by Ken Rolheiser
Pondering the gifts of the Easter Story

An amazing Easter story concerns a carpenter who lived 2,000 years ago in Nazareth. At age 30, the Man hung up his leather carpenter's apron and began to speak publicly up and down the countryside.

Religious leaders had mixed feelings. Most felt deeply threatened, because this ex-carpenter taught in huge outdoor meetings with compelling authority, and he healed people…crippled limbs and blind eyes. Twice he brought people back from the dead.

The religious leaders saw their orderly world spinning out of their control. And so they arrested him, engineered a trial behind closed doors, and got the Roman governor to execute him immediately. Within 12 hours of his arrest, the Man hung on a cross. Six hours later he was dead, a martyr to a glorious but hopeless cause.

But this Man had predicted his arrest and crucifixion to his followers again and again. He taught that his death would pay the ransom price for a multitude of people who were enslaved by their own sins and set them free. And on that cross he prayed for his crucifiers enslaved in their sins: "Father, forgive them, for they don't know what they're doing." And he died. A Roman centurion who saw him die said, "Surely, this man was the Son of God."

He died on a Friday at just about three in the afternoon. By dusk he had been buried in a tomb protected by a huge stone. The tomb was secure. Friday night and all day Saturday his cold body lay there.

But Sunday morning, the Sunday we call Easter, some women had come to complete the hasty burial and found an angel saying, "He is not here, he has risen." This, too, Jesus, had foretold to his followers.

Over the next 40 days he appeared to his disciples and others, to even 500 at one time. And then he left planet earth promising to return. His Spirit was poured out on his followers a few days later. Within a single generation his followers travelled with the Amazing Story to all of the known world.

Our world has never been the same. Because where people believe the Story, they find forgiveness and freedom and meaning. They receive the Spirit of God themselves and they begin to love.

The Story we tell is a life-transforming Story. If we would tell it to our children and grandchildren, they would find that it is much more compelling than any Easter bunny tale. The only appeal it lacks to your children, and to our desperately needy world, is a few pastel candy Easter eggs. Tell the Amazing Story. It changes lives. (from Dr. Ralph Wilson’s “An Easter Meditation”)

What are the amazing gifts of Easter? There is Holy Thursday and the reality of Jesus sharing his body and blood, his very Spirit with us, to transform each of us into a Christian, another Christ.

There is Good Friday’s sacrifice and the power of the Cross to heal, forgive, defeat evil; in short to bring about God’s kingdom.

There is the miracle of the Resurrection. We now know that we will rise, in our bodies. And meanwhile the Spirit is in us to make disciples of us and in turn all nations.

(545 words)