Today we celebrate a cross and an empty tomb. A death and a resurrection. The darkest night of all, when the hope of the world seemed to be extinguished, gone forever . . . and the brightest morning ever beheld, when that Hope returned victorious.
We wear crosses around our necks and hang them from our cars' rear-view mirrors. We sing about the empty tomb and the risen Savior, and these things are beautiful--truly. But I, for one, often forget the power behind these symbols and lyrics. I forget that Jesus went to the cross for me.
"For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." Hebrews 12:2
He surely had seen Roman crucifixions before--the excruciating pain of the lashing, the slow suffocation--and I'm sure He could well imagine the spiritual pain of bearing the sin of the entire world on His shoulders. But knowing all that, He still gave Himself up willingly. And as the whip fell, as the crown of thorns dug into His scalp, as the nails were driven through His wrists, as a hail of insults flew, as He lost sight of His own Father . . . He could have put a stop to it at any time. He could have called legions of angels to His aid (Matthew 26:53), and who knows what He could have done Himself. Going to the cross was not one single choice. It was a choice He made moment by painful moment--again and again and again:
For you, yes.
"For the joy set before him he endured the cross." What kind of joy would keep the Son of God nailed to a wooden cross? What kind of joy would fuel His walk up the hill of death? What kind of joy would He hold inside though every nerve screamed for relief and every crevice of His heart reached for a Father He couldn't see through the darkness?
I'll tell you what kind of joy. It was the joy of redeeming you.
The possibility of bringing you home, of building a bridge across a chasm you could never cross, of wiping the dirt off His precious child's face and crowning you royalty: that is what brought Jesus joy.
You are worth the cross.
God said so. His Son showed you in a way more powerful than anyone ever could: you're worth it. And I sincerely hope that you and I let Him convince us that's true. We all struggle with feelings of unworthiness, of thinking we're not good enough. And honestly, our behavior isn't good enough. Our thoughts and attitudes and actions aren't good enough, and that's why Jesus had to die.
But don't for a minute feel guilty because of that. Those burdens aren't yours to carry anymore. Because through all of the sin, all of the mess-ups and brokenness of humanity, He saw who we are.
And by the very nature of being His, we are worth it. You are worth it.
Happy Easter, dear friends! He is risen!
(I'll leave you with this beautiful Easter medley by Anthem Lights.)