Easter is special . . . sometimes. Easter 2018, Philippians 2.8
Easter is special . . . sometimes. Depends on where you are, sometimes. Several years ago, Dean and the boys and I were in London over Easter. You would not even know it was Easter around the grand city. Consulting The Times for church services, I found nothing. Easter did not seem to be special at all in London.
Easter is special . . . sometimes. Depends on who you are, sometimes. I guess it is just another day if you do not believe in Jesus, which is really sad. It has always been a special season for me, even more so in the last 10 years as I have been penning these Morning Briefings from the pages of scripture, stepping closer to Jesus' life and ministry.
We just considered Paul's words about Jesus' total humility, "being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death-even death on a cross!"1 The cross, of course, precedes Easter.
What were the events that led Jesus to the cross? I mean, how did it happen? Let's go to Jerusalem 2,000-plus years ago and remember.
It is Passover time and the beautiful city is teeming with people. All Jewish males over the age of 12 come for the festival, which is followed by a seven-day Festival of Unleavened Bread-so, two celebrations. Passover commemorates the night the death angel killed the first-born sons of all in Egypt, except for the Jews who had spread the blood of a lamb across their door frames. The Festival of Unleavened Bread is a memorial of Israel's quick escape from Egypt, when they didn't have time to let their bread rise, so they baked without leavening (yeast). Both annual observances are times of remembering, honoring God and thanking him for how he saved the Jewish people. As people of faith, we must remember the times God has met us, the times God has intervened and saved us.
Think of the irony -- the Jews are about to put the Savior to death, though it is the time of year they are honoring God for 'saving' them . . . from losing their firstborn sons, from the tyranny of the cruel Egyptian pharaoh. It is estimated that nearly 300,000 'spotless' lambs would be slaughtered in Jerusalem that week, and the one Spotless Lamb who is among them, who is their Messiah, many not only miss, but choose to kill. Hmmm . . . yes, ironic.
Jesus takes charge, telling Peter and John to "go and prepare the Passover meal, so we can eat it together."2 'Where shall we eat such a meal, Lord?' Remember, Jerusalem is filled to overflowing with many Passover celebrants, also looking for a place to eat their meal. "As soon as you enter Jerusalem, (coming from the Mount of Olives, a little less than a mile away), a man carrying a pitcher of water will meet you. Follow him . . ."3 Ordinarily, women would be carrying home well water, making this man easy to spot in a crowd. It was as the Master said; they found the man and he agreed to let Jesus and the disciples have their meal in his guest room.
So Peter and John prepare the meal of a sacrificed lamb, unleavened bread, bitter herbs, wine and other ceremonial food for Jesus and his men to eat in the upper room of the man's home. Funny, because we don't usually see anything other than a fluffy, albeit crusty piece of bread and a chalice in the painting of the Last Supper, but it kinda misses the symbolism of the Passover, leaving out the lamb, does it not?
Now let's think of Peter and John for a bit, as Jesus makes every move with intention, including choosing these two. They may grumble under their breath, doing 'women's work', beneath their calling. But think of it--they were chosen for this task, not knowing the great significance of it until much later. [Reread that last sentence - is that you? Are you meant to do something that may seem insignificant now?]
It is not happenstance that Jesus chooses Peter and John to prepare the lamb; you see, they are the only two of the Twelve who later refer to Jesus as the Lamb when writing. Indeed many years later, Peter writes, "we were redeemed by the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect."4 Visualize Peter and John preparing the lamb that day--believe me, they would remember it all their days! God reveals the Lamb of God to them through the symbolism of their hands-on work with that little lamb. O, that is beautiful indeed.
I'm wondering what things God has 'tasked' you with that might seem beneath you or possibly insignificant right now- --taking care of your elderly parents day after day? --tending to your infirmed mate, when this was not what you bargained for? --being honest, responsible, and reliable at your job, even after many years? --seeking to get along with a difficult person who you thought you would be free of years ago?! What is it you are called to do? And, who are you called to serve?
Make yourself available today. Why not ask God to use you in some capacity? He will. Truth is, you were created for it! There is no greater preparation for Easter than asking God to give you his heart to serve, to sacrifice, for others in his name. Easter is coming. Make it a special time.
1 -Philippians 2.8, NIV;2 - Luke 22.7; 3 - Luke 22.10; 4 - 1 Peter 1.19