Easter is a profoundly moving time of the year. If ever there was a season that intertwines good and evil, suffering and redemption, defeat and victory, satan and God, conflict and peace, pain and healing, death and resurrection – it’s this season. This is the story of creation, God’s passion and power, human frailty and sin, the insidious battle with evil, and God’s refusal to abandon or destroy those whom he loves.
E Easter was birthed from the garden of Eden. It was a paradise where God made everything and saw that it was very good. Dust and a rib in the hands of the Creator were fashioned into man and woman made in his image. As he breathed life into them they were filled with His Spirit, creativity, ability to reflect, admire beauty, love, and communicate with words. They were set apart from all other creation and created beings and given the task of caring for one another and the earth they had been gifted with. They walked with God and shared his heartbeat. There was only one limitation. “Don’t eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil or you will die: apart from that everything is yours to enjoy.”
A The idyllic perfection of Eden was the last place newly formed humans would expect to be attacked. But that’s precisely what happened. In the guise of a friendly snake hissing doubt, deception, and promises of being like God, they were seduced into biting off more than they could chew. It was the first ‘innocent mistake’ that led to the great divide between God and his creation as sin and self-centredness were injected into the human bloodstream to infect every generation to follow. We became addicts to power and self-interest, violence and corruption; all the time professing we could handle life in our own strength even as our relationships and inner peace crumbled. As history unfolded the human experience of life outside Eden exposed the festering wound that self-sufficiency failed to heal. Every tribe and nation looked for an answer, creating gods and idols to fill the void – but the One True God could not be fabricated from the dust of earth by human hands clumsily mimicking him.
S The consequence of the first ‘innocent mistake’ was death, separation from God, and the unforeseen subjection to living under the curse of evil. Now we knew the difference between good and evil but with no power to defeat the invasive cancerous growth. God stretched out his compassionate hand offering animal sacrifice as a means through which humans could make amends without dying themselves, finding some measure of reconciliation with him. Of course many of the self-made gods that acquired a form of deity and power from human imagination and creation were far more cruel. Rules, rituals and even human sacrifice became part of worship as their subjects tried to earn acceptance and the elusive atonement for their deep generational affliction. Our yearning to be ‘like God’ with great power and freedom proved to be unsustainable.
T So began a long journey through history recorded in countless written testimonies describing God’s relentless commitment to reconcile His wayward children with Himself. He led them out of Egypt, gave them supernatural breakthrough, leadership, laws to live by, and a land to occupy. He promised to never leave them and sent prophets to remind them, discipline, and encourage them to stay close beneath his wings. When they rebelled and wandered off he called them back, searching for them like a shepherd tending his sheep. The tug-of-war continued through the ages as the rebellious blood infection constantly weakened the resolve of his beloved people who insisted on fighting battles with enemies too strong for them. Jerusalem was plundered on numerous occasions and the voices of the prophets were lost in the winds of unbelief. The coming of a messiah was part of the religious faith but expectation of fulfilment was invariably dashed by fraudulent claims. All was recorded in the testimony of the Old Testament – God’s faithfulness to Israel – a rich history and an uncertain future despite a book-load of promises.
E Until out of the blue a voice cried in the wilderness, “Prepare the way of the Lord”. Within a young peasant girl an embryo was conceived by the Holy Spirit. Immanuel, God with us, broke into history in the person of Jesus the Christ (the anointed One). The second Adam grew in wisdom and stature, until after being baptized by John in the Jordan a ministry was released through him that would impact the world for ever. The first human since Adam in whom the Spirit of God lived. At long last the kingdom of heaven was manifest on earth as in heaven. When he spoke his words were wise, full of truth, interpreting the scriptures and reawakening faith among the poor, the lost, the wounded, and the hungry. He touched the sick and they were healed. He loved with an open heart, and he welcomed all…. “If you have seen me you have seen the Father.” The religious were scandalized and the Roman oppressors afraid. Cutting the gift of God down he was crucified, dead and buried. Amidst the passion, violence, and political agendas God provided a perfect sacrifice for the sin out of Eden. The blood of Jesus covered and atoned for all. The infection was overcome at source as all of heaven was released over the face of the earth. But most didn’t see any of it…..
R On the third day Jesus rose from the dead. Resurrection, restoration, reconciliation, redemption, renewal… too many words cluster around the once-in-a-lifetime-of-the-world event. The disciples were flabbergasted at the unexpected revelation and six weeks later they received power from on high. The presence of the Father alive in them to do the works of Jesus – on earth as in heaven. Touch the sick and they will be healed, strength in weakness, hope for the future, no longer orphans, boldness rising in sons and daughters of the King of kings. “As the Father sent me, so I send you…..” Risking life and limb at times the revelation exploded from Jerusalem to Judea and to all corners of the earth. It pulsated through the hearts and veins of an ever-expanding global community of ‘little Christs’ – Christians. A mighty river pouring through 2,000 years of history, ebbing and flowing with the passionate heartbeat of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Now you and I are at it’s banks for this generation – God’s kingdom come….. “Follow me”, the risen Jesus continues to call: what a history, what a story, what a cost, what an opportunity! “Yes Lord,” I shout!