I totally planned to write a post for Easter. But I had school work to do. And I had family come to visit. And I had health stuff. So it just didn’t happen.
As I was thinking about how bummed I was that I wouldn’t have an Easter post, I had an a-ha moment. During Christmas time, we hear a lot about the importance of keeping the Christmas spirit and continuing to celebrate the true meaning of the holiday all year. But nobody says that about Easter.
That’s kind of interesting when you think about it. Because really, we celebrate Jesus’ birth on Christmas. But Easter is when we celebrate the completion of what He came to earth to do. So why do we limit it to one day, or weekend, or week? Why do we not celebrate it all year?
“Easter,” or more specifically, Christ’s Atonement is something we should celebrate every minute of every day of every year. Because think about it: Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came to the earth as a human for one reason…you. He came to set an example for you. He came to feel your pain. He came to die for your sins. He came to rise again so you could do the same. He came to claim the victory over sin and death so you would never have to feel the effects of those things permanently. He is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). And He came for you.
Let’s break this down a little and discuss.
1. He came to set an example for you.
Jesus was perfect. Everything He did was perfect. He never made a mistake or sinned in His entire life. How crazy is that? We mess up every day (every minute might be more accurate…), but He never did. Even when He was tempted by Satan to show His great power (Matthew 4:1-11). Think about that. We, as humans, place great value on power. We want as much of it as possible. Jesus had all of the power in the world. If you had that, wouldn’t you want to show it off? But instead, He said, “Get thee hence Satan.” (That has got to be the greatest response ever in history.) He showed us how to resist temptation, so we too can say, “Get thee hence Satan.”
Galatians 5:22-23 lists what are known as the “fruits of the spirit”: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance. Jesus exemplified all of these perfectly. Let’s take one of them and look at it: love. Jesus is the epitome of love. There are countless examples of Christ’s love and compassion in the scriptures, but one of my favorites is the account of the woman caught in adultery, found in John 8:3-11. The Scribes and Pharisees brought a woman to Jesus who was caught in the act of adultery. According to the Law of Moses, the woman should be stoned. Obviously, these religious leaders were testing Jesus to see what He would do. So, what did He do? He turned to the leaders and said that whichever one of them was sinless could cast the first stone. This is probably about the time that the Scribes and Pharisees all looked at each other thinking, “Oh snap.” Obviously, none of them were sinless. So none of them could cast the first stone. The only person there who was completely sinless was Christ Himself. But he did not stone the woman. Instead He told her to “go and sin no more.” And that was that. Why should we judge and cast stones when Jesus didn’t? Why shouldn’t we love like He did? Why shouldn’t we do everything like He did?
2. He came to feel your pain.
“Gethsemane, where Heaven met me.”
– “Oh the Power” by Kari Jobe
I don’t want to say I have a favorite part of Christ’s Atonement, because it doesn’t feel right. But I kind of do. And it was when He was in the Garden of Gethsemane. It was the night before His crucifixion, the night that one of His own apostles would betray Him. He knew what was coming. My Sunday School teacher really put this moment into perspective for me. She said to think about every moment you’ve ever had when you’ve been nervous or scared about something and had that knot form in your stomach. Maybe you were nervous about a speech, or a test, or something like that. Imagine what that feeling would be like for someone who was about to endure torture and murder. Imagine what it felt like for Him.
We don’t have to rely completely on our imagination for this. In Matthew 8:37, it says that Jesus “began to be sorrowful and very heavy.” In verse 38, Jesus says, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death.” It was during this time that Jesus felt what it was like to be utterly and completely alone. The Father withdrew His spirit from Him. His disciples fell asleep despite Him asking them to stay awake with Him. So, what did He do? He prayed.
“And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.”
– Matthew 26:39
It was at this point that He felt all of the pain every person would ever experience – the pain of sin and shame, physical and emotional pain, everything. The pain was so intense that “his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling to the ground” (Luke 22:44). It hurts to know that my pain was part of the agony that Christ felt. But because He felt all of my pain, I know that He understands me perfectly. He knows what it is like to go through what I am going through.
“Because Jesus walked such a long, lonely path utterly alone, we do not have to do so.”
– Jeffrey R. Holland
3. He came to die for your sins.
After Jesus’ night in the Garden and subsequent betrayal by Judas Iscariot, it was the day of His crucifixion. It was traditional that one criminal being held would be released on the Feast of the Passover. And so Jesus and Barabbas, a murderer, were brought before the people. Not only did they chose Barabbas, they chose how Jesus would die: crucifixion (Luke 23:17-21).
I’m sure you know the story from here: Jesus was mocked and tortured by the Roman soldiers, then nailed to a cross. Historians say that this is indeed a most painful way to die. Think about it (or maybe don’t…it’s kind of terrifying). But He did it anyway.
“After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst….When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head and gave up the ghost.”
– John 19:28, 30
When Jesus said “it is finished,” He was not just referring to His crucifixion. He meant death was finished. Pain was finished. Sin was finished. Everything can be finished for you if you follow Him.
“The cross meant to kill is my victory”
– “My Victory” by Crowder
I don’t know about you, but I think that took a whole lot of love.
“He knew the price of those sins was death. He knew the source of those sins was you and since He couldn’t bear the thought of eternity without you, He chose the nails.”
– Max Lucado
4. He came to rise again so you could do the same.
For two days, the world was a pretty dark place. The Son of God had been killed. Hope seemed lost. But there was a bigger plan in store.
“The ground began to shake / The stone was rolled away / His perfect love could not be overcome / Now, death, where is your sting? / Our resurrected King has rendered you defeated”
– “Forever” by Kari Jobe
Yes, Jesus defied the laws of basically everything and rose to life again. And because He did, so will you. We will all be resurrected. We will not have to taste death permanently. We will see loved ones who have passed on again. His victory will become ours.
“…the Holy Messiah, who layeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise.”
– 2 Nephi 2:8
How incredible is that? Because Jesus was resurrected and rose from the dead, so will we. This life is not the end. Far from it. We will continue to live into the eternities, because of Him.
“The resurrected King is resurrecting me.”
– “Resurrecting” by Elevation Worship
But the story doesn’t end there. We can’t just say, “Ok, cool,” and continue on with life as if nothing happened. Because something did happen. Something huge. And it happened for you. We can’t set Jesus’ sacrifice on a shelf and forget about it or only think about it when we feel like it or when it’s convenient when it happened for and because of us. Your Heavenly Father, the God of the universe, sent His only begotten Son to this earth for you, and for me. That deserves all of the attention, gratitude, and praise our little mortal hearts can muster.
Before He ascended to Heaven, Jesus left His disciples with one final set of instructions: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
So, are you one of His disciples? Will you heed His command? Will you take up your cross and follow Him? The choice is yours. But after all He’s done for me, it seems a small price to pay.