“I assure you, corrupt tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the Kingdom of God before you do. For John the Baptist came and showed you the way to life, and you didn’t believe him, while tax collectors and prostitutes did. And even when you saw this happening, you refused to turn from your sins and believe him.”
How do you celebrate Easter?
Of course our consumer culture is obsessed with bunnies and candy-filled eggs and sugary animal-shaped marshmallows that do not taste anywhere near good enough to compensate for the cavities you can immediately feel forming as you chew them.
Then there are the Christian “purists” who shun the pagan fertility symbols and shame the watered-down American church for promoting traditions rooted in sin.
And then you’ve got someone a little more like me, a Christian reflecting on and celebrating the defining moments of my faith while also taking my kids to Easter egg hunts. I’m not entirely buying into the Easter sales pitch (this may have more to do with my being broke than pious), but I’m not going to give you a hard time about it either. I usually forget to get/hide Easter baskets for my kids, and therefore we have sort of avoided the whole Easter Bunny thing. My family “believed” in the Easter Bunny growing up, and I think I turned out okay, so I’m not necessarily opposed to it. But do you think I’m a better Christian if I say we choose to focus on Jesus during the Easter season? We are Christians, we are pastors, we focus on Jesus… but I’m also forgetful, so try not to be too impressed.
The way I personally focus on Jesus during this season is by retracing his steps leading up to the Crucifixion. I’m not just talking about the Last Supper and trial, but I’m really interested in his ministry in Jerusalem. He knew this was his last stop before his death, and he had a lot to say to God’s Chosen people of Israel. Have you ever noticed the weight we give to a person’s last words? It seems only fitting we give that same weight to Jesus’ last teachings, as they may hold some important insight into the things Jesus valued the most.
In the synoptic gospel accounts, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, and his first stop was the Temple. He was so appalled by the blatant exploitation going on in the courtyard that he went on a rampage against the religious leaders who had allowed worship to be marketed as a commodity. (Well that could preach today.)
I don’t think it looked like this, but I love this video:
What in the name of Me is going on in here??
Soon after this, Jesus started preaching in the Temple and among the people. He didn’t get a warm reception from the Pharisees, or the religious elite, because he said stuff like this:
[Jesus said to the priests and leaders,] “But what do you think about this? A man with two sons told the older boy, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’ The son answered, ‘No, I won’t go,’ but later he changed his mind and went anyway. Then the father told the other son, ‘You go,’ and he said, ‘Yes, sir, I will.’ But he didn’t go. Which of the two was obeying his father?”
They replied, “The first, of course.”
Then Jesus explained his meaning: “I assure you, corrupt tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the Kingdom of God before you do. For John the Baptist came and showed you the way to life, and you didn’t believe him, while tax collectors and prostitutes did. And even when you saw this happening, you refused to turn from your sins and believe him.”
The more we read and focus on Jesus’ words, the more we see that the Gospel is a message of the heart. Jesus came to fulfill the Law of Israel by demonstrating it was all about our hearts in the first place. His sacrificial death made a way for us to be reconciled to the Father by faith alone, and the works of love will be a natural outflowing of our hearts, which now have peace through Christ.
My favorite way to celebrate Easter is by sharing that message of hope and love with those who might not make it into church Sunday morning to hear it from a pulpit. Today’s post is late on this Good Friday because I was out late last night hitting up my local strip clubs. No, I don’t carry a Bible or memorize a sermon, and most of the time we chat about our kids or hair or movies. But the Love of the Father is consistent, pursuing, relentless, and doesn’t require that you get your act together in order to receive it. I don’t walk into those clubs carrying Jesus with me; I follow him in, because he’s already there, loving his children.
Don’t be like the Pharisees who missed the Truth standing right in front of them while those they condemned jumped on the Jesus train. Today is Good Friday, and in the sorrow of Christ’s death, we rejoice that he paid that price for ALL of us.