Category Archives: Easter

Good Friday – Calvary Covers it All

three crosses “There were also two others, criminals, led with Him to be put to death. And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left. Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.’ And they divided His garments and cast lots.” (Luke 23:32-24 NKJV)

The word “Calvary” comes from the Latin word calvaria and Greek word kranion, from which we get the meaning of a skull or cranium. It was also known as Golgotha in Aramaic. While Calvary denotes the name of a geographical location, and the actual site is disputed today, the term conveys far more than just a geographical spot in history.

Back in 1934 Mrs. Walter G. Taylor wrote a gospel song titled, “Calvary Covers It All.” The lyrics she penned more than eighty years ago convey the essence of the Gospel.  She wrote, “Calvary covers it all – My past with its sin and stain. My guilt and despair Jesus took on Him there, and Calvary covers it all.”

Our past:  Jesus’ death on the cross paid the price for our past sins. That means all of our regrets, all of our guilt, and all of our shame about the past is wiped away at Calvary.

Our present:  Jesus was despised and rejected as the Savior of the world. Instead, he was falsely convicted and crucified as a local criminal. He committed no crimes, but on Calvary paid the penalty for all the crimes of humanity, including mine.

Our future: The days of our lives are filled with uncertainty. Worry and anxiety about the what might lie ahead weighs us down and blurs our vision of the present and hope for the future. Calvary covers our future with the hope and assurance of eternal life.

Jesus’ selfless act of laying down his life more than 2,000 years ago still resonates over the passage of time and space, making a seemingly impersonal ancient historical event something more. Good Friday becomes deeply personal and contemporary for those of us who remember and believe. So on this Good Friday we remember, and are grateful that Calvary covers it all.

© 2016 Don Detrick

Some Thoughts on Passion Week: Disappointment, Detours, and Destiny – Part 8 Easter Sunday

empty tomb easter = hopeEaster is all about hope. Hope when things seem hopeless. Hope when life’s challenges hit you like an avalanche of trouble that freezes your ability to move forward by its icy grip. Hope when your dreams are shattered. Hope when your confidence is shaken. Hope when your faith is hanging on by an invisible thread to the only life preserver keeping you from drowning in a sea of despair. Hope that does not deny reality, but sees beyond the current circumstances to a time when your shattered dreams and shaken confidence will be resurrected with fresh vision and vitality.

Hope will sustain you during moments of crisis and seasons of suffering. It will provide you with determination to overcome disappointment. It will instill courage to keep you talking that next step on your detoured pathway. And it will inspire perseverance to keep believing in your destiny despite the persistent questions that troubling circumstances throw your way.

Above all, hope in the resurrection of Christ provides a narrative and context for every situation of life. It provides an over-arching and eternal perspective on every puzzling picture we view and try to interpret this side of heaven.  Faith in a risen Savior makes all the difference. “Because I live, you shall live also” Jesus said (John 14:19).

Paul put it this way:  “And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world. But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died” (1 Corinthians 15:18-19 NLT).

Maybe you have watched the television series, Resurrection. In it, people in a small Missouri town are amazed to discover people walking around who had died years ago, looking just like they did before they died. One of the main characters was a pastor, but there isn’t much theological or biblical truth in the show. In typical Hollywood fashion, the resurrected people will probably turn out to be aliens.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is a fable about aliens, and it is not just a story that history forgot. It is as relevant today as it was 2,000 years ago because Jesus rose from the dead and lives today. Peter was an eyewitness to those events, and his testimony provides encouragement and hope to us, despite our circumstances, to keep believing:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.  (1 Peter 1:3-9 NKJV)

HAPPY EASTER!

Some Thoughts on Passion Week: Disappointment, Detours, and Destiny – Part 6 – Good Friday

three crossesGood Friday. A good day for remembering Calvary and the events that happened there 2,000 years ago that changed the world forever. Three crosses for three men, all condemned to die. Two of them deservedly so, for their life of crime had paved the road to this place of execution. Along the way they had no doubt suffered many disappointments and disappointed many family and friends, yet had managed to escape the strong arm of the law thus far. Now their past caught up with them, taking them on an unexpected detour. A detour leading to their final destiny called Golgotha or Calvary, “the place of the skull.”

