Summary: What is Easter all about? What does Jesus' death and resurrection mean for our lives? These are the central questions of the seven-week Easter season. We may not be able to fully understand the meaning of these questions answers, but that does not stop us from bearing witness to those answers.
What is Easter all about?
What does Jesus’ death and resurrection mean for our lives?
These are the questions that have been on my mind and heart this past week. Is Easter a one-day holiday in the spring where we simply gather with family for a nice meal, maybe exchange small gifts, hunting for colored hard-boiled eggs? Or is it more than that?
When we look closely at the society in which we find ourselves, the impression that I get is that the former is the case for most people. For most people Easter is one of two times they go to church each year. They get dressed up, go to church, have an Easter Egg Hunt, give gifts form the “Easter Bunny”, and have a nice family meal together. And that is where Easter ends for most people. Now to be clear, these things in and of themselves are not bad ways to celebrate Easter. The sad part about this model of Easter, however, is that so many are missing out on the richness and depth the season of Easter has to provide. A season that is not merely one Sunday, but a full seven weeks. Seven weeks dedicated to answering the initial questions I have posed at the beginning of this post.
What is Easter all about? What does Jesus’ death and resurrection mean for our lives?
To help us reconnect with the depth the seven-week Easter season has to offer I have switched my lectionary focus to what is called the narrative lectionary. The whole point of this lectionary is to rediscover the richness the narrative of Scripture has to offer. In this specific case, the richness of the seven weeks of Easter. Helping us bring clarity to what Easter is all about and what Jesus’ death and resurrection means for our lives.
The Scriptural focus for this Second Sunday of Easter, according to the Narrative Lectionary, is a story that one might expect to find at the end of the Easter season instead of the beginning. Whereas the regular lectionary would have given us an account that happen the same day and the week following the resurrection, the narrative lectionary text today gives us an account right before Jesus’ Ascension into heaven.
One of the aspects of this text that has stuck out to me here is that even after all the disciples have seen and heard being by Jesus’ side for three some years, is that they too are no closer than we are to being able to answer the major questions posed before us today. They ask Jesus right before he is going to be taken up into heaven, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” [i] It is clear from this question that they still do not quite get what the true story of Jesus, especially the part about his death and resurrection, was all about. Sure, they knew he was the Savior, but their understanding of what the Savior was meant to do did not quite equate to what Jesus had actually come to do. The disciples still had this notion, even after all they had seen and heard in the presence of Jesus, that the Salvation Jesus had come to bring was an earthly one.
Despite their ignorance, however, Jesus simply tells them that the plans God has is not for mere mortals to know. But this does not mean that they, or any of us for that matter, do not have a part to play in those plans. Jesus continues by saying, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses.” [ii] Jesus wants them to share with others all those teachings, signs, and miracles that they had seen and heard while they were with Jesus. They may not fully understand everything they had seen and heard, but that is where the Holy Spirit comes in. The Holy Spirit will interpret all those things in the hearts of those who hear this witness.
My friends, it is that very witness that brings us to where we are today. Through the witness of the disciples, and the many other faithful men and women since then, coupled with the works of the Holy Spirit, are we able to even remotely begin to grasp the true meaning and depth of the Easter Season. This witness has shown us that God’s love for all the world was mercifully displayed through Jesus’ words, actions, miracles, his death, and most importantly his resurrection. An act that won for us salvation, the forgiveness of our sins, and opening to us the gates of heaven.
Even though we may not fully grasp these facts of faith, we, like the disciples and the countless others who have come before us, are called to add our witness to theirs. And we can be confident that our witness, like those that have come before, will be interpreted by the Holy Spirit according to God’s plan until all the world knows of God’s love.