I have heard many Easter Sunday sermons in my 40-something years of living. As a teenager, I even participated in massive Easter productions that marked the final weeks of Jesus on earth. The real-life scenes unfolded, flipping through the stories of Scripture from the moment Jesus entered Jerusalem riding on a young donkey, while people waved palm branches shouting “Hosanna!” to the shift when they exclaimed “Crucify Him!” instead, ending with a compelling and dramatic Resurrection and Ascension scene.
But did I really understand the fullness of what the cross, resurrection, and ascension mean? Do many of us?
I knew the basics with some depth. God created the heavens and the earth and all things in it, including us. Humans were made in love, by love, and for love to be like Him. Something went wrong though. As the first man and woman were tempted to doubt the heart of God, to take life into their own hands, they disobeyed Him; sinned against Him. We’ve been repeating that cycle ever since. Our sin has marred the image of God upon us.
So, God set out to make things right. He took on the form of humanity in sending his son, Jesus, to be the ultimate sacrifice. The most beautiful act of humility. Having been taught to thank Jesus for dying on the cross for me, I knew sin was something I had to confess, as well as my belief that Jesus is the Son of God, and the only way to Life. That meant I was saved from the clutches of sin. Furthermore, His resurrection was the complete conquering of death and the grave.
Then what? They lived happily ever after with no more struggle or pain or strife, right?
Wrong. Jesus said we will have troubles in this world. (John 16:33, and thankfully, He has conquered the world)
I spent a lot of years trying to be like Jesus. It’s what we are often told to do, as if it is up to us and should come easy once saved. Imagine the frustration! The shame. The contempt.
It seems largely misunderstood that salvation is continual. There is more, much more beyond that first prayer. Paul encourages the Philippians to work out their salvation. He also explains that it is God working in us, willing and working His way into our everyday living to accomplish this. (Phil. 2:12-13) It implies we are both saved and being saved. It also relieves the pressure of doing it by our own strength.
My initial confession reconciles my relationship with God. It is the moment I confess my sin of taking life by the reigns without Him, and allow Him back in, trusting He is the only way to life. This clears the way for the “more.” Here is where restoration begins. It is the healing we most deeply long for.
In the writings of the past six weeks, you have repeatedly known me to mention healing. Maybe we also hear it from the pulpits. But do we understand it, or do we simply know the wordage? Is it really all that significant? And what does Easter have to do with it?
It is the gospel in its fullness. When Jesus opens the scrolls in the temple to reveal who He is (Luke 4), He reads from Isaiah 61.“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve…to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” Isaiah 61:1-3
Here in the Hebrew text, the word for broken is “shavar,” which means to break, destroy, crush, to be smashed, shatter, break in pieces. It signifies a literal breaking, not metaphorical. Heart is the Hebrew word “lev,” meaning heart, by extension of the inner person, the self, the seat of thought and emotion, conscience, courage, mind, understanding, wisdom. Emotions, heart, thought, and mind are kept together in the Hebrew language. The core of our inner self is utterly broken to pieces.
During my late twenties, I realized something was wrong. I was saved, but I was miserable. A young preacher’s wife with a full house (six to be exact) and a full slate with Betty Crocker stamped on my forehead, I served endlessly. I was also angry, yet I didn’t understand why. This anger exploded within the walls of our home. It was in relationship to my husband and children I saw something wasn’t right.
The only thing I knew to do was pray. All the exhortations to just do right, be like Christ, straighten up, act right had not worked. They left me feeling something was wrong with me. Though I had been “saved,” I simply couldn’t measure up. No one had shown me that beyond the brokenness of my own sin, our hearts are shattered by the sins of others against us, as well as the brokenness of this world where we now live – between Eden and heaven. And that these things meant I needed further “saving.”
God tenderly began showing me how, in specific ways, I was broken throughout childhood and the teen years. Various abuses from verbal to sexual had cut off entire pieces of me. Those heinous acts affected how I saw myself and God, as well as how I reacted to others. For three years I had what I affectionately call a head-on collision with my past. Jesus patiently tended many pieces, using truth to heal the lies I’d believed about myself and Him, while I filled countless journal pages during the process.
That season wasn’t the end-all. Our happily ever after isn’t yet. I was doing well, resting in His love, relishing in the new, holy, healthy ways of relating to my husband and our four precious children when a new tragedy struck. One fateful October day, the 8th of 2011, two of our daughters were traumatically injured in a 4-wheeler accident. There was no quick fix. No single doctor. No lone surgery. No one comfort to silence their paralyzing fears, or ours as their parents.
Eight excruciatingly long years, 11 surgeries totaling approximately 31 hours, countless doctor visits for both, and many sleepless nights over their hurting hearts caused a new brokenness as a momma like I never imagined. To add insult to injury, we lost our custom-built home in the middle of the recession, becoming homeless during one of the hardest and longest surgery recoveries (six months) for our youngest daughter. That’s not even half the story, but you get the picture.
It is no wonder we continue to need saving, and it is no wonder why Paul writes in Romans chapter 8:19 that “the whole earth awaits breathless with anticipation for the revelation of God’s sons and daughters!” Revelation here means to reveal what is hidden about who we truly are as a whole, healed person; the true you before sin and harm and suffering marked you.
Please read on; allow me to take us a little deeper to connect the dots.
“To preach the message of the cross seems like sheer nonsense to those who are on their way to destruction, but to us who are being saved, it is the mighty power of God released within us.” (1 Cor. 1:18) I studied the original word in the Greek here for being saved, “sozo.” The verb is a present passive participle, which is timeless. It also means to save, i.e. deliver or protect (literally or figuratively): heal, preserve, be (make) whole.
No single work of Christ can be held as more important than the other. It must be taken as a whole. The power of the cross saves us from sin, heals the broken pieces of our heart, bringing them back into the whole once again. Jesus’ conquering of sin and death through His resurrection provides the power to restore us as an image-bearer, to make us like Him once again, revealing our true self piece by piece. Through His ascension into heaven to be given all authority over the heavens and the earth by the Father, an even greater gift is imparted to us, the Holy Spirit – given to us as a constant companion, counselor, and guide.
This is all done in continuation. Paul describes salvation as past, present, process, and future. (Rom. 8:24, 2:5, 1 Cor. 15:2, Rom. 10:9) As we are being healed and made whole, we find we are being restored to love again, to receive love, forgiveness, strength, joy, courage, beauty, trueness, goodness, oneness with God, and so, so much more.
Nothing that has broken you is too huge for God. Likewise, no pain is too small to be addressed.
Jesus stands at the door of his sons and daughters, knocking. It isn’t to the unsaved he is knocking here in Revelation 3:20. “Look at Me. I stand at the door. I knock. If you hear Me call and open the door, I’ll come right in and sit down to supper with you.” The door opens from the inside.
This Easter, will you open the door for the healing and restoration of your heart?