A Season of Contemplation
It’s finally March. March of 2021 is uniquely significant because this month marks the time that the world, as we know it, changed due to COVID-19 last year. A submission on this subject alone is well worth its weight of consideration in gold. And it is likely you will see ample reflection on the significance of this March in the days to come—likely even on Bethel’s blog platform.
But I submit to you there are separate matters for followers of Jesus to consider this March as well. For Christians, March 2021 means we are about a month out from our celebration of Resurrection Weekend. And while we anticipate that celebration, the span of time approaching Easter Sunday should give us pause for contemplation. Don’t get me wrong—I love Easter! I love celebrating the resurrection of Jesus and what it means. I love, as we often sing, declaring that death was arrested, and our true lives begin because of the finished work of Jesus on the cross (2 Timothy 1:10).
But if I am doing an objective assessment of Christian culture, I think we avoid the pause and uncomfortable contemplation that Easter should give us. For example, we avoid the lengthy considerations of Ephesians 2:1-3 (ESV, emphasis mine), which says:
“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”
We only desire to consider the later part of Ephesians 2, parts like 4-10 (again, emphasis mine):
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
It’s easy to rejoice in the richness of God’s mercy, his love for humankind, and being his prized workmanship! These are truly humbling, wonderful, joy-filled realities from which we benefit.
However, we do not have the resurrection, or the joy that comes from it, because we are inherently prize(d)-worthy. Our “prizedness” is not the thing we must focus on. In fact, it is quite the opposite. We have cause for the Easter celebration because we act as the opposite of what we are (Romans 3:23). As prized creations, we instead choose to act like broken castaways. We operate outside of our primary identity on the altar of our own selfishness.
Ultimately, the real reason for our celebration is because God loves us despite the fact that we fundamentally mess(ed) up his intended purposes. And thus, this is not just a celebratory time, but also a season of sobering contemplation.
As such, I would submit to you, in a spirit of contemplation of the fullness of this season, dear Christian, the following consideration: our thoughts of Easter should be sobering and reflective of the reason for the season, before they are celebratory. Paul David Tripp says it this way:
“[This] season is about the sin that was the reason for the suffering and sacrifice of the Savior. It is about taking time to reflect on why we all needed such a radical move of redemption, to confess the hold that sin still has on us, and to focus on opening our hands, in confession and submission, and letting go of sin once again. But as we do this, it is important to remember that the knowledge of sin is not a dark and nasty thing but a huge and wonderful blessing. If you are aware of your sin, you are aware of it only because you have been visited by amazing grace.”[i]
I appreciate Tripp’s description. He wisely does not requisition the Christian into only filleting themselves. Too often, we (in Christ-following circles) repeatedly rake ourselves over the coals due to sin’s nature at the expense of our prizedness. And as I have endeavored to unpack in this post, there’s an element of this that is needed; our sin should be sobering to our perspective. It should cause us grief. We should consider the meaning of the Easter season, and realize that it is the exact opposite of celebration that puts us in this position. It is the reality of our unworthiness. But…it is also more than that!
A sobered, contemplative conscience is also a tremendous blessing. It reveals God prizes us in spite of our sin! We have open eyes that allow us to see the reality of our brokenness from God’s intended design, the need to repent of our sinfulness that caused this brokenness, and the need to run to Jesus, who awaits with open arms, in order that we have a reason to celebrate. This is absolutely a call for rejoicing. But to fully do so, we must contemplate the fullness of our position.
We are broken by sin, but prized in forgiveness. We are grieved by our need(s), but rejoicing in God’s completion of us. We groan our insufficiency, but celebrate God’s sufficiency! This is the great “both/and” of the Christian life, prior to eternity!
So, in March of 2021, I invite you to stand in the shadow of the cross and contemplate the “both/and” of Easter. To assist you in this, throughout this month, our posts will be focusing on what considerations best equip us to fully appreciate the cross-work, and then fully celebrate in spirit and in truth, on Easter Sunday. Our prayer is that this season cultivates an expanded awareness and consideration of the fullness of God’s love for you, and leads you to the best possible posture of humility and appreciation for what Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection mean.
[i] Paul David Tripp, Journey to the Cross (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2021), 16.