The hope and joy of Easter is for us as we live in this turbulent world of sorrow and pain.
At some point, our lives will return to normal.
That may sound like a cliché after over two years of a life that has been very different from normal. We may question if life will ever be like it was before COVID-19. And yet, the pattern of our lives seems to be that after big celebrations, terrible tragedies, or any events that alter life, we get back to our regular routine. It might take days or weeks or months, but eventually we resume our routines of work or school or even relaxation. But it’s sometimes a new normal.
In John 21, we see the disciples returning to normal activities. They were going fishing, only a short time after Easter Sunday and the Lord’s appearance to Thomas.
I wonder about that. Why were they going fishing after having seen the resurrected Jesus? Perhaps they weren’t quite sure what to do in this new “normal.” They had been instructed by Jesus for three years, but they still did not have the confidence and understanding to take this wonderful gospel to others. They had person-ally witnessed the resurrected Christ, and yet they were not out in the streets telling the message to everyone who would listen. They were trying to find what normal meant after the resurrection.
Think about a family after the birth of a child. Think about a sports team after winning a championship. Think about a congregation after completing its building project. Think about your own life. What do you do after some of the big, life-changing events? There is a time of adjustment and celebration, but eventually you find new routines and patterns adapted from the old ones.
God helps us through challenges
The disciples had been on an incredible journey. They had experienced both terrible heartache and profound joy. On Good Friday, they were feeling despair and grief. Their close friend and leader had been put to death by Roman soldiers. Their grief was mixed with fear. The disciples didn’t know if the Jewish leaders would be coming for them next. They were probably wondering what purpose, if any, remained for them. They had thought that Jesus was the Messiah. Now they wondered how that could be true, since he had been put to death. Perhaps they doubted God’s plan of salvation.
Then on Easter Sunday, they were pulled out of the pit of grief and fear with amazing news. Jesus was alive! He had appeared to the women at the tomb. Peter and John had seen the empty tomb. The disciples on the road to Emmaus confirmed the stories—they had broken bread with him! Then he had appeared to most of them in the upper room, telling them not to be afraid. If ever they had doubted God’s plan, those doubts disappeared as Jesus stood right in front of them.
Because of that sure hope won for us on Easter, we can confidently trust our God through all of life’s challenges.
While our experiences today are not exactly the same as the disciples, we certainly have experiences that could lead us to doubt God’s love and blessings. I think about those terrible events that happen in the lives of so many people. When a loved one is diagnosed with cancer, we too might experience a roller coaster of emotions. We deal with the initial shock of the news. We consider how this is going to have a huge impact on our family. We experience sadness at the knowledge that our time together is going to be limited—shorter than we had previously thought. When Jesus calls our loved ones home to his side, be it after a battle with illness or suddenly and unexpectedly, we go through the ups and downs of grief. We mourn the loss and wish we could still talk with them. We might feel “fine” one day, and then a small event causes memories to return. We are crushed by the weight of our many emotions.
Not long ago, I was asked to preach for the funeral of a six-year-old boy, the son of our close friends. Tears were flowing as I was preparing to preach the sermon. As the preacher and service leader, I wondered if I would even be able to make it through the day without breaking down. I prayed for the strength to share God’s comfort—the joy of the Easter promises—with his friends and family. Despite my own grief and my personal love for the family, my confidence in Jesus helped me speak a joyful message. The joy of forgiveness and God’s promise of eternal life uphold us through life’s problems and tragedies. Because of that sure hope won for us on Easter, we can confidently trust our God through all of life’s challenges.
Feeling the resurrection joy
From the fishing boat, Peter showed his resurrection joy. When John leaned over and said, “It is the Lord,” Peter was so excited that he jumped out of the boat and frantically made his way to shore. He simply wanted to be near Jesus. Nothing was going to keep him away from his Lord and Savior. Peter was living with a joy and excitement that he did not have three years ago and may have doubted a few days earlier.
Peter had denied Jesus. Then he wept bitterly because of his failure. Peter had felt burdened with his own sinfulness and his unworthiness to stand before a righteous God. But now Peter had seen Jesus die and rise from the grave. That Jesus was on the shore, and Peter had an Easter joy that filled his heart. Peter felt the love of Jesus. He could only think to run to be near Jesus.
How do you feel on Easter Sunday? I can’t say that I remember every detail of every Easter Sunday. But in my memories of Easter Sundays past, there is a common thread of joy. Throughout the year, as a pastor I try to smile when I am sharing the gospel in a service. I am pretty sure the smile never leaves my face on Easter Sunday. There is a special feeling on Easter Sunday. The church is full of bright colors and smiling faces; laughter and fellowship and the smell of Easter lilies fill every corner; and, best of all, God’s people loudly sing their Easter praises.
I hope we can keep that Easter joy throughout our lives. I don’t have a special guidebook on how to make every day like Easter Sunday or an easy way to summon those special joyful feelings when we must face trials. And yet, we have Jesus. We always have the Savior who suffered, died, and rose for us, who has guaranteed us forgiveness and eternal life. Even when the joy of Easter has passed and we are back to our regular routines, we still have a special reason to be joyful. We run to Jesus because he is our Savior. In him we remain confident all the way to eternal life.
Author: Timothy Redfield
Volume 109, Number 04
Issue: April 2022