Eating with my daughter is always a chore. I love the kid, but she has more energy than anyone I know. Getting her to actually sit down and consume enough sustenance to keep her alive is steadily turning my hair gray. Sunday after church, we went to a local restaurant to grab a quick lunch before a busy afternoon.
When our waitress arrived, I committed the cardinal sin Christians are often lambasted for. I judged her. She was covered in various tattoos. Every visible part had something inscribed. I’m not anti-tattoo, as I have one that covers most of my right shoulder. However, I know the connotations that normally go with that sort of lifestyle. She wasn’t like me. So, I judged her. I “knew” what kind of person she was without ever talking to her. And I knew I didn’t want my daughter to be “influenced” by her.
As with all things in my life, Christ uses the things I “know” to humble me. My little hurricane was being rather cantankerous, and not cooperating with the ordering process. This tattooed waitress totally went into mom mode. She started joking with my daughter, which totally pulled her out of her mood. She offered to add coloring to my daughter’s lemonade to make the color of her choice. Though there was a lack of crayons with the kid’s menu, this lady took my daughter into the kitchen and found 3 separate colors. Small details, but there was a gospel message in it.
Holy Week is upon us. I always jokingly call it Christianity’s Super Bowl! This is it! Easter is why we dare call ourselves Christians. Yet, a message of the depth of Christ’s love can be found in the thief on the cross.
This man obviously was one of “them.” He did not fit in polite society. By all accounts, he was a condemned criminal. Crucifixion wasn’t the normal punishment of the day for a thief, so this guy must have either stolen something from the wrong person or been caught multiple times. Either way, his punishment was “deserved.”
Another man being crucified jeered Christ, but this thief responded differently. He became an emblem of the breadth of Christ’s forgiveness. “But the other rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.’ And he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ And he said to him, ‘Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise’” (Luke 23:40-43).
The cynic in me wants to say…wait what? That’s it? Does he get to stroll right in because he recognized at the last moment who Jesus was? Yet, the Christian in me has a different response. A response that can only be known by one who deserved to be on that cross beside Him. One that knows he is, in fact, completely guilty of all the charges laid against him.
As the world seems to spin further and further off its orbit, it is up to the Christian to say, ever more loudly, the reason for our hope. However, how many of us live with that hope within ourselves? How many of us could speak to why we believe what we believe? Worse yet, how many of us offer that hope to others, even those who don’t look, think, or believe the way we do.
Most can recite what John 3:16 says, but it is verse 17 that is remarkable to me: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” Not to be lost in this Easter message is that the sacrifice of Jesus was meant for everyone. Literally everyone. The victory of Easter is that the way is made straight, through Jesus. Hope is available to all who would receive it.
Hope is a person and His name is Jesus. He no longer is in His grave but sits ready at the right hand of the Father to receive all who would come to Him.
Our waitress fawned all over my little hurricane. She checked on her constantly. She came once and used Snapchat to take silly pictures with her. She did her absolute best to show love to my little girl. When it was time to leave, my daughter ran to her with arms wide and hugged her. Our waitress hugged her back like she had known us all her life. My daughter showed the love that Christ talked about.
The best thing about Easter is that it leveled the playing field for everyone. Our Hope has come. Our salvation is secure in the One who died to procure it.
“Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian. So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:23-29).
Happy Easter to you and yours. He is Risen. He is Risen indeed!