humiliating and life-destroying cross.
To get to Easter, you have to travel through the inconvenience of the Crucifixion.
It’s so much easier to think about a newborn baby than it is a crucified God-man. It’s uncomfortable, painful even, to ponder his claim that he died for us. What does that even mean to us 21st century self-sufficient types who would rather earn everything that we have?
It’s all rather inconvenient. But that’s not where this story ends.
If you can make it as far as the Crucifixion, contemplating the gruesomeness of the innocent man’s death, grasping in some measure the weight of it all, your journey into the inconvenient still isn’t finished. From there, you must travel through to the fantastical. The impossible. The miraculous.
It’s all quite inconvenient, isn’t it?
It’s so much easier to live in the jubilation and Hosannas of Palm Sunday. The Cross of Good Friday, and the Resurrection of Easter Sunday require so much more of us. To accept the claim of Good Friday is to acknowledge that a sacrifice was made for me. That a life was given for mine. To accept the claim of Easter is to acknowledge that there was an empty tomb, that there was indeed a Resurrection.
It really is quite inconvenient. There is no dancing around these claims.
Christmas requires so much less of us. Less soul searching. Fewer questions that demand answers.
The story of Easter requires that we face the ugly brutality of the cross. That we accept the mind-bending impossibility of the resurrection. To do any less is to deny the narrative in its entirety.
If we are willing to ponder the deep questions of Easter, moving beyond its inconveniences, we will discover that at the heart of both the Christmas and Easter narratives stands this one singular theme: God, the great lover of humanity, giving his own life, that we might experience life to the full with him.
How might you respond to the inconvenience of Easter this year?