The dust has settled after Easter. More and more people are sharing stories of seeing Jesus, talking with him, touching him, sharing a meal, having him walk beside them.
There were conversations with friends. What was it like? You must be joking? I won’t believe unless he appears to me? This is impossible, people don’t rise from the dead? So what, I’m still struggling?
Tough questions and realities follow Jesus’ resurrection. Nothing to avoid but certainly to acknowledge. Jesus didn’t step out into the open from his tomb carved into the earth only to have his followers stick their heads in the sand.
Jesus has risen, amazing! But the Roman’s still rule, the temple leaders are celebrating, religious ritual and corruption continues, we’ve got to work tomorrow to put food on the table.
Everything has changed. Nothing is different.
But hold on a minute. His disciples aren’t hiding. They walk with a smile. There is a boldness about them that was not there before. They have a sense of confidence and purpose in a context that is no different from yesterday when they were nowhere to be seen – hiding, afraid, disillusioned, beaten down.
Now, they speak of Jesus being alive – a fact that is a game changer, life transformer, reason for hope!
But everything still looks the same. A Roman soldier bumped me in the street this morning and spat at my feet with a snarly comment. Same old, same old.
It’s true, everything out there is the same, for now. But you said it yourself, the disciples are different. What do you make of that?
Well, the most powerful reality impacting our lives in the real world are the Romans and the religious leaders. Between them they connived to have Jesus killed and crucified. And they succeeded.
Jesus rose from the dead?
God is still in control. He’s bigger than the mighty Romans and the influential religious leaders.
He’s trying to show and tell us something through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
Don’t allow circumstances created by human institutions, people, or power politics to define your life, your purpose, and your perceptions. None of those things ever last – because love, truth, and sacrifice are missing from the bricks with which they build. Never expect to find on earth the answers to life that only heaven can give.
Is that why Jesus appeared to his disciples and others?
One of the reasons. It didn’t stop with his appearances but he was opening the door through death to shake our misconceptions about who rules and reigns over all the earth. And he was about to release a power on earth and in his disciples that had been lost since Eden, but that’s another chapter for another day.
Which leaves me, where?
With hope, a sense of expectation, the possibility of change that begins inside of ‘me’ no matter what is going on around me. I’m no longer a slave to whomever is out there, because God is greater. That’s why the disciples were smiling, bold, expectant, and no longer hiding. That’s why years later Paul, imprisoned and chained to a Roman guard could look him in the eye and smile: “Must suck to be you, you’re my prisoner, let me tell you about a man who changed my life, Jesus.” That’s why even more years later an old bishop named Polycarp, would choose to be burned at the stake rather than renounce his faith in Jesus. “For eighty-plus years I have followed Jesus, why would I deny him now?”
Paul was beheaded and Polycarp burned. Their circumstances were horrific, but their courage and inner conviction of God’s grace and mercy were heroic and so much bigger. Because of the resurrection, and the power that was released at Pentecost they lived from the inside out. Nothing could deter or intimidate them. Discouraged at times, perhaps. Fearful, for sure. But never without hope, or a faith that believed, even when they didn’t see and experience on earth all they had hoped for.
Paul was deeply impacted by the way Stephen died before his eyes (the first Christian martyr), those who witnessed the death of Polycarp marveled at his peace and confidence.
There’s much in life that we don’t understand, that is not just or fair, and that we yearn to see changed. It’s not always easy to be joyfully expectant when we look around us. Which is why our hope is most powerfully sustained when we look beyond, to the fact of the resurrection, and the declaration that no matter what – God is in control.
Therein lies our hope – always.