However, the third man had committed no crimes, had violated no laws.  Many were offended by Him, to be sure, otherwise He would not have been there.  But He was no sinner.  He was the Son of God, hung to die between the two criminals. He had no debt to pay to society, yet as God’s spotless lamb He willingly suffered and died, paying the penalty for the sins of the world (John 1:29), and thus changing society forever. Jesus suffered the ultimate injustice so we could obtain mercy.

One criminal was unrepentant, dying as he had lived—cynical, sneering—fearing neither God nor man.  The other, realizing the error of his ways and the reality of his mortality upbraided his comrade in crime and reminded him that this other man, Jesus, was no sinner. “We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your Kingdom.” (Luke 23:41-42 NLT).

“Remember me.” I’m sure there were many episodes in his life he wanted to forget.  I’m sure he had accumulated numerous frequent flier miles in his flights from the scene of a crime.  These he wanted to forget, just as we do, for we are all sinners in God’s sight. In coming to Christ with his sin, Jesus saw beneath the outward appearance. Jesus saw a repentant heart, and did what He does best, He forgave.

Simple words: “Remember me.” They call to mind another biblical promise: “For whosoever shall call upon the Name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13).

Jesus’ response?  “Today, you will be with me in paradise!”  Paradise, for a criminal, a sinner?  Paradise?  Isn’t that what the thief had longed for, plotted for and stolen for?  To get a piece of paradise for himself?  And now, in his final moments this detour on his road to hell has led unexpectedly to the One who could make his dream a reality.  And the best news of all, he did not need to plot, plead or connive. His humble request was all it took. “Remember me.”

Paradise, heaven, eternal life, however you wish to describe it—was offered to that first century sinner as a free gift, just as it is offered to twenty-first century sinners today of every description. Thinking about such a gracious offer from such a righteous God to such unrighteous people must have prompted the Apostle Paul to write:   “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15 NKJV).

Prayer:  Lord, make us grateful for your wonderful and enduring promise of eternal life for us who deserve, like the thief on the cross only eternal damnation. Thank you for Good Friday and what you did on that day.

©2015 Don Detrick

Some Thoughts on Passion Week: Disappointment, Detours, and Destiny – Part 5 Maundy Thursday

LastSupperRestored DaVinci“What would you like for your last supper?” Persons slated for execution are customarily asked this question, thus selecting the menu for their final meal.

Faced with that circumstance, I think I’d respond, “I really don’t have much of an appetite tonight, but how about how about another fifty years of meals, starting tomorrow morning?”

Today is Maundy Thursday, the day we remember Jesus’ last supper, although Maundy actually means, “washing of the feet”—another component of the last supper. “Why is this night different from all other nights?”  That is the question asked by the youngest son, or male, present during the Passover meal (or Seder, meaning an order of service). The events in the life of Christ and His disciples that night truly distinguish it from all other nights.

The Passover signified Israel’s redemption from Israel.  For New Testament believers in Jesus Christ, it signifies that we are redeemed from the bondage of slavery to sin through the sacrifice of Jesus, “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”  (John 1:29 NKJV)  More than 30 times Jesus is referred to as a lamb, or the “Lamb of God” in the New Testament. What can we learn about disappointments, detours, and destiny from the events that took place on that night 2,000 years ago?

  • Friends are important in times of celebration and times of suffering.

Passover was meant to be celebrated with friends and family.  If a person was too poor afford a Passover lamb, he was to join with friends.  If a family was too small to eat the entire meal, they were to invite friends or needy people to join with them.  It is significant that Jesus chose to be with His disciples during His last supper.

Not only do we need friends during times of celebration, but we especially need them during times of suffering.  By the time they were sitting down for the Passover meal, Jesus was already suffering.  He suffered when He revealed that Judas Iscariot would be the one to betray Him.  In ancient times, if you dipped your food along with a friend, you signified absolute allegiance to him.  Judas’s deceit and betrayal must have shocked the rest of the disciples.  But it didn’t shock Jesus, it merely hurt Him and further illustrated the beginning of the Passover meal, when a vegetable (often a piece of lettuce), is dipped into water mixed with bitter herbs.  This represented the bitterness of slavery – and no doubt it reminded Jesus and His disciples of the bitterness of unfaithfulness.

