For many Christians, this is probably the first Easter where we will not celebrate the resurrection of Jesus in a packed church building with celebratory pomp and music. Yet, if Jesus is risen, how can we truly experience this reality?
What if the power of the risen Jesus is experienced not in a giant choir singing at the top of their lungs – such a choir absent that first Sunday – but in the quiet breath we sip?
In times like these, when there are people drowning in air due to COVID-19, some struggling to breathe through a respirator, I experience the power of Jesus in the breath I am privileged to take.
What if we see the face of Jesus not in blinding visions but in the downcast brother or sister on the other side of our screens?
What if we see the face of Jesus in the estate cleaner who had to disinfect doors and lifts all day?
What if the touch of God is felt not in obtaining our greatest aspirations but in the pierced wounds of Jesus as the apostle Thomas had?
What if the touch of God is felt in the physical isolation we are forced to have from others? Or even in the sickness or burdens we must carry?
What if the heart-burning presence of Jesus is experienced not in a well-orchestrated worship service but in a humble breakfast with our loved ones as the disciples had by the shore after a long night of work?
Not in gathering in church buildings or services, but in being served by Jesus the bread of life in the Spirit?
What if Jesus is standing behind us in the shadows of the cemetery of our wishes and delights, like Mary weeping at the empty tomb? In the shadows of cancelled weddings, holidays or plans?
What if the resurrection of Jesus is experienced in our lives not as a blaze of glory but a candle flame in the dark?
What if we looked not at the gaping skies or the well-lit church stage, but in our tiny prayer closet at home where suddenly, His Word is spoken straight to our heart as a whisper in the dark?
Christians historically have often celebrated the Resurrection by proclaiming at the top of their lungs with all flags flying.
Yet, when it came to the most important part of the story – the Resurrection – the gospel writers spoke in a whisper, reflected Frederick Buechner in a sermon “The Secret in the Dark”. They were not trying to describe it convincingly but truthfully.
Perhaps, some truths are meant to be experienced in the darkness.
Do we believe Jesus is alive today? Where do we look to find Him?
These are troubled times. Virus, sickness, death, panic, fear, lockdown, isolation, economic recession, etc. My wife asked me recently: “Will we (our family) be okay?” I didn’t want to lie to say everything will be fine.
No, there’s no guarantee that any of us will be fine – that is, alive, healthy, and unaffected financially. But God works all things for good, and we can trust this because Jesus is risen.
We don’t shout this aloud as though we are standing tall at the mountain peak. Probably none of us at this time can profess to be. No, we say this with quiet confidence in the darkness of the valley.
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose…
“…Christ Jesus is the one who died – more than that, who was raised – who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?” (Romans 8:28, 34-35)
You can add “… or COVID or economic recession or physical distancing”. It is just the same.
Then, I thought of the song “Because He Lives”.
I was reminded of it because the verse has a line about having a newborn baby. Some people think it’s weird. But the story behind it gives that line a lot of meaning.
How sweet to hold a newborn baby
and feel the pride and joy he gives
but greater still, the calm assurance
This child can face uncertain days because He lives
The Gaithers wrote the song in the 1960s in the US, a chaotic era of the Vietnam War, where there were racial tensions and seismic shifts in societal values.
It was an especially harsh winter, and Bill Gaither was stricken with a severe case of mononucleosis. Gloria Gaither and other church members faced false accusations from others.
Then, they found out they were having a baby. They wondered whether it was unwise to bring a baby into such a troubled world.
“One sunny day in the early spring, Bill, Gloria and Bill’s father George walked across the paved parking lot at their small A-frame offices. George called Bill and Gloria’s attention to a spot they had not noticed.
“He pointed out a tiny blade of grass that had pushed aside layers of dirt, rock and concrete to reach the sunshine of the world above. It had such a strong will to live; it had overcome all the odds to fulfill its destiny. That blade of grass became a symbol to the Gaithers of how God works in His creation.
“And it inspired Gloria to write a song expressing the hope that was shaped by the resurrection of Jesus, as well as that blade of grass and the birth of her son.”
God sent His Son, they called Him Jesus
He came to love, heal and forgive
He lived and died to buy my pardon
An empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives
Because He lives, I can face tomorrow
Because He lives, all fear is gone
Because I know He holds the future
And life is worth the living just because He lives
This Easter, may we feel the words “Jesus is risen” whispered into the darkness of our hearts and of the communities we belong in.
This article was first published on Ronald’s blog and has been republished with permission.
- Are you able to trust in God in these times? Do you have quiet confidence in the darkness of the valley?
- Do you believe that Jesus is alive today?
- What does “Jesus is risen”, or the resurrection of Jesus, personally mean to you?