I love Easter. Many of my happiest childhood memories are Easter memories. Being a preacher’s kid this was the time of year we left the city and went to Easter camps and conventions. I got to hang out near the beach with my best friend Nigel, who lived in another part of England. Nigel and I got up to all sorts of mischief – we locked all the toilet doors in the two storey convention building on the inside, then climbed out the windows and slid down the drain pipes; we saw streakers undressing behind some sheds by the beach, so we threw all their clothes into thick gorse bushes; I overindulged in Easter eggs, then went on a fairground ride, that all resulted in an interesting mess on my parents bed – happy days! And, in my memory at least, the sun shone every day.
There are a couple of great Bible words to express this kind of eternal Easter sunshine. One is ‘blessed’ and the other ‘peace’.
‘Blessed’ – esher in Hebrew, makarios in Greek – means happy, fortunate.
‘Peace’ – shalom in Hebrew, eirēnē in Greek – means well-being, wholeness, safety, health (both Hebrew and Greek meanings are relational, e.g. safety in God’s friendship).
Jesus used both words in one phrase when he said:
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they shall be called sons of God.
Jesus is saying here that we will be acknowledged by all to be sons of God, when we do what God does – make peace – bringing others into the well-being and wholeness of relationship with God. And as a result of being peacemakers we will be happy.
New Zealand’s armed forces are world famous for being peacekeepers. They are posted to hotspots of civil unrest to keep opposing groups at arms length from each other, like referees in a wrestling ring. They hope that while they are doing the peacekeeping, politicians will be working on the peacemaking, otherwise their stay will be endless. The world we live in is crying out for peacemakers. Where is safety, where is happiness?
Easter is a celebration of peacemaking. Those of us who grew up in church have been told that Christ’s death and resurrection were so that we could have our sins forgiven. That is certainly part of the story, but it isn’t the whole reason for Easter. Check out Colossians 1:19 & 20:
For in [Jesus] all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,
and through him to reconcile to himself all things,
whether on earth or in heaven,
making peace by the blood of his cross.
Wow! That’s much bigger than me and my sins – although they are included in this. Jesus is the universal peacemaker. More than that, his peacemaking covers all things in heaven and on earth. Not just me and you, not just humanity, all things everywhere are brought into peace by being reconciled to himself. ‘The blood of his cross’ made this possible.
Easter then is the celebration of shalom/eirēnē; the peace, wellbeing, safety that comes from relationship. Specifically, the wholeness of relationship with God himself through Christ Jesus. We enter the shalom that Adam and Eve once knew. This peace is between us and God, and also between us and each other. Paul continued on in his letter to the Colossians to explain that there are no tribal divisions in Christ, no socioeconomic divisions (3:11). He summed it up with this phrase:
And above all these put on love,
which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts,
to which indeed you were called in one body.
We aren’t called to be peacekeepers, but peacemakers. This is how Jesus said we would prove ourselves to be ‘sons of God’. I’ll end with an old Easter rhyme. This was to be spoken by two people as they shared a hot cross bun on Good Friday, and was meant to ensure friendship between them throughout the following year – of course peace doesn’t just happen through a once spoken rhyme; peace has to be made, or as Paul put it (above) love has to be ‘put on’.
Half for you and half for me,
between us two shall goodwill be.
As you celebrate your blood bought peace with God this Easter ask him how you, as his child, can make peace with others.