There is a great amount of anticipation leading up to Easter Sunday. Even for those who are “Christmas and Easter” church-goers, or for those who simply sit at home and dream of Easter baskets, chocolate rabbits, and colored eggs, anticipating Easter, on the one hand, is like waiting for the door to finally be unlocked, unhinged and opened onto a verdant spring meadow. On the other hand, Easter is stepping out onto that meadow and closing the door behind on the long, cold, dreary winter.
Yet, for many, the day comes and goes and then what? Easter is over again until next year. In some parts of the world, winter still hovers above and the grey of death has not given way to the springtime. The candy is eaten, the brunches are over, and everything seems to return to normal. All that anticipation ends in just one day—with grand celebrations and powerful sermons, and perhaps with even a first playful roll in the springtime grass—and then it’s over. Or is it?
The celebration of Easter is insignificant if the celebrations do not point to the continuing reality of the Risen Lord. Indeed, in many church traditions, the season of Eastertide which lasts until Pentecost asks this very question of those who lead congregations into continual contemplation of the resurrection until the day of Pentecost: how do we perceive the continuing presence of the risen Lord in our reality? Indeed, how do we? Is it simply the annual remembrance of a historic event from long ago?
If we’re honest, many of us do wonder what difference the resurrection has made in the practical realities of our lives. We still argue with our spouses and loved ones; we still have children who go their own way. We have difficulties at work or at school. We still see a world so broken by warfare, selfish greed, oppression and sin. Like the two men on the road to Emmaus recounting the events surrounding Jesus, perhaps we wonder aloud: “But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel” (Luke 24:21a). Things seem pretty much as they were before Easter Sunday, and the reality of our same old lives still clamor for redemption.
This is often the way we feel if we have only understood resurrection as an event long past that only speaks to a future yet to come. We feel this way if we do not connect Jesus’s prayer for God’s will to be done “on earth as it is in heaven” with the reality of the cry, “He is risen, as he said.” The glimpse into the kingdom of God that we get in the life and ministry of Jesus is ratified through the resurrection. New creation, new life, resurrected living is now a possibility for those who follow Jesus.
The risen Jesus told his followers, “As the Father has sent me, I also send you” (John 20:21). Jesus’s resurrection is not a promise for escape from the world, or a life free from trouble, but rather it commissions those who would remember his resurrection to be his ‘raising’ agents in the world. He sends us out with the extraordinary news that the dead can be raised to new life for death and evil do not have the last word! And as we begin to live in light of the resurrection, we can gain insight into its significance for the practical realities of everyday lives. As N.T. Wright has concluded: “Jesus is raised, so he is the Messiah, and therefore he is the world’s true Lord; Jesus is raised, so God’s new creation has begun—and we, his followers, have a job to do! Jesus is raised, so we must act as his heralds, announcing his lordship to the entire world, making his kingdom come on earth as in heaven.”(1)
We are sent out beyond Easter Sunday into Eastertide because everything has changed. As we live into and out of the resurrection, we demonstrate the continuing presence of the risen Lord in our lives and in this world.
Margaret Manning Shull is a member of the speaking and writing team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Bellingham, Washington.
(1) N.T. Wright, Surprised By Hope (New York: Harper Collins, 2008), 56.
(2) Artwork included in this essay is the work of Ben May Media, www.benmaymedia.zenfolio.com. Used by permission