Christ has risen…He has risen indeed!
This declaration and response resounds throughout Christendom on Easter Sunday…a day I look forward to each year. While the Christmas season holds special meaning for Christians worldwide, Jesus did not ask us to remember His birth. But He did ask us to remember His death, burial and resurrection, which we do in Communion throughout the year but mostly in the celebration of Easter.
One Christian practice (usually honored in liturgical churches such as Presbyterian and Lutheran as well as Episcopal and Catholic) that I have grown fond of is the observation of the “Triduum,” or “Three Days,” a period that begins on Maundy Thursday evening (typically with Communion) and ends on Easter Sunday. While the Triduum is admittedly a “manmade” tradition, it is one that has served me well over the years, posing as a “comma in time” to help me pause and reflect in a very intentional manner on Christ’s sacrifice for me.
Maundy Thursday. Christians celebrate Communion often throughout the year in remembrance of Jesus (“Do this in remembrance of Me,” Jesus said, Luke 22:19.) While it is always a special time, to celebrate Communion on Maundy Thursday evening is unique in that it is a time set apart to specifically remember the Passover “Last Supper” Jesus had with his disciples. A time to recall His final declaration of His pending betrayal and death, given just hours before his arrest. A time to remember that “He loved [the disciples] to the end” (John 13:1) as He washed their feet, rather than focusing on His own immediate needs. A time to recall that He was in fact the Passover Lamb of God “who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29), as John the Baptist had stated three years before.
Good Friday. As a young person unconnected to the Church, I did not understand why a day when someone died would be called “good.” But as a Christ follower I understand the redemption purpose Jesus fulfilled by submitting Himself to death (and what a brutal death it was!). Now, along with fellow Christians around the world, I humbly and gratefully appreciate that Jesus did in fact die on that cross. Indeed, for me and my salvation, THAT Friday was very “good” and today I honor it in remembrance.
Holy Saturday. While part of the Triduum, Holy Saturday is a day in the background of the Easter story. Reading the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ death and burial on Friday and resurrection sometime early Easter (Sunday) morn, it is easy to forget that for a full day – Saturday – Jesus’ body lay in the tomb. He was not “in a coma” or “asleep” as some resurrection debunkers claim…His body was dead and buried. According to the Apostles’ Creed, Saturday was not silent for Jesus…based on Acts 2:31, Ephesians 4:8-10 and 1 Peter chapters 3 and 4, the Creed professes that Christ spent that day in “Hades” (hell), declaring the Good News to the prisoners there.
Easter Sunday. My favorite Easter story was told on Easter morning by a previous pastor who had a friend who was a Catholic priest. During a children’s sermon one Easter, a little girl could not contain herself and interrupted the priest’s story time by waving her hand wildly in the air. Impossible to ignore, the priest called on her.
“I know what Jesus’ first words were when He came out of the tomb,” the little girl said.
Surprised, the priest replied, “You do? What did He say?”
The little girl, who had been seated on a pew in front of the priest, suddenly jumped up and thrust her hands into the air, calling out, “TA-DA!!!”
This Easter, may you cry out with all the enthusiasm of a child: “Christ has risen!” And may the response fill your ears: “He has risen indeed!”