Easter is my favorite time of the year. It always has been. Maybe it’s because I went to the front of the church on an Easter Sunday morning to publically show that I intended to follow Jesus Christ. It was a mere beginning. I didn’t comprehend the significance of that water shed moment. I’m still turning pages in that adventure book. Or, maybe it’s because I preached my first sermon at an Easter Sunrise Service when I was a teenager. It was a memorable experience. I still recall my subject – doubting Thomas – though I’m likely alone in what I remember.
Easter is more to me than either of those events. Easter is the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The more I comprehend that truth, the more it puts everything else in perspective.
I overheard a parental holler-back to a child near the card display in Target this week. Perhaps I missed something. The child must have asked a question about Easter cards. The parent, rushing to the checkout lane, yelled back something like, ‘Easter . . . who celebrates Easter?’ I felt sad. Easter, the Resurrection, is my hope. I believe Jesus’ resurrection is the hope of the world.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the reverberating exclamation point to his earthly life and ministry. Everything Jesus said, everything he showed us about God, everything Jesus did, is given credibility by his resurrection from the dead. Opening the New Testament letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul affirmed that truth when he wrote of Jesus: “He was shown to be the Son of God when He was raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 1:4, NLT).
For me, there is no reasonable explanation for the Church being born other than the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The resurrection of Jesus turned around the discouraged, depressed, disillusioned disciples who fell apart after Jesus was crucified. They denied they knew him, threw in the towel and announced they were going back to their old work, and they hid in fear. How could anyone thinking this through, believe those same disciples would soon be willing to die for their faith in Jesus, for any other reason than they came to know their dead leader was now very much alive?
A human body was necessary for God-in-Jesus to walk among people and show them what God is like. His body, God then and there on earth, made Jesus’ name, Immanuel, God with us, pulsate with meaning. Jesus showed people love, touched people and told them they were released from their sins. In his human body he looked people in the eye and spoke truth with grace. God-in-Jesus would cause John to later exclaim: “We saw Him with our own eyes and touched Him with our own hands” (1 John 1:1).
The resurrection allowed Jesus not to be limited to one place at a time, but freed him to be with people everywhere, at any time. A new friend said recently he daily thinks of Jesus as somewhere in this room. He’s so right! Jesus’ words, “I am with you always” (Matthew 28:20), are filled with hope for our darkest, most discouraging time, all because Jesus was raised from the dead. Say it to yourself: Jesus is here, beside me in the car, while I’m eating, when facing a difficult boss or co-worker, rushing the kids to school, or facing a difficult health issue.
I was reminded of this again this morning. We attended a Good Friday service and were given a piece of paper as we arrived. Invited to write down struggles, sins, personal battles, what we wish could change, we were then to fold the paper, take it to the front of the church and place it in a large bowl of red liquid, where a person with a big spoon submerged it. We were encouraged to “Leave it here.” Then we received the bread and cup, remembering that Jesus absorbed our sins into himself when he died on the cross. It was a profound reminder of why that Friday was good.
This morning I took some quiet time with God. As I was reading, I suddenly realized things I had written down in the Good Friday service were now being addressed in what I was reading. The here and now Jesus was in the room with me, letting me know he cared about what I had written.
After having more of these experiences than I can count, coincidence is clearly a silly, inappropriate word, a denial of a Real Presence, more a refusal to believe than an attempt to explain why things happen as they do. Beyond the huge hope of life after death, practical episodes like I had this morning are pulses of grace from a living Christ. Jesus IS with us. That is the hope of Easter. It’s one of the underlying reasons why I am grateful to be a Christ-follower.