Easter is the high point of the Christian year. We remember the turning point of history. On Good Friday, we recall God Himself being torn apart as Christ bore our sins on the cross. On Easter Sunday, we celebrate the destruction of our greatest enemy (death) & the prospect of life eternal.
Given the importance of this weekend, how can we best prepare? One way is to look back to how Jesus prepared with his friends. In John 13, we are told how Jesus spent part of his final meal with them: washing feet. He knew the hour had come for him to leave this world (13v1) & that Judas Iscariot was committed to betrayal (13v2). So, Jesus left the table & started doing what was normally the task of lowly servants. On dusty unsealed roads, sandalled feet would get fairly unpleasant & required cleaning – but not by an esteemed teacher. But he explained it this way:
When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. (John 13v12-17)
He did it that they might grasp that what was about to happen to Jesus was him choosing to serve. Our challenge in preparing for Easter is to make sure we reflect that service. Two ways to attempt it:
First, make space to recall how you’ve been served. Don Carson reflects on Jesus last night with His friends (John 13-17):
‘Perhaps one of the most amazing features of this ‘Farewell discourse’, as it has come to be called, is its beginning. It is Jesus who is going to the agony of the cross; it is Jesus who is troubled in spirit. Yet on this night when of all nights it would have been appropriate for his disciples to encourage him & support him, we discover that they can only see their loss. Jesus therefore must encourage them. On the very night he is to taste death on their behalf, he speaks to their confused bewilderment, fickle faith, dim vision & self-absorption; and he says: ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled…’
Easter reminds us how God sees us in all our weakness, frailty & failure – our inability to serve Him properly – & chooses to serve us completely. On Good Friday it is Jesus, not us, declaring ‘it is finished’. The cleansing of sin & promise of new life is completely done for us. We celebrate because we don’t have to go on long pilgrimages or complex rituals. But it is important that we take the time to appreciate the gift. Make space in the week to pray & to read the ‘passion narratives’ (Matthew’s on Monday, Mark’s on Tuesday etc). Plan the services you’ll be at to join with God’s people & celebrate together. Even if you are going to be away, attend a local service. Create the circumstances to recall His service.
Second, consider who you are serving. Jesus’ sacrifice is a model for us – & it would be foolish for our celebration of Easter to become self-interested. Set aside some of the extra time off to help those with need. Many of our friends & neighbours don’t know the comfort of this weekend; consider who you could serve by sharing the message of Easter with.
Framed in service, I trust this Easter will be a high point of your year!
Mark Smith | Senior Minister