It’s Holy Week. My favorite holiday approaches.
Now don’t get me wrong: I love Christmas. It has gifts and cherished decorations and wonderful promises of good things to come. Not to mention the birth of the Savior of the World.
But as much as I love Christmas, I love Easter even more. Mostly because there’s less stress, which is huge. All I have to do for Easter is cook one big meal and fill Easter baskets…as opposed to planning food for a week, filling giant stockings, wrapping (and mailing), decorating and baking, baking, baking.
Yes, Easter is less stressful and the promise of spring makes everything seem a little more light-hearted. Not to mention the death of the Savior of the World.
Ummm, excuse me? Death of the Savior is a good thing? That’s not very Hollywood.
No, it’s not.
Resurrection, now that’s Hollywood!
But Good Friday is not a misnomer. Good Friday truly is good.
When I was a kid I didn’t really understand that. How can you call it “good” when Jesus died, for goodness sake? Well…just that. He died, for GOODness sake. For the sake of goodness everywhere. For the sake of goodness for all time.
For the sake of us.
Even though we are far from good.
The thing is, if he hadn’t died, we wouldn’t have been saved from our sins.
And that’s, unequivocally, good.
Yes, the birth of Jesus is fun. But it’s the death of Jesus that was the point of the whole birth thing. He was born to die. Not many of us come into the world with a known purpose. A few do. Heirs to the throne. Perhaps siblings, born with the hope that their blood or bone marrow or other such thing can help a brother or sister. But most of us are born for the simple reason that, hopefully at least, our parents loved each other and we came as the result of that love.
John 1, however, points Jesus in another direction. He came “not of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (vrs. 10). God had a plan for Jesus from the start. A good plan. A plan for good. A plan, as Jeremiah 29:11 puts it, to bring hope for the future.
Without that good and hopeful plan, our world would be stuck. Stuck under the law. Stuck with the consequences of our sin.
Easter falls, always, on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the first day of Spring. Passover – bear with me, this does connect with God’s good plan – falls on the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Nisan. This is always a full moon, but about 15 percent of the time, that full moon and the Easter full moon are not the same full moon.
Clear as mud?
Back in the year that Jesus died – 2023 years ago – Jesus was celebrating Passover on the weekend that he was arrested, crucified, buried and rose again. And so that first Holy Week was also Passover week.
What does this have to do with God’s good plan for us? It’s inextricably linked. Passover celebrates the exodus of the ancient Hebrews from their enslavement under Pharaoh in Egypt. Talk about a good – albeit convoluted – plan! The Salvation that enabled their exit from Egypt was brought about by the death of a pure sacrificial lamb. It’s blood protected them when the Angel of Death “passed over” their homes, ultimately leading to their escape, straight through the parted Red Sea.
It was entirely right that Jesus and his friends were celebrating this salvation, this most Holy of Holy holidays, at the time that he fulfilled our ultimate salvation. As they celebrated this ancient story of Exodus, Jesus wrote the next chapter of our salvific story. He became, for us, the sacrificial lamb. The perfect sacrifice. For all time and all people (Hebrews 10:10).
And that, my friends, is really why I like Easter better than Christmas. Yes, it took the death of Christ – which, at first blush, seems “bad” – but that death is the ultimate good in the world. Without that death we’d be dead, too. In our sins. Eternally. But because of that death – and the resurrection that followed – we live.
And that’s, unequivocally, good.