Easter is often referenced as “holy week”. Depending on your background and personal story, the word holy can tend to have a lot of feelings associated with it. Growing up for me, holy week and Easter had a sweetness to it. Memories of Easter egg hunts in my Grandma’s backyard, to waking up to Easter baskets filled with chocolate bunnies and all the goodies you would expect.
We would attend church where the “Easter story” was told and at times a passion play or clip from The Passion of the Christ was shown to drive the message home. Threaded in the message was typically the stark difference between our lack of holiness and the pure holiness of Jesus. This difference was brought to center stage as the crucified Christ was put on display.
Yet, over time, what stood out to me in the Easter story began to shift. What rose to the surface was the sharp difference between Jesus’ brand of holy and the definition of holy in the eyes of mankind before his arrival.
Jesus – not wealthy, not the political savior they were hoping for, not a rule (or even at times a letter of scripture) follower, not a supporter of institutions, not someone who ignored/excluded the foreigner, not at ALL what mankind had previously defined as holy.
Because, until Jesus, the holy were elite.
They were a wealthy, rule-following, political, institutionalized, exclusive, our-way-is-the-only-way-kind of group. They did not invite foreigners, or rule benders or outsiders of any kind. They were not welcoming of “sinners” (especially those with shady stories) and were certainly opposed to anyone who dared to oppose their “beliefs” or points of view.
Jesus suggested a different kind of godliness – he proposed a vastly different definition of what it means to be holy.
To Jesus holy meant:
- Inviting an outsider to dinner
- Seeing a foreigner as equal
- Loving your neighbor as yourself
- Serving the poor and hungry
- Placing people above institutions
- Going against scripture (at times) to serve a greater good
- Being moved with compassion instead of judgment
- Turning the other cheek, even until death
- Entrusting a woman to preach the first resurrection story
Yes, Jesus’ holiness certainly turned the table on man’s definition. And, I believe it still does.
When I am still – completely still – when I go inward and connect with that small, inner voice, I am met with a kind of holy nothing short of miraculous. I am met with limitless grace, compassion, endless love and a deep instilling of value.
I believe value is central to the Easter story.
Value is the thing Jesus got right and the religious minds missed. Jesus held people at a high value – not because of anything they did; but simply because they were human. He extended love, hospitality, grace, kindness, mercy and charity to mankind equally.
When we value something, we treat it with great care. We hold it with tenderness and respect; we take whatever means necessary to protect it. We don’t allow it to be mistreated or forgotten. We give it a place of significance and worth.
The thing about Jesus is that he placed value on the things that the world saw as worthless; and may I venture to say, he placed value on the people that the world didn’t view as valuable.
When this happens, it brings a culture shift. It brings a tidal wave of change that people who are on the top (ie the Pharisees or the ones in power) don’t like. It’s like Jesus placed a microphone in the hands of every forgotten member of society and suddenly they had a voice.
Mary Magdalene is my favorite example of this.
When Jesus rose from the dead, Mary was the first one he revealed himself to. He could’ve shown himself to anyone. In fact, he had an opportunity to expose himself to some of the men who were his disciples, but instead he chose to wait until Mary came.
Mary, a woman of no real perceived value in society; yet, she was the one he chose to entrust with this history making moment. Not men. Not leaders. Not anyone of importance or status – nope. He chose a woman. He handed her the microphone and said, “now go speak”.
And that she did. She charged back to the disciples with a mission and she was the start of a groundbreaking revolution. One where the forgotten, shamed, judged, quieted now had a voice; one where they were seen as valuable.
Much has changed for me since those early Easter mornings of my youth.
And, I’ll be honest – I don’t know that Easter means the same thing to me now. Now Easter is less about the crucifixion and more about the message Jesus died and resurrected speaking about. It’s the message that every human being longs to hear.
The message that says: you are seen. You matter. And you are of great value.
I believe this is the monumental message that has the power to change mankind – no matter how lost or depraved. When we believe our value isn’t based on our behavior, outward appearances, ability, groups that we belong to or our status – we indefinitely stand taller. We embrace our stories with kindness instead of shame. We hold our mistakes with compassion instead of judgement. We view our voice as powerful rather than one that needs to be explained. We see our life as one of importance rather than something we are trying to survive or apologize for.
Value changes everything.
To embrace the Easter story is to embrace the story of the death and the resurrection.
A story that says:
- Shame died
- Exclusion died
- Judgment died
- Inequality died
But look what rose from the grave and stood in that place:
The Easter story is not just about what died – but about what rose from the grave in death’s place. Jesus forever marked humanity with a new definition of holy. And that definition includes you.
My dear friends, no matter your story or place in society, you are seen, you are loved, you are worthy and you are of GREAT value.
PS: If you’re curious about my journey with scripture – all the wrestling, questions and frustrating moments – I encourage you to check out my recent podcast episode: Redefining my relationship with the Bible