I love Easter! And this year, I’ve started a new tradition. More accurately, I’ve adopted one in making Italian Easter bread. It was just too beautiful to resist!
I dyed raw eggs the very first thing this morning. Then I mixed up the dough. I am not much of a bread maker, so I was doubtful about the outcome. The only yeast in the house was probably ten years old. It had been stored in the fridge; it might be worth a try? I doubled what the recipe called for and hoped for the best.
As I went about my day, the dough did its thing. It was supposed to double in an hour or two but six or seven hours later, it was still short of the goal. Stale yeast. I punched it down anyway, separated four equal portions, rolled and braided. Then I took my back up loaf, and did the same. This one had risen fast; a frozen loaf prepared with fresh yeast. It was overflowing the pan!
I covered the mini-wreaths and set them in a warm oven for a boost. After they rose, I applied the egg wash, some sprinkles, and nestled a raw colored egg in the center of each. Twenty minutes in the oven and … delizioso! I feel a celebration coming on.
And that’s the thing about Easter, isn’t it? It’s the most joyful of holidays in the Christian faith. It is a celebration of life, victorious, and of hope, born anew.
I have been reading the book, The Day Christ Died, by Jim Bishop these past few weeks. It is an exacting account, drawn from hundreds of pages of records, both secular and religious. Bishop is a master at casting a story with historical accuracy while weaving believable narrative. It’s a step-back-in-time approach to a sacred series of events.
I’ve read the Biblical account many times but Bishop’s version brings together a lot of loose ends and additional details unearthed through careful research. Background on Jewish faith, traditions, and Romans occupying the land add depth and yield insights. It is fascinating, thought-provoking, and, at points, an extremely disturbing read. I highly recommend it.
One thing becomes clear early on: Jesus entered into public ministry somewhat reluctantly. Nonetheless, he quickly gathered a flock of followers. Some were curious, looking for a diversion. Some were needy, looking for a solution. And some were weary of the status quo. The promised land wasn’t all they’d hoped for. There had to be more. They were hungry for more. Seems awful familiar, eh?
Jesus was like fresh yeast to the loaf of Israel. He was unpredictable, uncontainable, and unimaginably powerful. Wherever he went, he made a profound impact. Every step, every word, was significant. Nothing within his sphere of influence was left unchanged. Women were esteemed. The lame, blind, leprous, and sick were healed. The possessed were freed. Even the dead were raised! Sinners were loved and forgiven. Grace reined and rules fell away. Many were inspired. “Surely, he must be the Messiah!”
Except for those who had something to lose in this galactic shift of power. These hardened their hearts, clung tightly to the rules of the law, and schemed a way to undo him.
I’ve wondered where I would have been if I’d lived there and then. Would I have been among those opening home and heart to this Galilean upstart? Would I have cheered disruption of longstanding social, political, and religious norms? Would I have been in the throng following the miracle maker, hanging on his every word? Would I have tried to edge in close for a personal encounter? Would I have urged my family and friends to come and see for themselves? I expect so.
And then, when it all seemed to fall apart, would I have run and hid, wrestling with my newfound faith and rising fear? Would I have been confused, anxious, and saddened? Maybe also angry that my expectations were not met? No doubt.
Those must have been dark, desolate hours as Jesus was crucified and laid to rest, devastating to those who couldn’t know what would be next. But the joy of discovery that resurrection morning was unparalleled. Two thousand years later, we are still celebrating. Neither time nor space will dim this joy!
The difference between then and now is perspective. I’ve read the book. (I mean, the book. The Bible.) I know the end of the story. That doesn’t mean that I am never fearful, my life is perfect, or my faith gleams with a highly polished sheen. It only means that God is faithful. He did what He said He would do. And He continues to prove Himself worthy.
No matter my circumstances, because of what God has done, I have great hope for all that He will do. I trust Him to see it, and me, through. No doubt.
~ René Morley