I’m sure Peter must have listened very carefully that night when Jesus identified Judas as His betrayer.  And I’m equally sure Peter had very good intentions to never do anything to betray the Lord.  But Peter underestimated the power of intimidation and overestimated the strength of his resolve.  Before the night was over, Peter abandoned the Lord Jesus and even swore that he didn’t know him.

Jesus Christ alone can promise to never leave us and fulfill that promise. He is a faithful and forgiving friend.  This is a remarkable fact when you consider that Jesus never made a mistake, committed a sin, or did anything to hurt another individual.  A real friend is one who is able to overlook the faults of another and can bring out the best in that person.

  • Jesus modeled servant leadership.

It is interesting that John (13:1-16) is the only Gospel writer that mentions how Jesus washed the disciple’s feet during the ceremonial meal.  This probably took place right after the Kiddush (blessing)  and the dipping of bitter herbs in salt water.  Jesus rose from the table and took a towel and began to wash the disciple’s feet, much to their absolute shock.  Traditionally, a master or rabbi would never do such a thing – it was work for a slave or servant.  In fact, during the first ceremonial washing of the Passover meal, the host washed first, to signify that he was the head of the house, the undisputed leader.  But Jesus insisted on showing that true leaders serve.

Matthew was Jewish and wrote to the Jews, so they would understand everything associated with the Passover meal.  Matthew presented Jesus Christ as the King.  His Gospel is known as the Gospel of the King.  Even though Jesus was the King of the Jews, He didn’t act like an earthly King.  He modeled servant leadership and encouraged us to follow His example.

John tells us that Jesus “laid aside His garments,” which symbolized the need to lay aside our own righteousness and pride before the Lord.  Jesus willingly bared Himself before His disciples in order to serve them, just as He would soon have His robes torn from Him in order to suffer for all mankind.

Matthew tells us that Jesus took the unleavened bread and broke it.  The bread is called matzo in Hebrew, and it means “unleavened, sweet without sourness.”  The unleavened bread symbolized the sweetness of life without sin. Every time we celebrate the last supper we remember that Jesus is the bread of life. He was willing to serve and give His life for others. The broken bread was also symbolic of humility as the poor could only afford a small amount of bread and Jesus identified with those who were unprivileged and underserved by others.

  • Jesus conveyed unconditional love.

Jesus methodically and systematically prepared Himself to be the Passover Lamb.  He was the spotless Lamb, slain before the foundation of the world.  And although He showed sorrow, He did not indicate anger, or frustration, or resentment, or any of the typical human responses to what He was facing. What He did show was unconditional love, in giving His life for all human beings.

Jesus faced absolute injustice, punishment for sins He did not commit.  The Bible tells us that we are to emulate Jesus in showing grace and mercy to others.  Jesus loved and loves unconditionally.  His blood covers our sins, just as the blood of the Passover Lamb protected the ancient Jewish people from death.

Because He gave His life for us, we can experience eternal life.  We should never forget.  That’s why Jesus said what He said and did what He did that night.  The Apostle Paul described it:

“For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’   In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’  For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes” (1 Corinthians 11:23-26)

Some suggestions for application:

What if you really were planning your last supper?  What would you want for the meal?  Who would you want to be there?  What would you want to say and do?

Disappointments and detours come in many forms. Have you ever felt betrayed by a friend?  How did you respond?

Could Judas Iscariot have been forgiven if He had asked for it?  Is there any limit to God’s mercy and forgiveness?

How important are friendships to you?  Why do allow our busy schedules to interfere with building relationships?

