Easter is almost an abstract concept.
Why did Jesus need to die on a cross for me? What does that even mean?
An explanation of Easter that doesn’t require a theology degree is this: Easter is the climax of a story about mankind’s complicated relationship with nakedness and shame.
A fateful fall
Adam and Eve had open community and access to God in the Garden of Eden. They also had freedom of choice. They chose to eat forbidden fruit and were then ashamed of who they naturally were. They had been naked all along, and suddenly, because of disobedience, it was something to hide. Who did they hide from? God.
They found themselves aware of their own lack. Previously, they had been completely comfortable in themselves in the presence of God, but after the fall, they had a knowledge that separated them- they hid because they knew they were naked.
They could no longer stay in the garden. They had proven they would have eaten from the tree of everlasting life if they stayed, and this would have forever destined them to walk ashamed.
Enter work, sweat, blood, toil, labor pains, separation and death.
Because they were ashamed of their nakedness, God provided them with the skins of animals to cover themselves. He had made provision for them through the life of another, but the animal skins were not enough to fully undo what had been done. God knew it would take a greater sacrifice.
A Complicated History
The rest of the Old Testament is the history of the Jewish people and their interactions with a God of love and justice who was constantly rescuing his people from the choices they made, but never removing their freedom to choose.
The Jewish people began with God’s covenant (promise) to Abraham to make him the father of a nation. God wasn’t doing it fast enough, so Abraham tried to move things along on his own. Mankind’s attempts to do things outside the established boundaries continued the tradition of death and/or separation- Cain and Able and now Sarah and Hagar.
When Abraham finally had his promised son, he was asked to sacrifice his only son in an act of obedience. (This is a complicated concept of only because we live in a different time. Check out this hermeneutics site if you are curious.)
Mankind had proven through Adam and Eve (and many others after) that obedience might not be our strength. Yet, Abraham took his only son and prepared to sacrifice him.
Isaac carried the wood up a hill and was placed on the altar. Isaac, who was born to a woman who should not have been able to conceive (Sarah was too old), was about to be sacrificed in an act of extreme obedience, but God said, “Stop! I’ll provide another way.” And he did (in that moment and again in the future).
God let animal sacrifice suffice to cover the rebellions and mistakes that kept causing pain, labor, slavery, shame and separation.
Isaac was first born in the line that became Israel; the Israelites became captive to Egypt; and Moses followed God’s cloud by day and his pillar of fire by night to lead the people to freedom. Along the way they kept wanting to go back to slavery. Mankind is often stubborn, selfish, and unable to make choices that allow him to live freely without guilt, shame, and broken relationship.
In their history, the people of God continually found themselves in situations of captivity and bondage despite God’s persistent presence. They were always, at the core, Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit and needing a way to cover their shame.
The system of sacrifice was in place.
God’s desire was not for mankind to die, so he was always providing another way. He was always ready for man to walk freely with him like they had in the garden, without fear or shame. He told them again and again, but man did not listen. And then….
There are 400 years that pass between the Old and the New Testaments. In this time the political scene changes and the Jewish people pass from one oppressive rule to another. As we enter the New Testament, the people are under the Roman government and looking for the savior God had promised through the Old Testament prophets.
A Controversial Birth
The silence is broken and John the Baptist is telling everyone about the coming Messiah. The Jews believed the Messiah would save them from the Roman government, but he was there to save them from something else. He was there to save them from something that went much further back in their history, and he wasn’t just coming for them.
Jesus, God’s only son, was born to a woman who was not supposed to be able to give birth (sound familiar?). He taught love, justice, freedom, and sacrifice. He carried a wooden cross up a hill, and he undid the separation.
At his death, the curtain hanging in the temple was torn in two. The temple was the place of sacrifice, and God’s presence was in the temple. The curtain had been the physical representation of the separation of God and man that could only be repaired in the sacrifices used to atone for the disobedience that caused man to live in shame.
A Simple Explanation
So there it is. Easter is the final sacrifice. It is God saying, “Stop! I have made another way. Stop running. Stop hiding. Stop living in shame. Walk with me like we did in the garden. I still see you as you are and accept you. Let me ease your troubled heart. Let me cover you.”
Easter is the moment when shame loses its power. Easter is God walking on Earth, giving himself up as the sacrifice to cover us.
God knew us from the very beginning. He is not afraid or embarrassed by our nakedness. We were the ones who became aware of our lack, and it sent us running, stumbling, breaking, and into bondage.
We look for escape from our insecurities and fears in jobs, relationships, and a thousand forms of coping. But those coverings only lead to death and bondage. Jesus is the covering that is more powerful than death.
You can strip down to nothing, and God will wrap you in his love. This is Easter.