I heard someone lament last week, “We’re not having Easter this year!” He meant because people aren’t gathering in-person. But I thought, would we not have Christmas because we can’t go to church? Nothing could have stopped the celebration of Easter from ringing throughout the world, even stay-at-home mandates.
The Easter message––that Jesus came to set us free and give us new life––does not change. Even in the confines of a pandemic.
For those who recognize Easter as the holiest day of the year, the fanfare and refreshing of spring normally usher us into a season of thanksgiving and great hope. But this year… This year is not like years past. This week after Easter is a tricky one.
We’re drenched in Covid-19 uncertainty and bad news, and it doesn’t feel good. So friends, will you pause with me for a moment to remember the significance of last week? Last week we followed Christ’s steps from Palm Sunday to Easter. We started in the Hosanna procession with flowing palms and cheering and songs. We left the crowd and joined the 12 disciples for the Last Supper. We stopped outside the tomb and mourned Christ’s crucifixion. And finally on Sunday we reached Resurrection Day – the day lauding Christ as King and His eternal victory over death and destruction.
But this week, many of us struggle to drum up a spirit of celebration in the midst of daily deep sorrow and pain in the world – your world, my world, our neighbor’s world, the whole world. And, for some, Easter services on TV seemed a lot less holy. How do we connect with God in these dark days? How do we try to muster up a desire to continue celebrating the Easter message after Easter Sunday? God’s Word encourages: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Heb 12:2–3).
Fix our eyes on Jesus. Remember why He came, and why He died. Why did He? Because He wanted His people––you and me––to live with Him forever. Because He had a plan from the beginning to speak the final Word, and reign with love and compassion and goodness and grace. Because He alone is God, and He walked through life on earth so we could learn how to live as He did.
No one could have foreseen the magnitude of coronavirus strife. Except Jesus. Jesus knew that days like these were coming. He said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world!” (John 16:33). Jesus came. Jesus died. Jesus rose again, and He invites us to joyfully receive His gift of life after Easter. Take heart! Be courageous in the darkness, knowing that the King of Kings, Almighty God, the Promised Messiah indwells you by the power of His Holy Spirit. And when you struggle with fear and doubt and anxiety (and we all do), here are some things you can pray,
- Holy Spirit, I am weak, You are strong, be strong in me.
- Holy Spirit, I am afraid (full of anxiety, struggling with depression), You are my confidence, be courage in me.
- Holy Spirit, I can’t understand what’s going on and I’m frozen in place, You are my Shepherd, lead me step-by-step through this valley of the shadow of death.
- Holy Spirit, I don’t know what to say to others who are hurting, You are the Author of all life, give me the words and speak through me.
Friends, I’m praying for you as we continue our journey after Easter. I pray that each day, even if only for a few moments, you’ll fix your eyes on Jesus. Sneak into a quiet place (a closet or bathroom will do!) and sit with Jesus without agenda, just focusing on Him. Allow His peace to fill the quietness. Read John 19 and 20, and imagine yourself sitting outside the tomb on that dark Saturday, wondering, “Jesus, where are you? What’s happening?” Then lay those same questions about these times of grief and mourning before Him. And through faith and trust in Him, take one more step forward. Because of Easter, today is a day filled with the promise of hope and new life. Fix your eyes on Jesus and join the ongoing celebration of Resurrection Day. He is risen! He is risen indeed!