Some Thoughts on Passion Week: Disappointment, Detours, and Destiny – Part 4

 

Mt Si Meadowbrook Farm Path Double Rainbow Clouds 3-31-15What if God is using your disappointments and detours to help you discover your destiny? Like seeing a rainbow suddenly appear after being pelted by driving rain, we may discover our destiny after enduring a cloudburst or a seemingly endless season of life’s stormy weather. The rainbow was God’s symbol of hope to Noah following the storm to end all storms. Jesus and the cross become our symbols of hope during seasons of suffering.

“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).

Where are you looking for help? What symbolizes hope for you? Does your mind have a vision of hope to keep you secure when facing the tormenting passion of fear?  How do you deal with the fearful dread in your heart when the thunder roars, the rain pours, and your roof leaks?  What do you do when the worst-case scenario interrupts your plans with unemployment, cancer or broken relationships?  Do you start looking for people to blame, or do you start looking for hidden blessings, opportunities to receive God’s grace and opportunities for you to grow? What gives you hope and encouragement? The hopeful heart looks to Jesus. And the hopeful heart is not a trembling heart.

Think about how Jesus felt on Palm Sunday–His trust and obedience to His Father’s will was a stronghold for His mind and gave Him courage to act appropriately instead of jumping off the donkey and running to hide in some remote cave.  Facing the worst-case scenario of all time – agonizing death, cut off from His Father, bearing every horrible, disgusting sin the world has ever known – Jesus pressed on.  He rode into the city with a quiet confidence and dignity because He had knew that His destiny and hope for suffering mankind came by way of His suffering on the cross.  And the cross of Christ made all the difference for you and me:

The cross is where history and life, legend and reality, time and eternity, intersect. There, Jesus is nailed forever to show us how God could become a man and a man could come to God.[1]  ~   Malcolm Muggeridge

Remember, as long as we live, the road to our destiny is always under construction. We should not be surprised when there are detours and delays along with disappointments. The key is staying with Jesus through those dark nights of the soul. It is easy to fall away and lose hope. It requires faith to hope for and receive what we do not see.

What have you hoped for? Have disappointment or discouragement kept you stuck in the waiting room of disappointment? What is the next step Jesus is leading you to take? That step may be marked, “Detour,” but it could you to from that waiting room to your destiny.

[1]Malcolm Muggeridge (1903–1990) Edythe Draper, Draper’s Book of Quotations for the Christian World (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1992).

Some Thoughts on Passion Week: Disappointment, Detours, and Destiny – Part 3

DonD I-90_Gridlock_near_milepost_63_on_8-21-11_BWLife’s darkest corridors are detours–places of waiting and wandering along an unfamiliar path where negatives often develop.  Yet those dark rooms are also often God’s appointments for building His character in our lives, accomplishing His purposes, and leading us into the bright light where we can clearly see the path ahead.

Disappointment and discouragement become opportunities for grace and growth if we look for them during those dark hours and days of waiting or wandering. These detours become the hidden pathways on our journey where we discover things about ourselves and also about God that we would never discover in the full light of day. We should be grateful, because God uses detours to direct us and also to protect us.

When I took the above photo on Interstate 90 about an hour east of Seattle it was a warm summer afternoon and I was anxious to return home after speaking that weekend in a church on the east side of the state. It was not to be as I anticipated because we spent hours just waiting on the freeway. And those other drivers and I never knew the reason for the delay. But I know for certain that whatever the cause, the delay and detour of my schedule was for the good and protection of someone. Hopefully our delay prevented disaster for someone else, and perhaps for us.

After the death of Christ, but before the resurrection, there was a process of waiting—another detour.  Someone has written,  “Disappointments, His appointments, change one letter and I see, that the thwarting of my purpose, was God’s better choice for me.”  Each day, countless numbers of people, among whom are committed Christians, experience disaster, disease, or death in their lives or in the lives of their loved ones.  Their initial response is often denial or unbelief.  Healthy people work through this process to arrive at a place of acceptance, hope and healing.

The unhealthy alternative is to allow disappointment to turn into cynicism and negativity.  The natural thing is for disappointment to lead to discouragement.  Discouragement leads to despair.  Despair leads to depression.  Depression leads to disillusionment.  And disillusionment ultimately leads to disengagement – isolation from everyone and everything that has the potential to hurt you.  This is a vicious cycle that can be interrupted by the loving intervention of friends or by simply learning to watch for God’s grace to appear and for ways to grow during that dark season of our soul.

