Each year at Easter there seems to be an other aspect of the Easter story that becomes meaningful. The basic story is clear. As a Christian I believe that Jesus was not just an ordinary man or preacher – he was much more than that.
In the Bible (and if I am right in the Quran as well he is called “the word of God” and it is said that by His Word God created everything. And this word – in some ways the very essence of God if one can call it this way – took the form of a human being – Jesus the Messiah.
The one side of the story is that people could not handle the beauty, but also challenge of their wrong ways that the living word of God brought to surface as they interacted with Him. And they chose to imprison, torture and kill him.
On the other side Jesus the Messiah knew that everybody on this planet was far from God because of the wrong they thought and did. And everyone deserves to be punished…and being holy and blameless and perfect – he chose to be punished in our place – so that we could receive God´ pardon. Like two people I read about who threw themselves on a friend they wanted to protect from extremists. They got beaten to death. He survived.
Someone taking my place in punishment – that is what I believe Jesus, the word of God alive, did. That is why we call this horrible day where Jesus was tortured and killed “Good Friday”..because he did it in our place….
Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Prophet Isaiah about the Messiah (Isaiah 53)
And because the Word of God is powerful, indestructible and mighty – death could not hold him and he came back to life after three days. That´s what we celebrate on Easter.
This story is unbelievable …. and I do not blame anyone who says he finds this hard to believe… I sometimes think that this is almost crazy… a God who so loves us that he sacrifices himself…. crazy with love.
My past Easters – sunrise and miracles
One of the most memorable Easter I can remember was when I decided to attend a Sunrise service at the other end of the city. (Easter can mean “red sunrise”). I cycled through the night for more than an hour. No cars and people on the street. We started singing in a dark church with only one candle that gave a little light. No faces and forms were visible. Then more and more the light came in “Day is when you can distinguish the face of a brother from a stranger!” It touched me and reminded me of the fact that God wants to bring light in the areas of my heart that are dark, fearful and alone.
And then last year Easter was a time of grieving. One of my best friends had suffered a stroke and his main brain stopped working completely (only one little part still was a little bit alive). He was dying. The doctors had zero hope. I spend the week grieving about the los of a friend and still hoping and praying for a miracle. On Easter Monday the doctor spoke with the wife of my friend about turning off the breathing and feeding machines and removing his organs – so they could serve another person.
Then he moved. The doctors checked on him. He could hear them, could react. The doctor left the room screaming in shock. This does not happen with that kind of injury. Since that day my friend Matthias has recovered dramatically. There still are problems – but he can walk, talk, act… So this Easter for me was an Easter where I saw the power of God who can restore people who are (almost) dead. An Easter of Miracles.
This Easter- feeling with my Syrian friends
This Easter most of my thoughts go to my friends from Syria, Gaza and other parts of the World where there is suffering. I have become friends with a number of newcomers in my city and country. And they allow me to see their world – through their stories shared while drinking coffee or on Facebook. Like everyone my Syrian friends post pictures of family, friends, good food and fun activities.
But they also post the memories of the day when their university was bombed by Assad. They share the picture of their cousin who was killed on that very day. They talk about destruction. They grieve the loss of a friend who died while trying to cross the sea. They post pictures of torture wounds IS inflicted on them.
They pictures they show look like the paintings of the artists that painted the suffering of Jesus. In some ways the suffering of Jesus for me had always been far away. In my world there there was no way I could really understand it. In my world there was the normal amount of suffering: sickness and death as it happens anywhere. How can you understand suffering if the worst thing you ever experienced is your Granddad dying at age 70.
How can you really understand when in your live there were no bombs, no loss of home, no torture. War existed only in the stories of my Grandparents. No prison, violence, unfair trials, sadism …
Suddenly – trough the lives of my friends – the story of Jesus becomes so much closer and more real … his suffering is no longer far away… but much more real.
- He became a refugee – like so many of my friends
- He got betrayed and left alone – like many of my friends
- He got accused and had an unfair trial – like many of my friends
- He got into prison – like some of my friends.
- He got tortured – like some of my friends.
- He died – like many of their friends.
There is so much I do not understand. But there is one reality that has become more and more alive this Easter. There is so much unbelievabla suffering in the World. And Jesus the Messiah suffered in the same way. And encourages his followers to receive his Spirit to bring some of Gods love into this suffering world.
Bach, one of our composers turned the cry of the people “Lord have mercy on us” / Herr erbarme dich into a beautiful song. I pray and cry out for the ones who are suffering as I listen to it – in Arabic.