Column: A celebration of Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice

Easter is the feast of extraordinary love. This Sunday, Christians will celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, the greatest of celebrations for the Christian Church.

Why? Often, we hear that Jesus rose from the dead and defeated death. Yes, this is the truth and an important truth. However, if we look at what brought this truth about, we can get the whole message of Easter Sunday. Jesus’ passion, leading up to His Crucifixion and death, symbolizes sacrificial love. Sacrificial love is the highest form of love a human can practice. It means very simply that you think of others and their needs. This could be when someone gives one of his/her kidneys to a stranger because, without it, the other person will die. It could be a soldier medic who attends to a wounded soldier, risking his own life in the process. It could be a family welcoming a child with severe disabilities into their lives. Two things to remember for sacrificial love: you must do it and give yourself completely to it. Jesus did this over 2000 years ago, and his sacrifice is still celebrated today: the Resurrection.

Jesus was about this: “to love one another as I have loved you.” (Matt 22:34) Easter celebrates this sacrificial love. It is Jesus who will accept his sufferings, torture, infidelity from his very disciples, his debasement before authorities, the spit, and names and wounds. He wanted to show us that even during the despised execution on the Cross, he wanted us to know how he loved all of us. He willingly took on all our sins and gave His life for us. Easter is about LOVE. With his death, he will rise in glory on Easter Sunday. “By his cross and resurrection, he has set us free.”

We, as humans, are, by nature, self-seeking and selfish. These self-wants and desires can put us on a path of living that can be destructive to ourselves, our family, and our community. They can put us in a place we cannot get out of, in short, a prison of our own desires, drug addiction, pornography, crime, and selfishness that hurts others so that we can gain position, money or celebrity, or power. We are set free by thinking of others, practicing compassion for those around us, and living a good life that allows us to see others and their needs. We will know the good by the choices that impact others around us, small and large choices that free our souls of selfishness. By following the path of sacrificial love, we are set free from desire and sin and awakened to the possibility of wholeness and joy.

Jesus, shows us by example, accepting the pain he was to suffer and the humiliations he would undergo for the love of his people. But in his sacrifice, he will rise from the grave to show us that He has defeated death and offers a pathway to eternal life.

Many of us turn away from religion today and follow our own paths, thinking that Easter represents some past cultural event that has little to do with our current lives. Yet, the hunger for love and belonging is always within us, perhaps more now in our current world than ever.

Easter is a time of love, sacrifice and the redemption of the human condition in which we are all participants. Even nature celebrates corresponding to the Easter season. With a season of new growth, it reliably brings green back to the trees and the land, birthing every living plant with freshness and flowers. So, Jesus’ sacrificial love witnessed on the Cross and His physical Resurrection renew us with hope and joy for the eternal for which we are made. By His Cross and Resurrection, He has set us free. Free to live beyond our selfishness, free to know we are meant for an eternal home, and free to know who and what we are as His children.

I wish each of you a blessed Easter. Rejoice, rejoice, He has risen! Alleluia, Alleluia!

Kathleen Carlton Johnson, Ph.D., is a hospice chaplain.


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