Today is the most sacred day of the Christian year. The only day that would come close is Christmas. But Easter is, by far, the most sacred. Noted British theologian N.T. Niles wrote, “Take away the stories of Jesus’s birth and you loose two chapters of Matthew and two of Luke. But take away the resurrection and you lose the entire New Testament.”
Those who believe in Christ find the key to their hope that death did not have the last word, but rather our Lord arose and is alive. The excitement of Easter is so much more than new clothes and special bonnets, colored eggs and chocolate bunnies, or fragrant lilies. The “Good News” of Easter is the foundation that the rest of the Christian faith is built on.
One of my favorite definitions of faith is that it is like a pair of glasses. When you wear a pair of glasses that you need, whether for reading or distance, you don’t change reality but rather bring reality into focus. To believe in the presence of the Risen Christ does not change reality but helps us to see the true depth of reality.
There are many reasons to be pessimistic in this world. Terror stalks our world, even in our own country. An American city sees its water poison its children. A new mosquito born disease threatens the unborn. The list could go on but every new head line brings a reason to be pessimistic.
And it is often the same in our personal worlds. A job is lost and the future is unsure. The diagnoses given for one we love or for ourselves that is very frightening. A marriage is placed under tremendous pressure because the love that created it has faded. One of your children becomes a prodigal. The door is closed on the school we wanted or the promotion we sought. We confront an addiction, whether our own or one tormenting one we love. Again the list could go on, but Easter brings the Good News that we can see our way through. An early father of the church, Clement of Alexander, wrote “Christ has turned our sunsets into dawns”
Augustine put it this way, “Faith is believing what you don’t see, and the reward of faith, is seeing what you believe.” Easter explodes those things that have blocked our future and opens up eternity. We can have the faith found in words written on the walls of the Warsaw ghetto: “I believe in the sun, even if it doesn’t shine, I believe in love, even if I do not feel it. I believe in God, even if I do not see Him.”
Rembrandt painted the scene on the Sea of Galilee when Jesus and his disciples were caught in a terrible storm. The amazing thing about the painting is if you study it carefully, you will notice there are fourteen people in the boat. You might be thinking, “Wait a minute, how do you get fourteen? I thought there were twelve disciples. Add in Jesus and that would give you thirteen. But as you are looking you will recognized the fourteenth person is Rembrandt himself. He has painted himself into the scene.
The power of the Easter message is whatever boat you find yourself in, the Risen Christ is with you. Whatever storm you may be struggling with, the Risen Christ is with you. In the face of crises, temptation, death, pain, fear, or whatever, you can make it through because the Risen Christ is with you.
If you have read this far, and are thinking maybe I sounded a little too much like a preacher in this column, I would say, “I just couldn’t help it.” It is hard to break a habit of doing something you have been doing for over fifty years. And it is particularly hard to be quiet at Easter, the most sacred day for those who follow Christ.
Today is a day filled with Alleluias. We now know that the stones that blocked our future are rolled away. Today is filled with joy, for just as the disciples of old, we can personally know the peace and presence of the Risen Christ. Today is a day that even in a world dark with evil, injustice, fear, and pain, we can walk in the light of God’s mercy and grace. Alleluia He is alive.
Faith in the great truth of Easter changes forever the way we see death and life.
B. Wiley Stephens is a retired United Methodist Minister and author who now resides in Covington.