One of the exercises I like to do around Easter was first introduced to me through Richard Foster's Celebration of Discipline. Christian holidays like Christmas, Good Friday, and Easter can often get stale over time because the focus does not change and many years neither does the passage. Such repetition can prevent us from appreciating the raw emotions and events that took place thousands of years ago. To avoid callousness I encourage anyone to practice character meditation in hopes of breathing new life into the story. Read the passage once to hear it in full. Read a second time and pick a person for you to represent. Read a third time and take part as that person while you read. The goal is for the reader to immerse him or herself into the story using all five senses and to recognize the emotions present.
I first participated in character meditation when reading the final Passover meal (or Seder Supper) account in Matthew 26. Jesus was in the upper room with His disciples who thought they were celebrating Passover like any other year. However, during this meal Jesus washed His disciples’ feet, humbly demonstrating His servant’s heart. He asked them to do the same. The disciples were confused and reluctant at first, but allowed Jesus to serve and listened politely to His recommendation. He then broke bread and passed out wine telling them it symbolized His body and blood. Increasing the moment's intensity, Jesus announces one of them would betray Him to the officials, which would lead to His death. Postures shift, appetites change, and everyone listens a bit more intently.
Jesus is focused, deliberate, and eager. (Luke 22) The disciples are confused, proud, and overwhelmed. Judas is exposed. Peter is naively brave. (John 13)
Later that night Judas betrays Jesus arriving with roughly 600 armed soldiers, the chief priest, and servants. The signal? A kiss. Brave Peter whips out a sword and cuts Malchus’ ear off, one of the servants. Jesus immediately heals it and reprimands Peter for his poor decision. Even after the kiss of betrayal Jesus calls Judas friend, which fosters remorse, shame, and despair in poor Judas' spirit. We learn within 24 hours the disciple hangs himself. Jesus promotes peace in these moments as He extends forgiveness to Judas, submits to political authority, and heals a man coming for His arrest.
At His death Jesus wrestles deep pain, not from nails, but from rejection from those He loves. Even the earth mourns in darkness for a few dreadful hours. And yet, could there have been a sliver of joy knowing through His obedience the separation between God and His creation, mankind, was reversed? After all, a Roman official who witnesses the crucifixion believes and is forever changed (Luke 23).
Easter morning arrives and Jesus appears to the disciples delivering excitement, fear, doubt, and bliss. They eat with Him, touch His scars, catch up on the last 24 hours and receive the charge to spread the message of reconciliation back to God. (Matthew 28, John 3:16) All of creation, once guilty and flawed, has an opportunity to live beautiful and whole because of Christ.
Christians should prepare for Easter weekend. Emotions run the full gamut when one reflects on all that took place in 72 hours. Remember the dark moments that lead to eternal Light. Be ambassadors of Christ spreading the word of reconciliation to God through Jesus (2 Corinthians 5). Finally, rejoice for future hope, present forgiveness, and permanent community with our Maker.