Easter this year was different. As outlined on other occasions: I cannot look back on a religious upbringing. For me Easter was, actually similar to Christmas, a holiday related to the Christian traditions. Actually, very similarly to Christmas, Easter seemed more of a burden than a blessing.
I had been wondering what would happen to Easter this year, the first as a Christian and by now understanding that this is actually the celebration it all boils down to for the church. It seems strange how Christmas gets all the attention while in actual fact Easter is the most important period in the Christian calendar. This is the period of the death and resurrection of Jesus-Christ! The most important series of events in a foundational sense took place in the period leading up to the resurrection of Christ. It turned out that I was in for more than I anticipated.
Resurrection: the Main Event
The difference between this Easter and all the previous ones is that for the first time the resurrection story is the historic truth where in previous years I would have considered it all in a symbolic sense. My old Jesus is no longer there: the teacher, the healer, the advocate for the poor, the feeder of the hungry, the symbolic story of the death and resurrection of Jesus. Easter, previously a badly timed holiday to break the year between two Christmases is now the main event. I realize now how without the resurrection, I would not have been in church celebrating Easter: there would not have been a church. The past weeks leading up to this first real Christian Easter have at the same time been restless, more than ever since my conversion. Not only did I come to realize how actually Easter is the main event; this is also the first time that Easter had become a personal matter. One of the most important realizations for me personally was that Christ did not just die for us; he died for each and every one of us. With that realization all of a sudden Easter, the crucifixion and resurrection get a completely different meaning; they become something personal. Without a doubt the resurrection is the foundational event for all the ways in which we may know God and be known to Him; the crystallization of His reconciliation with His creation through a series of events that all form part of the price that had to be paid. When the penny drops as it did for me that this is all not just in a general sense but in a personal sense, the equation changes dramatically. You can’t help but standing back and be marvelled.
Have you had your Easter yet?
While we may want to stay on the surface, Easter is also a celebration that is preceded by a series of actually horrible events that form an integral part of the story. The events preceding the resurrection show like nowhere else the workings of evil in the world. They include betrayal, denial, trial, death, burial. Where Jesus’ death and resurrection become personal so do these less pleasurable events. This inevitably leads to the very important question: have you had your Easter yet, personally that is?
It’s actually very easy to say “yahoo, Christ is resurrected.” But, if Easter is something personal, the question becomes: “Ok he is raised from the death but is he alive in me?”
The restlessness made sense. Almost as without realizing it, I went deep inside to seek those places where there are crosses, crucifixion, denial, betrayal, lies and other evil, buried so carefully in tombs with heavy stones covering the entry so as to avoid them opening up again. Finding so many opened and empty tombs, personal deaths conquered was a great experience. Christ’s resurrection as my own. Just imagine: Easter all of a sudden became about Christ at the door: wanting to be let in completely and fully, not settling for me trying to keep some of those tombs closed and hidden. You can run but you cannot hide from God. And that same God seeks to love me in any way he can, invited or not. Just imagine!
The Easter celebration is all about the most foundational event for all the ways in which we may know God and be known by God. Without the resurrection there would not have been Christianity, a church. Christ would have been what he used to be for me: the ultimate guru, with his teachings as the ultimate guide for humanism. I doubt if we’d remembered it in the way we do at Easter. It is the moment of the paradigm shift, the moment where relation was placed before religion, since that is what Christ’s death and resurrection seems really about to me.
I have been celebrating a series of events that made God’s law the promise; the Kingdom of the Father for each and every one of us if we let it.
Burdensome and painful as it may be – in a sense I was walking the road to Calvary time and time again – facing my own hidden places of buried darkness and death for the sake of resurrection; it now seems to me like the required way to grow as a Christian. And while I have plenty of cause for celebration there is also still plenty of work to be done; plenty of deaths to be conquered, plenty of tombstones to be shifted. It’s quite something to realize I had my personal Easter. It’s even more stimulating to realize to know that I do not have to wait for the next one to come, I can have an Easter any day. With God by my side, Jesus as my Lord and saviour and the Holy Spirit to guide me, every day could become another Easter celebration: a personal celebration of conquering another cross of death inside. Praise the Lord.