“Your apartment is flooding, you need to get here fast,” said my landlord on the other end of the phone.
“Flooding?” I asked, thinking I’d misunderstood.
“Yes, it’s flooding. How far away are you?”
I left my office and barreled down the highway back to my apartment–an eight minute trip that probably took me four minutes that day. The temperature had been in the single digits for a few days, and we don’t do single digit temperatures in the South. Unfortunately, neither do our buildings.
I later learned the wicked cold of the past few days had frozen the pipes in the apartment building’s fire sprinkler system causing them to explode. Unlocking the door to my apartment, I stepped onto a soggy floor with water pouring from every outlet and the vents in the ceiling.
With my landlord standing in the doorway demanding I get out before the ceiling collapsed, I snatched up mine and my wife’s most important possessions.
Within the hour, my wife left work to help me clear out the apartment. We relocated into another open apartment in the same complex, but we had to physically carry all our possessions to the new space. We packed whatever boxes we could find, and threw our clothes in trash bags. We were wet and cold but by that evening, we had everything piled into the new apartment.
It wasn’t a day I’d want to relive, but it’s kind of funny now as I retell the story. As terrible as it was when it was happening, it’s the worst parts of the story that become the best parts.
I’m telling you this story to prove a point.
Easter is what happens when the worst parts of the story become the best parts of the story. Let me explain what I mean.
A disappointing savior
Jesus’ earliest followers traveled with him, saw him heal the sick, and raise the dead. Everyone had hopes of what Jesus would mean for them and their country. They expected Jesus to proclaim himself King of Israel and liberate Israel from the oppression of Roman occupiers. To them, it seemed as if Jesus was well on his way to fulfilling all their hopes and dreams.
Then he was executed.
The trauma Jesus’ followers must have experienced after having their expectations shattered is unimaginable. They watched their teacher die on an instrument engineered to cause a painful and slow death to its victims. It was enough to make even the most faithful give up their faith for a little while.
But in a matter of days, an event shifted his follower’s perception of what happened. It retold the story in a new light.
But very early on Sunday morning the women went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. They found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. So they went in, but they didn’t find the body of the Lord Jesus. As they stood there puzzled, two men suddenly appeared to them, clothed in dazzling robes.
The women were terrified and bowed with their faces to the ground. Then the men asked, “Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive? He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Remember what he told you back in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men and be crucified, and that he would rise again on the third day.” (Luke 24:1–7, NLT)
For thousands of years, people have retold the story of Jesus’ death, celebrated it, and commemorated it. Not because was enjoyable, but because when it’s retold, it’s the dark parts of the story that give light to the rest of the story.
Easter matters because it’s what happens when the worst parts of your story become the best parts. The same power that resurrected Jesus from the dead, is working in your life to resurrect you.
You can’t have change without this
The truth is, you can’t talk about the resurrection of Jesus if you do no talk about his death first. Because for something to come back to life, it has to die first.
Death is the engine of resurrection.
Spring can’t come without the dead season of winter. You don’t get to experience renewal until something old dies.
In the same way, you can’t experience healing unless you’ve experienced hurt.
You can’t be free unless you’ve been in bondage.
You can’t find hope unless you’ve been hopeless.
The old has to die for the new to grow, and with death comes change. The problem with change is that most of us do everything we can to avoid it, much the way we avoid death at all costs.
The big switch
It’s only after Jesus’ resurrection that the story of his disappointing death gets retold in a different light.
Make no mistake, those were three dark and hopeless days. In that moment, the searing loss his early followers endured was unbearable. But when Jesus came back to life, the painful parts took on new meaning. His death went from all is lost, to:
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5, NLT)
Everything bad that happened before was retold from the perspective of the promised Messiah savior of the Jewish scriptures. BecauseGod rarely works in the way you expect.
Through Jesus’ resurrection, the worst, hardest, and most painful parts of your story become the best parts of your story.
Through Jesus, my sin and my shame become the best part of my story. God retells them in light of His purposes. But what does that mean?
God is retelling everything.
- Every bad decision.
- Every bombed relationship.
- Every missed opportunity.
- Every sickness.
- Every addiction.
- Every broken dream.
God loves putting broken things back together. This is not the end for you because it’s God’s nature to give new life to what’s dead.
So, why does Easter matter to you?
Think about it. So much of the good stuff God has given you happened because you went through the dark stuff first.
When you retell your story to someone, it’s the bad parts that make the story. Every good writer knows this, that’s why your favorite characters face massive gut-wrenching conflict.
When you tell your story, you don’t leave out the part where you had to drop out of school. You don’t skim over when he left you alone with two kids to raise, or when you got laid off from your job. Because it’s the parts that hurt the worst that matter most.
Easter is what happens when the worst parts of the story become the best parts of the story.