I grew up in a Christian home and I have loved Jesus my whole life. I have heard the story of Jesus dying for my sins ever since I was a little girl. However, over the years of hearing the Easter Story the state of my heart has changed drastically. Something changed after years of sitting with Jesus every morning praying and having real conversations with him.
Now, the thought of him on the cross breaks my heart more and more every Easter.
This year in particular I am grateful for the books I have read that have given me more of a glimpse into who Jesus was. More specifically, the ways he was truly and fully human. Knowing him in this way, changed my perspective from a character in a bible story to someone I know and love so personally.
Brian Hardin wrote in his book, Sneezing Jesus, “Much of the time, the part of Jesus’ life we focus most on is his death. But he isn’t just a means to an end. […] It did not take him thirty years to work up the courage to go to the cross. Most of what Jesus did had nothing to do with saving the world. He stayed among us a long time as one of us, and that time had purpose. He came to show us what humanity is supposed to look like.”
Over the past few years, more specifically months, I have enjoyed taking a closer look at how Jesus lived his life as an example for us. And although Jesus’ life is a powerful demonstration of how we should be living ours, I cannot seem to take my mind off of him, growing up.
It is sweet to think of Jesus as a little boy toddling around as the wise men brought him gifts.
I can see Jesus so clearly as a young boy walking through the dusty streets of Nazarath. I can imagine him with his parents, and having quiet moments in prayer with God.
And the gospels show him all grown up as a man in his thirties. But when I begin to look at his character, that is when I feel I know him best and probably because I have felt all these same emotions too. Like me, Jesus laughed. He smiled with twinkling eyes. He was playful and goofy. Jesus cried, like I have, and became angry. He sought after quiet places with no people where he would refresh his soul in prayer. Jesus felt loneliness and abandonment. He felt betrayal and hurt. He has felt every emotion we have. These real, human attributes connect me even closer with him.
And when you beginning to see how real Jesus was, how he has the same characteristics as you and I. You become close friends with him. And now, watching and reading through the Easter Story becomes heartbreaking.
However, the characteristics of Jesus that I cannot fully comprehend is his love and grace towards us. I cannot say my love for someone has ever been like his.
Lest we forget, He is God. He created everything, including us. And his own creation treated him so brutally. The scriptures said they spit on him (Matthew 26:67). His own creation spit on him, on the face of God. At any moment he could have called legions and legions of angles down to protect himself. He could have wiped out all of creation right then and there, but he chose not to and that amazes me. He chose to forgive. “Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’ (Luke 23:24).”
He knew that the only way for us to be with him forever in eternity was to die for our sins. “For the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).” And that breaks my heart this Easter. But here is the thing, as much as I wish he was not treated that way and that he did not have to die, I am so grateful he did. Now, because of Jesus and his death and resurrection, I can live freely of all my sins. And I can spend eternity with him. Where I can see his face, his smile, his twinkling eyes. I can hear his voice and his joyfulness, and I will continue to feel overwhelmed by his grace and love for me. That is something to celebrate!
Although I have been a Christian my entire life, it was my parent’s faith. It was as if I was holding their hands and they would say, “Look Bethie, this is my friend Jesus.” It was their personal relationship with him, not mine. But I had to let go of their hands and spend time with him on my own. It was not until I walked through my own storms and my own hardships that made him a priority. It was not my faith until I knew Jesus personally, and realized my own need and dependence on him. That is when my heart was changed. That is why the Easter Story is so powerful. Why his crucifixion breaks my heart and yet overflows my heart with gratitude.
If you are in a place, where you feel as if the Easter Story isn’t personal yet. You may still be holding on to someone’s hand or you may know the story, but it is not your own yet. Maybe you do not know Jesus or have a relationship with him, yet. I would encourage you to very simply take a few minutes, to be with him in prayer. Ask to know his heart this Easter, so yours can be opened to receive his grace and overwhelming love. A resource I have found to help me to very simply hear his Word and grow in my relationship with him for just a few minutes every day, is the Daily Audio Bible. I would encourage you to become connected over on their site, if you are ready to have a personal relationship with Jesus too.