Easter has never been as popular in the world at large as Christmas. People the world over love Christmas, will celebrate it, give gifts, share meals together and go to carol services. Christmas has a more popular message, the birth of a baby, the Saviour. Somehow it warms our hearts, makes us feel better, even if we are not sure why.
But Easter, it’s not so popular, it’s the hard part of the story, it involves suffering and death, things we’d rather steer clear of in this glossy world of the 21st century.
The Easter message is challenging – disturbing.
Why did Jesus have to die? He was a good man, a good teacher, a miracle worker, he did so much good – even his disciples didn’t get it, and they were with him three years and heard Jesus speak about the fact he was going to die, and the purpose of it.
The death of Jesus confronts us, it confronts us with ourselves in a way that the Christmas story doesn’t – yes it’s there, in his name even, but so easily passed over. Easter confronts us with the fact that Jesus died because of what is wrong about us and we don’t like to be told we are wrong. It confronts us with our own reality, our sinfulness, our fallenness, our brokenness, our separation from God, our need of salvation.
It tells us we are in the wrong, we are not good, and we don’t like that.
It tells we can’t do anything about it, it’s beyond us, we can’t correct ourselves. That hits at our pride.
It tells us being ‘nice’ people is not enough to rescue us.
It tells us no good work that we could ever do is still not enough to save us.
It tells us our sin was so great that it needed God himself to come and take on the likeness of this fallen, broken flesh, and spend his life here redeeming it, and then go down into death itself, bearing all our sin, that atonement might be made.
It tells us this was no mere example or influence – here’s how to love, go model it and all will be well.
It tells us this was more than just a victory over Satan, sin, death and hell that would set us free.
It involved sacrifice.
It involved substitution – someone had to die for us.
It involved penalty – there was a consequence to our sin, a price to be paid
It involved propitiation – the satisfaction of God’s wrath, yes, God was angry at man’s sin, his rebellion, it is an offence to God, not some minor misdemeanour.
It involves expiation – the removal and cleansing from our sin – this is not some surface stain that is easily rubbed out, this is deep and goes to the core of our being.
There’s nothing sentimental here, this is not touchy feely love, ‘There, there, I love you, it will be all right.’ No, this is a deep, radical (goes to the core of the problem) ‘gutsy’ love. This is the passion of the Christ.