With Easter wishes, a good friend wrote this week: “Easter is the quintessential expression of our faith in grace as God’s unconditional love.” Christians are Easter people. Easter brings hope and strength when hatred, violence, and fear can seem so overwhelming.
The historical Jesus knew, very well, fear and anxiety in his own day’s environment of terror and aggression under Pontius Pilate, the fifth governor of the Roman province of Judaea. Pilate was cruel and brutal. He had Jesus horribly tortured and crucified.
The great Jesus event, of course, did not end with Jesus’ agony and death on the cross. The New Testament narrates various kinds of post-resurrection appearances, some quite imaginative. Nevertheless, all biblical authors agree that, shortly after his death, a transformed and living Jesus appeared to the women and men who were his disciples. As Paul the Apostle reminded the Christians in Corinth “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” (I Corinthians 15:14)
The post-resurrection testimony is clear. The early followers of the way of Jesus were empowered to live in his Spirit and to begin transforming the world around them. They understood the message and witness of Jesus — that the way of Jesus is a new way of being and living in which the poor are blessed, in which the gentle are blessed, in which the mourning are blessed, in which the peacemakers are blessed, in which those who hunger and thirst for justice are blessed, in which the persecuted are blessed, and in which the pure of heart are blessed. (See Matthew 5:3–11.)
We live in and with the Spirit of Jesus raised-from-the-dead into a new kind of life. Living in and with his Spirit, we find our prophetic call. It means that WE do his walking today. WE are the ones to do his talking, living life, getting involved. WE are the ones struggling. WE are the ones who need to work hard. Our support and encouragement come from HIM. For some it may seem that Jesus does not take away the difficulties of our journey. In reality he does.
Following Jesus is not a sentimental journey with lots of pious rhetoric. It is a real-life journey with its ups and downs, but guided by the One who is with us here and now and will not abandon us. As Jesus said in John 10:10: “I came that they may have life and have it in abundance.” And in Matthew 28:20: “I will be with you always, even until the end of the world.”
Institutional Christianity may be having some uneasy days; but the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus have great contemporary significance. They give us the strength and energy to be his disciples in the Third Millennium. Alleluia!
PS I will be away from my computer for a couple weeks and plan to return on April 16th.