I just came back from church where we saw a group of men, many of whom have served time in prison and coming from the most broken backgrounds being baptised. I was so excited as I heard their stories and then we were privileged to see them take that step, that sign of a whole new life. One of them (Michael) read my book Rough Diamonds when he was in prison for 17 years and had asked me to go in the water with him. What a privilege and what better day to celebrate new life in Jesus than Easter Day?
Then I came home and my grandson wanted the TV on, and a movie is on about the Easter Bunny, who apparently goes all around the world today making everyone happy in a single day. Wow, never heard that one before! I’m not upset that a bunny tries to compete with Jesus, but when he’s stealing Santa’s job – that’s crossing a line!
How do we see and make sense of what Easter is really about? Here are some thoughts from my talk today which started with the video I posted above.
I love that video because it shows what happens kind of when the lights come on and you see like you never saw before and the whole world changes, because I know what that was like because it happened to me too – when I met Jesus.
There are all kinds of reasons people don’t see what I see like I see it, and it’s not necessarily because they’re bad people – maybe it’s because something bad happened. to you?
Have you ever had something happen to you, something so terrible – and it just knocks you sideways and then now it’s as if you can’t see – can’t remember at all that there was anything good?
Tragedy and hard times can come along and wipe the hard drive – your memory of all the preceding data.
Luke tells us about two ex-followers of the recently deceased Jesus, walking in a hurry away from Jerusalem, hoping to hit a place called Emmaus by nightfall. Trying to put the past and the city behind them. They are about seven miles away from Jerusalem. It’s Sunday, the third day since the crucifixion of Jesus. The one they’d followed. The one they had put all their hope in. They are talking all about it. We only know one name of the three men walking along at first. It’s Cleopas. He’s not famous. He doesn’t get another mention in the Bible after this. Then a stranger starts walking alongside the two of them.
They’re walking really fast, pumped up with fear and adrenaline on the journey – to get away from the city where it all went so pear shaped so fast. Because one minute, at the start of the week they’re with the cheering crowd on Palm Sunday. ‘He’s the Saviour! He’s come to set us all free!’
A few days and WHAM everything changed. All the disciples leg it – because Jesus is arrested, Jesus is beaten up! Jesus is whipped and stripped and crowned with thorns! And then… he’s crucified. Just like so many others, all of the hundreds and thousands the Romans nail up just to show they have total power over. To show that he was NOT who he claimed to be. They even wrote it in mockery over his head as he died among the spit and the flies when the whole world seemed to go dark ‘KING OF THE JEWS’.
They’re talking about it and the stranger says, ‘What are you talking about?’ Maybe there was something familiar about him but the last time they saw him his face was smashed up and covered in blood. And then he was a corpse.
You can kind of go blind because of grief, blind to there being anything good at all, when life crumbles around you so fast and survival is the order of the day. Anyone know what I mean?
The two of them were together, yet alone. Then who’s this idiot?
‘Er – don’t you even know what happened? What they did to Jesus?’ says Cleopas.
Oh – Jesus hey? Tell me about Jesus then…
So they tell him about what happened. They say we HAD hoped he was… the One. The hope, when they had him. But now he’s gone. So hope is dead and GONE. They HAD hope…
And the stranger doesn’t just tell them to cheer up. He keeps walking with them.
He doesn’t give them some pep talk or pithy little saying like “It’s always darkest before the dawn.”
He doesn’t just let them wallow in their self-pity either saying “Oh dear, there there, tell me all about it.”).
He says ‘Why are you so foolish – and slow to believe?’ Then he talks to them about the Bible. Because he wants them to know the truth. And that’s where you find truth. That’s where we get our hope back. That’s when we get our sight back – when we lost sight of hope. When the whole world had seemed so dark and then grey and devoid of colour and we can’t see anything right any more.
Some people say ‘If God would just show me I’d believe.’ But for the longest time they couldn’t even see HIM standing there right before them – even though there was something so familiar, so powerful, and now something started burning in their hearts again as he went through the whole big story of the Bible and told them about how in the beginning God LOVES US, every single one of us he made us to love us– even if nobody else did. But we GOT IT WRONG. The human race messed up, sinned, went our own way. That’s why Jesus went to the CROSS. To pay the price for everything I ever thought, said, spoke, or did wrong. He took all that on the cross and became a curse so that we could be blessed. He was punished so we can be pardoned. He was forsaken so we could be forgiven. He died so we can have new life. So now, you have to CHOOSE.
I picture them – and us – standing at a fork in the road. Jesus is going to go on that way. It says ‘As they got near the place they were going, it looked like he was going to go on ahead of them…’
So they have to decide – will they just let him go, and go on their own way. Will they say goodbye and wave him off?
NO! They say – stay with us! They’re like chasing him down! Don’t leave us Jesus! It says they URGED him to stay with them. That’s the choice. When you say to Jesus ‘I don’t want to go another step forward without you!’
There’s an old hymn, it says “Abide with me, fast falls the eventide / The darkness deepens Lord, with me abide / When other helpers fail and comforts flee / Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me.”
Jesus is the help of the helpless and he brought hope back to those two hopeless men – because finally as he shared some bread with them they had that ‘AHA! moment!’
It’s – You’re – It’s!….
and then he’s GONE again!
And that’s’ the choice everyone gets to make with Jesus. You’ve heard about him, and he’s been speaking to you.
Maybe you’ve felt something stirring inside, thinking ‘I could do with that fresh start, that new life.’
It starts when you make that decision, at the cross – the crossroads moment is when you realise, ‘I’m going to leave the old paths and make the choice to go with Jesus now.’
When the earliest Christians were summing up what was most important to believe, it wasn’t that complicated. Becoming a Jesus follower is simple really and the promises we make at baptism reflect that. They were always talking about Jesus and the resurrection. That was the amazing thing about Jesus they talked about so much. The word for resurrection in the Greek language they used was Anastasia, so sometimes people thought they were talking about two gods, Jesus and Anastasia – because they went everywhere saying Jesus is alive! Jesus is alive!
Easter means we are not just saying ‘we know about him.’ We’re saying, ‘We know him!’
And you can too!
What does the cross mean to you?
A Cross says FOUR things.
- On a love letter – what does a cross say?
I LOVE YOU! It’s a kiss.
- On a test paper – what does a cross say?
YOU GOT IT WRONG. Life’s a test, we all get tested – and we all get it wrong.
- On a voting paper a cross says I AM MAKING MY CHOICE. I am deciding.
- And on a ROAD SIGN, the cross is a cross roads that says which way will you go? In life? Are you going to leave and walk out the same today or go with Jesus and say,‘I want to follow him…’