It’s difficult for me to imagine what it’s like to think of Easter as just another day, or even just another holiday. I’ve experienced too much with this living Jesus Christ, and I’ve seen too much in others as well. Easter is a holiday on the human calendar. For those of us who believe in and follow Jesus, Easter marks the day the world became filled with hope. It’s the day in history when all that Jesus said and did was given a gigantic exclamation point. It was no ordinary day.
I’ve often wished I had kept a record of answered prayers. It’s a good idea to do that, but I never did. Yet, I have had so many answered prayers. That gives me confidence as I, again and again, talk to the God who is really there, the God who raised his son, Jesus, from the dead. Those who write off answers to prayer as mere coincidence, in my opinion, speak a language of uninformed speculation. Let’s at least accept what someone said about coincidence – a coincidence is where God chose to remain anonymous. Or, as William Temple put it, “When I pray, coincidences happen, and when I don’t, they don’t” (https://www.brainyquote.com).
On numerous occasions, I have experienced Jesus’ presence. I don’t hear voices, and I don’t see abnormal things. Jesus did say, however, recorded in chapter 10 and verse 27 of John’s gospel, “My sheep hear my voice, . . .” His voice has given me clear direction, at times telling me to speak now, sometimes specifically what to say or do. This is not a voice like yours or mine, as one-time Senate Chaplain, Peter Marshall, said he heard when God told him to stop his car just before he drove over a cliff on a foggy night. But, it’s definite. Other realities do exist beyond those we hear with our ears or see with our eyes.
Neither am I writing about an experience others can’t have. Anyone can respond to Jesus who invites us to follow him and develop a relationship. Anyone. I’m only another “anyone.”
The Biblical record is that after Jesus was raised from the dead, he revealed himself to his followers. While authorities scrambled to explain his missing body, news spread about Jesus’ resurrection primarily from his disciples, when they saw him after he had died. Others may have heard the word, but it was not shouted from street corners, rooftops or gossiped in local pubs. This amazing announcement was simply shared by a few ordinary people who were so convinced of its truth they couldn’t keep it to themselves.
That tells us there’s a faith bridge to a relationship with Jesus who is now very much alive. When we believe in, rely on and trust in him, a new world of experiences with Jesus is discovered. Believing in Jesus is not a one-time event, though we begin to open ourselves to him sometime, somewhere. We believe in Jesus over and over, daily, moment by moment. For the early disciples and for us, Jesus Christ is present with those of us who take steps to begin believing in him.
Mary and I have stood inside the empty Garden Tomb outside Jerusalem, believed to be
one of two primary, likely sites where Jesus was buried after his crucifixion. It’s an awesome feeling to be there, and to read the words, “He is not here, for he has risen.” Whether that is the actual location of the burial and resurrection of Jesus is not what makes Easter real. Experiencing Jesus, day by day, in the highs, lows, and ordinariness of life is what makes Easter real.