Who do we identify with on Palm Sunday? Is it the disciples who flanked him into Jerusalem and later scattered? Is it the crowd that shouted “Hosanna!” and later shouted “Crucify him!”? Or is it someone else?
I have to admit; I put off Easter as long as possible. Back when we first got married, Trish and I decided that the focus of Easter would be nothing more than the resurrection of Christ. There would be no bunnies, no eggs, no Easter grass, no marshmallow peeps and no chocolate eggs (ok…maybe some chocolate eggs).
Then we actually had kids—Megan to be exact. When she was two years old, Megan came home from the sitter’s with stories about eggs and bunnies and all manner of strange things that she didn’t quite understand. I finally decided that if we were creative enough about it we might be able to focus on God’s gift through Christ as well as have some fun with a dozen eggs and some cheap dye. All in all, it worked out very well.
Megan “helped” by supervising that year. She carefully watched as I dipped each egg in a different color—calling each color by its correct name. She kept an eye on them while they dried and then carefully helped me place each egg in the basket we had bought. For the next couple of days she watched those eggs like a mother hen, not really with a sense of expectation but a sense of pride for what she had helped accomplish.
Easter Sunday came and we were busy with church and family dinner and all manner of activities. When we finally got back home I saw that the kitchen needed to be cleaned up so I started stacking dishes, putting away the clean ones and getting the dirty ones ready to be washed. The Easter basket, still full of eggs, had been left on the kitchen table, so I carefully placed it on the counter out of my way—or so I thought.
That’s when it happened. After putting away several clean dishes I turned to my side, bumped the basket with my elbow and knocked it to the floor. The eggs hit with a dozen dull “thuds.” Every one of them was cracked, broken, ruined.
I’m still convinced that under better circumstances I could have fixed them. I’m pretty good with tape and Superglue. Maybe some White-Out and colored markers would do it. Unfortunately Megan was standing right there when they hit. She saw the whole thing. There was no way to hide my mistake.
That’s when a two year old taught me about Easter. I expected tears, I expected screams and I expected loud accusations that would lead to expensive hours on a therapist’s couch for years to come. Instead, she looked up at me and said, “It’s ok, Daddy.”
And something deep inside me said, “That’s Easter.” We’ve made a mess of our lives. We’re broken beyond repair—no amount of tape and glue can put it back together. What’s worse is we did it all right in front of God’s eyes. He saw the whole thing, there’s no way to hide it. He could yell, he could scream, he could wipe us out in a heartbeat for the mess we’ve made, but instead he sent his son to bear our mistakes and sins on the cross. The death he died is the death we deserved, but Easter is there to remind us “it’s ok.”
The penalty has been paid, the mess has been cleaned up, and Jesus Christ has risen!
For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.1 Peter 1:18-23
I picked up a copy of The Martian the other day. It’s a gripping novel that’s soon to be released as a movie. Several friends recommended I read the book first and—true to their endorsements—I couldn’t put it down!
The Martian tells the story of astronaut Mark Watney who gets left behind on Mars after a storm forces his fellow astronauts to abandon the red planet. Everyone thinks Watney is dead but he survives by luck and his own ingenuity. Being a mechanical engineer and botanist he sets about the work of making his home habitable for him and the few plants he can grow.
There are a few references to God here and there in but the book concentrates mostly on Watney’s scientific knowledge and his spirited attitude for survival. There was one portion of the book though that made me stop and think.
Watney needed water to survive. Without it he would die. Finding water on Mars was impossible, but he had brought the two ingredients he needed to make his own: oxygen and hydrogen. However, combining them would require combustion and NASA—true in the novel and true in life—designs their spacecraft without any combustible material. A lesson learned in the tragedy of Apollo 1.
It’s at that point that Watney finds a small wooden cross that had been brought along by a fellow astronaut who was a devout Catholic. It’s the only piece of wood available on Mars. Watney carves off a part of the cross and uses it as a make-shift match to ignite his oxygen/hydrogen fire and save his life.
“I chipped his sacred religious item into long splinters using a pair of pliers and a screwdriver. I figure if there’s a God, He won’t mind, considering the situation I’m in.”
Whether the author knew it or not, he presented The Martian with the only means of survival that anyone on earth has—the cross of Jesus Christ.
Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:18, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” In order for us to be saved God’s Son had to be broken on the cross. The sacredness of his sinless body splintered, broken and bleeding. It’s our only means of survival.
There are moments right here on earth when we feel as hopeless and alone as Mark Watney on Mars. The good news of Jesus Christ is God has entered our lives with our only means of survival—our only source of hope. And he paid for it with the blood of His Son spilled on the cross of Calvary.
For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but in dealing with you we will live with him by the power of God.
2 Corinthians 13:4
In fact, it was the thunder that woke me up this morning. I laid there listening to the power of its roars and trying to go back to sleep. I love sleeping during a storm. For some reason I find it calming and reassuring. As I tried to go back to sleep my mind kept taking me to Psalm 29.
The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the Lord, over many waters.
The voice of the Lord is powerful;
the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.
As you read Psalm 29 you can almost imagine the thunder between the stanzas. I wonder if David wrote this one, not for musical accompaniment but for the accompaniment of a thunderstorm.
The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire.
The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness;
the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
I preached through Haggai recently. I think about God’s message to Zerubbabel at the end of that little book. He promised him, “I am about to shake the heavens and the earth.” In other words, “I’m going to rock your world.” The storm reminds us of God’s power to change. To change our circumstances, to change our lives–even to change how we see ourselves.
God’s message from Zerubbabel becomes a powerful message to us. A message that God has chosen us. You can hear my message at this link.
The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;
the Lord sits enthroned as king forever.
May the Lord give strength to his people!
May the Lord bless his people with peace!
There is One that is greater than the storm. My prayer for you is that whatever storm is in your life, whatever flood threatens to carry you off, know that the Lord gives you strength and that he blesses you with peace.