Every seed must be buried in a dark place in order to sprout and grow. And it often is so with our hopes and dreams. The detour in your life may be the place of waiting or wandering where the seeds of endurance  germinate and you establish strong roots to sustain you for what lies ahead.

“Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.”   (Psalm 27:14)  I think about those words, first written by David more than 3000 years ago.  How many people have clung to that verse over the past 30 centuries? For most of them, the wait is over.  For us, the wait goes on and we are uncertain about when the detour on our journey will be over.  But we can be certain about the one thing that makes waiting and wandering endurable:  grace and growth – and the hope that God is using these circumstances to fulfill His purposes and our destiny.

Some Thoughts on Passion Week: Disappointment, Detours, and Destiny – Part 2

triumphal-entry-jesus-Palm Sunday:  From the high hopes of anticipation to the low slopes of disappointment.  In the journey of life, we all face this. We are disappointed when our expectations are not met, when they do not materialize, or circumstances seem to turn against us. Even God has experienced disappointment. But God always has a plan—just as He always has a plan for you.

5  Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6  And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. 7 So the LORD said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.” 8  But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD (Genesis 6:5-8 NKJV).

Did you notice the verbs in verse 6? God was “sorry” – he was “grieved in his heart.” Yet in spite of that, in the midst of a troubled world, Noah found grace. And God’s grace found Noah. If we will look beyond our own disappointment and discouragement, we will discover an opportunity for grace and growth.  God knew that the day would come when he would send his only begotten Son to provide an antidote for the sins of the world. And He knew it would be the most costly sacrifice ever made. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life”  (John 3:16).

Jesus said He came to seek and to save the lost according to Luke 19:10. He was in Jericho at the moment, and had just been accused of befriending sinners as he dined with Zacchaeus.  He knew that the road to Jerusalem from Jericho would lead Him to the cross. Yet He also knew that to fulfill all of the Old Testament prophecies that he would need to make a triumphal entry into Jerusalem, riding on the colt of a donkey.  When Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, He was greeted by, “the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.”  Of course, they were expecting a political kingdom, not a spiritual one. Luke 19:11 “Now as they heard these things, He spoke another parable, because He was near Jerusalem and because they thought the kingdom of God would appear immediately.”

The expectation of the crowds was building. They thought the kingdom of God would appear immediately, so Jesus told a story about stewardship and the use of gifts bestowed upon those who serve in God’s kingdom.  It was really a story about Jesus and the way the kingdom would eventually come.

Would. Eventually. Come. Not, “would immediately come.” We are disappointed in life when our expectations are not met immediately, in the way we expect, or because we have the wrong perspective on our circumstances.

How about you?  Did you expect that the one who promised to “love, honor and cherish” would really do so until “death do us part?”  Did you expect to have the perfect family with 1.8 perfect children, all living in the perfect neighborhood in the perfect house with 3500 square feet, a bonus room and a 3-car garage for your Lexus SUV, motor home and boat?  Did you expect to have the perfect job with a perfect future and a perfect retirement?  Does it all seem like a cruel joke to you now, or have you just concluded that perhaps your youthful expectations were a bit unrealistic?

On that first Palm Sunday, the disciples and the crowds in Jerusalem all had the same expectation.  They believed Jesus was the Messiah and as such would soon overthrow the wretched rule of Rome and set up His earthly Kingdom in Jerusalem.  The crowds were welcoming Him as they would welcome a general returning from a victorious battle after winning the war.  So we can understand their disappointment when Jesus did not play the part.

After all, the crowds watched with amazement as He entered the temple and began throwing over the tables of exchange and throwing out the moneychangers.  “Now it’s happening” they thought.  “Now He is making His move.  And now that He’s taken care of business here at the temple, He’ll soon move next door and take the keys from the Roman Praetorian Guards.”

But He didn’t.  He just continued to teach and preach.  “What’s this, just more preaching?  No call to arms?  No call for a revolution?  Well, maybe He isn’t the One after all.”

