Happy Easter! Intro
For Christians around the world, this year’s celebration of the resurrection feels just “wrong”! Normally we’d be gathered together as the church on the highest Sunday of the year. Some would be sitting in a park at the break of dawn. Others would be gathered in a massive crowd in St. Peter’s Square. Some would be singing the great songs of our faith; others would be dancing with holy hands lifted in worship. There would be joy and smiles and even tears of happiness. We’d raise Jesus up and enthrone him on our praise. Instead, it’s “you in your small corner and I in mine”.
However, in a unique way, this may be one of the most authentic commemorations of Jesus’ resurrection we will ever know. Like the first followers of Jesus, there is a shadow hanging over us and a heaviness in our heart. For them it was because their friend and teacher had been crucified and was, as far as they knew, lying in a tomb. All of them had grief in their hearts because someone they loved was dead. Many of us are grieving a loved one or worried about the life of someone we know who’s ill. They were feeling oppressed and restricted. Confined in our houses, we long to be released. It was still dark outside, when the women who went to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus for a proper burial. We’re also in a time when darkness is covering the earth in the form of a deadly virus. Jesus’ friends had gathered behind locked doors out of fear that those who had murdered Jesus would come for them. We gather behind locked doors because we too are afraid of what might be coming to kill us. Jesus’ friends wondered what would happen next. How would the world look now that Jesus’ was dead? Would they go back to their old lives and former habits? Would something new emerge and if so, would it be better or worse. We’re also wondering when this will end and what life will be like on the other side? Will we go back to our old ways? Continue to live in fear? Create a better world? Or will things be worse? Jesus’ friends felt abandoned and lost. We are at loose ends. Many feel depressed and defeated.
For differing reasons, we can relate to what Jesus’ disciples were experiencing. But that’s only half their story. When the women went out in the early morning hours, while the sun was just starting to glow in the darkened sky, and they came to the tomb, they didn’t see what they expected. The sentries guarding the tomb had fainted. The giant rock was rolled away. The tomb was empty. The grave cloths were on the ground. Angels greeted them. Jesus had risen!
Those who were gathered in the upper room with the door locked were in for a big surprise. As they sat huddled in fear, the risen Jesus suddenly appeared to them. One of the disciples, who doubted that dead men come back to life, actually touched his wounds. People walking down the road, chatted with him. Others shared a meal. At one point, the risen Jesus appeared to a crowd of 500.
In our scientific age, it’s easy to write this off. We’d argue that people don’t rise from the dead. We may accuse those involved of lying or of mass hysteria. We may claim there’s no empirical evidence for resurrection. But, as a little viral germ is teaching us – not every power is visible to the naked eye, not everything (like why some people die and others don’t even know they’re sick) is understandable. Some things are still mysteries waiting to be revealed.
We all have moments when we imagine the freedom we’ll feel when the injunctions are lifted. We anticipate the reunions and the parties when we’re once again able to be with those we love. We long for the day when a virus will be developed, and we no longer need to fear disease or death. The whole world, all of creation waits with eager longing (Romans 8:19) to be released from the tyranny of this small germ.
In Christ we can have that freedom within us. We can have it now. We can have it for all time. We can be on the winning side of death. We can live eternally. We can be united with God and those we love, today and forever. Christ is risen, we are risen. So, while our Easter celebrations have been squashed by a world-wide ‘no”, nothing can hold back God’s power and love for the world, in Christ. Not a rock, not a tomb, not even death. “For in Christ every one of God’s promises is a “Yes.” And that yes lives in us. For this reason, it is through him that we say the “Amen,” to the glory of God” (2 Corinthians 1: 20).
Lord Jesus, by your resurrection you have overcome everything that can harm us, crush us or imprison us. Our hearts overflow with awe and praise. Because you are risen, nothing can separate us from the love of God ever again. In you we are more than conquerors. For all of this, our hearts overflow in a celebration that nothing can stop. May your name be glorified in all the Earth. Amen.
The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;
the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace. Amen.