Don’t miss the dance!

Bud Reeves

Bud Reeves

By William O. “Bud” Reeves
Special Contributor

My favorite spectator sport is college basketball (Arkansas Razorbacks and Duke Blue Devils, specifically). The high holy days of college basketball are the Big Dance, March Madness, the season-ending NCAA tournament. In terms of basketball, it doesn’t get any better than this.

I think it’s interesting that this year the Final Four and championship are occurring during Easter weekend. The high holy days of the Christian faith are Holy Week, specifically Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday. In our life of faith, it doesn’t get any better than this. Holy Week and Easter are our Big Dance.

What makes it big is the story of Jesus. From the exultation of the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday to the depths of the betrayal and crucifixion to the ultimate exaltation of the Resurrection, this is God’s story. It is our story. It is what makes us who we are, and it gives us life.

As many Easters as I have experienced, there are three things that still make me want to dance.

In Jesus, suffering becomes redemptive. The story of the betrayal of Jesus by Judas, the unjust trial by Pilate and Herod, and the brutal death by crucifixion is hard to bear. Our Lord suffered so much! But by the love of God, his suffering became a sacrifice for our sins. The root word of sacrifice means “to make holy.” It was unjust, tragic and senseless for the righteous Son of God to die. But through his sacrifice, you and I and the world were redeemed.

There are many examples of just such senseless suffering in the world today. We just remembered the Bloody Sunday in Selma, Ala., in 1964. Christians are being persecuted and martyred in many places around the world today. Tragic deaths occur every day.

Through the blood of Jesus and the love of God, no suffering is meaningless. It can awaken our conscience. It can enliven our love. It can engender our compassion. As I am continually reminded by Paul, “In all things God works for good” (Romans 8:28). Even suffering can be redemptive.

In Jesus, we know all suffering will end. As the Psalmist sang, “Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:5). Jesus suffered the humiliation of betrayal by one of his own disciples, the ridicule of the Jewish and Roman authorities and the unimaginable torture of the crucifixion. His suffering ended in death, but it was overcome by resurrection on Easter. This is the key event in the history of the world that gives us hope. Jesus suffered, died—and rose again.

When we go through the suffering of life, our hope for better days comes from Jesus. The pain of illness will end, either in health or heaven. The heartbreak of grief will get better. The long, dark valley of divorce will yield a new day of happiness. Whatever hard times we endure, we know we can because Jesus did. He is our hope.

In Jesus, life overcomes death. This is the glory of Easter. As the women came on the third day to anoint the broken body of Jesus, they heard the words that changed history: “He is not here; he is risen!” The power of death is still at work in the world. There are lots of dark places still. But in the death and resurrection of Jesus, we know that we who have faith in him will have the ultimate victory. We will live and live forever! This is good news that never grows old.

If we didn’t believe in the resurrection, Jesus would be just another teacher or prophet who came to a bad end. In fact, Paul says, “If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” Then he affirms, “But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead” (1 Corinthians 15:19-20). The resurrection makes all the difference.

One of the songs that was popular back in the “folkie” days of my early youth choir experience was a spiritual, “Jesus Walked This Lonesome Valley,” which contained the words “He had to walk it by himself.” Indeed he did, to the point where he cried out in abandonment on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” He did that for us. He did that so that we would never have to walk alone, so that our suffering could be redemptive, so that our hope would be sure, so that our life would be eternal.

On this Easter weekend, that makes me want to dance!

The Rev. Dr. Reeves serves as superintendent of the Northwest District. Email: breeves@arumc.org.