Easter is “late.” It is not by accident that its date changes each year, always keeping us guessing for the next. The vernal equinox governs the date (as it does the Passover), Easter being the Sunday after the first full moon after 20 March, or the fourth full moon of the year. Various artists depict Jesus in the garden on the night before his crucifixion and often a glorious full moon sets the background. It’s yet another reminder that the God of the universe chose to enter the flesh and blood of a very real world. Jesus Christ is as much human as he is God.
On the Eve of the Crucifixion, Jesus’ intense prayer is described by the Gospel writers as sweat on his brow “like drops of blood falling to the ground.” The pain of garden betrayal unfolds. The religious, political and societal systems all plot against him and his fate is sealed. Jesus is sentenced by the authorities to death.
Listening closely on Good Friday, we’ll hear hard nails pierce soft flesh of the Saviour’s hands and feet. We’ll hear the cry of desperation of a man forsaken by the God he intimately called “Father.” He gasps for a last breath and it is finished. His body removed and put to rest in another garden tomb. The world has spoken. Jesus is dead.
The purpose of all of this, of course, is to remind us of the most important of facts we know of this man called Messiah. Jesus came to earth as one of us. Jesus is as much human as he is God. He is as much like us as he is not. It is that similarity – that closeness of nature – that makes it possible for him to do for humanity something that countless centuries of gods could never do. He saves us from our sins. He saves us from ourselves. Through his death, he has paid the price, bridging the gap between God and his people. The world has counted its years for the last two millennia measured by the coming of the Christ – AD, in Medieval Latin “anno Domini” (the year of our Lord) or CE (the Christian era).
The Resurrection of Jesus marks more than a new beginning in time. It also marks the beginning of life in a world often marked by darkness and despair. Christians live into a hope that would not be possible if Christ had not defeated death for ever. We have the privilege, through faith, to live the risen life and to look forward to the world of the life to come. Eternity is a long, long time, and God created us in his image to live in it and, with him forever.
Once again we’ll mark the journey to the Cross at Christ Church Cathedral through the days of Holy Week and join together at Easter to proclaim the message: Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! A schedule of worship is HERE. Those wishing to have the sacrament at home, please contact the cathedral office. Please also note the Easter Sunday schedule change.
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Geoffrey Hall, Dean of Fredericton