Easter was always my Mother’s favorite Holiday because it is a promise kept. For hundreds of years before Jesus’ birth, the Scriptures recorded prophecies about the Messiah, prophecies that Jesus would one day fulfill. At Easter, we remember Jesus’ death and resurrection and celebrate God’s faithfulness to all people through the fulfillment of His Word. The Messiah would offer His life as a sacrifice for the sins of mankind so that all people might be saved.
Undoubtedly you had big plans for Easter. Easter is when you go all out, with activities for children, vivid recreations of passion week for the adults, and a time to lean in on the central truths around which Christianity is formed. Instead, an unseen enemy came roaring in, making its way around the world. And those best laid plans for this holiday aren’t happening. In what nobody could have predicted, even in the wildest, weirdest end times fiction scenario, churches are closed on Easter, celebrating the Jesus’ death and resurrection at home, online.
It’s painful as we read the news and the seemingly endless stories of sickness and despair ravaging our communities, as we root for hospital workers, grocery store employees, truck drivers and first responders while they face this deadly virus head on. We might stop viewing this week as a terrible disruption and recognize that the message we gather to celebrate every spring is the exact message the world needs right now.
On Good Friday we pause and ponder the excruciating and unjust death of Jesus Christ. But we pause and ponder this moment because in the death of this innocent man is the death of death. Death brings viruses and violence, murder and medical tragedies. Good Friday reminds us just how much God hates death and all of its diabolical cousins, like coronavirus. This Friday, when you read Jesus’ gasping words, “It is finished,” know that in His agony is hope that one day, not long from now, viruses like COVID-19 will lose their sting.
The most tragic reality of this moment is that many are forced to be alone in the most trying of times. Funerals where loved ones can’t gather to mourn loss, bedsides empty where those gasping for air are denied comforting touch, and elderly are isolated from meaningful community and friends.
We are intensely social creatures, not made for isolation. And yet we can see in the agony of Jesus in his dying moments a true loneliness we don’t have to experience. Jesus felt the sting of isolation so you could be baptized into a body of believers in Heaven and earth. Jesus took upon himself your sins so you could enjoy intimacy with your Father.
I don’t want to make this trite and pretend to erase the crushing weight of loneliness that’s gripping people across the country. It’s real and you’re right to lament your situation. Jesus gave this promise: “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die” (John 11:25). When He walked out of that borrowed tomb three days later, He put death to death. It means that the curse that takes mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, children and grandchildren, coworkers and neighbors isn’t eternal. It’s hard to see it now, in a week filled with fatality rates. But if the resurrection really happened, then it means this reality isn’t forever. There’s a new world coming, a new creation.
Easter is the sign that a new world is coming, that one day God will take rotted dust particles, ravaged by disease and decay, and will reconstitute them into real, physical bodies fit for eternity. This cycle of pain and sadness, viruses and death has an expiration date. This is the reality of Easter.
God doesn’t need colored plastic eggs and helicopter drops to get the attention of the world.
In the midst of a crisis, where death is on our minds, maybe Easter is the balm we need. If you are feeling stressed and alone today, remember that “this too shall pass”. If you are healthy, remember to show gratitude – reach out to or remember the people you are missing this year. When everything returns to normal, appreciate what you have and know that we will all be stronger on the other side. Until then, remember the importance of social distancing, take care of yourself, stay home if you are sick, and take precautions to remain healthy.