As we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, we are challenged to expand our Easter joy to more than just hope in eternal life. The resurrection is the pouring forth of the promise of the Holy Spirit here and now. It is the assurance of the presence of God at this very moment, not just about what we can expect when we leave this earth, but while we are still here. The bigger picture of the Easter story is that we have not been abandoned to hopelessness, ever.
Tell that to the poor. Tell that to the beaten and abused, the tortured and the unjustly imprisoned. Tell that to the terminally ill, and tell that to the lonely. Tell that to the hungry and the homeless who wander the scourged lands of the earth. Tell that to the people of this earth who feel in very real ways that they have been abandoned to hopelessness.
While our faith in the resurrection is certainly about God keeping us safe and the assurance of abiding in hope for our own lives, we also pray in Psalm 16 that God will also show us the path to life, and fullness of joys in the presence of God. So if the death and resurrection of Jesus was about our liberation from the hopelessness of our own deaths, why do we have to follow a path to life? Hasn’t it all been done for us already? Yes, it has. But life is not living unless it is experienced in joy, the joy of the presence of God. So there is something we can do in response to our joy to make it fuller.
To more fully experience the presence of God, we will tell the poor, the beaten, the abused, the imprisoned, the sick, the hungry, the homeless and the lonely that they too have not been abandoned to hopelessness. Christ is not just our hope, but the hope of the world. The resurrection of Jesus is the redemption of all of humanity. And it isn’t just about whether we believe it or not, it is about whether we feel confident enough to act on it.
As I reflect on these lessons, I think the reason why the first words Jesus said to the first people who saw him after the resurrection were “Do not be afraid.” I don’t think it was he thought they might be afraid of ghosts. I think he says this to us today, just as he did then, because his resurrection means that he is the fulfillment of the promises of God. It’s not our fear of death; it is our fear of life that we need to think about now. If Jesus really is alive, then God really meant it when he said he loved us and that we, meaning all of humanity, are worth saving. That means nobody has been abandoned to hopelessness. Believing in the resurrection means believing in the entire promise of God’s enduring presence with humanity.
So, yes, I feel great joy at Easter, but the fullness of joy that I seek in the presence of God is not just about the relief that the fear of death has been lifted. The joyful Easter Sunday celebration encourages me to identify with the suffering of others who don’t feel that hope. At least that is the path to life that has been shown to me in the good news. Alleluia! I pray today that I will not be afraid to stay on that path and share that Easter story by bringing hope and joy in very concrete ways to those who do feel abandoned.