Easter is my favorite holiday and I’m annoyed that COVID-19 is ruining our typical Easter traditions. This threat of sickness that is terrorizing the world has forced everyone into a life of isolation. Grocery store shelves empty. Schools closed indefinitely. Churches streaming online. Office buildings shut down. No cure. Just fear.
It’s times like these, when we have to look hard to find the good in a scary series of unknown circumstances, that we forget God’s faithfulness. But Philippians 4:4 says that we should rejoice in the Lord always! Not sometimes. All the time. Because, regardless of what we are facing as a world or what you are facing personally, God’s blessings still exist and they are worth celebrating!
Jesus demonstrates this idea of celebrating in the midst of pain in the hours leading up to His crucifixion. You think coronavirus is bad? Consider what Jesus endured. (You can find these events in Matthew 26-28; Mark 14-16; Luke 22-24; and John 12-20)
After The Last Supper, Jesus and His disciples went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. This is where Jesus was found, thanks to Judas’ betrayal, and arrested. The Jewish religious leaders condemned Jesus and, for the first time in His earlthy ministry, Jesus began to experience extreme physical torture. He had his beard torn out, He was slapped, and He was spit on.
From there they sent Jesus, exhausted and bruised, to stand trial before Pilate. Pilate found no fault in Jesus and passed the responsibility of punishment to Herod who quickly returned Him to Pilate. Pilate, feeling defeated, allowed the Jewish mob to make a critical decision for him and released Barabbas (a Jewish prisoner) while sentencing Jesus to scourging and crucifixion.
Jesus had his clothes removed and his hands tied to a post far above his head to reveal the most skin possible. A flagrum, which was a whip with nine leather strips that held sharp objects on each end, was brought down again and again over His bare flesh slicing through layers of skin and muscle. It tore Jesus’ body apart, from the outside to the inside, leaving Him completely mutilated and unrecognizable.
After untying Jesus’ body, the soldiers took an opportunity to thoroughly mock Him. A robe was thrown around His shoulders and thorny branches, wound together to mimic a crown, were forced into His scalp. When they were finished, Jesus’ appearance was disfigured beyond that of any human being and His form marred beyond any human likeness. (Isaiah 52:14)
The patibulum, the crossbar of a cross, was tied to Jesus’ shoulders and His procession down the Via Dolorosa, a processional route in the city Jerusalem, began. He stumbled and fell and His body was pushed beyond its limits. After arriving at Golgotha the crucifiction began.
Jesus’ arms were stretched out on the patibulum while wrought iron nails were driven through each wrist. The patibulum was moved into place where, feet crossed and toes facing down, a final nail was driven into the arches of His feet, holding Jesus in an upright position. And that’s where he stayed, the fate of the world resting on His shoulders, in total agony.
Crucifixion was intended to be a slow and painful death. The sufferer would push up on the nail in their feet to keep from suffocating for hours, or even days, until the body became too exhausted. Every inch of Jesus’ body would have been screaming in pain and yet, He does something remarkable! He asks God to forgive those who are killing Him. (Luke 23:34) In that moment, Jesus demonstrates and celebrates His love for us!
As Christ, followers we know that the story is far from over. An earthquake happened. The temple veil was torn in two. Jesus died and, with Him, the Old Covenant came to an end. Jesus was laid in a guarded tomb but death could not hold Him… and with His resurrection, the New Covenant began.
We recognize Good Friday and celebrate Easter because these events were necessary. It is what needed to happen in order for us to have direct access to God. It is because of what Jesus did that we are ushered into the throne room of the Creator Himself. God’s grace and mercy impact our lives every day – in ways we may not see or understand. This is where we find our joy. This is what fills us with hope.
So, in the midst of world chaos, I encourage you to remember that Heaven is our home, not earth. Keep your eyes on the prize! Use your days not in panic, but in celebration of the One who loves you! Who died for You! And don’t forget to rejoice in the gifts God has given you even in the depths of difficult circumstances. Faith. Family. Friends. Health. Career. Home. There are always reasons to celebrate God’s glory!