“But he wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5
When I was a child, Easter was one of my favorite holidays. I loved coloring eggs; it made me feel like Faberge designing eggs for the Russian Tsar, albeit with pastel swirls and stickers. Easter morning, I would search for my Easter basket and dive into the candy; Brach’s jelly beans, marshmallow cream eggs and Peeps. Those of us born before the 90s didn’t have the option of Starburst Jelly Beans, Reese’s Eggs, or Godiva Easter Bunnies. Our Peeps only came in yellow, and the fake chocolate that coated the marshmallow eggs was considered a delectable treat! After devouring the candy, we would go to my grandparents and eat the traditional ham, potato casserole and my grandmother’s famous fruit salad.
When I became a Christian, Easter came to mean more than just eggs, ham and cheap candy. It is a celebration of Jesus’ resurrection, the basis of my salvation and the center of my hope. I still carried on some of the old childhood traditions with my children. We colored eggs and put together Easter baskets full of better candy, books, crafts and toys. We had Easter egg hunts, although our children had to wear snow pants and winter coats while searching for plastic eggs in the bitter Wisconsin spring! I searched for the perfect Easter outfits for my children, dressing them up in their best for Easter Sunday service. We balanced these traditions with intentional teaching about the true meaning of Easter. This included the Resurrection Egg hunt, reading the Easter story as a family, and worshipping together in our local church.
This year, I was really looking forward to Easter. My husband and I had written and were directing an Easter drama for our church. The final dress rehearsal was supposed to be tonight and the performance tomorrow. It was amazing to see how the whole congregation pulled together, developing and using talents they didn’t know they had, and stepping outside of their comfort zones to minister to our community. Obviously, the current pandemic has forced us to cancel the drama. But I don’t want this to be another blog about loss, or what we can learn from this crisis. Instead, I want to share with you what I learned by writing this Passion play based on Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.
By no means can I pen the words of Jesus’ life better than the actual God-inspired scripture found in the gospels. I encourage you to spend some time reading the accounts for yourself. As you read, I want to point out a few things that have struck me about the life of Jesus.
First, he spent his three years ministering to broken people. These people didn’t have it all together, they engaged in self-destructive behaviors, and were deemed failures by society. Their actions resulted in broken families, criminal behavior and terrible reputations. Yet Jesus chose to spend time with them, and in some cases, went out of his way to find them. He showed them kindness and compassion. He didn’t condemn them, but encouraged them to be honest about their sins, telling them that their broken lives could be made whole. Their lives, including the adulterous woman, the man with leprosy, and the Samaritan woman at the well, were permanently changed by just being in the presence of Jesus!
Second, Jesus loved his friends, his twelve chosen disciples, despite knowing that they would all betray him in the hour of his greatest need. These twelve men spent three years with Jesus, witnessed him performing miracles, listened to him teach, and watched him minister to others. They knew the true character of Jesus, beyond what the crowds saw. They knew that this man was without sin, full of integrity and holding no bitterness against anyone. His character on the shores of Galilee was the same as it was while praying in Gethsemane. Yet when Jesus faced the crowds sealing his fate with rabid shouts of “Crucify him”, none of his disciples stood up to defend him. Instead, they deserted him and, in one case, denied even knowing him!
Third, his death was brutal, bloody and painfully personal. There was nothing clean about his death: he was beaten, shredding his flesh and exposing bone. He was hung on a cross with nails in his hands and feet and a crown of thorns pressed into his skull. A spear was cruelly driven into his side until every drop of blood was wrung from his tortured body! The painfully personal part is that he was completely innocent, yet he suffered all of this so that I, Sherry Collins, wouldn’t have to pay the ultimate price of death for my sins; sins like bad attitudes, lies, gossip, betrayals and so much more! The consequences of my sin would have meant death and eternal separation from God! Yet Jesus paid the price for my sin!!! And through his resurrection, he gave me hope that I can overcome sin and spend eternity with Him!
These three revelations are not new to me. I have been a Christian for over thirty years and have meditated on the gospel accounts before, drawing some of the same conclusions. Yet, this year, I have spent some time examining my own brokenness in a little more depth. This brokenness was a result of a childhood filled with abuse, causing deep wounds and much pain. This brokenness led to self-image problems, obesity and relationship challenges. In reading the accounts of Jesus, I have often wondered what brokenness was experienced by the people to whom he ministered. For example, did the adulterous woman come from a home where her step-father sexually assaulted her? Did the Samaritan woman at the well grow up in an alcoholic family? We don’t know what caused any of them to sin, but it likely stemmed from brokenness, just as it did in my life.
My brokenness is not an excuse for sin, nor is it justification for any of my shortcomings. Yet, despite my sin and shortcomings, Jesus was broken so that my brokenness could be made whole. In Psalms 147:3, the psalmist records, “He healeth the broken in heart and bindeth up their wounds.” This was a prophetic promise to me in my future. Jesus’ death and resurrection would heal the brokenness in my life, and I am forever thankful for this healing! This Easter, I will have my Peeps and my ham dinner, but more importantly, I will have the wholeness that the brokenness of Jesus has given!