Mission San Buenaventura, 1903

Yesterday we celebrated Easter.

Resurrection Day.

Greetings of “He is risen!” were met with, “He is risen, indeed!” in the halls of our church.  Faces were bright, happy, and hopeful.  Worship was enthusiastic and joyful in a way it isn’t on other Sundays.  I’m good with that.  It is not unlike my daily delight in my husband being amplified on our anniversary or when we celebrate his birthday.

I need the annual reminder of God’s sacrifice and victory at Easter like I need the weekly reminder of the relevance of scripture for my days through Sunday worship, and a daily reminder of his presence in my moments through personal study and prayer.

But I don’t want to move on too quickly from the refreshment I find in an Easter service.

Easter is why we worship.

Easter is about the risen Christ who has set us free to live the life for which God created us.

On Good Friday we think about Jesus on the cross.  We should.

We think about him hanging there between two criminals – thieves.

Stop there a minute – theft earned crucifixion.  We don’t really think about stealing as a crime deserving the death penalty.  We barely view murder as deserving the death penalty.

God takes theft seriously, doesn’t he?  As a matter of fact, all sin deserves the death penalty.

Which is why Christ came.

If you think about it, all sin is theft, in a way.

  • We are stealing God’s glory when we sin.  We tarnish his name by taking the image of God in us and distorting it into something ugly.
  • We steal from his world when we abuse the earth rather than exercise dominion over it.
  • We take from his inherent creativity when we create vulgarity instead of beauty.
  • We take from his people when we hoard instead of giving lavishly to others.
  • We steal life through abortion, slander, gossip, and silence.
  • We steal joy through criticism and judgment, cruelty, envy, and anger.
  • We take innocence and fidelity with our clothing choices, language, and no-fault divorce policies.

I think that is some of what is behind the statement:

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.  — John 10:10

Jesus stands in stark contrast to the thieves on the crosses, because they deserved to be there, and because he came to give rather than take.

We don’t think too much about the thieves on the crosses with Christ because we know they at least did something wrong – even if we wouldn’t consider it worthy of the death penalty.

And I think sometimes we don’t think too much about ourselves in that light either.  Sure, we did something wrong, but is it really worthy of the death penalty?  If our sins came to light – the half-truths, the critical words, the judgmental heart, the coveting spirit, the contention, dissension – and we were condemned to death by lethal injection or electrocution – we’d be outraged!  It would seem unjust.

But it’s not.

God said, “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).

I need to be reminded of the death penalty I earned by my sin.  Not because I live condemned – for “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

No, I need to be reminded of the great debt that was paid, the same way I need to be reminded of my wedding vows.

The annual celebration of our wedding anniversary is more than a nice dinner out and maybe a night in a hotel without kids.  It’s an opportunity to remember what I’ve committed to, to celebrate our faithfulness, and to commit to another year of being married and walking together with Jesus.  Celebrating our anniversary inspires affection and renews desire.

The annual celebration of Easter is more than an Easter Egg Hunt and a festive service with like-minded believers.  It’s an opportunity to remember what God has committed to, to celebrate his faithfulness, and to commit to another year of being in his church and walking together with Jesus.  Celebrating Easter inspires gratitude and revives my weary heart.

Easter reminds me of a life characterized by theft, murder, and destruction (even in their lesser forms), and that I have been freed by someone else to live a different life.

I’m holding out for grace. I’m holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don’t have to depend on my own religiosity.

— Bono

It reminds me of the contrast Christ offers me – freedom to live life and to live life abundantly.  God is lavish with his grace.

Thank God, He doesn’t measure out grace in teaspoons. — Amy Carmichael

That is why I need Easter.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever.

— Ephesians 3:20-21

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By Pierce, C.C. (Charles C.), 1861-1946 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons