"They're hurting him. Make them stop," cried my 4-year-old daughter Caitlin as she watched the Easter cantata. She stared with wide eyes as Jesus was beaten, mocked, and crucified. Earlier in the service she had danced and sang as Christ healed the brokenhearted, forgave sins, and provided for the poor. But now as she watched the sacrifice needed to do all of these things, she didn't try to hide her horror.
"Mommy, they aren't being nice."
"I know, honey, but it's okay. Just watch," I whispered back.
She shielded her eyes. "I don't like this."
"Okay. I will take you in the hall."
I turned around to look back at the stage as we walked down the aisle. "Look, honey. It's all pretend. Jesus is okay," I reassured her. The expression on her face told me she wasn't convinced. I took one last look at the cantata before letting the door close behind me.
Two thousand years ago, it wasn't pretend. I stopped my consoling and pondered that thought. There was a day in history when this crucifixion was very real.
During the Easter season, it's easy to get so caught up in wearing the "perfect" outfit and deciding whose house to meet at for dinner that we miss the importance of the Last Supper.
Do you go to the Passion plays and listen to the Easter story and tell the childlike faith inside you "This is all pretend"? Or do you allow yourself to smell the sweat on Jesus' skin after a long night of prayer and pleading with His heavenly Father? Do you allow yourself to hear the buzzing of the flies as they crawl on the Savior's wounds? Do you chew on jellybeans and chocolate bunnies rather than imagine the bitter taste of wine vinegar from a sponge? Do you feel the ache in your chest as you watch your best friend die?
As I spoke with Caitlin in the hall during the cantata, she recounted the pain Jesus was feeling on the other side of the sanctuary door.
"Mommy, I saw Jesus. He was on the cross. They were hitting him."
"I know, honey, but he will be okay. Remember, Jesus came back to life."
"Do you want to go back in and sit with Grandma?"
I walked her back in the sanctuary and led her to her grandmother in the rear pew. I then walked about eight rows up and sat with the rest of the family. The beautiful music and chilling images onstage raised goose bumps on my arms.
Soon the lights came up in the sanctuary. My mom and Caitlin were standing in the back talking to the man who played Jesus, who was now in his street clothes. I gathered my diaper bag and two other children and followed my husband to where they were. I saw Caitlin's radiant smile as she pushed her way back to us.
"Mommy, I just saw Jesus! He told me he loves me!" Her eyes danced with excitement. I knew what she was feeling. She had had an encounter with the risen Savior, and her happiness was tangible. She didn't need the candy or the bunnies or Easter egg hunts. Jesus is alive, and that's the best reason for our joy.
Tiffany Colter is a writer and former youth leader from Riga, Michigan.
Copyright © 2004 by the author or Christianity Today/Today's Christian magazine.
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