As far as I know — for not all dreams are remembered – I’ve never dreamed of Easter. I’ve acted in church plays from high school, where I played a very youthful Jesus, to middle-age, playing Paul, who bore a strange resemblance in costume to Fred Flintstone. If that was a dream, I’m glad I woke up.
I’ve tried to put myself at the scene while watching other actors re-enact it in churches and on the big screen, but I always feel short of really capturing in my mind what it must have been like, from the triumphant entry to the triumphant victory. It’s impossible to capture the perspective, realizing when we re-enact it, we do so with the fullness of a truth the real witnesses did not have. We know how the story reconciles itself. For us, it is not an “Oh, my God” moment with exclamation points and question marks, shouts and tears. It’s a God moment. A simple period of awe suffices.
I feel almost like I cheated somehow, not having to endure the roller-coaster ride of emotions that had to have completely drained those involved, from the owner of the donkey to the owner of the tomb, from the Garden of Gethsemane to the pensive upper room. I get the heart-saving benefits of their experience without the heart-stopping moments.
Of course, we have the Word. We can read of the painful and horrifying crucifixion, Peter’s woeful sobbing through denials while a cock crows in acknowledgement of how far he has fallen, of those who fled into hiding, lost in confusion while the seemingly-defeated Messiah begins to decay in a dark and guarded tomb. We can read also of the brilliant sunrise reflecting on a rolled-away stone and an empty grave and imagine the shouts of glory from those who were first to know with absolute certainty that Jesus was and is and always will be.
I didn’t get to be among the first to run screaming “He’s Alive!” Emerging from the darkness of mourners’ distress into the light of the reality of holiness, those who knew Him first could contain their joy no more than the grave could contain the Lord. I can put myself in their places and imagine the wash of relief and the dispensation of doubt forever. “Look . . . it is Him.”
Maybe I have never dreamed of it because it is so real and so right and so righteously radiant in truth that no unlimited deep-sleep fascination can do it justice. Even the best of “dreams” are only what might be, what almost could happen.
In a dream, if I found myself among the mob, I could almost count the strikes of the whip; almost see the spit flying, almost share the hidden fear and pain of those who watched their hopes and dreams stumble in the dust beneath the weight. I could almost see Christ’s eyes fill with salty sweat I could not wipe away for Him. I could almost see him look at me through waves of pain, gazing down in mercy. I could almost imagine the labored breathing and I could almost shed the tears of those who stood in the shadows beyond the spears. I could almost hear Him cry out, reflecting His sorrow at the silence of God who had to turn away from his cry for His will to be done. I could almost grasp the heavy finality of the massive stone inflicting blackness on the darkened tomb holding a withered man and all the weary misery of the world. I could almost feel the evil as it pushed against the stone to hold Him in, minions prepped for a victory pose, ready to move out and lay waste to the misguided mourners and reinforce the spoils of death. And then, I could almost bear the brilliance of Christ’s victory, my salvation, and the force of a new round of nails now posting for all to see the death sentence for evil.
He is not here; He has risen! Remember how He told you, while He was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” – Luke 24:6-7
But my eyes are open, not closed. I am awake and well beyond the third day. Because of Christ, almost has becomes always.
I can always know that I am worth everything He went through. In His “alwaysness,” I can always call on Him to help me to live as He did . . . according to the perfect will of His . . . my . . . Father in heaven.
I can always live knowing He loves me and He gave Himself for me. And when I fail to love others as He did and does, I can always depend on His forgiveness and His help to forgive others as He did and does. To encourage others as He did and does.
And in times of trouble, which He knows will always be with me; I will always know He is as well.
Jesus never almost did anything.
It’s an ever thing for everyone. The love that led Him through the streets; sustained Him in the beatings; filled his lungs with labored breath; rode the waves of wracking pain; drowned out the sound of the hammer; bore up beneath the searing sun; defied the evil victory chants of Satan; burst forth in direct proclamation . . . was for you and me.
When it seems I can only “almost” do those things he always does – show mercy, extend grace, seek righteousness, forgive again, sin no more – he is always there to wipe the tears, carry the burden, open the door, mend the relationship, dispel the fear, denounce the doubt, heal and restore the hope. More strength, more guidance; more clarity; always His supply is endless. His truth always enduring.
To those who drift in the almost of Easter, it is a dreamy celebration of floppy ears and colored eggs, chocolate candy and perfect pictures posed in Sunday best. An imagining of how life should be, all sugar-coated smiles and starched clean dreams. It may work for the day, but it is a broken token in comparison to the eternity of always.
Truth trumps dreams and all imaginings.
I do not dream or imagine God left His throne for me; I know He did.
I do not dream or imagine Christ looks at me with the same mercy he did the one who pierced His side; I know He does.
I do not dream or imagine Christ forgives me as clearly and completely as He did the repentant man on the cross at his side; I know He does.
I do not dream or imagine the very aim of His death was my salvation; I know it was.
I do not dream or imagine I will one day stand before Him to join in perfect praise in person my gratefulness for His stepping free of His tomb. I know I will.
We cannot dream or imagine Christ died, defeated death and rose. And we cannot imagine why. It was because He loves me and only He could save me. I can’t save myself. He knew that; He did that.
Jesus knew that every step he took and every word He spoke would eventually take Him to the cross, to the tomb, through death and back to the throne. As He walked the route, He knew me at every stop along the way, just as He knows me at every stumble, victory, climb, and tumble along my own circuitous route to meet Him at His throne. He knows me now. He loved me always, always will.
Jesus never almost did anything.
(Thom Hunter is the author of Surviving Sexual Brokenness: What Grace Can Do, from WestBow Press.)