Today is Easter and the Lord has risen! He has risen indeed!
Yes, we are still on lockdown, and we are still dealing with the pandemic, but that cannot stop Easter. We remember what when Jesus rose, the Romans still ruled in Israel, and they were just as nasty as they were before. We remember the chief priests, the scribes and the Pharisees that Jesus had encountered in the Gospels were just as stubborn as they were before. When the disciples encountered the risen Jesus, he would forgive them for their failures on Good Friday, but they would still have to forgive themselves, and many of us find that the hard part. They were still facing a very dangerous future, one that would call them to deal with many kinds of suffering and death.
But Jesus had risen. Because they encountered the risen Jesus, nothing the world could throw at them could defeat them. No pain or deprivation could kill their joy.
Jesus doesn’t really do much that’s new, but the power of being in His presence is what makes the difference. He demonstrates that He is real, and explains that He had to suffer and die. He also sends them on mission.
Brant Pitre in his (excellent) book The Case for Jesus mentions there are three things we know about the resurrected Jesus: He has a body and is not a ghost, that He has the same body (still has wounds, but they seem not to hurt), and that it is a transformed body. It is clear that He is not just like He was before, but has become something more. In 1Corinthians 15, St. Paul talks about the resurrection of the body, and compares the difference between the earthly and resurrected bodies as being like the difference between the seed and the full grown plant. In any case, He was not just resuscitated like Lazarus, but was (and is) more amazing than they could put into words. This experience was powerful enough to change everything.
It was only when Jesus appeared to them and explained why things happened as they did that they understood, at least somewhat. He had, of course, explained a good deal before but they didn’t get it. I find that I’m often going through things that make no sense at the time, but later on I can see how God was at work, and how this served a greater purpose. Often things have been explained to me but I still did not understand until later. The Risen Jesus helped them see the bigger picture.
They were not yet ready to go out to the world and transform it. They still awaited the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Once again, even though Jesus had explained it, I figure they really didn’t have much of an idea what it would be like. Until then, they continued to hide, to keep to themselves, to gather carefully.
We are, of course, immensely frustrated with the current situation, with cancellation of liturgies extended through the end of April. Some people believe that is the wrong decision. Some people believe it is the right decision, but are still ready to tear their hair out. Whatever happens, two things are absolutely true: First Jesus is risen. Second, wherever we are at, whatever our circumstances, this is where we are called to serve God. No power on earth can take either of those away.
We are a people of the resurrection. Let us rejoice and let us answer Jesus’ call.