Easter is upon us, and I’m excited.
Like many church kids my experience with this time of year has been a mixed bag of sacred and secular; chocolate and the Easter bunny accompanied by the three day trek from the depths of despair at the Cross to the heights of the resurrection triumph. As a kid, I preferred the chocolate, but as I’ve grown, I’ve come to crave that time of year when the Church community reflects upon those tense moments at the Last Supper, the arrest in the garden, and the mock trial, dripping with appeasement and the symbolic washing of hands. I weep when I read of the torture experienced, the suffering endured and those moments of agony; a loud cry of “It is finished!” rattles around my head as I take a moment to realize just what the Son subjected Himself to, and for whom.
And finally, my heart is filled with hope when the tomb is discovered to be empty; undeniable proof that Jesus was (and remains) who He claimed to be.
This is the good news.
But there is another beautiful layer to this story. This most holy of weekends shows us that our lives — the ups, the downs, and the confusing middles — are not meant to be exercises in segregation which we must bear on our own.
Rather, the days that comprise the heart of the Easter story reveal to us that God is in solidarity with us, saying, “I’ve experienced what you’re experiencing; I’ve walked where you’ve walked; I’ve been where you’ve been. I’ve suffered and died for you, so that in the midst of your earthly journey, wherever you might find yourself, you have access to real peace through knowing the confident hope in victory over death.”
The peaks and valleys of our lives may play out a little bit like this:
We’re faced with moments of tragedy; the point at which light seems to retreat and we’re left crying out in shocked sadness. Some of us have experienced this pain more deeply than others, but within the run of a lifetime, we can all expect to be stung by the pain of Friday’s darkness.
Tragedy is followed, most usually, by a period of confusion and second-guessing. I’m sure that, following the public execution of their Rabbi, the disciples were convinced that they had chosen the wrong path.
These oft-forgotten moments between Friday and Sunday can be dangerous. It’s here that we risk drifting away from the warm embrace of the Father, happy instead to remain mired in sadness, or even worse, apathy. The crack and smoke of gunfire, the loss of a child, and the days following a very public memorial service leaves one mother saying, simply, “I feel nothing.” And while it’s here that we must choose to believe that God is still good, that He is still in control, and that Sunday is indeed coming, it’s also here that these words sound perhaps the most trite and meaningless.
It’s at this point that the light breaks through the darkness and we’re ushered into the confident hope of Christ, knowing that he has won the victory. That all of the dark forces of this world couldn’t hold Him down. These moments provide true rest and refreshment, as we move forward into the reality that He has risen, indeed!
Life is anything but static. Just as the Easter story moves from tragedy to sadness to hope, so our lives can take on any number of emotional twists and turns. Just as the words of the Gospel writers focus on the endless love of the Shepherd for his sheep, so the Scriptures also point us to the powerful gift of empathy; that the Creator of the world knows our pain, joy, sadness, anger, happiness, depression, and everything in between.
Whatever we have endured, Jesus has also endured, with deeper intensity and depth. In the tragedy, He comforts us, in the confusion, He leads us by the hand, and in the hope of the morning sun, He gives us rest and refreshment.
Easter is upon us, and I’m excited.
Photo (Flickr, CC) by Zyllan Fotografía.