I am full of good intentions. It's the follow-through that gets me. At the beginning of this Lenten season, my plan was to fast from my favorite social networking sites (which I did) and to replace that use of my time with focused periods of prayer and Scripture reading (which I only did a little). There are so many different forms of fasting, and it looks different for different people. During this particular season of fasting, I was more aware that unless I am also replacing the intentional deprivation with something more meaningful, then the point of it all is somewhat lost. If I fasted from food for a week, but the only thing I did was think about how hungry I was, then little was accomplished. But if I substituted those meal times with meditation and intently listening for God's voice, then something great was accomplished. I'm no theologian, but I don't really think that it's the shape or size of the sacrifice that matters as much as it is how it affects your heart.
The actual weekend of Easter is what seizes my heart the most. On Friday I think about the sacrifice that God made for us. Simply because He loves us. Isaiah 53 describes how Jesus was to be wounded, crushed, pierced, and scourged for us. I try to let these words and images sink into my soul as I consider what Christ did on that day. It's not just a story; it was very real. Jesus experienced excruciating pain and suffering on our behalf. He allowed Himself to be beaten and humiliated. The Bible tells us that through it all, He remained silent. He didn't stand up for Himself or give any explanation, though He's the only One in the history of the world who truly could have. I think about how selfish and full of pride I am and how, if it had been me, I would have at least let everyone know that I was making this great sacrifice for them--that I was perfect and didn't deserve to die, but this is what it was going to take for you people to have eternal life! See how much I love you! See what I'm doing for you?!
Yep, there's an obvious difference.
Jesus was despised and rejected by the very people for whom He died. He didn't try to defend or even explain Himself. He allowed Himself to go through it, knowing full well that even His closest friends would deny knowing Him. And that for generations to come, there would be so very many people who would continue to reject Him and scorn His sacrifice. Others would accept His love and sacrifice but would take it lightly or as if He owed it to them. And yet--unlike me, who can't seem to follow through on the smallest of sacrifices--He followed through with the ultimate sacrifice, the giving of His very life.
I find myself maybe the most pensive on Saturday of this holy weekend. There is nothing written about this day in the Bible, and so I wonder how Jesus' friends spent their time on this day. Did they remember what Jesus said He was going to do . . . and did they believe it? Were they hiding out, afraid that they, too, would be killed? Did they simply wonder, "What next?" I imagine it was a very, very long day.
And then came Sunday. Certainly their fear turned into hope, which quickly turned into rejoicing! Jesus was alive! No, death had not conquered Him. And this is what made the eternal difference. It was not enough for Jesus to be killed, to take our punishment for us. He had to defeat death, not just experience it. And He did. The victory was and is and always will be HIS!!!
Praise our God for the miracle and majesty of Easter! May we never take it for granted. May our hearts never grow numb to His sacrifice. May we never feel entitled. And may our celebration be exuberant--not just today but EVERY day!