And so the enthusiasm waned and the crowds disbursed.  Like a group of exhausted party revelers taking down the ribbons and deflated balloons, they picked up their garments and went back to business as usual. The lights went out on their bright hopes that this day would be different.

When the lights go out on our dreams and hopes, it’s always more comforting when someone is there to share the darkness of the experience.  Stay together during the tough times and the tough times won’t last nearly as long.  Jesus, too, understood disappointment.  When He went to the cross, nearly all of his friends abandoned Him.  Only a faithful few remained on that dark day to witness His death. Where will you go on the dark day of disappointment?

Some Thoughts on Passion Week: Disappointment, Detours, and Destiny – Part 1

I’m taking a brief break from my series “On the Verge” to share a few thoughts as we approach Easter 2015.

triumphal-entry-jesus-

Passion Week in the life of Christ begins with Palm Sunday, which we celebrate tomorrow. Followers of Jesus view Palm Sunday as a time to remember back to the day when Jesus made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem  (cf. Luke 19:28-48). The events that took place on that day set the stage for what was to be the most important event in the history of the world, the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  But before there could be a resurrection there had to be suffering and death.

We like the resurrection part.  Resurrection brings hope, promise and new life.  Like the crocus fighting its way through the last dusting of snow, Easter reminds us that the dark days of winter are not eternal.  For the believer in Christ, we find comfort in the words of Jesus, “Because I live, you shall live also.”  (John 14:19)

Yes, we like resurrection.  We just don’t like what happens prior to it that makes resurrection necessary.  It’s the suffering and death part that makes us cringe.  If we could, we’d just as soon bypass the hospital, funeral home and cemetery and instead book a direct flight to paradise.  “Just give me the keys to my mansion, thank you – I’ll skip the casket.”

Most of us would choose a crown without a cross, a blessing without a burden, a vacation without a vocation. Whether we like it or not, those unpleasant elements are as normal and necessary to our existence as dirt and rain are to flowers.  We will never blossom to our full potential without suffering.  That’s what Jesus’ final week before His death, burial and resurrection were all about.

There is a reason why these days are called the “Passion Week.”  During those moments we see Jesus Christ experience the whole gamut of human emotion.  From the ecstasy of Sunday’s triumphal parade to the agony of Friday’s cross, and everything in between we see how those emotions affected Him.  Fully human, and fully Divine, He was as Isaiah said, “a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief.”  (Isaiah 53:3)

On Palm Sunday crowds of people welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem as the Messiah.  Five days later the same crowds shouted, “Crucify Him!”  How could they have been so fickle?  Throughout the week, and especially on Thursday night His disciples all pledged to stay with Him, Peter promising to do so even if it meant prison or death.  A few hours later, they all left Him alone.

“We’ll always be here for you, Jesus,” they promised.  “We’ll always be together.”  But their good intentions melted like a cheap candle on a hot summer day.  When trouble came in like a flood, they all scattered and hit the trail for higher ground, every man for himself.

Maybe you know how Jesus felt.  If so, I am sure He knows how you feel.  Writing about Jesus, the author of Hebrews said, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have One who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin.”  (Hebrews 4:15 NIV)  He experienced the ultimate in passion and pain, so that He can help you make it through yours.  He offers two things you can’t live without: healing and hope. And when it seems like you have crashed into the intersection of disappointment and discouragement, remember it may just be a detour on the road to your divine destiny offering grace and growth.

Through the next couple of posts, I’m praying you’ll receive a major portion of healing and hope in the process of discovering grace and growth.  We all share some similar experiences in the passionate process of disappointment, suffering, death and resurrection.  These shared experiences should bring us closer together and closer to God, not farther apart.

