A Very Special Easter Message

April 22, 2011

Gather round, children.  Bring your candy eggs and chocolate bunnies.

We’ve all heard the Easter story dozens of times.  And we’re going to hear it again on Sunday.  And you’ve probably been inundated with Easter related blogs and tweets all this week.

But I have a very special Easter message for you.  Have you ever thought of who Jesus’ best friend in the whole wide world was the last week he was here on Earth?  The answer may surprise you.

The Crowd on Palm Sunday

We all know that when Jesus entered Jerusalem, a crowd of people and paparazzi were waiting for him.  It was a big media event.  People were excited.  But a curious thing happened.  The crowd of people were a lot like those palm branches they cut down.  Once those branches were cut down, they died pretty quickly.  So did the hype around Jesus.  The people turned out to see him, but by the end of the week, where’s the love?  Not such good friends if you ask me.

The Pharisees

Jesus wouldn’t need enemies if these guys were his friends.  The story says they were trying to kill him as soon as he set foot in Jerusalem.  Nope, none of these guys qualify as Jesus’ BFFs.

The Disciples

For all the arguing the disciples did over who would be the greatest, they certainly did a mean impression of a bunch of schoolgirls when things got rough at the end of the week.  Even tough guy Peter ran away, afraid of a little girl.  Even after three years, none of these guys look like such great friends to Jesus.

By Good Friday, everyone in Jerusalem had abandoned him, betrayed him, jeered him, or killed him…except one.

The ass he rode into town on.

Given the choice between the disciples, the Pharisees and the fickle crowd, I have to say, I’d take that donkey any day.

See, the Bible is full of “almost disciples,” people who come into contact with Jesus, but they waste it.  Guys like lepers who are healed, and don’t come back.  People who meet Jesus, but they’ve just got a couple of honey-dos to finish before they can blow town with Jesus, a crowd of people whose excitement turns to hate in a few days.  Jesus doesn’t have time for any of these people.  Jesus is looking for people who aren’t fickle, aren’t going to sell out, are going to be reliable and loyal and do the work and not be ashamed, like a humble farm animal.

The church needs a lot more people that are willing to be asses for Jesus.  That’s what it means to be a disciple.

And that is your very special Easter message.

Tell us about how you’re celebrating the holiday.  What’s your favorite Easter song or tradition?

31 responses to A Very Special Easter Message

  1. My favorite Easter tradition is getting up really early and going to a 6:00 sunrise service. I like many Easter hymns and have been posting music videos for different ones on my blog at http://www.zemeks.blogspot.com every day this week and will continue through most of next week. I love Easter! My husband and I are both on the puppet team at church and we’ll be doing two puppet presentations for grades 1-6 on Sunday. I look forward to that too!
    Karen, author of “My Funny Dad, Harry” recently posted..Easter Was Great Except For The Stupid Hats!

  2. Hi Matt,

    Thanks for dragging a happy memory to the surface of my mind.

    Although my six kids are all grown, through college, and scattered out in the world with families of their own now…

    For years our family tradition was for everyone to sit around after dinner on Thursday, and I’d crawl around on hands and knees and wash everyone’s feet as I told the Easter story amid huge amounts of tickling, jokes about Bartholomew (the only disciple to wear pantyhose), laughing, tears, and an ascending sense of the holiness of God as things grew more and more serious.

    That’s my happiest, most holy, memory of Easter.

    I’d almost forgotten. Thanks for reminding em.

  3. I am speechless. Great message – probably the best Easter sermon I have ever heard!

    We have a tradition of going out to a huge brunch, that is as spiritual as we get around here these days.

    My favorite Easter was a sunrise service long before I got saved. Somehow I seemed to understand the message, but I fell away.
    David recently posted..Boston Marathon – A Reason to Run

    • I’ve only been to a couple of sunrise services. But whenever my job required me to show up early to church, I always enjoyed being the first one in, with the Easter lilies having spent all night filling the room with their scent. That one subtle difference always set the tone for a great day for me.

  4. Thanks for sharing this Matt. And I lol’ed when you talked about the donkey. Although let me Jesus Juke the ass part. I see Jesus riding on the ass as a connection with the Old Testament. Like if Ishmael is the wild ass as he’s called in the OT, and causing problems with his brothers (Isaac and descendants and believers in general), then Jesus riding on that ass is a symbol of the spirit man displaying self control and having the sin nature beaten.

    Just my thoughts. Anyways, we’re going to church and then going to grandma’s for lunch and general merriment.

    Charlie Chang recently posted..Rob Bell finally comes clean!

