The Risen Christ is with Us!
There are many accounts of Jesus’ life and ministry before his passion and death. Jesus was present with the people; he was known among them: by his family, by his followers, and even by those who felt threatened by him. He was known for being a compassionate healer, insightful preacher, wise teacher, and prophetic leader. He was known by Mary who anointed Jesus’ feet, Peter who struggled with who Jesus was, and those in authority who feared him. Nevertheless, Jesus was present with his people, even when fear, human frailties, and uncertainties got in the way.
We can only imagine what it must have been like for those women at the tomb and for the other followers of Jesus in those first days after the crucifixion. Their hopes and dreams had been turned upside down, while grief, doubts, uncertainties, and fear weighed heavily upon them. Everything they thought they knew and could count on in their lives had disintegrated into the realm of the unknown with Jesus’ death on the cross.
We can understand something about how life can so suddenly be turned upside down. A year ago, we would never have imagined how much a global pandemic could affect us and the whole world. The hopes and dreams we took for granted were replaced by uncertainties. We lamented the loss of livelihoods and the church and community life we knew and loved. We grieved those whose presence death removed from us. Our plans had to be refashioned and our lives had to adapt.
The accounts of that Easter morning and the days following Jesus’ resurrection tell us about the women at the tomb, the disciples who were behind locked doors, and the disciples on the road to Emmaus. The women at the tomb were afraid; the disciples locked themselves in out of fear; Thomas was full of doubt; and the disciples walking to Emmaus were discouraged.
Nevertheless, precisely when they were most afraid, most uncertain, and most discouraged, Jesus came and was present with them, just as he had been before, although at first they didn’t recognize him. Even though he was right there with them, their fears and uncertainties got in the way of knowing it was Jesus. Only later, did they recognize him as he greeted them with God’s peace and shared with them his presence, the holy scriptures, and a meal.
Just as Jesus was alive and present with his followers when they didn’t expect it or recognize him, Jesus is alive and present with us, his beloved ones, often at times we least expect it. For it is precisely at those times, when we are uncertain, vulnerable, or disheartened, that Jesus is right there with us. And Jesus continues to be with us through God’s word, in prayer, and in our care for others, whether it be providing for those in need, or rising to the challenges during this pandemic to do what is needed to keep our congregations, communities, and one another safe.
The angel told the women to tell the disciples that Jesus is alive, and that “…he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you” (Mark 16:7). This reminds us that Jesus leads the way, and there is nowhere we can go, or situation we can endure, that Jesus has not already been there, and because he has been there, he understands us and all our human frailties and burdens. Indeed, let us rejoice that Jesus loves us, Jesus is alive, and Jesus is present with us! For “…neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, [nor pandemic], nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38-39).
When Jesus commissioned his disciples, he gave this promise: “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age”(Matt. 28:20b). May you find comfort in these words, so that even when you are challenged by the uncertainties of life, you may rejoice that the resurrected Christ Jesus is present with you and gives you life and salvation.
Rejoice, beloved in the Lord! Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Hallelujah!
+ Bishop Wilma S. Kucharek