For those of us who are Christians, this week is the most important and holiest of the year.
We begin the week remembering Jesus’ triumphal entrance into Jerusalem, walk with Him through his last teachings in the Temple, watch the last supper with His disciples, sadly witness His arrest and trial before the Sanhedrin and Pilate, view with tears his torture and crucifixion, and sorrow over his death and burial – only to wake up on Easter Sunday to the miracle of His Resurrection.
There is so much meaning in this week that it is hard to pull out just one message.
His suffering wasn’t just physical, although Roman flogging and crucifixion were brutal even by the standards of that brutal time. He was betrayed by one of his disciples, a close friend. He was arrested, beaten and tried by his own people, who ultimately turned Him over to the enemy Romans, demanding the death penalty. Pilate gave the people the decision to save Him, and they, after praising Him effusively just a few days earlier, call for His execution.
On the cross He cried out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” not so much for the physical pain He suffered but because at that point He took on the sins of all people. Sin is ultimately the separation of each person from God. Earlier in the Gospels, Jesus said “I and the Father are one.” To take on the sins of the whole world meant the ultimate separation from God, and that was the worst torture for Jesus.
And yet He took it all on willingly, fulfilling the Suffering Servant prophesies of Isaiah. That suffering and death were just the prelude to the true triumph over sin and death in the Resurrection.
In our much too busy world, where we are easily distracted from the Truth, and our ultimate calling as the hearers and beneficiaries of the Truth, we need to not just hear this story but let it sink deeply into our lives. If God loves us so much that He will allow His Son to be tortured and killed, surely we can return the favor by loving Him and one another.
As I have noted in years past, we are truly a blessed nation with the freedoms we enjoy. We have the freedom to worship or not worship as we please, without interference from the government.
Sadly, there are many throughout the world who do not have that freedom.
In 1630, John Winthrop addressed a group of colonists bound for Massachusetts in the New World. He told them, “We shall be as a city upon a hill, the eyes of all people are upon us.”
This imagery came from the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus says, “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden.” (Matthew 5:14)
Many Americans are familiar with this same “shining city on a hill” idea President Reagan used throughout his presidency and his life.
There is an inner light, shining to the world, that comes from the people of the United States thanks to the freedoms we enjoy, the love and kindness that we share with one another, and our strong foundations.
Much of that light permeated the early beginnings of this country. Our nation was built upon a strong foundation of Biblical values and morals and laws that shine brightly to the rest of the world.
The ancient Easter greeting resonates with me every day:
Alleluia! The Lord is risen! The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!