Upfront, it is hard for me to resist preaching a sentimental homily about butterflies and bunnies or a family Easter Sunday that would send you home smiling. But that would be so easy. I want to offer you a different take on Easter, another point of view. We must go back to last week, Palm Sunday, the day Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
On Palm Sunday, two processions entered Jerusalem at Passover. Protests against the Romans were inevitable. So at each Passover, the Roman Governor Pilate rode up to Jerusalem. He would bring extra troops in case of trouble, to reinforce the local riot squad. Picture it: Pilate’s procession arrived from the west. Jesus entered the city from the east.
Pilate rode into the city on a warhorse, Jesus on a donkey. He was fulfilling the words of the prophet Zechariah who foretells, “The King of Peace on a donkey will banish the warhorse and battle from the land.” Do you get the picture of what is going on here? The gauntlet has been thrown down and the contrast is clear. Jesus versus Pilate, the non-violence of the Kingdom of God versus the violence of the Roman Empire.
That was the contrast, two arrivals, two entrances, two processions, two ways of life and two choices. Represented by these on Palm Sunday. On Friday, Jesus stands before Pilate, innocent. But is gruesomely and wrongly executed.
But on Sunday, the day we are celebrating this Sunday, we call Easter. Spectacularly, Jesus is raised from the dead by divine power and here we are at the heart of the matter. What does this raising of Jesus by God mean? It means that God said a resounding “yes” to Jesus and all He stood for and a firm “no” to the powers that killed Him.
Easter means that God is on a collision course with injustice, with violence, with exploitation. God is against the betrayal of Judas, the denial of Peter and the complicity and corruption of power in Pilate and Herod. He is against Jesus being beaten in jail. He is against the politically correct judgment of Pilate who initially judged Jesus innocent of a capital offense.
Things have not changed today. Our God is still against betrayal by a friend or in marriage. He is still against violence in a family or on the streets of our city. He is still against corruption in government or on Wall Street. God is against the vulgarity of some of the discourse we see or hear in the media. He is against the moral and physical abuse of spouses, children and the misuse of power.
The Easter story is basically a story of where God stands and that stand is clear in the resurrection. He raises up Jesus who told us to turn the other cheek. To go the extra mile, if someone asks for your shirt, give them your coat. He told us one should go first and be reconciled with your brother or sister.
Then come and offer your gifts at the altar. He told us do not return evil for evil but cry out with Him on the cross. “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” He said feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty and always remember it profits you nothing to gain the whole world then lose your soul. This Jesus way of life the Father raises up.
In other words, Easter is beyond its tremendous mystery; is a statement. A divine statement of divine values. Well, I did not preach about Easter bunnies and butterflies. They are nice and safe, more comfortable, more Disney. But the truth is that Easter Christianity is about deeper stuff. It is about life and death, right and wrong.
But mostly, and here comes the zinger, which side we are on. Which entrance we take into the Holy City. The fact is, the day Jesus entered Jerusalem from the east on a donkey and Pilate from the west on a warhorse, that was the day you and I were confronted with the choice. Which entrance shall we take? Which procession shall we follow?
Easter is the day God announced His choice. By raising His Son from the dead and all that He stood for. Easter is the day God announced His choice, what is left is yours.