Easter Hope: Resurrection & Reconciliation

Easter hope Resurrection & Reconciliation - PorcupineThe German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) compared the human race to a bunch of porcupines huddling together on a cold winter’s night. He said, “The colder it gets outside, the more we huddle together for warmth; but the closer we get to one another, the more we hurt one another with our sharp quills. And in the lonely night of earth’s winter eventually we begin to drift apart and wander out on our own and freeze to death in our loneliness.”[1]

But winter does not last forever, and in the Spring Easter warms the cold heart with hope. Christ provided us an alternative: to forgive each other for the intentional and unintentional pokes we receive. Because Jesus died and rose again, we have hope. Forgiveness, kindness and compassion are at the heart of the Gospel. Even in the face of injustice and sinful arrogance, Christians must have hope. Even in the face of anger and hate, Christians must have hope. Even in the face of war and violence and death itself, Christians must have hope. That’s what Easter is all about: hope for resurrection and reconciliation.

The Civil War was the most un-civil period in American history. It is hard to imagine the hatred, animosity and strife, not just between the states, but also between families and friends and neighbors.  620,000 American soldiers on both sides lost their lives in battle or as a direct result of the conflict. To place that in perspective, we must realize that the entire population of the United States at the time was a little over 30 million – thus over 2.0% mortality from the bloody war! All told, there were more casualties in the Civil War than in all wars America has fought combined from then until now.

During the war, half the men of military age in the state of Iowa served in the Union army and more than 12,500 of them died and more than 8,500 of them went home with serious wounds. The devastation in the south was even worse. Ten billion dollars in property damage – 40% of its livestock destroyed. The state of Mississippi spent 20% of its budget on artificial limbs for the wounded in 1866.[2]

In 1913, the Federal government held a fiftieth anniversary reunion at Gettysburg. It lasted three days. Survivors of unspeakable atrocities bivouacked in the old battlefield together, swapping stories, and looking up old comrades. They had witnessed the worst of the human race, but now these aged soldiers and one time mortal enemies came together for a final memorial meeting.

The climax of the gathering was a re-enactment of Pickett’s Charge. Thousands of spectators gathered to watch as the Union veterans took their positions on Cemetery Ridge, and waited as their old adversaries emerged from the woods on Seminary Ridge and started forward toward them across the long, flat fields. Philip Myers, (who witnessed the event as an 18-year-old) wrote, “We could see not rifles and bayonets but canes and crutches.  We soon could distinguish the more agile ones aiding those less able to maintain their places in the ranks.”

As they neared the northern line, they broke into one final, defiant rebel yell.  At the sound, “after half a century of silence, a moan, a sigh, a gigantic gasp of unbelief” rose from the Union men on cemetery Ridge.

“It was then,” wrote Myers, “that the Yankees, unable to restrain themselves longer, burst from behind the stone wall, and flung themselves upon their former enemies. . .not in mortal combat, but reunited in brotherly love and affection.”

“It was,” says Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, a Union hero of Gettysburg, “a transcendental experience.  A radiant fellowship of the fallen.”[3]

“A radiant fellowship of the fallen.” With all due respect to those Civil War heroes, that also seems a fitting description for a community of believers in Jesus Christ. Though fallen in sin, we are picked up and redeemed in Christ.

If members of the Civil War could discover reconciliation and forgiveness, surely we can find hope through reconciliation for the uncivil way humans—friends, strangers and family members alike—sometimes treat each other. And on this Easter Sunday as we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, let’s not forget what He said on Good Friday as He suffered unjustly at the hands of those He created:  “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”  (Luke 22:34 NIV)

Maybe the quills of broken promises and broken lines of communication have popped your balloon of hope. Maybe things just haven’t turned out as you expected.  Jesus rose from the dead so our hopes and dreams could be resurrected and we could be reconciled to him and to each other.

Jesus Christ is unique for two miraculous reasons: a virgin’s womb and an empty tomb. As fully God and fully human, Jesus suffered as no man ever suffered, and on the cross took upon Himself the sins of the world. His resurrection from the dead offers hope for the future and makes possible reconciliation for us all. Isn’t that a better choice than being poked by porcupines?



[2]The Civil War by Geoffrey C. Ward, Ric & Ken Burns.  New York:  Alfred A. Knopf, 1990   pp. 398-404.

[3]From Ken Burns, The Civil War Video series Vol. 9.  http://hardtogetvideos.com/civil_war.html