Easter is a weird holiday.
Every year around this time The History Channel stops it’s usual programming that has nothing to do with history to teach us that Jesus was a pretty good man that had a wife, three kids and lived to be 65.
Other skeptics use the holiday to mock the absurd idea that a man could come back from the dead. They conclude that the New Testament is a book of urban legends written and compiled by power hungry men. You know, the kind of power hungry men that get killed for what they believe in.
Most puzzling is the reaction of some who claim to be Christians. They don’t have a problem with the resurrection, they just hate the way that Jesus is presented by the church. In a lot of ways they make a good point. Many of us grew up being taught that if Jesus were around today, he’d probably choose his 12 disciples from the GOP. Well, all except for Judas. So much for being bipartisan.
But what’s amazing is the alternative that is offered. Instead of the white, conservative Jesus, we are told to embrace the Jesus who is more concerned with social issues than he is with political ones. The Jesus we are encouraged to embrace is the one that cares more about buying coffee in an ethical manner than he does abortion. In other words, the church needs to move away from the Republican Jesus it has known for so long and embrace the Democratic Jesus. In a lot of cases, when we try to convince others that Jesus isn’t about politics, what we really mean is that Jesus isn’t about their politics. He’s probably pretty cool with ours.
Easter, perhaps more than any other holiday, is a time for so many different groups to use the cross and empty tomb as a springboard for their agenda. The skeptics see this as an opportunity to take shots at faith and religion and the religious progressives tell us that we need to move beyond the church so that we can instead focus on Jesus more. Who needs the people Jesus died for anyway?
Christmas is a much easier holiday than Easter. It’s about a gift. God gave us baby Jesus as a gift. Even those who choose not to believe are still invited to the party. They can give and receive gifts just like all the rest of us. Who doesn’t love gifts? Hooray for gifts! This is why Christmas festivities usually start in late July.
But what Christians remember during Easter is what that gift at Christmas was for. Those who are serious about following Jesus, the Jesus of the Bible, realize what happened to the gift. The precious baby grew up and got killed. And those other guys didn’t do it. It wasn’t the conservatives and their gas guzzling SUVs and it wasn’t the liberals with their protest signs. It was me. I killed him. That’s the confession of every sincere follower of Christ.
And that’s what makes Easter a difficult holiday. It’s why many want to change the subject with their conspiracy theories and political agendas. Gifts are fun. Murder, not so much. Especially when you are the guilty party.
Only those who are willing to come to grips with their sin and guilt can truly be set free from their sin and guilt. That’s another weird thing about Easter. The ones who recognize the part they played in the murder of God’s Son and repent are the ones who will be called sons of God (Galatians 3:26).
If we want to make Easter a holiday of agendas, that’s fine, as long as we remember that our agendas, however noble they may appear, are what nailed Jesus to the cross. And we miss the whole point if we fail to recognize God’s agenda, an agenda to crush his own Son in our place (Romans 3:25), raise him up from the dead (Acts 4:8-10) and bring us who were once far off near to him (Ephesians 2:13).
Even without the politics, conspiracy theories and creepy Easter bunnies this is still a weird holiday for me. The blood of Jesus is on my hands. It’s hard to celebrate with blood stains on you. Thankfully, this holiday season doesn’t end on Friday. By God’s good grace, it extends to Sunday, the day when the man I killed came back to life and gave me new life through his sacrifice (Romans 7:4).