It is too easy to let Easter slide by as if it is normal. For many it is the break that marks the end of winter and the anticipation of summer. For others it is a mini-commercial moment, or a key point in the sporting calendar. But Easter has to be more than that.
I have been preaching through Mark’s gospel this month and seeing time and again how the followers of Jesus struggled to see who He was or what He had come to do. As the reader we are told in the first verse who Jesus is – the Christ, the Son of God – but the participants in the action struggle to get to grips with it all.
By the mid-point the disciples have seen enough to convince them that maybe Jesus is the Christ, so Peter makes his confession, only to undo his achievement by rebuking Jesus for starting to talk of His death. But the reality Mark wants to portray is that you cannot have simply a miracle-working Messiah, you cannot have the Christ without the cross, the Saviour without the suffering.
So as Jesus heads for Jerusalem, he continues to predict His suffering and death, while his followers continue to follow, for the most part, in bewildered confusion. Yet if we the readers will only have eyes to see, Mark presents time and again exactly who Jesus is and what He’s come to do. Mark leans on rich Old Testament allusion to build a picture of Jesus as Yahweh walking amongst His people, as the Servant of Yahweh come to suffer for the nations, come to lead God’s people out of captivity, come to give His life as a ransom, to rescue and to save.
Eventually, albeit with potential irony, somebody gets the picture. We’ve already seen the title “Christ” applied to Jesus at the hinge of the book. Finally, someone understands that Jesus is the Son of God. Who? The centurion standing right next to the cross. The climax of the book, at the foot of the cross. Isn’t that how it is for us too? We read and we try to piece it all together. Who is this Jesus? He obviously came to do more than the temporary fixes of a miraculous ministry. He obviously was intent on going to that cross. He obviously was somebody indescribably significant.
I wonder if some of us have inadvertently pulled back from the brutal reality of the cross? It is easy to settle for a Messiah of miracles, a Messiah who serves my needs. It is easy to yearn for a Saviour who is merely sensational. But the Bible doesn’t offer us a Christ without His cross.
Maybe Mark is nudging us back to the cross again. Maybe we have a creeping confusion about what God is like, who Jesus is, what life means. And maybe we will never have such confusion clarified as effectively as when we station ourselves at the foot of the cross. For somehow it is in seeing Him die that we find life, it is in seeing His suffering that we discover what God is like, and it is at Calvary that we can somehow pull together all that we think we know about God.
This was the Son of God, and on the cross we see something uniquely powerful and indescribably touching – the wonderful goodness of the Trinity reaching out through the curse to such as us. Let’s be sure this Easter to prayerfully ponder the depths of all that God was doing at Calvary. The Father. The Son. The Spirit. You. Me.