When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die.
I have always been extremely impressed with the way Jesus Christ turned everything we thought we knew on it's head. To be exalted, you need to be humbled. To be great, you need to be a servant. And in order to live, you need to first die.
I wonder if this was on Abraham's mind as he took Isaac up Mt. Moriah for what he knew would be none less than a human sacrifice. And I wonder if Isaiah knew that he would be sawn in half when he said those infamous words, "Here am I, send me."
Friends, I am becoming more and more keenly aware that we have all been invited, pulled inextricably into that crux moment in history where true love and pure wrath met, where unrestricted grace touched unbridled judgment, where beauty and horror embraced, where the vertical and horizontal were nailed together, and salvation and damnation were clearly hung out for the entire world to see. And we are asked to make a choice: Who lives? Who dies?
"As I contemplated the spiritual journey of Holy Week . . . I knew this was not a week for shopping, vacation, parties, or hilarity. I sensed this was the week that above all weeks was to be set aside for the journey into death. I knew the worship of the church would take me by the hand and lead me step-by-step into the experience of death and rebirth, if I would allow it to do so. I resolved then and there to walk in the way of the cross. I purposed to make this the week God intended it to be for me, a week of intense spiritual struggle--and reward!"
Robert Webber, Ancient-Future Time: Forming Spirituality through the Year
(Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2004), 118-119.
I remember being blown away by the Sunday School wall in a persecuted church in Antioch, Turkey. There they had hung portions of scripture that were to be summarily memorized by their children. Of course there were the usual verses that we in the west might expect, like "Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become Children of God", and "Let the little children come unto me…"
What I wasn't prepared for was this one: "For if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord's." Not the normal Sunday School verse for little children, unless you realize that training up a child in the way he should go, as followers of Christ, is to experientially understand that unless one is dead to self, one cannot really live.
My friends, Christians do not celebrate Easter. They celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and should be unembarrassed to say and do so, for it is only here that we can find and have true life. Neither do we embrace pagan fertility rites (even if we are sometimes, like in our own lives, found ignominiously scrambling around for painted eggs and marshmallow chickies). Rather, like Jesus Christ, we were born for the life of the cross, the tomb, and of course the power and reality of the Resurrection. Let us therefore be unashamedly "baptized" into this, for it is in this that we truly "live, and move, and have our being".
Have an awesome Holy Week, and Resurrection Sunday!