SUNDAY SERMON: The Test of Easter

By Rev. Stephen Baldwin

NT: John 20.1-18

A friend sent me a quote last week that I’ve been obsessing over ever since. It said, “The test of Easter isn’t to love Jesus; it’s to love Judas.”  

It left me speechless. I had to read it again. “The test of Easter isn’t to love Jesus; it’s to love Judas.” 

Yes, I thought to myself. It’s easy to love Jesus; it’s hard to love Judas. I started thinking about all of my Judases. We all have them. We’ve all been him. And Judas is hard to love. Because Judas betrayed us. Judas turned on us. Judas took advantage of us. Judas put us down so he could get ahead. We can’t ever trust Judas again. So how are we supposed to love him? 

Which is exactly why it’s so important. Jesus loved him, and if Jesus could love his own betrayer then that must be our real test too. 

Then I read the quote again. “The test of Easter isn’t to love Jesus; it’s to love Judas.” A new part stood out to me this time. It says, “the test of Easter.” On Easter, Jesus came back to life proving that death isn’t the end. He put death in its place once and for all. Easter meant that death would not have the last word. For you or me…or Judas. Jesus died for Judas too. 

Do you think that gave Jesus pause? Did he hold his nose, knowing he’d have to die for the one who gave him up? I don’t think so. I think Jesus was probably the first one to embrace Judas once he died. Because that’s the true test of Easter. Forgive your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you. Jesus taught us all that. It applied to Judas too. Can you love those who don’t love you? Jesus did. Jesus still does today. And it’s our calling as well. 

On Good Friday, I started thinking about that quote again. “The test of Easter isn’t to love Jesus; it’s to love Judas.” And on that day, something about it didn’t sit right with me. Not the part about Judas. I’d made peace with that. You don’t have to always love someone upclose; sometimes you need to love someone from a distance. And by someone, I mean Judas. It wasn’t that part that bothered me. It was the Jesus part. 

The real test of Easter isn’t to love Jesus? It isn’t? Yes, actually it is. Easter is all about Jesus. It’s the day he came back from the dead to show that death doesn’t have the last say. And as much as we’ve watered down Jesus and his message over the centuries to make it and him more palatable, let’s be honest. Jesus is kinda hard to love. Because he sets an awfully high standard. One we feel we don’t always or often live up to. 

All he did was love us and teach us and lead us, and we killed him. Yet, he came back for us on Easter. The real test of Easter is absolutely to love Jesus, for he loved us unconditionally. 

So when I woke up today, on Easter, it all came together. The test of Easter is to love Jesus and Judas. Both. 

You can’t love Judas if you don’t love Jesus first. Because why would you even try? Why would it be worth your time and energy to love someone who wronged you? You wouldn’t. Unless Jesus told you to. Not just for your own peace of mind, but for the good of the human family. 

You can’t love Jesus if you don’t love Judas either. Because if you didn’t take his message to its hardest end, would you really believe any of it? 

The test of Easter is to love. This is a day to celebrate. Life and love and rebirth and resurrection! This is a day to rejoice. That the grave could not hold him! That grace is more powerful than sin! That love is stronger than anything else in all creation! 

It’s fun to come up with cute sayings like that quote my friend sent me, but don’t let them hold you back. The test of Easter is to love more fully. Amen. 


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