By Dan Wiese
A friend of mine sent me a picture of a church sign he observed while traveling over Spring Break. It read, “Easter should satisfy your soul, not your sweet tooth.” I have a sweet tooth that is just as desiring of sweets (especially chocolate) like many other people. And Easter is a time children anticipate Easter baskets and Easter egg hunts to find hidden confectionary morsels inside the eggs. Our church is planning an Easter egg hunt again this year to delight the children. But since we are smack dab in the middle of Lent, there is something much heavier on my heart and occupying my thoughts than Easter candy or even chocolate.
Lent is a time for me to realign my thoughts and my heart on the very things that satisfy my soul, that fills my heart, that gives me hope. It has been a tough couple of years, and for many, it has been a tough winter. And for me, the near future doesn’t look much easier. How do we endure the tough times? How do we keep going day after day? How do we maintain hope?
Lent, for me this year, has been a time to reflect and re-evaluate the reason for hope. Why should I have hope? Why should we all have hope?
The Lenten season reflects on Jesus Christ and what he did for us. We reflect on God and how through his very nature and character, he saw us in our need for hope and salvation. He saw the ugliness of sin and what sin has done to us and our world, and how we so easily lose our way. God chose out of His love and mercy and grace to do something about it.
God sent his only son, whom He loves, to come to this earth and suffer under the ugliness of that sin, resulting in his crucifixion for our sins. Jesus died on the cross because of sin, but also because of love, mercy, and grace — for us! This is the focus of Holy Week that begins on Palm Sunday (April 10), the day we commemorate Jesus arriving in Jerusalem preparing to offer himself up for us as a sacrifice for our sins. Later in that Holy Week, we remember Maundy Thursday, when Jesus ate his last supper with his disciples revealing that his broken body and shed blood would bring about the cleansing and forgiveness of sins and the salvation of our souls.
Friday, which is called Good Friday is the day we remember Jesus dying on the cross. Jesus dying on the cross is a good thing? It is a sad thing! A horrible heart — wrenching thing happened to Jesus. But the result of his dying for us is a very good thing! It is to a very good end, for Jesus provided a chance for us to be forgiven. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His One and only Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” He went through all that for us.
But the hope in all this lies both in what Jesus did for us on Good Friday, but also what he did for us on Easter Sunday, or as I like to call it, Resurrection Sunday. Jesus conquered death by rising from the dead. He came out of the tomb and proved by His resurrection that He has such authority and power over death that He can make that promise to each of us that “whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”
I like to think of it this way, this body will die, but the part of us that makes us, us, our soul, our spirit, will live eternally. That part of us does not die but leaves this earth to go to be with Jesus forever. Eternal life is life today, but also after we die on this earth. Many near-death experiences indicate that there is something more glorious after this life on earth is over. And our hope for that “something more” is in Jesus, who paved the way for us to experience eternal life.
Easter is about hope, about the anticipation of new life springing forth from the earth after a long cold winter. But it is mostly about new life and hope in Jesus Christ. For the kids and the kids at heart, there is excitement for Easter candy, but it is even more about the eternal satisfaction of our soul to receive the life, eternal life Jesus offers to us all. Enjoy a chocolate Easter egg, but more importantly reflect on your life as to what truly satisfies you! Only Jesus can satisfy the deep longings of your soul.
• The Rev. Dan Wiese is pastor for Church of the Nazarene. “Living & Growing” is a weekly column written by different authors and submitted by local clergy and spiritual leaders. It appears every Friday on the Juneau Empire’s Faith page.