Yesterday, known in Christendom as Holy Thursday, began the Easter Triduum which commemorates the Passion, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, the Christ. Of the traditionally popular Christian holidays that are celebrated secularly, I have always enjoyed Easter the most. To be candid, the main reason is that the prequel of the Easter celebrations and the Easter celebration itself is unmistakably a message that Jesus died for the sins of mankind. There is no sugar-coating it, and you either believe it or you don’t.
Yet despite personal religious convictions, I have always advocated that the Easter message is a message that everyone can learn from. Notwithstanding your own religious convictions or lack thereof, there are important lessons that one learns in the story of the Passion of the Christ and the resurrection. It takes some open-mindedness, and more so, an open heart, but the message of Easter is a message of life.
In the first place, Jesus was betrayed by one of his own followers, Judas Iscariot. Have you ever been betrayed by someone you loved, someone who claimed to love you? Most of us have in one way or another, and it can be an experience that leaves you lost and disillusioned about friendship or trust or loyalty or love. Perhaps if we do some soul-searching, we may also recognize the times that we have betrayed others; we recognize the Judas in ourselves. Yet the message of Easter is that despite the worst betrayal of all, like Jesus, we can find a way to forgive. Forgiveness is not easy but we can find a way, and we have to find a way, because a heart that is heavy with bitterness cannot be free to experience the goodness of life.
In the Passion of the Christ, Jesus was brought forth before Pontius Pilate in shame, and beaten nearly to death because He called Himself the Christ. He was spat on and mocked and ridiculed because he would not deny that truth. In times of weakness, in the face of great opposition, how many of us are true to our convictions? To borrow Jesus’s words, the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. As I’ve witnessed people get older and as I grow myself, I’ve realized that one of the very few things you and I truly have are our convictions, our beliefs, our word; everything else is passing or inconsequential. In the Easter message, we learn that your principles and your integrity are some of the only things you will take to your grave. We learn to hold true to those principles even in the face of death.
The final stage of the Passion is where Jesus is eventually nailed to a cross and crucified. All of the pain had led up to this moment in which He would commit the greatest act of love there ever was. This is the heart of the Christian message but in it, is also the heart of the message of the most important aspect of humanity and that is love. Love is the most powerful thing on this earth; it can and has moved mountains. Love protects and heals and perseveres. Above all however, love sacrifices; love is a sacrifice. In the Easter message, we learn that if we are to love, we have to be willing to sacrifice, and to sacrifice greatly.
Still, there is one more lesson in the Easter message. Throughout Jesus’s life, He knew what His purpose was and He knew that His purpose was a painful one. If you believe that your life has a purpose as I do, then you may have experienced the pain and trials that come with that purpose. Even if you don’t believe in a purpose, you have experienced struggle and you have experienced suffering because all of us, every single one of us, undergo difficulty as part of our human experience. We cannot run from it and we cannot hide from it; pain is a fact. The culmination of the Easter story is that Jesus rises from His Passion and pain, and He rises in glory. Whether you believe this to be truth or fiction, the point here is: in our pain, we can find our purpose and beyond that pain, we often find our glory.