The Strangest, Most Historic Easter Ever
Without question, this will be a strange weekend.
For the first time in our nation’s history, almost every church will close its doors for Easter.
The SuperBowl of Sundays, shuttered and shut down. The day normally marked by big hats, bursting services, and bustling lobbies will be replaced with dark rooms and empty parking lots.
Yeah, it’s totally weird.
But the weirdness doesn’t stop there. Dozens of countries around the world find themselves in the same boat. On the day that would normally see more worshippers and seekers and spiritual pilgrims head to the local synagogue or cathedral than on any other day (including Christmas), the streets will be strangely quiet.
Which tells me God is up to something unique.
History is the story of Satan (God’s enemy) trying in vain to scuttle God’s plan. From evil men persecuting Christians to evil governments closing churches, Satan has attempted to cut off and shut down the forward progress of the hope of Jesus for 2000 years.
And for 2000 years, the hope of Jesus has simply marched on. Unflappable. Unstoppable. Uncontainable.
This Easter, perhaps like no other, will profoundly parallel the reality of the events of Easter weekend we celebrate.
Think about it.
Jesus was on the move. Teaching. Preaching. Gathering followers. Talking about the Father's love, eternal life, and the coming of God’s Kingdom. Normal life was rolling along. All good.
But Satan was ticked, losing ground, and desperate to stop it. So he hatched a plan.
And you know what, by-George he did.
Through political back-room deals, brutal betrayals, a monkey trial, paid witnesses, and a bought-off judge, Jesus was found “guilty.”
But they weren’t satisfied with merely shutting him up, they wanted to make a statement.
So they stripped him naked and beat him to the ragged edge of death. A strong Roman soldier thrashed him senseless with a leather-thonged whip threaded with lead spikes. He wailed away until Jesus’ body was a bloody pile of shredded muscle and torn tissue. Unrecognizable as a human being, more zombie walking-dead than man.
And they did it all publicly. While his mom watched and begged them to stop. You know, to make a point.
But they weren’t done yet. They wanted to be sure the message was sent loud and clear…follow this man, and you too can expect the same.
So they tied a wooden beam to Jesus’ bloodied back and sent him on a forced death march. Every step ground rough splinters into raw flesh. Nerves on fire, legs burning, he struggled toward the hill where he would die. For good measure, when he tripped they whipped him more.
On and on the death-march went until Jesus couldn’t take another step. Less out of compassion and more out of hurried excitement to get to the main attraction, the soldiers grabbed a by-stander to carry the beam for Jesus. Couldn’t be late to the dance.
Shoving Jesus forward, he staggered through the crowd-lined streets, past jeering faces and taunting shouts and weeping friends and broken-hearted family.
Crucifixion Up Close
At the end of the death parade, they threw Jesus down on two wooden cross-beams. People gathered in morbid curiosity as Jesus moaned in agony. A Roman soldier picked up a 6-inch spike.
Casually placing the dull tip to Jesus’ wrist he slowly raised his sledge-hammer high, paused for but a moment, then brought it down with a violent blow. The sound of metal ringing and bones crunching mixed with Jesus’ screaming. People winced, Jesus writhed, the soldier pounded on. A few more swings and the spike was driven firmly home.
Moving quickly to the other side of Jesus as the other soldiers held him down, the second nail was sunk through flesh and wood. Two spikes in, one to go.
Gathering Jesus’ feet and stacking them on top of one another, the soldiers were careful to make sure his knees were slightly bent. This would ensure that the crucified man would have room to push up on the nails in his feet to help him breathe, thus extending his doomed life a little longer.
It was not a gesture of kindness.
The cruel, calculated act played into the dying mans’ natural instinct to survive. Pushing up on the nails in his feet would allow him to gasp for another breath even as his lungs filled with fluid. It was a terrifying experience, the slow sense of drowning on dry land. Giving Jesus the ability to push up and gasp another desperate breath was intended to prolong the suffering.
With Jesus fully nailed to the wooden planks, the cross was lifted up and slid roughly into place. With jarring finality, the post landed home. Jesus was now officially crucified.
The Death of Jesus…and Death
Some mocked, some wept, but all watched as muscle spasms locked the men in waves of pain. Flesh tore in the feet as they pushed to get their breath. Human feces and fluid gathered at the foot of each cross as the men’s faculties began losing control and shutting down.
Jesus’ torn flesh continued collecting splinters as it raked against the wood with the up and down heaving. The cross was now a cheese-grater on his back.
And this went on for hours. Nerves screaming, muscles burning, legs cramping, flesh tearing, all the while the ever-present sense of actively drowning as lungs filled with fluid. Horrific nightmare doesn’t begin to describe it.
It’s no wonder our word for excruciating comes from the word crucify.
And finally, after hours of mind-numbing suffering, Jesus’ broken body succumbed to the claws of death.
Everyone went home. Darkness fell. Disciples hid. Satan had won. Jesus was dead. End of the story.
That’s right. End of the story…you know, except for the part about Jesus rising from the dead, crushing Satan, conquering death, ascending to His throne in Heaven, the Church exploding, thousands getting saved in a matter of days, a global movement launched and led by a rag-tag group of blue-collar fisherman, and 2000 years later Jesus is the most talked about, written about, sung about, worshipped and adored person in the history of the world. Aside from that, Satan’s plan pretty much worked.
Totally not at all.
Which is why, dear friends, I believe this Easter will be the biggest and most powerful Easter the world has ever seen. God has a track-record, most explicitly displayed in the events of Easter itself, that what the enemy intended for evil God instead intends for good.
Global pandemic? Churches closed? People stuck in houses? Oh no, some have said, Satan is winning! The Church is retreating! The tide is turning!
Or, Jesus is just stacking the cards to pull off another epic upset.
I’m going with the last option.
If God could turn the most despicable act of evil into the high-point of redemptive history, then I’m pretty sure He can turn this moment of hand-wringing into a God-moment too. Pandemic shmandemic. God eats Satan’s playbook for lunch.
Which is why I believe that in the middle of this global shutdown, God is going to show his Kingdom is still open for business. When everything else has come to a stop, God is going to show His Kingdom is still advancing.
And not just in spite of the pandemic, but because of it.
Think about it, friends.
Thousands of church doors around the world will stay locked Eater Sunday morning. And yet I believe more people will hear the good news of the gospel on a single day than at any point in human history.
People whose lives were distracted by worries and cares and busyness and tournaments and road trips and “normal” will be home watching an Easter service they would have otherwise “normally” missed. People who, just weeks ago, weren’t giving a second thought to death, life, eternity, spirituality, or the meaning of life, are attuned to spiritual things like never before.
And just like that, the fires of Revival will get lit in another human heart. In tens of thousands of human hearts.
Poor Satan. It’s got to be frustrating. What a loser.
“I know what I’ll do…I’ll spread a pandemic that will cause fear and panic to sweep the streets so that on Easter every door to every church will close, and the gospel messengers will be silenced, and the church’s forward movement will be ground to a halt! That’s what I’ll do. After 2000 years I’ll finally shut God down. Whahahahaha!”
Sure dude, whatever. Boom. Global revival.
That’s how my King rolls.
He just won’t be stopped.
So yeah, it’s going to be a weird Easter Sunday. Church doors shuttered, parking lots empty, lights off, nobody home.
And a captive audience of billions, lives decluttered, hearts primed, ears open, hearing the gospel message preached and streamed by thousands of faithful gospel preachers the world over.
I predict that Easter 2020 will be the single largest online event in the history of the internet.
Strange Easter? Totally.
And frankly, I could not be more excited.