It’s the foundation of Christian theology, the bedrock of the evangelical faith. But, oh, what a weighty word.
It pivots on its prefix, on its subjugate meaning—again. To rise again, to revive again, to restore again. The word is bound to preexisting loss. Its embroidered on the tapestry of preceding brokenness and depravity.
And yet for many Easter Sundays past, Christians broadly have escaped this experience of collective loss. We’ve been lulled by the fanfare of elaborate church services. We’ve held onto the excitement of spiritually triumphant “Sunday’s Comin’” sermons, while rarely embracing the emotional complexity and tension the resurrection also brings.
This year, however, we face a new reality.
Celebrating resurrection this year
Easter comes on the heels of our world turned upside-down. On macrocosmic and microcosmic levels, we find ourselves experiencing loss of many kinds. We’re practicing social distancing. We’re combating waves of anxiety. We’re experiencing economic upheaval and uneasiness about the future.
Yet, perhaps this loss puts us in a better position than we’ve been in a long time to comprehend wholly the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Perhaps being stripped of daily comforts, being separated from family and friends and thrust into this new fear-based reality has the capacity to empty our hearts of our self-reliance and superficial leanings just enough to make room for a greater revelation, the revelation of Immanuel—God with us.
The original disciples did not experience personal resurrection in any literal terms. Their revenue streams did not grow after the crucifixion. Their socio-economic statuses did not improve with the appearance of Jesus in his resurrected form. In fact, it was after his death and resurrection that they practiced their own form of “social distancing” by hiding out in their homes, afraid of the retribution they thought would follow.
Jesus’ resurrection for them was in many ways a glorious reunion, to be sure. A stunning, victorious, joy-inducing celebration that proved to them once and for all Jesus was a man and also more than a man. He was the one true Messiah, God Incarnate, the Savior of the world.
Yet, Jesus’ resurrection also forced them to come to terms with the harder truth that he hadn’t come—as they originally thought—to overthrow the oppressive Roman government. He hadn’t come to reinstate Jewish political and religious dominance in the region. He also hadn’t come to offer them situational power, better social positioning or greater levels of comfort on this earth.
What Jesus’ resurrection called for
Jesus’ resurrection, for them, required embracing resurrected thinking.
It forced them to choose to see beyond what they wanted temporally and to imagine the kingdom of God in spiritual terms. It freed them to see their desperate need for him and the opportunity for continued spiritual dependence, even if that liberty came through the experience of painful loss.
Jesus offered hope, but his hope would come from the inside out. Jesus offered peace, but his peace would transcend all understanding (Philippians 4:7). Jesus offered real change, but that change would not be found in political resistance, the accumulation—or re-accumulation—of material wealth or the raising of stock market portfolios.
Jesus, through his death and resurrection, offered them himself. He offered the chance to know God Almighty in his fullness and the opportunity to experience his unconditional love and acceptance and grace in the midst of hurt and heartbreak.
Jesus brought them the assurance he was with them. He was with them in the midst of social distancing, with them in the midst of furloughs and job loss, with them through sickness, uncertainty, frustration, joy, disappointment, loneliness and even death.
He would be with them through it all.
That reality was enough for them. It was enough to console their minds and enough to satisfy their hearts. Jesus’ resurrection, along with the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, was enough to offer them a higher hope and inaugurate a boldness that eventually would inspire them to change the world.
What if this Easter the resurrecting reality of Immanuel, God with us, could be enough for us, too?
Ginger McPherson is a college professor-turned-stay-at-home mom of three. She earned a Ph.D. in English from Baylor University and is a pastor’s wife, Bible teacher and devotional writer at glmcpherson.com.