Pink, white, and red azaleas are ablaze in ecstatic living color in our yard. Birds fly in and out of bushes that are perfect for hiding their nests. Tiny violets bloom amongst dewy blades of grass. Oaks and maples display thousands of leaves that have grown from gray dead branches. The earth is alive with the message of Easter. And what is that message? That Jesus Christ, wholly man and holy God, died for us on Calvary, was buried in a borrowed tomb, rose the third day and was seen by hundreds before ascending forty days later to the Father.
Is it really true that Jesus was all man and completely God as well? It is a mystery. We cannot any of us, no matter how educated and bathed in scripture and prayer, understand how this could be. But we are given faith from above to believe it did happen. Only as we believe this truth in our very souls and recognize what it means to us can we be saved for eternity.
Jesus wore swaddling clothes as a baby, according to Luke. He cried when He was hungry, smashed His finger with a hammer as a bigger boy, fell on a rocky hillside and skinned His knees. Almost certainly He would have done all of these, as well as learning His father’s carpentry trade, and obediently and wisely caring for His mother. Almost certainly He did more than any of His brothers and sisters to help around the house and the shop. They didn’t understand who He was and I guess we’re not sure just when He understood who He was. Perhaps they were jealous of His great expertise, His wisdom, His kindness.
He grew in wisdom, the Bible says. He availed himself of opportunities to learn and grow. He listened to wise men. He could regularly be found in the synagogue at any meeting it was possible for Him to attend.
He grew in stature. He ran on the hillsides, played games with brothers and friends, reached a high mark on His mother’s kitchen door, outgrew His sandals and His toga.
He grew in favor with God and man. God was not disappointed in how His son was developing. This Son Who was destined to save mankind was already making a huge difference in the little town of Nazareth, though nobody realized it. This Son Who was all human, yet all God, was making an impact day by day as chips in the carpenter shop flew and large hands became larger, more calloused.
This is Jesus, the child becoming a man, the Son of God, growing on earth to show men that God Himself cares so much for His children that He left the glorious splendor of heaven to live and die and live again that each person might have the gift of eternal life if he chose to accept it.
On the cross, too, Jesus was all man. He was all man feeling every pain from His scourged, raw back meeting the rough wood to his hands and feet spiked to the cross. He felt every thorn in His bloody crown. He felt every sting of rejection as people Who had once yelled “Hosanna!” now yelled, “Crucify Him!” He felt the cruel separation from God the Father as the darkness fell on everything.
Jesus was all God on the cross, too. He was perfect, completely sinless, the unblemished sacrificial Lamb Whom God could use to take away our sins. If He had not been perfect, His death would have been the death of a very unselfish man. It would have done nothing to take away our sin. If He had not been a man He could never have taken our place on that cross with a body that feels every hurt even as we would. If He had not been God He wouldn’t have felt the huge sorrow for all mankind. If He hadn’t been man He could have done nothing about it.
If He had not been God He could not have been raised the third day. On that day He was seen by Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James (Luke 24:10), eleven disciples, “and them that were with them,” plus two other followers (Luke 24:33); He appeared to Simon (Luke 24:34), the disciples at the sea of Tiberias (John 21:1), and the keepers of the tomb (Matt. 28:4), as well as others. During the forty days before His ascension He was seen at least three times by some or all of His disciples. He also “showed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.” (Acts 1:3). He ate with his friends, was touched by them, and talked with them at length.
Yes, He was both man and God, wholly man and holy God, and because of Him we can celebrate this Easter. We can praise God for His gift of eternal life. We can praise Him for all His fresh and vibrant creations. And we can delight in His purity and His power.
So this is the Easter message: JESUS IS ALIVE!