Easter is my favorite holiday. It always has been. It helps that it takes place in my favorite time of year (spring into summer) while for Christmas, thanksgiving, and even my birthday, I’m freezing. But I love it mostly for the spiritual significance behind it. It has always been the holiday that gets me to my knees and helps me see anew the wonder of the Cross and the resurrection.
I’ve searched my own heart and mind for the reason why Easter always “works.” Why is it that in my most spiritually dry seasons, Easter always provides rain? Why doesn’t it ever fail?
Here’s the reason I’m convinced of: Easter shows me time after time that I am necessarily forgiven.
Good Friday service this year was the first time in a while when I left reveling in how wonderful a church service was – how thick the presence of God was, how light I felt afterwards, how beautiful the gospel seemed after this one evening. And I assure you, that’s not because my church doesn’t do wonderful things. We worshipped God much the same as we normally do. We had preaching of the Gospel as we normally do. We responded as we normally do.
But I think what was different was my own posture this evening.
I looked around me and I saw somewhere around 100 people, arms raised and voices lifted toward heaven, all realizing and reveling in the wonder of the cross. In that moment, I was reminded how small I was. I was reminded that there were around me people who had followed Jesus for a lifetime longer than I have, and they were still marveling at the cross and the resurrection. I was reminded that there were people who are newer Christians than I am, who have seen more of life than I have, who have seen less of life than I have, and they are all worshipping God as if their life depended on it.
And then it clicked: in a sense, it does.
I’m convinced that the enemy of the gospel is the mentality that it’s unnecessary. Satan will do everything in his power – meaning he will bend every circumstance and life event to alter our perceptions to fit this agenda – to make us think we don’t need to be forgiven.
We have to be so vigilant about this for a multitude of reasons. If the enemy succeeds in making us think we’re fine, then the whole reasoning behind the Gospel gets undermined. The Gospel says that we are evil, God is good, God came from heaven, lived perfectly, wore our sin like a garment, died, put our sin to death, rose from the dead, and raises us to live with Him, free from and forgiven of our sin.
I believe that those first three words are the most important and the bedrock for everything else: we are evil. In other words, the first part necessitates the rest. If we weren’t evil, then God wouldn’t have to come from heaven and die a sinner’s death in our place. If we weren’t evil, Jesus didn’t need to suffer. If we weren’t evil, then we were never dead and we never needed to be made alive with Christ.
But we are, and it’s important to keep that in perspective.
In Luke 7, he tells about the woman who crashed Jesus’ dinner party with some Pharisees to kiss and anoint Jesus’ feet. Jesus tells Simon (the Pharisee who invited Him over) a parable in which two men are indebted to a moneylender, but are then relieved of their debt. One owed 50 denarii, the other 500. He then asks Simon, “who loves their lender more?” Simon rightly replies, “the one who owed him more.” Jesus tells Simon he answered correctly, and says that it’s obvious the woman has been forgiven of a lot by the extravagant love she poured upon Jesus.
But what I find interesting is the detail that both men in the parable owed. Neither of them were debt-free.
In my sometimes-unredeemed worldview, it’s easy to think that people have a moral leg up on me. If they make a lot of money, or if they are really outgoing and have a big personality, or if they’re braver and take more risks, or if they’re generous, or if they’re more patient, I start thinking they need forgiveness less than I do.
But the necessary perspective is this: they, I, and we ALL need forgiveness. Whether my debt is 50 or 500 denarii, it needs relieved. The Gospel is a leveler in this sense – it tells us that everyone has a debt, and nobody can pay their own. I’m as bad off as the millionare philanthropist who gives 50% of his earnings to charity and feeds the homeless, and I’m as bad off as the homeless people he feeds. I’m as bad off as the guy who works his butt off at his job, and I’m as bad off as the guy who shows up an hour late and leaves an hour early. I’m as bad as the thief, and I’m as bad as the accountant who balances the books. I’m as bad as the criminal and I’m as bad as the judge.
What a mercy that God does not determine forgiveness based on our merit – what a mercy that we are, in the eyes of God, all beggars. The rich and the poor; the lazy and the hard-working; the smart and the less intelligent; the brave and the coward; the liar and the honest – as one of my favorite songs says, “we are beggars all.”
But we are not only beggars – we are people God loves and showed mercy to by way of the cross. The cross, when seen in perspective with the depravity of our sin and our human state, is the most beautiful thing in history, because it gives hope to the hopeless.
This, I’m convinced, is what it means to have a heart that lives in eternal Easter: to see that I am necessarily forgiven. To live in relief that God loves me based on His own choice, not my own merit, and that God forgave me in Christ whether or not I see the necessity.