Are we stuck at the cross?
It’s Holy Week. Sunday we progressed around the church with our palm fronds singing hosanna, reminding ourselves of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. From here we walk with Jesus toward the cross through what I have in previous years called the most subversive week of Jesus’ life. In the past I have said that Jesus’ walk through Holy Week begins with this triumphal entry and ends at the cross.
Today as I helped plant our spring vegetables, I was reminded that it does not really end at the cross at all; it ends in the new life of the kingdom. It is very easy for us to get stuck at the cross, focus our attention on Jesus’ death and allow the true wonder of Easter to escape us.
Unless a grain of wheat is planted in the ground and dies, it remains a solitary seed. But when it is planted, it produces in death a great harvest (John 12:24 The Voice).
Death gives birth to life. I don’t plant my seeds and then forget about them.
Are we stuck at the cross in the throes of death when God wants us to burst out of the tomb into new life? Are we stuck at the cross, unaware that the new life of the kingdom is bursting out around us?
Jesus endured the cross; he didn’t revel in it as we sometimes seem to. He looked ahead to the joy of a new world breaking into ours.
Don’t get me wrong. I love to walk the stations of the cross on Good Friday. I love to remind myself of the agony that Jesus went through in order to break the bonds of sin to bring us all to freedom, but I don’t want to stop there. I don’t want to live there in the heartbreak and despair.
The joy of Easter is not Good Friday, but Easter Sunday. This is the end of Jesus’ subversive walk. This is the place we are meant to live. Not on the cross, not in the darkness of the tomb, but in the liberating light of God’s new world.
I want to enter into the new life of God, and bring that newness into the lives of those around. I want to see it burst forth into the creation that is still waiting with groaning, looking forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay (Rom. 8:21, 22).
Easter Sunday ushers in 50 days of celebration of resurrection life, but by the time the sun sets on Easter Sunday, most of us seem to have forgotten about it completely. We are back to life as usual, just as the disciples were.
It was not the cross or the empty tomb that transformed Jesus’ followers; it was their encounter with the living presence of God in the resurrected Jesus. It was those encounters in the days after the cross and resurrection — the breakfast on the beach, the walk to Emmaus.
And we apostles are witnesses of all he did throughout Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a cross, but God raised him to life on the third day. Then God allowed him to appear, not to the general public, but to us whom God had chosen in advance to be his witnesses. We were those who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. And he ordered us to preach everywhere and to testify that Jesus is the one appointed by God to be the judge of all—the living and the dead (Acts 10:39-42).
The cross and the empty tomb are not the important events of Easter; the living presence of God in the resurrected Jesus is. It wasn’t the empty tomb that transformed the disciples and the women who followed him; it was Jesus appearing to them, eating with them, interpreting the scriptures for them. They met the Risen Christ in the 50 days after Easter, and it changed their lives so that they went out not just talking about the things Jesus did, but living them.
My challenge to all of us today is: Will we hang around long enough to enter into the full joy of the risen Savior? Will we hang around long enough to encounter the living Christ? When Easter Sunday is over, will we be back to life as usual or are we ready to encounter Jesus over the next 50 days — the true season of Easter — and have our lives radically changed and redirected as a result?
Christine Sine is co-founder, along with her husband, Tom Sine, of Mustard Seed Associates, a small organization to assist churches and Christian organizations to engage the challenges of the 21st century. She writes at Godspace, where this post originally appeared.
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