While listening almost daily to my favorite news radio, NPR, I often sip a glass of iced tea with a sunny smile of lemon bobbing playfully in it. A simple pleasure in a busy day. However, the stories I’ve listened to lately have been anything but pleasant. Daily reports detail the disintegration of Syrian society, “right” and “left” political animosity in our country, bitter debate over socio-economic divides, nuclear proliferation fears, anti-American sentiments in the Middle East and on it goes, around our suffering, struggling, warring planet. It’s been disturbing news to digest.
Now that it’s Easter season, I’ve also been reading that 2,000 year old story and seeing surprising similarities. The Middle East was also in turmoil then. Israel was an occupied nation longing for regime change. Society was full of factions that claimed a way out. The Zealots wanted to fight. The fat cat Pharisees and Sadducees wanted to stay in power. The common people longed for a political savior, a messiah/king. It was a violent time, not unlike our own.
On that first Easter weekend, the Pharisees had finally figured out how to get rid of Jesus. They bribed an insider to take them to him under cover of darkness. They framed him through paid false testimony and got the death sentence by mid-morning. He was brutally tortured and crucified that afternoon. Nothing new in conflict-ridden Jerusalem.
But the Easter story tells us that something was about to change. Two days later, Jesus’ body went missing– because he was still using it! He had risen from the dead. Unbeknownst to everyone on earth, Death was the real enemy Jesus was fighting. And he had won. But how?
It seems that Jesus used a weapon that the world had never encountered before. Humble, self-sacrificing grace—defined as giving people what they don’t deserve. Could it be he wielded the powerful weapon of grace when he healed an enemy soldier’s ear instead of fighting back when they arrested him? When he was silent before his mocking accusers and beaten for telling the truth? When he told his Father to forgive his killers? Ultimately he duped Death by paying the ransom for the human race with his sinless life. Willingly he had laid down his life for us. Grace was his secret weapon.
Jesus’ grace-filled death was so powerful that it ripped opened a portal between time and eternity, earth and heaven, man and God. From then on, people could cross over and be with God forever instead of being separated eternally, trapped by sin and Death. Grace paved a new way.
The day after Jesus died, Jerusalem probably looked the same. The conflicts continued just like the reports I hear daily on NPR. Like me, people longed for a world as sunny and peaceful as my simple, lemony tea. But the truth was and is today that Jesus fought Death with grace and won. He opened the doorway for all grace receivers to cross over and live eternally. And he also modeled how to live our relatively short days on earth–employing the powerful, world-changing, secret weapon of grace.
-posted by Donna Detweiler, who is humbled by trying to put Grace into words.