Wednesday 20 March 2024

Remembering Easter

Easter sort of snuck up on me this year. My mind said it should happen in April as it usually does, but my son assured me that every four years we celebrate this sacred and glorious day in March. I guess leap year is sort of like daylight savings time. We know it's going to happen but are never quite prepared to have our sleeping cycles or our thoughts and plans disturbed. I don't know about anyone else, but even small changes in my routine have an unsettling effect and cause me to rethink even the simplest things.

But with a few adjustments I think I will be ready to put my heart into the meaning of the season now that it is just a little over a week away. A small gift has been put in the mail for my grandson. He was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes at three so all the seasonal candy is out of the question, but he's really smart and loves most anything he can build or rebuild and electronic gadgets are always a hit. I gave my granddaughter a new outfit last Sunday and the grand dogs a treat. For their parents I got solar-powered radios with a ton of different features and ways to charge them. I believe they will be important to have if the power outages that are raging across Europe hit our shores. I was even lucky enough to get a great deal on two generators so no one will lose everything in their freezers again. I've had it happen twice and my son once and having to throw out over a thousand dollars in frozen food without being able to salvage a single item is not something I want to experience again.

Since I have a new calling in my church, I'll be helping with an Easter party this Saturday. I've never attended one in my eight years of living here because I no longer have young children at home, but helping other families have a good breakfast and watching the little ones hunt for Easter eggs might be fun. It's certainly gotten me thinking about how my family of origin celebrated Easter when I was a child. While most of my memories have been severely limited due to the psychological trauma I received at the age of five, I know holidays had to be a special time when there were anywhere between one and seven children involved. 

I do remember the easter baskets with colorful strips of wood running around their circumferences and dying lots of eggs that were basically fresh from the henhouse. I say basically because they had to be a few days old or we couldn't peel the skins off without losing half of the egg. Daddy would hide them around the front yard and we would count the number found until all were accounted for. We would eat them with pepper and salt while mother turned at least a dozen of them into deviled eggs to eat with our Sunday meal. We would each get a large, hollow, chocolate easter bunny along with assorted jelly beans and the big, hard-shelled, marshmallow eggs that I dearly loved because of the way my mouth and tongue felt as the insides dissolved.

I tried to find them this year, only to discover that they were discontinued last summer because the cost of sugar made it prohibitive for the candy company to make them. How sad it is that skyrocketing inflation is making it impossible for people in the most free and prosperous nation on earth to no longer enjoy some of life's most simple pleasures. And even sadder is the fact that it wouldn't be this way if the people at the top of the food chain could see what their greed and lack of compassion and understanding has done to middle class Americans who are the true backbone of our nation. 

These hard-working individuals are forced to experience the demise of their personal American dream as they keep cutting back on needs, wants and desires while those pesky, unlawful taxes are increasing more rapidly than ever. But the funds basically stollen from us will never be enough to support the life styles of those who refuse to work, those who come over the border illegally and expect everything to be handed to them and those selfish and unethical millionaires and billionaires who will never have enough and are always finding loopholes so they can keep what they have and add to it at our expense. As far ahead as we can possibly look our descendants will never be able to repay the national debt as it expands a trillion dollars every one-hundred days on interest alone.

But that's something to discuss at another time. Prophesy is rapidly being fulfilled, and while it might not happen in my lifetime, I have every reason to believe that some of the people alive today might just be lucky enough to be here when the Savior makes his triumphant return. That's when every knee will bow and every tongue confess that he is our Savior, Redeemer and Son of the Living God. It gives me goosebumps and makes the tears form just thinking about how glorious that event will be regardless of our vantage point when it happens. The stage is certainly being set and we cannot allow our hearts to fail us. It is an exciting time to be alive, but it is also a time to pay attention to what is going on around us and throughout the world. It can be a scary sometimes because we have no idea who is telling the truth. But if we are as prepared as we can possibly be we have nothing to fear, even if our mortal life ends. There is an amazing eternity waiting for us if we put our faith and trust in our Heavily Father who created us.

I want to take just a few minutes and tell you some of the things I've learned this year about that calm and beautiful Easter Morning so many years ago. The story is not new to any real Christian and is one filled with betrayal, sorrow, unbelievable suffering, false rulings, degradation, fear and tough lessons learned, but it is also a testament to never-ending love, full compassion, complete understanding and an abundance of hope, light and eternal rejoicing. It is the most remarkable event that ever transpired, and righteous and wicked alike will receive eternal life because of it. 

W. Cleon Skousen has written a remarkable book titled Days of the Living Christ that offers a new insight into scriptural passages many of us have been raised reading. He has spend much time in Jerusalem and the surrounding area and is both knowledgeable about the culture and the Bible, along with being an amazing storyteller that makes seemingly complicated topics come alive. His writing is filled with understanding, fresh insight and a thoughtful approach as to how some of the more minor characters may have felt about the events unfolding around them. I just happened to be at the conclusion of the book last week and my heart was completely impacted by some of the tender things I read.

