“Were you there when they crucified my Lord?”
The hymn we often sing on Good Friday recognizes that we were there as Jesus died – because the life-and-death story of that astounding week in Jerusalem is the central story of our lives as children of God. All of us were there with Jesus, we believe because he gave his life for the sheer love of us.
And it’s not so far-fetched to feel that we were there on Good Friday with Jesus. The pain of our world is immense. We have lived through two years of a pandemic that has upended our lives. We are confronting problems of climate change, racial injustice, and deep division in our society. We watch in horror as a brutal war unleashes terrible violence in Ukraine, adding to the violence humans inflict on each other in so many other places.
But something unprecedented happened on Easter morning, something so far beyond the boundaries of what we know and expect, that the very questions we ask are transformed. That same hymn’s last verse asks:
“Were you there when God raised him from the tomb?”
Well, we can’t exactly say that we were there – because no one but the angels, and God, saw the Resurrection at the moment it happened. We only see what happened later: the next morning, the women come to the tomb, their hearts bursting with grief. There they find that God has done something absolutely inexplicable, that the stone that was blocking their way is gone, and that Jesus has been raised from the dead.
Gospel accounts of that first Easter tell us that the women responded to that astounding discovery with fear. We, too, know fear, and it’s tempting for us humans sometimes to forget that the resurrection of Jesus Christ has anything to say about those things that fill us with fear. Sometimes we share the terror of the women who discovered God’s mighty act of resurrection.
But as they learned, the Resurrection shatters everything we’ve ever believed about the impermanence of life and the finality of death. Resurrection means we have to re-orient our fears and re-think our lives. All our resignation to the evil of this world, our worries over the challenges we face, our stresses about how to roll away the stones that stand in our way are not enough to fend off death – but God is enough.
God has raised Jesus from the dead. And that means that we live in a world in which the ultimate triumph belongs not to familiar, fearsome, inevitable death, but to thrilling, astonishing resurrection life. We live in a world where God loves us so much that God will never let us go. We live in a world where our call is to share that life, and that love, with others, and to work to transform this world with Jesus’s love.
Yes, we were there with Jesus, because Jesus loves us. God’s love triumphs over death itself, so we will shout with joy this Easter season: Alleluia! Christ is risen!
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