  5. Interesting and thought provoking take matt, and just a bit evocative.

    Wish I could have one specific memory to share. There are things like dogs eating chocolate, getting up for sunrise service, time with family and such. Nothing extra special. Kind of what easter has devolved into, nothing extra special. After though, side note. Yet, it is a week and day above all others.
    peacebringer recently posted..Holy Week Musing- Remembrance and the Last Supper

  6. Love it. Growing up in a traditional black baptist church my biggest memory of Easter was the parade of new clothes. As an adult I’ve come to loathe ALL holidays.

    As I was reading you’re message I’m struck at the parallels between Jesus’ birth and death. He was born surrounded by animals, he goes out with an animal as his only friend.

    I see a new blog coming: Asses for Jesus.
    M. Smith recently posted..Blessed are the Poor…Part 2

  7. Well Matt, You kiss your mother with that mouth! lol…just kidding!!

    Great Post…

    I think sometimes we can’t help like feel like asses for Jesus anyway…The donkey didn’t know what he was doing,,,he just knew he had to carry this heavy wieght on his back…hmmm that sounds really familar….

    Isn’t that what faith is?….not knowing what the hell we are doing…but knowing we have this load of the Gospel on our shoulders that we must carry…But just like the donkey…he did it because he was destined for it….and so were we…

    nice one…
    Arny recently posted..Hey! You Cut off my Ear you Idiot!!!!

  8. Good thought matt. That ass knew his purpose and did a really good job fulfilling that. Notice the ass didnt try to be a disciple, it knew its place and played its roll.

    I wasn’t allowed to do Easter egg hunts as a kid. I think i am going to do one this year. I will have a pretty good advantage against the neighborhood kids since I am 5’11” and 25 years old. I still love candy!
    Darrell recently posted..Does Love Win Round One

  9. The only Easter tradition I have is going to church. I am getting married this year so I will be in the market for new traditions. I work in college ministry so we are having an “Easter Feaster” that night to celebrate. Should be fun.

    To maybe push back just a little on your message, the donkey wasn’t there at the end. I guess you can’t really say the donkey turned on him but he certainly didn’t stick with him till the end. I think the important thing is that everyone left Jesus (except the women). So maybe we need to be more like women for Jesus. Take that Mark Driscoll!

  10. First of all, I think you should turn “being asses for Jesus” into a shirt or something. On a more serious note, Easter is my favorite holiday. I mean after all Good Friday and Easter is the reason Jesus came. This is my first Easter married and so I’m looking forward to being able to start some Easter traditions in our family.
    Ben Wiggins recently posted..How do you deal with criticism

  11. Great message. When I read the title I thought, “If that were written by anyone else, I would expect a Michael Landon-inspired blog.” (hee hee). Growing up in a secular home, it was all about the easter bunny and candy. Now, we buy the kids candy and paint easter eggs and hide them, but it is all about Jesus. In the past, Easter has been about spending it at church and with extended family for a big meal. However, having moved, the past few years we have just spent it as a nuclear family, resting, which is much needed. Our church is having outdoor services for both Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Because we live in AZ, there is almost zero chance of rain or snow.

    I have heard the phrase “I’m a fool for Christ. Whose fool are you?” You just kicked it up a notch.
    tandemingtroll recently posted..Second Summit Achieved- North Mountain

  12. One of the best things about Easter is that we can celebrate the resurrection without all the hype. While there are still commercialized aspects, they’re pretty easy to ignore, especially since our kids are adults now.

    We have some traditions, but there’s no pressure to keep them every single year. Pete’s family makes this amazing Finnish cardamom bread (http://blogs.icta.net/mom/2011/04/finnish-coffee-bread), and I usually bake that plus a quiche and fruit salad to go with it.

    We used to go to a sunrise service every year, until they canceled the one here in town because it got too popular! This year our church has added a simple 6:30 a.m. outside service
    to go with all the big productions later in the morning, so we’ll be there bright and early. I can hardly wait!

  13. I have had people call me that on several occasions, although no one attributed it to being for the Lord.
    Jeff recently posted..He never said He wouldn’t give us too much to handle

  14. I love Easter, it is the central holiday to our faith. And it always makes me sad that we don’t do much celebrating on Easter. I’ll be attending church with my mother and I’ve spent the week nagging my father about going with us- and he probably won’t. So that’s the current Easter tradition. And then we’ll have a big lunch and everyone will play outside and the majority of the crowd won’t understand what the heck we are celebrating.

