I’ll never forget my first real Easter. Everything was new to me and I just couldn’t get over it. Jesus died for me, was buried, and rose again. It really happened, and it was all because He loved me.
We had been celebrating it daily since our new birth. By “we,” I mean those of us who heard about Christ on the streets during the Jesus Movement of the 60s and 70s. It was all we talked about—Jesus, His love, His death, His resurrection, our new life, hope, meaning, and destiny.
And then we figured it out that Easter was now about something more than egg hunts and spring break. It was the church’s official celebration of the resurrection event.
“Wow, what a concept,” I remember thinking. “We should go to church too,” referring to my Jesus Movement friends.
So we did.
But we weren’t too impressed.
It was obvious that they didn’t want a bunch of ragamuffins like us in their pews. We didn’t dress right, didn’t know the songs, didn’t know when to stand up or sit down, and we took some of their every-Sunday seats.
It was also pretty obvious that they weren’t as excited about Easter as we were. Oh they seemed to enjoy singing the songs, which we later found out they traditionally sang every Easter. They surely loved getting all dressed up in their Easter-Sunday finest. And they talked a lot to each other about their ham dinner and other family traditions . . . as they ignored us.
But the wonder of it all and the magnitude of the privilege of belonging to the One who died and rose again, seemed secondary to all the religious trappings.
I don’t know all the reasons for the contrast between our appreciation of Easter and theirs, but some of it had to be the desperation factor. For them, it was just another Easter; for us, it was a celebration of the Event that rescued us from our hopeless lives. It wasn’t that we were any more desperate than they were, we were just more aware of it.
In his classic on the life of Christ, The Training of the Twelve, A. B. Bruce writes of the two disciples who met the resurrected Jesus on the road to Emmaus, “Their hearts were set a-burning when they had become very dry and withered: hopeless, sick, and life-weary through sorrow and disappointment. It is always so; the fuel must be dry that the spark may take hold. The truth is, the heart needs to be dried by trial before it can be made to burn.”
Easter is for those who get it that every experience of life apart from Christ is dried and withered. Easter is for those who admit that we would be hopeless, sick, and life-weary apart from His mercy. Easter is for those desperate for resurrection power.
“And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.” –Paul, 1 Corinthians 15:17