What would happen if you took Easter and stripped it of the Bunny, the eggs, and the chocolate? The Easter Bunny and his eggs have been a fixture of Spring celebrations for centuries. Originally symbols of fertility, they were acquired by The Church as part of a religious celebration that has nothing to do with fertility--either human or rabbit. Chocolate joined the celebration much later but is no less a fixture of the holiday. Without these on Easter Sunday, what's left? How about a donkey, a cross, and a tomb? The donkey actually comes earlier in the week. As does the cross. But, you'll see what I mean.
A Donkey. Not quite as cute and cuddly as fluffy bunnies. Not to mention that the Easter Bunny has both fans and a press agent. The Easter Bunny shows up at shopping malls, on TV commericals and, thanks no doubt to the clever shananagans of his agent, has landed himself a movie. Not so the donkey. This donkey -- a wild colt full of youth and vigor and spirit -- is in desparate need of an agent. Someone to tell the world about his big day. The day he was loaned out by his owner to a Jewish rabbi so he could ride into town like he owned the place. And, by the way the crowds behaved with all their singing, shouting, dancing, and waving of palm fronds you would suspect that perhaps this nobody from the backside of Israel really was someone special. The donkey could have sworn he heard some in the crowd talking about this being their king. Fancy that. Where are the ï»¿paparazzi when you need them?
A cross. A cruel instrument of torture and death designed by the Romans for their own thrills and to instill fear in the hearts of the conquered. Watching children hunt for brightly colored eggs sure beats watching someone suffocate. Celebrate life or celebrate death. Seems an easy choice. Except that THIS cross was different. The man who hung there was different. The blood that was shed there was different. Yes, the man suffered. Horribly. Yes, the man bled. Profusely. Yes, the man died. What was different is that he was no ordinary man. His suffering was no ordinary suffering. His shed blood was no ordinary blood. And, his death was no ordinary death. This was a suffering, bleeding, and death that resulted in healing, cleansing, and Eternal Life.
A tomb. A rich man's tomb. But, it wasn't a rich man who was laid there. The body placed in the tomb was a poor itinerant preacher. A preacher who gathered both followers and enemies. A preacher who healed and who divided. The body did not receive the usual burial preparations. There had been no time, the Sabbath was upon them. His body was left to begin it's decay without the careful, loving attention of his family and friends. At sunrise the third day after he breathed his last, the stone that sealed the tomb rolled away and revealed that the tomb was empty. The body was not there. No, this is not a zombie story. It wasn't a living dead who exited the tomb that day. It was a living God. God had defeated death so that His followers could live forever.
A donkey, a cross, and a tomb. Three symbols of an event that changed eternity. Healing, cleansing, and Life eternal. Three gifts that are given freely but that cost greatly. A Creator, a Savior, and a Friend. A God who loves much and gives all to bridge the gap between Himself and His beloved creation. Who needs a silly rabbit anyway?