Dear brothers and sisters,
Christ Is Risen! He Is Truly Risen! Even in the midst of the COVID-19 Pandemic, we celebrate with joy and excitement Christ’s victory over death. There is a popular meme going around saying, “Easter changed everything. This year, everything has changed.” In this crisis, there is an opportunity to reflect and deepen our belief in the one most defining event of our Christian faith – the empty tomb – and what it means for us.
At the Church of St. John, our mission continues now more than ever, because with so much uncertainty and fear going around these days, our message provides unwavering hope. So many people right now feel in the dark, just like Jesus’ closest disciples on the first Easter. They had witnessed his miracles, his healings, his walking on water, his miraculous feeding of the 5000; and they were inspired so much that they left behind their former lives and followed him. They were insiders of a new movement – the Kingdom of God was near – and as they entered Jerusalem with Jesus on Palm Sunday, with the crowds singing “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they expected at the very least that the holy city would be liberated from Roman occupation, and a new Kingdom of Israel would be established. They expected and hoped for victory, and triumph.
Then, on Good Friday, everything changed; everything turned upside-down. One of Jesus’ inner circle, one of the insiders, betrayed him. The religious leaders’ scheming, to put this troublemaker to death, succeeded. The crowds turned against Jesus and shouted in hatred before Pontius Pilate, “Crucify him!” Though innocent of any crime, he was sentenced by the Romans to execution, alongside other convicted criminals; and his dead, lifeless body was then carried away and put in a tomb. Game over. The disciples ran away in fear, disillusionment, and social isolation.
The death of the Lord on the Cross brought a crisis of faith for his friends and followers. It was the end of the world as they had known it, as well as the death of all their hopes and dreams. Then, something even more unbelievable happened – something that seemed impossible. The various Gospel accounts of the Resurrection display the varied, different experiences that the disciples had, as they each came to faith. Some, like John the Apostle, were quick to believe. Others, like Thomas, had to be shown the cold, hard evidence before they came to faith.
So first, on Easter we realize that our faith is a gift – and this faith gives us hope at this time. As believers, we therefore shouldn’t judge those who maybe need more convincing. Second, the Gospel calls us to investigate the evidence – to realize that our faith does not oppose human reason and is able to be studied; and if you are a doubter, perhaps you are called at this time to be open to the possibility that the testimony of the empty tomb is true.
Easter celebrates the impossible things God can do in the midst of a crisis, and this is just the kind of message we need to hear right now, more than ever. Join us online these next 5 weeks for this series, as we look at how the Easter message can bolster our hope. Just as the Resurrection brought Jesus’ earliest followers from despair to hope, and from fear to confidence in the future, it can do the same for us as well. Happy Easter!