The high cost of celebrating Easter

Tom Cadman is a retired Baptist pastor, former Editor of the New Zealand Baptist and Carey Baptist College board member. He is part of Ponsonby Baptist Church in Auckland.

Take a stroll through any New Zealand mall during Holy Week, and you could be forgiven for assuming the cost of Easter lies in the number of Easter eggs you purchase or the money you spend on an Easter holiday. If, as Christian believers, we are looking for the true cost involved in celebrating Good Friday and Easter Day (the two are inseparable), we can do no better than listen to the experience of Evgenia Ginzburg. Evgina, a lifelong Russian Communist, Journalist and University Teacher, recorded a powerful narrative of courage and fortitude in her book Into the Whirlwind.

Suspected of “Trotskyism” by Stalin, expelled from the Communist party, separated from her husband and children and condemned to ten years of isolation, she served most of her sentence in the terrifying Siberian prison camps, finally being released in 1955. She describes the deep impression made on her by “semi-illiterate believers,” Russian women from Voronezh, who refused to work on Easter Sunday. Even though they promised to work three times as hard to make up for Easter Day, their offer fell on deaf ears. They were forced at gunpoint to stand in the freezing waters of one of Siberia’s forest pools. As the ice formed around their ankles, they constantly repeated the Easter affirmation, “The Lord is risen, He is risen indeed.”

Ginzburg writes: “I don’t remember how long the torture lasted. Barefoot on the ice they went on praying… was this fanaticism or fortitude. Were we to admire them or regard them as mad. And most troubling of all, would we have had the courage to act as they had?”

Alongside deciding which Easter eggs I will purchase or how I will spend my Easter, I find myself asking Evgenia Ginzburg’s question. “Would I have had the courage to act as these semi-illiterate women did” in order to celebrate Easter?

Stay together

Olwyn Dickson is an NZBMS (now Arotahi) Missionary Kid, pastor, advocate for women and mission, part of Remuera Baptist Church, and now retiree. For more about Olwyn’s life, see this article on the Baptist Women New Zealand website.

Good Friday draws to a close. The terrible events of the crucifixion have taken place, and we find Joesph of Arimathea asking Pilate for the body of Jesus. With the help of Nicodemus, who brings 75 pounds of myrrh and aloes, they carefully wrap his body in a linen cloth, together with the spices, and place it in the tomb.

Watching and taking part are the group of women who had stood at the crucifixion, watching and wondering. These women had travelled with Jesus and his disciples and listened to his teachings. These women who had been given spiritual and physical healing through the ministry of Jesus had provided for him and the other disciples with their material resources. In some way, we see that Jesus depends on the help of the women as they journey.

Quickly, before the Sabbath starts, they prepare more sweet-smelling spices to complete the burial. But night falls, and they can do no more work.

The band from Galilee can do no more. They are far from home, and what had been anticipated as a wonderful Passover in Jerusalem, celebrating God’s great deliverance, had become a time of despair, confusion and helplessness. Together, they relive the experiences of the previous days, from the excitement of Palm Sunday through the strange actions of Jesus at the Passover meal to the horror of Friday. Only as they come together, and somehow they know they must stay together, can they find an expression for their grief. The day of silence is a day of agony for the followers of Jesus.

The bonds Jesus had developed in the group as they travelled together over the previous three years were now holding them together. Without realising it, they formed the group through which the risen Lord could make himself known. [To be continued on Easter Sunday.]

Photo: Left: The Flowering of the Cross. Right: Tom Cadman flowering the cross. Supplied by Ponsonby Baptist Church.

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