A week before Christ was crucified by his own people, he stood on a hilltop and looked across the valley at the city of Jerusalem and wept. These were his people about to crucify him, and it would only be a few days before they clamored for his death and chanted His blood be upon us, and on our children. That invocation would bring such a disaster to his people that never again would the Jews be united as a nation until the latter days. Never again would they be gathered together in freedom, peace and prosperity until they had drunk the very last dregs of the bitter cup they had asked for. But they were still his people, and it was no accident that they had been chosen in Heaven to help him get through this cruel yet necessary assignment of suffering on the cross. And as horrible as their actions were, they would do it without being robbed of their opportunity for Salvation when the right time arose.

The physical cross he was required to carry weighed between seventy-five and a hundred pounds and the Savior was in a weakened condition after his unbelievable suffering in Gethsemane, being scourged with a deadly weapon that could strip the ribcage of the offender to the bone, and having a crown with two to three inch thorns shoved down on his head. His heart must have been heavy indeed because along with his personal sacrifices he knew how much his remaining eleven apostles were suffering as they watched their hopes for a glorious kingdom slowly expire. They would not receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost as a constant companion and be able to understand that Christ's Kingdom was not of the earth until days after his resurrection. 

And once he stood upright on the cross where even breathing was nearly impossible, he continued to teach those around him. The Light of Christ that every human being is born with, and that exists with him or her until that gift is thrown away by disobedience and hardheartedness, was working overtime on one of the two thieves tied with ropes to crosses next to him. The more penitent one confessed Christ as the Lord and wanted to accept him as the Messiah. But with complete love Jesus taught him that confessing the Lord's existence is not an automatic assurance of salvation nor a passport into "paradise". It is an important first step, but it must be followed by repentance, baptism, complete reception of the Holy Ghost and then faithful endurance on a prolonged course that ascends upward until it reaches the presence of Christ and eventually the glory of the Father. Christ said: "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doth the will of my Father which is in heaven."

Part of the Savior's test on the cross was to have his Father's spirit fully withdraw from him; plunging him into that outer region of complete darkness where there is nothing but "weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth." This complete withdrawal of the strength that had previously sustained him must have come as a complete shock because it caused him to cry out in the ninth hour of his great suffering: "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me?"   

We do not know how long Jesus was left suspended in that agonizing region of darkness, but certainly long enough to satisfy the stringent requirements for His role as the Messiah-Redeemer. When the Father's spirit returned, Jesus knew it was almost over. He had done it. He had drunk the bitter cup to the very dregs. Equally important, the Father's ordeal was over too. It could now be declared with heavenly choirs and trumpets that: "For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved."

Jesus had the power to retain his life until he was willing to surrender it. When he said: "it is finished," it meant he knew he had fulfilled his manifest destiny. His last words were, "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit." Then he died. At that moment, Jesus became the Christ, the great Messiah-Redeemer. How gloriously unselfish, beautiful and divine his precious gift is.

The Savior's body was placed in the tomb of a wealthy man, Jospeh of Arimathaea, who had likely accepted his teachings. It was sealed and guards were placed to watch it because the rulers who had put him there were afraid what he claimed might actually happen or that some of his disciples would try to steal his body. What is ironic is that none of Jesus's followers were expecting him to be resurrected or even claiming that he would be. They were completely bewildered by what had happened and their faith had been shaken so badly they had retreated to the house where the Last Supper had been held to figure out what they were going to do next.

After three day the miracle happened. The ground shook, the stone rolled away of its own accord and an angel appeared before the guards who were watching the tomb. They were sufficiently frighted and hurried to tell the elders what had happened. However, they were not chastised but were given a large sum of money to tell anyone who asked that Jesus's disciples had come by night and stolen him away while they slept. 

Even the women who came to anoint his body early that Monday morning did not believe he would be resurrected on the third day. They simply had to wait until the holiday celebrations and Sabbath observance were over. The women were met by the same angel and given the same message as the guards, but they didn't understand the ramifications either and fled from the sepulchre with fear and trembling to find a quiet place to regain their composure.

Meanwhile, Mary Magdalene hurried to find the apostles to tell them what she thought the heavenly messenger had said. Nine of the eleven did not move after hearing her message, but Peter and John ran towards the garden. After seeing with their own eyes that Jesus's body was gone they slowly rejoined the other men. Mary must have reentered the garden after they left because this was when the Savior chose to make his presence known, but he withheld his glory. His only badge of identification were the marks in his hands, feet and side. So it did not appear to be a heavenly being - just an ordinary man - who called out to her and asked; "Woman, why weepest thou? Whom seeketh thou?"

When she suddenly recognized the voice, she cried out: "Rabboni!" which means "my master."

What an unbelievable moment that must have been. But one day each of us will have the same experience as we meet our Eldest Brother, Savior and Redeemer again. Will will see the wounds he bore for us, the love in his eyes and fall at his feet and cover them with tears of gratitude and joy. How beautiful this season of new birth is and how lucky we are to have knowledge of the greatest gift the world had ever known. May we rejoice for the blessings we daily receive and all that is eternally possible because of Christ's life and mission on earth. It truly is a most glorious time to live. 

No comments:

Post a Comment