Contributed by Virginia Holmstrom. This is the final post in our Lenten/Easter series. Scripture readings for Easter Sunday are Acts 10:34-43 or Jeremiah 31:1-6; Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24; Colossians 3:1-4 or Acts 10:34-43; John 20:1-18 or Matthew 28:1-10.
Christ the Lord is risen today! Allelujah! Easter Sunday is Resurrection Sunday. On Easter we celebrate Christ’s victory over suffering, sin, and death itself. And through faith in Christ, we declare our victory over sin and death and we claim the Christian hope that we, too, shall one day be resurrected into new life one day, to live eternally with God.
It’s easy for me to think of Easter Sunday as “Grace Sunday.” We approach the day with gladness and gratitude that God did not abandon his son after all. I admit that I’m right there in the story, at the head of the line, anticipating the same welcome by God to receive me when my earthly days are done. Easter Sunday means grace! We are victors over sin and death!
In so doing, I am realizing my own reluctance to heed the rest of the Gospel story: Jesus called his followers to follow him to the cross: to not only stand at the foot of the cross, but to hang with Jesus on the cross. What a personal risk! Dare I give up my comfortable life and practice such radical discipleship? Yet how much more profound the Easter story would be for me, if I were nailed with Jesus on the cross.
Jesus emptied himself of every divine privilege; he took the form of a human being, humbling himself, and was obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross (Philippians 2:7-8). Jesus taught, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me,” (Matthew 16:24). Over and over, Christ calls us to give up the privileges that cause us to rely on ourselves and less on God. He tells us that the first shall be the last, and the last shall be the first. He pronounces grace and forgiveness to the woman about to be stoned, not to the crowd upholding the law. He restores wholeness to the bent-over woman on the Sabbath, and condemns the religious leaders trying to keep the Sabbath day holy. I am beginning to notice in these Gospel stories how in reaching out to persons that are suffering, Jesus is lifting them from the “cross” from which they hang: his grace restores their life. These are good news stories that mirror the Easter resurrection story!
As you serve God in the coming days, you will surely encounter individuals that are suffering physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually. The resurrection story is especially for them! Extend grace to them. Be the hands and feet and voice of Christ to release them from the cross they bear.
If the resurrection story has been your story, as it has been mine, then perhaps we need to hear anew Christ’s call to follow him to the cross, forsaking ourselves to become more like Christ. Ponder the upside-down-ness of it all: The last shall be first. The first shall be last. It’s the Gospel truth.