Wednesday, March 14, 2012

What is Easter?

It's been asked many ways: What is the reason for Easter? Why is Good Friday good? It's an important question, so here's my best answer.

The Problem
To understand Easter, you have to start at the beginning.

Humans were made for fellowship with God. They were originally morally pure, innocent. But they learned to sin. The first humans rebelled against God, and that rebellion changed them. They were no longer pure. From that point on, they violated God's standard in every way imaginable. Most of all, they lived as if they were center of the universe. They were in a constant state of rebellion.

When they reproduced, that rebellious nature passed on to every descendant — including you and me. It ruined the world. People invented murder almost immediately. They spent the next few generations sinking into worse and worse depravity.

God said he would fix things, but before He fixed it, He needed to show us how bad the problem really was. God chose a people and gave them a special purpose, a special mission. The people didn't change. So He gave them special rules, but they couldn't keep them. Then God gave them a special place; they defiled it. He gave them better leadership, but the leaders turned out to be worse than the regular people. So He punished them severely, but they didn't learn the lesson — they still wouldn't, or rather couldn't, keep the rules or live any kind of truly moral life.

Why is that such a big deal? Because when humans learned to sin, they joined a rebellion — a rebellion against God's moral order. Treason has to be punished. If history has shown nothing else, it's clear that corruption will spread. It has to be destroyed, or it will destroy everything.

God had created Hell for the angels who rebelled. When humans joined the rebellion, it became our punishment too. To remove the cancer of this moral corruption, God would have to remove the corrupt. And God had proven that humans could not stop being corrupt.

Good Friday
If God didn't want to destroy all of humanity, He was going to have to take drastic measures. And that's what He did.

God became flesh. This is Christmas: God became a human being, Jesus. Because He was human, He could stand in our place. Because He was God, He could succeed where we failed.

Jesus lived a morally perfect life. He conformed to God's moral standard in everything.

And we killed Him for it.

But that was what God intended. His death was not a random act of violence. Jesus' death was to pay the price for our rebellion. He took the punishment for our crimes; He paid our debt to God. That's what makes Good Friday good.

He remained dead for three days. On the third day, on Easter, Jesus returned to life. It may sound impossible at first, but it really is a story no one would make up.

His body wasn't just turned back on, though. It was made new. From that point on, He became a glimpse of what God intended us to be. Though He has a physical body, it will never die. It is completely removed from the corruption we brought into this world.

So what?
Using modern medicine as a metaphor, what Jesus did was make a medicine for us. We still have to choose to take the pill.

If we take the pill, our sin — our lifetime of rebellion against God — is forgiven. Past, present, and future. But we're also changed; not completely, not yet, but we're changed. Something is put inside us that is capable of what we never were before: wanting to live at peace with God and actually doing it.

It starts as a seed, but it's a seed that will grow until we become like Jesus. We start to love properly. We can forgive the way we should forgive. Truly selfless generosity becomes possible. The thoughts and feelings at the core of everything we do starts to change.

And because of that change, when the day comes to finally end the rebellion, to destroy all the corruption, the bad part of us will be removed and the good part will remain in the presence of joy incarnate — forever. At least, that's true for everyone who took the cure.

How do you take the pill?
The medicine is what Jesus did through His death and resurrection. You take the medicine by consciously deciding to trust in His death and resurrection to 1) pay the price for your sin and 2) do the task of pleasing God — of living up to His standard — and 3) by deciding to make Jesus, rather than yourself, king of your life.

It's easy to explain, but harder to do. But it is oh so important.

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