Although just a few days ago I was celebrating Easter, somehow it already feels like years ago. On one level, I guess that’s to be expected… after we leave church, family dinners and get togethers, life returns to normal.
But on another level, the fact that Easter seems so distant – so removed from everyday life – has been quietly gnawing at me all week. We say things like ‘He is Risen’, ‘Happy Easter’ and mention that Easter is the ‘high point’ of the church year, but I’m not sure how much the truths those statements point to affected me all that much. On Easter, let alone the days before or after.
I was at a bible study on one of our campuses this week when the Resurrection – what Easter is all about – came up. More specifically, we were wrestling with what difference it should make in our lives. The answers were slow in coming, partly, I think, because we haven’t really thought it through at street level to any real depth.
Even though I’m a pastor and ‘should know’ these things, it certainly got me thinking.
After reflecting for some time, I shared that one of the practical implications for us is that the Easter and the Resurrection should make us people who are filled with hope. Not the kind of hope that it won’t rain tomorrow or that the next exam will go well or that we’ll get married, but biblical hope.
What is biblical hope? I like John Piper’s definition:
A confident expectation and desire for something good in the future.
He gets this, among other places, from Romans 4:18: ‘In hope [Abraham] believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” ‘
It’s beyond the scope of this post to unpack this passage fully, but by ‘against hope’ Paul means that, from a normal human viewpoint, it was crazy for Abraham to think that he (at 100 years old) could, through his wife Sarah (at 90), become a father, let alone one to ‘many nations’. But because God has promised it, Abraham ‘in hope’ believe that it would happen. He had what Piper calls ‘a confident expectation and desire for something good in the future’.
So, if that is what biblical hope really is, what does that have to do with Easter? Why should Easter make us like this?
After Jesus’s Resurrection, he had literally returned from death to life. And not just to any life, but one that is indestructible. He will never die again (Romans 6:9). That cannot be said of anyone else. Ever.
Not yet, anyway.
Romans 6:5 says that, ‘if we have been united with [Jesus] in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his’. Jesus’s resurrection means that everyone who trusts in him will also, one day, be resurrected too. The Resurrection is a sneak preview – a trailer – of the perfect world that is coming. A world without crime. Without loved ones who die. Without poverty. Without loneliness. Without divorce. Without stress.
This, the bible says, is absolutely certain, not just wishful thinking. That, in part, is what the Resurrection proves and is all about.
The problem, of course, is that we can say we believe this and live our lives like it’s irrelevant. It’s not wrong to be honest or sad about things that are broken or out of place, of course. We can’t relate to people like that because they’re denying the reality of the fallen world we find ourselves in.
But it’s equally wrong to act like there’s no hope for whatever situation we find ourselves in. If Jesus has overcome death itself and promised that we will overcome it, too, then there’s hope – biblical hope – for anything I will face today. Easter is not meant to be an irrelevant cliche, but a living reality that shapes every moment of my life.
I wish I could tell you that I walked out of church on Easter and have been different ever since, but I haven’t. I’ve acted like my kids will never change, that I’ll never have enough time to do everything I’m supposed to do, and… you get the idea. The Resurrection is real, but I’ve often forgotten it.
I’m encouraged, though, at my discouragement. The very fact that this bothers me is a sign that God is work. My doubts and momentary failures can’t negate God’s promises to work in my life and ultimately resurrect me!
Let’s make this more personal as we close. If you’re a Christian, you undoubtedly believe that God brought Jesus back from death and will do the same for you. But, where has discouragement gotten a foothold in your life? Let me encourage you to take a moment, get honest about that with God, and ask him to make the hope of Easter an increasingly real part of your life.