If I were God and had to work out a plan for drawing humankind’s attention from the basement of worries over food, shelter and clothing, to the attic of faith and devotion, I think I would have chosen a different way than to hang my Champion-Son on a cosmopolitan tree.
Admit it. Even all of the excitement generated over the Easter news of the Resurrection cannot completely remove the barbs from our feelings about Christ dying on the cross. We happen to want our victories to be clear and concise. Let them be sure from the outset. Let them be painless. And let them avoid (like the plague) all hint of suffering in the achievement.
Oh, I know history has spoken on more than one occasion through unexpected circumstances — unexpected history has happened often enough for us not to be too surprised if the road of events takes a sudden turning to vistas we hardly dreamed possible. Napoleon was sweeping to another in a long string of victories when his soldiers stumbled over a sunken road in an out-of-the-way place named Waterloo. The Nazi war machine slipped to a stand-still in its conquest of Russia because of snowflakes. Robert E. Lee was giving the Army of the Potomac the willies, but his hopes for victory curled up in the smoke of lost orders wrapped in a handful of cigars. Nothing much: a road that wasn’t in the battle plan, a snowstorm, cigars that wandered from the pocket that held them. Nothing much. But these “little things” spelled the difference between a foregone conclusion and a final outcome.
That’s the way it works. Ends are always present in beginnings no matter how small or insignificant they seem. Go back with me to Good Friday and let’s see how this works there.
One of Jesus’ final utterances from the cross was “It is finished.” I doubt that anyone on the hill with Him would have disagreed with that observation. Surely, the chief priests and scribes rubbed their hands together and agreed: “Finished indeed! No longer do we have to worry about this young upstart threatening the status quo of the religion of our fathers! No longer do we have to factor in this charmer’s spell on the ignorant masses! Yes, it is finished!”
The soldiers could also see that it was finished. The distasteful duty of this holiday execution was nearly over. It wouldn’t be long before they could return to their barracks and to whatever activities claimed their attention before being recalled to duty. It was finished.
The friends of Jesus also saw that it was finished. Their hopes were finished. Their joy in Jesus was finished. Their dreams for tomorrow were finished. Now there wasn’t much to do but go home; Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus could see to the burial details.
Jesus said it, everyone agreed: it was finished!
Yet here, as in other unexpected quirks of history, the end was present in the beginning. This is a small detail, to be sure, but one which refuses to allow anyone to draw a straight line from the foregone conclusion to the final outcome. Here, this small detail was the inflection in Luke 24:13-32‘ voice as He said these words. This was not the muted cry of the self-defeated, or the murmur of one who capitulated to ultimate disillusionment. His words were the announcement of one who had completed a major task — a declaration that something invisible to the sight of all others was finished and done. Jesus spoke a word from the cross. That word has altered the point of view of all who believe it.
There wasn’t any reason for the long faces and the slow steps of the disciples from Emmaus, for the facts as they knew them did not correspond with the actual facts. They wanted to waken to Easter morning and the news that God’s power is not stopped by death, that faith is not netted by circumstances, that hope can be the substance of charred dreams. Yet what had happened on Calvary did not embrace the final word God had in this matter.
Thus, Easter’s point of view raises itself when everyone is turning to go, assuming that faith has breathed its last. Then Easter’s point of view introduces the ultimate surprise: life is born in death!
It may appear that I have deserted my original premise: if I were God, I would have found some other way to bring humanity to see me with the eyes of love and devotion. The truth is, I don’t think there is another way of lifting our eyes above our determination to read life in terms of our own understanding of it.
To miss this fact is to miss a major theme of the Bible. Our problem is that we are not satisfied with being creatures of God. We want to put ourselves in competition with Him. We want to be God. As long as we have these ambitions, we will come up short in deciphering the clues of who we are.
But there is one thing that stops us cold; that thing is death. It has a way of calling an end to our game. It confronts us with the chain of our limitations. Maybe this is why the Bible seems so preoccupied with death — beginning with the Old Testament sacrificial system and ending with Christ’s death on the cross.
Jesus said: “Except a grain of wheat fall to the ground and die it abides alone. But if it is buried, it brings forth much fruit. Whoever would save his life shall lose it. Whoever loses his life for my sake, and the gospel’s, finds it. For what shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose, or forfeit, himself?”
Do you see the difference? We view the picture in terms of life and death. God looks at it in terms of death and life. That’s the Easter point of view. But does it work?
A young woman picked up her 13-year-old daughter — her only child –from a Friday night dance, only to have burned into her memory the awful picture of a car smashing into that precious body as she dashed across the street. Her daughter died. But the mother’s love could not die. It blossomed to life in the adoption of two children and the birth of a son. She learned God’s order of death to life!
A man past 75 lost a foot, then the whole limb beneath the knee, to the ravages of a blood disease. Dead? Useless? No, he was resurrected by the courage to learn to walk all over again with the use of an artificial limb. He, too, learned God’s order of moving from death to life.
A young man (one of the most promising in his high school class) ran away from his first college semester when he was unable to bear the stigma of having been caught cheating on a paper he was supposed to have written. In his shame he was dead to any future promise; but he is alive today after discovering that God forgives our mistakes. Today, Bill is an airline pilot.
Each of these experiences bears witness to the fact that there is a life beyond the darkness of every death surrendered to God. Such a life can take our limitations, disappointments, discouragements and defeats, and replace them with new life, new hope, and new power.
Do you believe it? You can, if you will not allow your conclusions to get in the way of God’s facts. For He uses death, defeat, despair, to announce the glorious news that, when everyone is sure the last thing has been said, He has more to say.
A little girl was sure she knew her Bible better than anyone else in her Sunday School class. When one of her classmates was reciting the books of the Bible, she broke in: “The Bible doesn’t end with Timothy; it ends with Revolutions!”
I pray to God that you may discover the Easter point of view. I pray that your Easter (and every day) may end with the revolutions of discovering a life that begins in death — a life that exhibits the power of Jesus’ victory over the cross, and death.

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