There is a decidedly worldly approach to Easter that even those who are comfortable with Easter eggs, Easter Bunnies, and the seasonal food and drink blow-out it has become find they regret. “Its too commercial,” people tell me, demonstrating at some level an emotional insight they can’t explain to themselves that the season might have a true meaning. They know somehow all this is wrong and yet, what does it look like when its right?
That is when some might find their way to a church come Good Friday, or Easter Sunday, searching for they know not what. There is simply a restlessness to have things other than the way they are. As is so often the case, they romanticise the different, the unfamiliar, convincing themselves that there is some formula to be found that makes everything good again. But they soon find that the church is less than perfect, some might say it is dysfunctional. Christians have their problems and struggle, themselves, with an imperfect faith.
Where is the religious formula that is meant to give everything meaning, to make a positive difference in my life? Other religions teach about peace and transcendence, ritual, form, and duty. mystical practices and contemplative disciplines. What about the Sermon on the Mount, or the Ten Commandments? Aren’t they a sort of formula, a pattern for the good life? Well, sort of…
You see, when a member of this vast dysfunctional family, the human race looks admiringly at the moral and ethical laws of the Christian faith he may well yearn to live by the Christian code, but he will immediately discover a problem; he can’t do it.
Have you ever noticed that no sooner is a law created than someone wants to break it? Put a hole in a fence and hang a sign saying, “Don’t Look in Here,” and what do people do? Put up a sign, “Wet Paint, Do Not Touch,” and what do people do? Erect a “No Parking” sign and what will people do?
Paul sums up the dilemma very well:
“So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.
Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Ro.7:20-24)
We see a code to live by and find it attractive (delight in the law of God in our inner being) but then find we, for some reason, compromise (see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind) This is the conflict everyone faces in their life. A frustrated Paul confesses, “I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.”
No wonder he cries in frustration, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”
So what is happening? Some religious people of Jesus’ day thought following a code of ritual cleanliness would put them right with God. Jesus said:
“What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person." (Mk.7:20-23)
We all have a heart problem. So we can yearn to be different, agree emotionally with the highest standards, want to do right, but “another law” in us fights against this impulse to good, making us do the opposite of what we intended. This is what the Bible calls sin. James describes sin’s progress in our lives:
“Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers.” (Js.1:14-16)
We have a heart problem and Easter is the story of how God stepped in, fixed the problem of the human heart, and changed everything.
The Bible puts it like this:
“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Ro.5:6-8)
Good Friday is when we remember that Jesus died for our sins, took the punishment we deserved, so that we could have our hearts changed, from hearts that issue in sin and rebellion to hearts that rejoice in righteousness and obedience.
The Christian’s life is one of learning to walk in the good of what God has done in Christ for sinners who turn to him in faith. But nothing of this is possible until our hearts are changed. That is why its important to know that Easter changes everything.
So the only question is, are you wise, or otherwise?