MELISSA, Texas (BP)–Moviegoers buy tickets to see Hollywood’s finest actors come heroically to the rescue to save helpless people. Patrons of the theater flock to witness well-trained thespians portray roles in which love triumphs over heartache and good vanquishes evil. Bookstores aggressively promote the latest romance novels which allow the readers to experience vicariously a person’s committed love for his or her soulmate. People enjoy love stories.
This week, as Christians around the world prepare to celebrate Easter, we commemorate not just a religious event, but instead the greatest love story ever told. In our contemporary culture, Easter is a holiday and an overblown commercial event, but, lest we forget, at its very core Easter is a love story.
To remind ourselves of central truths of this love story, let’s begin with the characters.
In this drama, the leading Man is a Jewish carpenter with no acting experience born to a teenage Jewish girl in a borrowed barn. Not exactly Broadway, is it? This unlikely Hero, born in a small town to a rather insignificant family, becomes the world’s greatest and most influential star because of His loyalty, perseverance and genuine love for people of every background.
Another important figure in our love story is the carpenter’s Father, one who lives very far away and gives His Son a tremendously difficult assignment. This assignment can be accomplished by no other person and is designed to provide heavenly forgiveness and spiritual freedom. The Father loves the Son so much that it saddens Him to know that the only remedy for the danger faced by the masses in this drama is the sacrificial death of that beloved Son.
The antagonist in our story is a character who wanted to be like the Father and the Son. His pride, a quality observed in the bad guys of many a storyline, caused him to rebel from the Father. This hatred is demonstrated most clearly when the bad guy in our story tries to murder the leading Man and discourage His followers from believing in the Son’s amazing promises of love and devotion.
The numerous supporting actors in our story are the helpless citizens of a doomed world who need the Hero to save them from destruction. These supporting actors, living in countries spanning the globe, play the unlikely dual roles of being both observers of the love story and participants in the action.
Now that we understand the characters, let’s quickly review the plot.
Befitting a great love story, the benevolent Father sends the dependable Son to defeat the evil enemy in order to save the desperately needy crowds. Once the antagonist’s plot fails and he is finally defeated, the leading actor then asks the rescued followers to commit the rest of their lives to trusting in him. Those who answer this call and devote their hearts to following the Son become adopted members of the Father’s family.
What makes this story unique? What separates this love story from so many others?
First, it is true. This non-fiction tale was not hatched in the brain of Hollywood’s leading screenwriter or developed at the typewriter of America’s finest novelist. No, this love story called Easter is a true historical event.
Second, no one else is eligible to play the three main parts. No other being in this universe is qualified to play the role of the loving, forgiving Father. No other actor is as evil as the antagonist. Only someone who is perfectly sinless and completely holy is allowed to apply for the role of the Son. Only one person has qualified.
Third, unlike so many movies that allow the hero to escape unscathed, the antagonist in this epic tale, a ruthless creature known as Satan, did indeed kill the carpenter, the Father’s only Son. After the death of the carpenter, Satan was convinced he now reigned victorious and would become the universe’s leading man. At Golgotha, otherwise known at the place of the skull, the heroic leading Man apparently met His unseemly demise on the day known by historians as Good Friday but emerges triumphant when He miraculously is resurrected by the Father on that first Easter Sunday morning.
Finally, unlike the movies at the cinema, we who sit in the seats can all play a part in this drama. All of us can star in this exciting tale of rescue, if only we will follow the Hero and allow Him to save us. The most important feature of the most important love story is that the Father, the sovereign God of the universe, is continually holding casting calls to welcome new actors into this play. To transition from observer to participant, one must only give his or her entire life in devotion to the Son, a Galilean named Jesus Christ, through faith, trusting in the Hero to save them from the certain attacks of the evil one.
Easter Sunday is the climactic ending to a spellbinding earthly performance and the prelude to an eternal drama. Only when the curtain is raised on the final scene of this production (in front of an empty tomb) do we realize that, like in all good love stories, the Hero wins in the end.
This Easter, I believe the Father is calling you and me to move from movie critic to committed actor, trading a life of distant observance of the Son for dedicated obedience to the Son. May I invite you to join me in this beautiful narrative, the love story that indeed qualifies as the greatest story ever told?
Trey Graham is senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Melissa, Texas (www.firstmelissa.com) and author of “Lessons for the Journey” and “Light for the Journey.” He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.