April 3, 2020
Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water (Jn. 21: 7 NIV).
While walking through a Target the other day on one of my “essential” trips to the store, I walked through the Easter candy aisle and became a little sad.
A little later, I passed the children’s department and saw the displays of Easter dresses and tiny jackets and ties. The sadness deepened.
It seemed to me that given the Stay-at-Home and Shelter-in-Place orders that we are living under … Easter this year is not going to be the traditional celebration of Christ’s Resurrection to which we’ve become accustomed … neither in the church nor in our American culture.
Oh, you might still get your Easter ham and have an egg hunt for the kids in the backyard, but unless you disobey the orders, it won’t be the whole family with aunts and uncles, nephews and nieces involved or the community event where a young child wins a really cool prize.
There will be some parking lot services that celebrate the resurrection … maybe even at sunrise, but the passing of the peace and the hearty hugs will be missing as will the big community breakfast that follows.
Yes, there will be services, but it will be different this year.
But then again, as I reflected upon all of this, I began to think … maybe this year will be more like what the disciples and the women felt on that first Easter morning so many years ago.
You see, we view Easter as a celebration. We celebrate fully cognizant of the meaning of the empty tomb and fully invested in the freedom and promise of our future. We celebrate because of our knowledge of what the events that first Easter means for us for all time!
The disciples on the other hand weren’t sure what lay ahead for them? They did not yet understand the “for eternity” part of the event.
Instead they were caught up in thoughts about their immediate future. Would the Temple guards who had arrested Jesus be breaking their doors down? Would they too face trial and execution?
And then there was the problem of the empty tomb. Sure, the women had reported that one of them had seen Jesus … but can you trust the word of someone who has so recently lost someone they loved? And what was the significance of that empty tomb? Were the religious leaders who had orchestrated Jesus’ crucifixion up to something else … was it something sinister involving them?
You see, that Easter Sunday, though proven to be the climactic moment in history with time, at that moment was a time of uncertainty, stress and turmoil … a little bit like today, only far more focused!
It wasn’t until the later encounters with Jesus that the reality of what had happened began to sink in for the disciples. It wasn’t until much later that the joy of resurrection so moved Peter that he dove into the water to be close to the Lord.
But before that time … Thomas doubted. Others talked about the events that had happened in Jerusalem with strangers on the road … not fully knowing what had happened and still others waited in an upper room anxiously awaiting news until one of them finally said, “I can’t stand it anymore … let’s go fishing!”
No Easter bonnets, chocolate rabbits or even baked hams (irony of ironies don’t you think!) on that Sunday morning. Just fear and doubt and anxiety.
A little like our 2020 Easter is shaping up to be.
But the good news is that God was faithful and Jesus did appear to those who waited.
The good news is that fear and anxiety was quieted by the presence of the living Lord.
And the Good News is that the same Lord lives today and will address our fears, doubts and anxieties as well.
We just have to wait.
Prayer: Lord, in this anxious time, we wait in our rooms, hoping to experience Your presence.
Come even in these strange times that we might touch you and be touched by you that all our doubts and fears would be erased. Amen.
Steve Van Ostran
ABC of the Rocky Mountains