If you head North and keep going, eventually you will find yourself heading South. This would be rare- as not many of us would have the ability or the resources to experience this. The same thing cannot be said for heading East. East never becomes West, and likewise West never becomes East. I am not talking about the cultural landmarks. The Middle East is still the Middle East even if you’re looking at it from China which would be looking West.
Direction isn’t always about destination, sometimes it is about perspective.
I am coming to discover the same about Easter, it is becoming more about perspective than destination.
I wasn’t raised in a tradition that celebrated Lent. This liturgical tradition is the forty days leading up to Easter Sunday when you identify with the suffering of Jesus by giving something up. The experience would have been good for me. But I have come to discover that life has these Lenten moments built in. Without even trying, we go through seasons of scarcity. Sometimes it is joy that is absent, sometimes it is a sense of purpose, it could be our health, or even our finances—but we all have experienced these dry spells.
The Easter message for me growing up was all about Sunday morning. “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s a coming” was the famous mantra that permeated my Christian experience. But what if it isn’t Friday, what it if is only Monday, and what if I don’t know which Sunday is the payoff?
Easter can become as empty as the tomb if that is the only point. I get that Easter represents the victory over death, but what if it’s the dying part that is killing us? When Easter is seen as a mere destination then it’s just a mad rush to Sunday. It never becomes about finding God in the uncertainty but just getting to the happily ever.
Easter as a perspective is a livable truth.
All the gospel biographies of Jesus have a moment when everything changes. Before this moment the disciples are living the good life. Plucked from obscurity they’re now following the most popular Rabbi in Jerusalem. Miracles, crowds, experiences, they are having a great time.
But then, this moment.
Matthew’s moment happens in chapter 16:21
“From that time on Jesus began to speak with his disciples about how he must suffer many things and be killed, to be raised on the third day.” (my edit)
What a killjoy. No wonder Peter steps up and says
‘No way, not on my sundial Jesus’.
I don’t think he actually heard the end part about resurrection, because the words ‘suffering’ and ‘death’ are too loud.
I get it.
Unfortunately we have a hard time entering this dialogue because we know how the story ends. But whether or not these events happened, they happen everyday.
If we are only living for resurrection Sunday then we are missing 6 other days in the week. I am not trying to be a killjoy either, but this life has lots of suffering in it. To live believing that things are going to only get better would be to live in a delusion. My wife became a paraplegic 4 years ago. Imagine if everyday I kept telling her that everything is going to get better and made no effort to live in the painful present with her.
Easter is more than just a Sunday, it is also 6 other days that precede it. We can’t just live for the end, or in the end we lose the gift of the journey.
After telling Peter to get behind him, instead of getting in front of him, Jesus then turns to the other disciples and using the same words tells them how.
Most of our translations of Matthew 16:24 say:
‘if anyone would come after me’,
or ‘if anyone wants to be my disciple’
But Jesus literally says
‘If anyone wants to get behind me, they must deny themselves, take up their cross and follow me.’
But what if those words don’t mean what we think they mean. Jesus is responding to Peter’s attempts to have Jesus avoid any sort of suffering and especially death.
Here is what I think is a better translation that feels more connected to the previous dialogue.
‘Whoever wants to Get behind me, must lose sight of their own way of doing things especially for self preservation and follow my lead.
For whoever only desires to keep their life safe and sound will in the end destroy it. But whoever chooses to give up living only for self, and to instead give themselves to my cause will discover life.’
I think if the divine were to say to us; ‘follow me to Easter Sunday—now it may include pain, hardship and sacrifice, but in the end it will be worth it.’ Our response would be ‘You go ahead, and I will meet you there.’
We wouldn’t want to take the journey, regardless of how it might end. There is only one way to Easter Sunday—it is on the other side of 6 other days. The only way to get where this life is going is to be facing the right direction.
If we are truly following Jesus…
Then we will end up wherever He is taking us.
We might not know the destination, but we can at say we know the direction. Because facing East is the only way you will get to see the Son rise..
share if you care,