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A promise of hope

By Jefferson Weaver

The pictures tell part of the story, but never the whole thing.

My Sister the Troll in an Easter dress and hat holding a fat toddler – me – on the porch of our home in Keener. An older version of me (not quite as fat) singing in church. My father, brother Mike and myself in aprons cleaning up after a big family dinner. A friend sitting in the center of a group of little kids telling the story of Resurrection Day. My nieces racing across my in-laws’ yard, hunting eggs we assiduously hid a half-hour before.

The pictures tell some of the story of Easter, but not the whole one.

We commonly use the term “Easter,” despite its pagan roots, because Resurrection Day is easily pinned down on a calendar, much moreso than Christmas. Some would call it coincidence that Passover, the Festival of Ishtar and Resurrection Day land around the same time; I don’t believe in coincidences.

Our society continues to drift farther from Christianity and embrace more secular ideas; for many, the dogma has gotten in the way of the basic doctrine, and I am of the concerted opinion that any time humans get to thinkin’ too much, nothing good comes of it. Sadly, some folks turn God’s word in the way they want it to read, and as such, other folks turn away from God for that reason.

We want the easy, the comfortable, the palatable. We want to be able to convince ourselves that no matter what we have done, it isn’t as bad as that sorry so-and-so over there. We have handheld computers that allow us to communicate instantly around the world, and the ability to cure diseases. We help the poor and the hungry. We create machines and ways to power them. We can turn a wilderness into a city.

We want to be our own masters, to think we are the smartest and mightiest of all. We humans are great and powerful.

But we really aren’t.

We think we can love – and we do, in many ways – but we can never show the love that was shown by Jesus Christ as he willingly went to Calvary for the sins of every person ever born, who ever would be born. We tell ourselves, but I’m a good person. I’m much better than other people. I’m not a sinner. Nobody had to die for me.

Salvation can’t be earned, folks. It was bought and paid for by the only one who could ever truly live a sinless life, and it was given to us at a place where the worst members of society were killed in the most excruciating way humans could imagine at the time. People like to be able to measure ourselves against others – money, reputation, good or bad deeds, just plain stuff – but we are not measured against each other in the end. We are measured against one who outdistanced us all, and the best we can ever do on our own is but a poor, dim reflection. What we do here on Earth, good as it might be, is worthless if it isn’t for the right reasons. That’s why sacrifices were once so important, to atone as best as man could before a perfect God. And that’s why there could only be one truly perfect sacrifice for all of mankind. That’s why Christ had to die. And that’s why he rose again – because he loves us all the same, regardless of what we have or have done, whether it’s good or bad.

Easter – Resurrection Day – is not about the first of beach season, or time off from work, or fishing, or baseball, or turkey hunting, or enjoying little kids hunt for eggs and consume candy (which, let’s face it, most of us enjoy, too). It isn’t about a giant rabbit who presence was supposed to ensure good crops, good calves, and more children to tend those crops and animals. It’s about salvation, love and forgiveness.

Now, I will snatch a colored egg or two from my nieces; I will likely even steal some candy here and there along the way. I’ll visit with my family, and talk about times gone by. I’ll enjoy the warming weather – at least, if it ever gets warm and springlike again. I might even take the time to go fishing, since that was always a tradition in our family. I can’t sit still long enough to watch a ballgame on TV, and you couldn’t pay me enough to make me drive to the beach on a normal weekend.

I won’t be shaking a finger and calling for hellfire and brimstone at anyone who poses their kid with someone in a giant bunny suit. While I will gently point out if someone mixes the secular and the sacred, and I won’t blow smoke to make someone feel better, I’m not a fan of trying to frighten the devil out of people in order to scare them into Heaven.

But none of that is what Easter is all about. The real reason behind Resurrection Day is really simple: For God so loved the world, that he gave his only son, that whosoever believes in him will not perish, but have everlasting life. Many of us know versions of John 3:16 by heart, but we forget about John 3:17 – For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.

There was only one way that every man, woman and child could be assured eternity with God, and that was through the willing sacrifice of His Son. That’s his promise.

The beauty of the story is that he rose victorious over death and sin, and we can as well. Can you imagine the joy in the faces of the women at the Garden when they saw him that Sunday morning? Their joy grew from the deepest of sorrow, the sorrow they felt after having watched someone they loved, and who obviously loved everyone, die and be laid in a tomb.

When they met Christ again that morning, they knew there was hope.

And that, my friends, is what Resurrection Day – Easter, if you prefer – is actually all about. The promise that even in this mixed-up, dangerous, mean-spirited world, there is a something much better to come, a promise that no picture could ever capture – a promise to everyone, a promise of hope.

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