They had a nice meal with Him but then His enemies wanted to take Him away. They tried to defend Him but they were defeated. They saw Him die on the cross from a distance as they were too afraid that the same fate would meet them since they were His companions. When the accusers and executioners had left, one of them quietly went to claim His body as they would like to bid farewell to Him. He had been a friend, mentor, Lord and Saviour.
All that they had hoped for vanished right before their eyes. The gave up their boats and nets, families and relatives, jobs and securities… all because this preacher called out to them, ‘come follow me.’ Now everything is gone… hearts broken, hope dimmed, joy vanished, what else is there to live for. It is time to go back and do what they did best.
All of a sudden things changed. The women came back to say He is no longer where they left Him. Someone may have taken Him away for there isn’t any trace of Him. What could have happened? Who could have done this? Where could His body be? Then they remembered what He had said… it all came back. A gush of adrenaline brought a deep warmth in their hearts, joy in their faces, and a renewed hope and they said… ‘It is the Lord!’
It has been three tiring days for most of us and much had happened in the lives of the disciples during those days. Form dejection to hope, sadness to joy, gloominess to brightness, and finally death to life. To the disciples, to discover that He was alive brought unbelievable joy because they did not know that He would come back and that knowledge gave them new purpose.
Two thousand years later one can wonder where has that joy and sense of purpose gone? We can ask ourselves, does the resurrection of Jesus bring any difference to us who celebrate it today? It is not as dramatic because we all know how the story would end and perhaps the only wonder we may have right now is what time the Easter service would end? What will be ‘new’ after our encounter with this resurrected Jesus today?
The two elements that we use at Easter reminds us the difference Jesus brings by His resurrection: light and water. The fire that we bless and light the Paschal candle with, reminds us that He who has called us illumines our daily path so that we may not fall into darkness. Water reminds us that even though there are times we may fall, God washes away our sins since Christ has already carried all our sins with Him to the cross. The resurrection of Jesus reminds us… ‘Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me (Ps 23:4) and if I should fall… ‘I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities’ (Ezekiel 36:25). The early disciples did not have such long liturgies and symbols to remind them of the resurrection but all they had were stories about what they saw and the tomb and His other appearances to them. These ‘stories’ were told and retold many times and that kept the flame of faith alive. We too need to tell this story but perhaps not in words but in the way we live our lives.
The Easter story is not just a feel-good story where they all lived happily ever after like a novel or a fairy-tale, but it has to be a life changing story as how it was to the disciples and friends of Jesus. It made them look at Jesus in a different light. All that He taught, shared, and did… now took on a new meaning. That they were chosen because He wanted them to be the example that others could look towards.
In this context then, one can begin to understand that the washing of the feet, the gift of the body and blood of Jesus, the mandate to love as He did, the dying on the cross and finally the resurrection were intended to show how perfect the love of God is, so that it can inspire the disciples and the church of the future to be the model of new life in Jesus.
And now we know: “For God so loved the world that He gave His Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. God did not send His Son into the world to condemn it, but to save it” (John 3:16-17). By His death and resurrection, we have been set free… are we ready to go make a difference?
Image: “The Road to Emmaus,” an 1877 painting by Robert Zund.