In one week’s time my friends and I, we’ll be celebrating. Rejoicing over the single most profound event in all of history. Pondering the most baffling truth in all the world. As if taking on tiny baby flesh wasn’t enough… now the exalted King of all things has traded places with me and made it right again. He’s taken all the broken places and made them whole again. He has gathered up all the shards – the shattered relationships, the selfish acts, the greedy thoughts; He’s swept them up and fashioned them into something more beautiful than the original sculpture. All at His own expense.
How is this not the best news ever heard? How is it that most of us would rather talk about bunnies and pastel eggs and new bonnets? Can’t we just talk about something sweet? Maybe tulips or lilies? Anything to distract us from having to really focus on the shock of what Jesus has done.
Why? Why do we push it away? Why do we let other things overshadow this profound truth? Don’t we want the broken places fixed?
I think I finally understand it. I think we DO want them fixed. At least many of us do. We know something is wrong. We see the shattered mess of the world. And we really want it fixed.
We just want to do it ourselves.
And there’s the rub. Easter Sunday is only truly a celebration if we are convinced we’d be hopeless and desperate without it.
John Stott captured it well in this short piece entitled Naked Pride:
“As we stand before the cross, we begin to gain a clear view both of God and of ourselves, especially in relation to each other. Instead of inflicting upon us the judgment we deserved, God in Christ endured it in our place… This is the ‘scandal,’ the stumbling-block, of the cross. For our proud hearts rebel against it. We cannot bear to acknowledge either the seriousness of our sin and the guilt or our utter indebtedness to the cross. Surely, we say, there must be something we can do, or at least contribute, in order to make amends?”
Yes, isn’t there something? Maybe I can be a little nicer to my annoying neighbor. Or go to church a bit more. Oh, and, I’ll totally stop cussing when the kids are around. Yes, I can pull this thing together if I just work a little harder. Put my nose to the grindstone and all of that. Come to think of it, what’s the big deal about Easter anyway? Oh yes, another religious holiday. Sure, I’ll go pay my dues. If God is lucky, I’ll even throw a little something in the plate as it goes by. Better yet, I’ll contribute to one of those clean water well projects in Africa. Yes, that’s what I’ll do. If we all just did something like that, this world would be a better place.
Ah… but Stott cuts across such platitudes, “The proud human heart is there revealed. We insist on paying for what we have done. We cannot stand the humiliation of acknowledging our bankruptcy and allowing somebody else to pay for us. The notion that this somebody should be God Himself is just too much to take. We would rather perish than repent, rather lose ourselves than humble ourselves…
“But we cannot escape the embarrassment of standing stark naked before God. It is no use our trying to cover up like Adam and Eve in the garden. Our attempts at self-justification are as ineffectual as their fig-leaves. We have to acknowledge our nakedness, see the Divine Substitute wearing our filthy rags instead of us, allow Him to clothe us with His own righteousness.”
And it is right there. In that naked place of realization. There that Easter Sunday becomes the grandest celebration. The best news we’ve ever heard.
May your preparation this week be blessed. Both as you ponder your own nakedness and as you embrace the beautiful garment offered to clothe you.
Grace and peace,