Contrasts: The Story of Easter. The Story of Christ.This is a tale of contrasts.Left and right.Up and down.Old and new.Lost and found.Contrasts.In the beginning was the Word; and the Word was with God; and the Word wasGod. He was in the beginning with God.He was in the world; and through him the world came into being — yet theworld did not know him.He said, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, for he has consecrated me to bring goodnews to the poor.”But he also said, “All is finished.”Then, bowing his head, he resigned his spirit to God.Beginning and end.Life and death.Seen but unseen.
Hope and despair.Contrasts.There was a maiden who was engaged to a man named Joseph, a descendant ofDavid. The maidens name was Mary.An angel came to her and said, “The Lord is with you …Do not be afraid, Mary, foryou have found favour with God.”And Mary sang!She sang, “My soul exalts the Lord, my spirit delights in God my Saviour.”Mary sang. Mary rejoiced.“From this hour all ages will count me happy!”But Mary also stood.She stood at the foot of the cross, and watched her first born die.Astrologers from the East arrived in Jerusalem asking, “where is the newbornking of the Jews?”Entering the house, they saw the child with his mother, and fell at his feet andworshipped him. Then they offered the child presents of gold, frankincense, andmyrrh.But the soldiers gave a crown of thorns and placed it on his head. They keptstriking him on the head, spitting at him, and bowing to the ground before him —going down on their knees.
“Hail, king of the Jews!” they mocked.Gifts and grief.Joy and despair.Generosity, cruelty.Praise and punches.Contrasts.The child grew and became strong and wise, and the blessing of God was on him.When Jesus was twelve years old, he went with his family to Jerusalem andremained there, without his parents knowing. It was not until the third day thatthey found him in the Temple Courts, sitting among the teachers, listening tothem, and asking them questions. All who listened to him marvelled at hisintelligence.And yet… and yet…Some years later,Jesus went into the Temple Courts, and drove out all those whowere buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers,and the seats of the pigeon-dealers.He said to them: “Scripture says ‘My house will be called a house of prayer’; butyou are making it ‘a den of robbers.’”They looked for a way to arrest Jesus. They plotted to have him killed.
On another occasion, Jesus and his disciples went into the villages aroundCaesarea Philippi. On the way he asked his disciples this question — “Who dopeople say that I am?”“John the Baptist,” they answered, “but others say Elijah, while others say one ofthe prophets.”“And you,” he asked, “who do you say that I am?”Immediately Peter answered, “You are the Christ.”But when others asked if he knew Jesus, then Peter answered, “I don’t know himat all!”At another time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee, and was baptized by John inthe Jordan. Just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens splitopen and the Spirit coming down to him like a dove. A voice came from heaven:“You are my Son, whom I love; you bring me great joy.”Yet on the cross Jesus called out loudly, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabacthani?” — whichmeans, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”Loved. Forsaken.Worshipped. Betrayed.Faith, betrayal.Union, separation.Contrasts.
As they approached Jerusalem, they brought the donkey and the foal. Animmense crowd of people spread their cloaks in the road, while some cutbranches off the trees, and spread them on the road.The crowd shouted, “Hosanna!”They shouted, “God save the Son of David!”“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! God save him from on high!”Yet they also shouted, “Crucify him! Kill him! Let him die!”And those shouts prevailed.In the evening the people brought to Jesus many who were possessed bydemons; and he drove out the spirits with a word, and cured all who were ill.And yet the passers by also railed at him, shaking their heads, as they mocked:“You saved others but cannot save yourself. Come down from the cross so we canbelieve youif you are the Son of God!”Contrasts.Contrasts.Horrible, hideous contrasts.And yet… And yet …
One of the criminals insulted Jesus. But the other rebuked him.“Haven’t you any fear of God, now that you are under the same sentence? For usit is justly so, for we are only reaping our deserts. But this man has not doneanything wrong.”Jesus,” he continued, “not forget me when you have come to your kingdom.”Jesus answered: “I tell you, this very day you will be with me in Paradise.”Very early on the first day of the week the women went to the tomb, taking withthem the spices that they had prepared. They found that the stone had beenrolled away from the tomb; and, on going into it, they could not find the body.While they were at a loss to account for this, all at once two men stood besidethem, in dazzling clothing. The men said to them: “Why are you looking amongthe dead for him who is living?Now two of the disciples were going to a village called Emmaus, which was aboutseven miles from Jerusalem, talking togetherabout all that had just taken place.Jesus himself came up and went on their way with them; but their eyes wereblinded so that they could not recognize him.He asked, “Was not the Christ bound to undergo this suffering before enteringinto his glory?” Then, beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he explained tothem all through the scriptures the passages that referred to himself.
Sitting at the table with them, he took the bread and said the blessing, and brokeit, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him;but he disappeared from their sightDeath. Paradise.Death. Resurrection.Confusion. Clarity.The apostle Paul writes, ‘Even for an upright person scarcely anyone will die. Fora really good person perhaps some one might even dare to die. But God puts hislove for us beyond all doubt by the fact that Christ died on our behalf while wewere still sinners. Much more, then, now that we have been pronouncedrighteous by virtue of the shedding of his blood, will we be saved through himfrom the wrath of God. For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciledto him through the death of his Son, much more, now that we have becomereconciled, will we be saved by virtue of Christ’s life.And not only that, but weexult in God, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, through whom we have nowobtained this reconciliation.’God and man.Lost and found.Separation. Reconciliation.
God’s purposes fulfilled.This is the contrast of Easter. This is the contrast of the cross. This is the contrastof Christ. The revelation of God’s kingdom in a broken and needy world:For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, so that everyone whobelieves in him may not be lost, but have eternal life.The contrast is, “blessed are the peacemakers.”It is the love of neighbour.It is the washing of each other’s feet.It is, “when someone gives you a blow on the cheek, offer the other cheek aswell.”It is, “love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.”It is, “when you give a breakfast or a dinner, do not ask your friends, or yourbrothers or sisters, or your relations, or rich neighbours, … invite the poor, thecrippled, the lame, the blind.”It is, “blessed are the poor in spirit.”It is, “you are the salt for the world.”It is, “you are the light of the world.”It is, “do not store up treasures for yourselves on earth.”It is, “put away your sword!”
It is, “trust in the LORD with all your heart.”It is, “love one other as I have loved you.”It is, “peace be with you! My own peace I give you.”It is, “I am the Vine, you are the branches.”It is, “blessed are they who have not seen, and yet have believed!”It is, “I am the resurrection and the life.”It is, “imitate God, as his dear children.”It is, “these things have been recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is theChrist, the Son of God — and that, through your belief in his name, you may havelife.”The promise of Easter is the contrast of Christ. It is the reign of God’s kingdom inthe world. It is the radical reversal of all that seeks to bind, to exclude, todenigrate, to marginalise, to undermine, to burden, to destroy. It is God’sstrength in weakness. Hope in despair. Perseverance in adversity.Of never beingalone. It is the contrast that calls us and inspires us to be love, to be hope, to behonesty and integrity, justice, mercy, truth and righteousness, goodness andGodliness in the world.The promise of Easter is the promise that we can live lives that are pleasing toGod. That, by God’s love, with eyes fixed on Christ and guided by the Holy Spirit,we can live lives that testify to a different way, a better way. The promise ofEaster is the contrast that comes from God in the world and Christ in our hearts.