Easter this year.
Our observance of Easter this year is not going to be normal, obviously. Through almost 2000 years, the church has built up a lot of traditions for Easter that we’ll miss this Sunday. No lilies. No handshakes with an exchange of “He is risen.” responded to with “He is risen, indeed!” Instead most of us will be at home avoiding contact with other out of caution (or fear). And because the governor ordered us to. Easter egg hunt? Nope.
In fact, our lives – my life – right now is enclosed by the walls of my house. The doors are shut and we are apprehensive about anyone coming to the door. Even the mail is handled with caution. The big, scary pandemic has changed nearly everything about how we live. We don’t know what’s going to happen next and there is reason to believe it could be bad. In my case, as a man over 70 with hypertension, I’m about four times more likely to die if I get infected. So I’m not going out in public and I don’t know when I’ll be able to. Maybe you are in the same boat and living at least a bit in fear. You don’t know when life will return to normal. If it even does. This is not the usual atmosphere for the celebration of Easter!
But this atmosphere is similar in many ways to what Jesus’ followers were experiencing on the original Easter – Resurrection Sunday. It was the third day since Jesus was brutally tortured and executed. Some of them had been eyewitnesses when a Roman soldier had plunged a spear into the heart of their already-dead Master just to make sure (John 19:34). They were locked in a room in the city afraid to go out for fear they, too, would get arrested, tortured, and killed (John 20:19). Any knock at the door would induce anxiety and fear bordering on panic. Their lives would never go back to the way they had been. Their Master was dead. Even when the women came back and told them Jesus had risen, they thought it was nonsense (Luke 24:22). It wasn’t until Jesus appeared in their locked room that things changed and they began to rejoice and celebrate that first Easter (John 20:21).
So as we are shut in during the shutdown and our lives are turned a bit upside down, let’s put aside the fear of what might happen and remember that “He is risen”, yes “He is risen, indeed!” He has conquered sin and death! He is the first fruits of the resurrection to come! We can live in hope and not fear!