Easter 2021 arrives at a time when it seems like evil has been granted an open invitation to invade our lives in one way or another every moment of every day. Grief, loss, pain, suffering, anger, and fear have been the prevailing characteristics of our nation for over a year.
Kindness, compassion, consideration, and respect seem to have been drained from the heart of our culture. In its place, we find hyper-sensitive, prickly, instantly offended, intolerant, and reactionary mentality. As simultaneously we’re about to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ and we rejoice in the implications of that monumental event in human history, we desperately need another kind of resurrection in our country today … because “goodness” seems to have died.
Off to a Bad Start ~
Human beings have always had a hard time with the concept of goodness. Early in the course of our long and painful history, God evaluated the nature and behavior of those He created in His image, and His conclusion resulted in a level of condemnation that sounds almost familiar these days:
Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. (Genesis 6:5 NKJV)
Thousands of years later, the proclamation of God’s emissaries revealed that the plague had not diminished at all. The Apostle Paul quoted the words of David who said:
The Lord looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any who understand, who seek God. They have all turned aside, they have together become corrupt; There is none who does good, No, not one. (Psalm 14:2–3 NKJV)
And Solomon added this:
For there is not a just man on earth who does good And does not sin. (Ecclesiastes 7:20 NKJV)
A Compelling Desire ~
Perhaps it was our innate propensity for evil that aroused the hope that somehow, somewhere something good might be found that could compensate for our failures and overcome the influence of our rebellious pride, our lust for pleasure, and our urge to exert power and control over others. The answer to the dilemma began to be revealed when God wrapped Himself in human flesh and finally showed the world what “good” looked like. Jesus said it clearly when a wealthy young man came running to him desiring to find some expression of goodness that would satisfy God, grant him approval, and earn him eternal life. Luke offers this brief description:
Now a certain ruler asked Him, saying, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. (Luke 18:18–19 NKJV)
The tendency of fallen human beings is to make the concept of goodness relative. If a more flawed example can be found against which to measure it, almost anything or anyone can be considered “good”. If we yield to our rebellious nature and declare that we have the latitude and authority to determine the standards by which good and evil are defined, then “good” can be anything we declare it to be. That is the very practice that moved the prophet, Isaiah to issue this paradoxical declaration:
Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight! (Isaiah 5:20–21 NKJV)
Goodness Demonstrated ~
When Jesus came into the world, “goodness” became visible, audible, and touchable. People learned that goodness was compassionate. Goodness touched those that were considered repulsive. Goodness reached out to feed the hungry, comfort the grieving, heal the sick and wounded, and lift up the fallen. Goodness as Jesus demonstrated it sounds like the kind of behavior that everyone would want to practice and support. It sounds like the kind of moral climate and social atmosphere that everyone would want to live in and be a part of. Unfortunately, the attitudes and behaviors that awaited Jesus’ arrival were entirely different. John reports God’s negative assessment:
And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. (John 3:19–20 NKJV)
John’s observation that everyone practicing evil hates the light is a sobering revelation, but not a surprising one. The events leading up to that first Resurrection Sunday morning were a clear demonstration of how the world treats genuine goodness. Jesus was totally innocent of any infraction of any law, judgment, or ordinance God had ever declared. He was absolutely, thoroughly, and completely righteous, yet He was not just disliked or disagreed with. He was hated, but not for any wrong He had done, quite the opposite. He was hated because He was good. The goodness Jesus demonstrated tore away his enemies’ religious facade and exposed their evil intentions, but more than that, it exposed their love for evil. That was intolerable . . . and the source of the goodness that revealed it had to be eliminated.
Goodness on Trial ~
We might reasonably say that when Jesus stood before Pilate, the concept of goodness itself was on trial. If Satan could do away with Him, then the source of all that goodness represents would be dead and gone and evil would reign unchallenged. On the day men have inexplicably designated “Good Friday,” goodness was abused beyond recognition. Goodness was betrayed, bound, beaten, humiliated, and nailed to a cross. Goodness was not a comparative assessment or a descriptive adjective that day. Goodness lived in the One who was willing to offer it to those undeserving of it and, in its place, to accept all the depraved evil ever committed.
Despair must have been palpable on that “Good Friday” afternoon as Jesus breathed His last breath. Many of those who had experienced the gracious love of God in Him and witnessed the impact of the boundless goodness that flows from it now watched it die. Evil appeared triumphant in that moment, and all hope seemed lost on that Friday. Now, when the world closes in and evil seems to be the new standard, we find ourselves prone to share that sense of despair . . . but the Sunday morning that followed changed everything.
Instead of “Easter,” maybe we should call the day Jesus arose “Good Sunday,” because that was the day when evil couldn’t keep the stone in place and goodness broke free from its chains. That’s the day when goodness emerged again and hatred couldn’t keep the sunlight from exposing its empty tomb. That’s the day that would ensure that the omnipotent love of God would be planted in the hearts of millions and the power of goodness would rise up to confront and overcome evil everywhere.
As another anniversary of that monumental event dawns, there’s an admonition delivered by the Apostle Paul that we’d do well to remember. He said, Do not be not overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21 NKJV). May the Holy God we serve move us to make this Resurrection Sunday the day we begin to push back against the evil by bringing His goodness back to life.
“TWEETABLES” ~ Click to tweet and share from the pull quotes below. Each one links directly back to this article through Twitter . . .
- “If we yield to our rebellious nature and declare that we have the latitude and authority to determine the standards by which good and evil are defined, then ‘good’ can be anything we declare it to be.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “If Satan could do away with Jesus, then the source of all that goodness represents would be dead and gone and evil would reign unchallenged.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “On the day men have inexplicably designated “Good Friday,” goodness was abused beyond recognition. Goodness was betrayed, bound, beaten, humiliated, and nailed to a cross. Goodness was not a descriptive adjective that day.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “Jesus was totally innocent — absolutely, thoroughly, and completely righteous, yet He was not just disliked or disagreed with. He was hated, but not for any wrong He had done, quite the opposite. He was hated because He was good.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “The goodness Jesus demonstrated tore away his enemies’ religious facade and exposed their evil intentions. But more than that, it exposed their love for evil . . . and so the source of the goodness that revealed it had to be eliminated.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “Good ‘Sunday’ was the day when ‘goodness’ emerged again and hatred couldn’t keep the sunlight from exposing its empty tomb. That’s the day that the omnipotent love of God and ‘good’ would be planted in the hearts of millions everywhere.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
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