The first Easter wasn’t filled with peace and joy and stained glass and beautiful music. It was full of violence and fear and confusion and shouting and blood.
When the Jews came to John the Baptist at the height of his ministry to ask if he was the Messiah, he yelled at them, “I am thunder in the desert! Proclaiming the coming of the Messiah, making straight the way of the Lord!”
His message was “thunder” — loud and confrontational and divisive and rebellious. It wasn’t the popular opinion, but it was truth. Truth isn’t always popular and what is popular isn’t always truth.
When John first saw Jesus he shouted, “There He is! The Lamb of God. He forgives the sins of the world. This is the one I’ve been talking about.” There was nothing subtle about John, and nothing restrained about redemption.
Three years later, through the evening shadows of a dusty side street, Jesus retreated with His closest friends into the quiet of a small dining room. Outside, the streets were a swirling storm of conflict and intrigue, chaos and compromise.
Jesus, after having shared for some time, looked at his friends said, “I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes your joy will overflow! This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friend.”
A foot washing follows the Passover dinner as Jesus demonstrates the life of one come to serve others—agonizing prayer, mock trial, false accusations, betrayal, beatings, denials and then Jesus, the Son of God is nailed to a cross.
The cross, a lethal symbol of demonic tyranny becomes the loving instrument of our rebirth and redemption. A place of humiliation is now a station of honor. Our freedom forever ransomed in the blood of the Lamb.
The prayer of the Hebrews—the one prayed at that dinner as they celebrated the Passover—foresaw the coming of the Messiah, “Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has sent Thy Son, Thine Only Son, Y'shua the Messiah, to be the light of the world and our Paschal (Passover) Lamb, that through him we might live. Amen.”
From the thunder in the desert to the symphony of the cross, the eternal love of God rumbles onwith increasing resonance throughout the universe, “This is the day of freedom for the captive and the day of liberty for those in bondage. Rejoice for your King has come – behold the Lamb of God!”
Mary’s surprised and joy-filled shout of hope to the despondent disciples, echoes with the same intensity as John’s thunder through our hearts today. “He is Risen! Jesus is alive!”