Easter is a season of celebration and joy. But what about times when we struggle with adversity: illness, grief, fear, or uncertainty about the future? At these moments, it may seem less clear how the Easter story is our story.
I take comfort in knowing that this was exactly the situation for Jesus’ friends and followers not only during his Passion, but even in the earliest days of the Resurrection. It took time for them to recognize the reality of the Resurrection, and it can take time for us as well. The truth of the Resurrection is that God’s love is victorious. That is the essence of our faith. Love wins out over hate. Good wins out over evil. Life wins out over death. Really. And yet, Jesus’ friends had to discover this over time in their lived experience. Sometimes, so do we.
Consider the ways we see the discovery of the Resurrection unfold in Scripture.
- Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb and finds it empty, and initially she weeps, thinking that the body of her beloved one is gone and that she will never be near to him again. She is in deep mourning. It takes time for Mary to meet the resurrected Jesus and to recognize that it is really him and not only the gardener.
- The Resurrection has already happened when the disciples are still hiding out in the upper room. Jesus breaks into the room against all their expectations. For them, it is an experience of utter surprise. Soon after, Thomas doubts and will not believe until he can see Jesus for himself. His experience of the world does not match the celebratory mood of the others, who have already had their Easter experience.
- The friends who walk on the road to Emmaus spend a long time with Jesus right there in their midst, before they later recognize him in the burning of their hearts and the breaking of the bread. He is right there, walking alongside them at every moment, yet their recognition takes time.
- Peter, when he is out on the boat, spots Jesus and leaps into the sea to get to him; it might seem that Peter, at least, has no doubts as to what he is seeing. But even in his enthusiasm and insight, it takes breakfast on the seashore and a talk on the beach to grow more fully into understanding what the Resurrection means for him, especially in terms of the healing of his companionship with the Lord.
These stories and others help me to remember that it is not my action that makes Easter happen. It is not about “willing myself” into the Easter mindset. Rather, it is about taking the time to be attentive to God’s creative action. God’s unstoppable love resurrected Jesus from the dead. And it is God’s love and not my own action that will lead to our own resurrections—both our bodily resurrections (someday) and the ways we experience new life now, in the midst of fear, suffering, grief, and even death.
My part is simply to acknowledge my feelings, pay attention, wonder, and pray.
- If I am feeling emptiness or grief, I can bring my sense of emptiness to God and, like Mary Magdalene, wait for God, paying attention to where I might find new life beyond the tomb.
- If I am feeling fear and am shut inside my own room, I can bring those fears to God and know that God will enter right into that space with me. God can surprise me beyond the confines of my own understanding.
- If I am feeling doubt, I can express these doubts to God and, like Thomas, wonder how God invites me to touch the reality of the Resurrection.
- If I am feeling a desire for increased connection with God, I can let God walk with me, talk with me, and even “feed” me with the divine presence. I can let myself love God and let God love me in turn.
Think about your own Easter experience. Where is there new life? Where is there wonder? Where do you see God’s love made real?
Image: “John 21:1–14. Once more Jesus showeth himself to Peter and others by the Sea of Galilee,” by William Hole.