    When I was little I loved the new Easter dresses, the white tights and shiny white shoes me and my sisters wore. And the hats! Why don’t we wear Easter hats after age 10? I loved them! My sister’s and I would put curlers in our hair the night before and have a contest the next day to see who looked the most like Shirley Temple, I always thought I won. We always went to church and at Catholic church there were lots of pastel banners and liturgical dancers and a sense of celebration. And then we went home and ate chocolate! Typing this is making me wonder what any of these traditions have to do with the real Easter (besides church). Maybe I need to institute some new traditions…
    Carla recently posted..Ghosts- Demons- and the Paranormal

  15. Very excellent post. I agree with many here: I am going to be using that line about being asses for Jesus!

    Tonight we are doing our annual Good Friday Cross Walk down one of the busiest streets in Glendale, AZ. This will be the second year that my wife and I are waking up Sunday morning without Easter Baskets and pre-Church breakfast/brunch, though we are teaching the K-2 kiddos about the Resurrection and seeing her Grandmother afterward! I even have a new suit! (I actually got it for something for school, but it has a pastel purple shirt and tie, so BACK OFF! :p

    We both grew up in families that did the baskets and all of the fun stuff, but after getting married two years ago and our families being on the other side of the country it has not stayed. Partially because of the pagan roots of the practices (which we still find fun), but mostly due to family being so far away!
    Daniel M. Klem recently posted..Special Friday

  16. Thanks for sharing, Matt. I think Jesus’ other friend was the guy who helped him carry the cross. Perhaps he can be considered the first human to be an “ass for Jesus.” May we put down our pride and our conception of “safety” to emulate him and the donkey both.

    As for Easter traditions, I grew up Christian but also have a Chinese heritage. Thankfully, I was spared a lot of the weird Easter traditions. I never really liked dressing up for Easter, though. It seemed weird that we would go to the cross “as we were” but then had to dress up like we were someone else.
    Jo_of_TSN recently posted..The Answer

  17. I don’t need to put up Easter decorations. There are no judgments made about me for not having lights up and what not. So I guess not having to decorate is my favorite Easter tradition.
    Helen recently posted..Happy Earth Day!

  18. sure those are the ideal people Jesus would want and need, but that’s not who he gets. And he uses the unreliable anyway. Now that’s gospel.

  19. Great post. Sometimes I think life would be way easier if all we had to deal with was animals… it’s the people that make things complex!
    Deb recently posted..love and sacrifice

  20. Hi Matt,

    It’s John again.

    In regard to your image of being asses for Christ’s sake… Heck Matt, I don’t know how to comment right.

    A few years ago I wrote a piece about the ugliest picture in the world. I have a copy of it hanging above my desk. It shows the earliest known drawing depicting Jesus. It’s from a Roman wall in Nero’s “Golden House”. To me, it speaks… Crap! Matt, I don’t know how to say it. It’s too close to me.

    A link to the pice I wrote is at http://www.cowart.info/Monthly%20Features/Ugly%20pix/Ugly%20%20pix.htm . In t5he rush of Easter activities maybe steal a quiet moment to reaed it.

    PS: My best friend finally died Wednesday evening, and if I’m less coherent than usual it’s because I’m less coherent.

    When you see the Alexamenos Grapheti You’ll see the relationship to your words about the ass.


  21. Today I spent some time with family and with the new Church plant I am part of having a bbq. Reminded me of the Jesus cooking for the disciples after he reappeared to them.

    And of course the obligatory Easter egg hunt and finding eggs six months later that we never found the first time.
    Paul Robinson recently posted..Getting in the ring with Jesus on Easter

  22. 12 years ago we joined a church that puts on a large yearly Passion Play. So for 12 years we spent that week working backstage during the performances. I loved it. It finally felt like an appropriate way to spend that Sunday – telling others the story. Somehow the Easter dinner always felt wierdly out of place. We no longer attend that church, but have a new tradition of having a Passover Seder with family and close friends. It is wonderful to relive the story of our redemption….not just from Egypt, but from our sin. And to celebrate the Messiah, our Passover Lamb.

  23. Happy Easter, Matt!

    My favorite tradition is going to the Easter Vigil (at sundown Saturday night) and hearing the priest chant the beautiful and theologically rich “Exultet” while we all hold lit candles in a darkened Church. Although later we all sang “Surely It Is God Who Saves Me” by Jack Noble White, which is gorgeous and one of my favorite songs too–I cried through most of the song this year.
    ironiccatholic recently posted..Rejoice- Heavenly Powers!

  24. Interesting and thought provoking take matt, and just a bit evocative. We have a tradition of going out to a huge brunch, that is as spiritual as we get around here these days. Matt, I don’t know how to say it.

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