Well, it’s that time of year again. As we end the dreary winter season and enter spring with its rebirth of the earth and the budding trees and brush, Easter is upon us. The winds carry a warmth we have been missing these past few months.
CELEBRATING THE DEATH OF JESUS
The celebration of the death of Jesus is a surprise to those non-Christians who are not familiar with our customs. Jesus was a man who died to give us favor with God. His sacrifice gives us all a place in Heaven. Many non-Christians do not understand this.
JESUS PICKS THE 12
As Jesus picked the followers who would be with him and record the history of His time on this earth, He had a specific plan for each and every one of them. Peter was a leader who Jesus picked to lead his flock after Jesus left the earth.
Judas was there to betray Christ so Jesus could fulfill the scriptures. Judas wanted Jesus to save himself and show the Romans what the 12 knew, that Jesus was the Son of God. Judas was trying to force Jesus to go in a different direction than He wanted.
Thomas was picked because he was not swayed by what others said. He was a man who had to have everything proven to him before he could accept it. Thomas was necessary to prove the resurrection after Jesus was raised from the dead.
I wonder what Jesus was thinking as he assembled his group. Each had a specific purpose to add to the group. Had God allowed Jesus to know in advance what each disciples role would be?
JESUS ENTERS JERUSALEM
When Jesus entered the city, the Jews thought he was coming to lead them in the fight to free them from Roman control. The Romans ruled the Jewish people with an iron fist. The Jews never had an opportunity to become Roman citizens. They were always kept in a subservient position. These people thought Jesus was coming to change all that.
What they found was a man who said to turn the other cheek to the injustices they suffered. Although they listened to his strange ideas, they were looking for something more. They wanted a political leader who would lead them to freedom. In other words, Jesus fell far short of what they were expecting. That is why when there was a choice to save either Barabbas or Jesus from death, the people chose to save the murderer Barabbas.
JESUS DIES ON THE CROSS
Jesus was whipped, beaten and ridiculed as he marched to his death. He was deserted by his followers. Jesus must have felt very much alone and abandoned by his followers. He was put on the cross and had nails driven through his wrists and ankles to hold him in place. Once the cross was lifted to a vertical position, Jesus would have to use his legs to lift himself to be able to breathe. Eventually, he would tire to the point where he could no longer lift himself, and he suffocated and died.
Jesus’s followers were in disarray. They feared for their lives after Jesus died. They didn’t understand why Jesus didn’t save himself if he truly was the Son of God. Had they been duped? How could they now survive since they gave up everything to follow Jesus? Would the Romans hunt them down?
Then something very strange happened. Three days later Jesus disappeared from his tomb and appeared to them. There was a dramatic change in his followers. No longer were they afraid. Jesus gave them powers that before had only been available to Him. He sent them out into the far corners of the world to preach the gospel. They each wrote their story of the history of that time. Even though they wrote these histories from different parts of the known world, written in some cases decades after the events, not one contradiction can be found in their writings. Surely God directed their writings.
Today, Christians are under attack everywhere. Here, in the United States, Christians currently are about 85% of the population. But those that actually practice the religion are much smaller. Over the years, Christians have lost ground with the American government. Christianity is the only religion that is banned from all government functions in the United States. There is accommodation for all the other religions.
In the Middle East, Christians are killed just for being Christians. Before they were flourishing in most Middle Eastern nations. Now they are becoming extinct as many non-Christian groups are killing Christians and driving them out of the area. Christian missionaries in the Middle East who are captured are beheaded for exposing the population to the Christian religion. Christian religious artifacts that have been in the Middle East for centuries are systematically being destroyed to eradicate all reference to Christianity. As we spend this weekend with loved ones and family, let us all remember what this season is really about. Jesus suffered and died so we could be forgiven for our personal failings.