It is not a generalization to say that most of us, even those of us who are not Christians, know what Easter is all about. Jesus Christ, who was crucified on Good Friday, rose from the dead three days later. But this epic event in history did not only impact him, but all of humanity in ways that are beyond our ken. That this man was God meant that his resurrection has far reaching implications on each of our own deaths because that last bastion for each one of us has been overcome. Because of this, we all have hope beyond hope for living the resurrected life.
One of the great implications and meanings of this event that is somewhat easy to overlook is the great message and promise that forgiveness has for all of us. God’s forgiveness is the hidden energy that lies behind the resurrection event, and this is something that could have never happened if not for the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. That Jesus Christ forgave his executioners in the most grace-filled and compassionate way lead to his being raised from the dead. That forgiveness is something that is so life-giving is proved, seen and even vindicated by the act of his being raised from the dead. All the previous temple practices that implored or sought God’s forgiveness for transgressions depended on the acts of human beings, and there was no indication that they were effective. Now, in Jesus, it is God himself who carries out the act of sacrifice and the resurrection gives clear indication that the sacrifice is indeed effective.
It is so hard, and perhaps even somewhat dangerous to put the resurrection in a nutshell, because sociologically and theologically, it has such a broad impact. But what we do know from personal experiences is that we do experience bits and moments of resurrection in our daily lives, where our little deaths to the self lead to encounters with the Risen Lord in ways that we do not expect. Oftentimes, these happen when we follow our conscience in doing the right, though more difficult thing in life, and our conscious choice leads us to a certain suffering or hardship which can be challenging to handle. But the result of this is something that gives much hope and life not only to us, but to those whose lives we touch.
This reality of life is beautifully and graphically presented in the 24th chapter of Luke’s gospel, verses 13-35, an episode often called the walk or journey to Emmaus. That journey taken by Cleopas and another disciple is also our own faith journey. Just as there were moments in that journey where they could not see Jesus making this journey with them, so too are we blinded due to our being too immersed with our own heavy hearts. We are told that they had their faces downcast.
Isn’t that most of us, most of the time? Though we know that the resurrection is something that gives us much hope in our sea of seeming hopelessness, the fact that we have our faces downcast most of the time prevents us from seeing the great hope that lies in front of us. This is the great challenge of the good news of Easter.
Why do folk who turn up for Easter Sunday’s Eucharist leave unimpacted in their lives? Perhaps it is because they have yet to look up – really look up to the promise of the Risen Lord. The broken bread that we all share from the Altar of the Lord has not yet broken through hearts and minds that are perhaps too focused on the self. But to be sure, there are those who are moved, and touched, and emerge from the darkness because their faith has enabled them to see the Paschal candle’s flickering glow despite the darkness that may surround their lives. The truth is, we are all like those two disciples on that journey to Emmaus – sometimes we do get it, and sometimes, we simply do not. But if we are constant in the celebration and ardent participation in the breaking of the bread, our eyes will be open to God’s great promise of life that goes beyond our human vision.
It is when we are so enlivened by this great promise that we will do the unthinkable – we will go back to our challenges, our sufferings and our persecutions with new ardour and energy. That is what Cleopas and his friend did. We are told that they went back to Jerusalem; to the place of the Cross; to the place of the persecution, where great troubles awaited the disciples of Jesus.
While it is a nice thought to hold that Easter means no more worries, no more sufferings, and no more troubles in life, I’m afraid that this would be also called ‘wishful thinking’. Easter doesn’t mean a life that is free of challenges. Rather, Easter’s new life given out of sheer grace of God is what enables us to face the various challenges of life anew, because we are now led by a new light – the light of Christ.
Blessed Easter to all.