Energized by Easter
The disciples that Jesus had assembled started drifting away at the Passover. By the time we get to the crucifixion of Jesus only a few women and John, the beloved disciple, remain clearly visible. Each of the original disciples abandoned Jesus in one way or another. They all deserted Jesus and fled away in fear.
Jesus’ last words on the cross were, “It is finished!” After uttering those last words, he died. His death, while predicted and announced by Jesus himself, left his disciples in a state of disarray and panic. The followers of Jesus were broken, defeated, and most of them, as echoed by the two pilgrims on the Emmaus road, experienced a state of unparalleled hopelessness.
How did this ragtag group of frightened followers experience both personal and corporate renewal and transformation? Their transformation was so powerful and effective that they were eventually noted for “turning the world upside down.” What happened?
Recently I was in Jerusalem on a Holy Land pilgrimage with a group of newly-ordained Elders. While there I visited three sites that claimed to be the place where the dead body of Jesus was buried. This apparent contradiction would raise some skepticism for some but for me it was a great comfort. I was comforted by the fact that Jesus was NOT found in any of the gravesites. The event that changed the early disciples and gave birth to the early church was the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This momentous event changed the frightened disciples and enabled their communities to be transformed into areas of hope and help.
The resurrection of Jesus is the most important event in human history. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead transformed individual lives empowering them for mission and ministry. The work of redemption was finished on the cross but it was the power of the resurrection that gave new life and empowerment to the followers of Jesus.
The two that shared the Emmaus walk with Jesus, after their eyes were opened, found their strength renewed and their passion set ablaze. They were so excited that they forgot about their weariness and their fatigue and they immediately set out for Jerusalem to share the good news that Jesus Christ is alive. Hearing and experiencing this good news the followers of Jesus rallied together, experienced healing, forgiveness, solidarity and unity, and together they were transformed.
Our Lenten journey, by its design, is a time for spiritual wrestling, renewal and transformation. This journey of self-denial and soul-searching culminates with the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus. This high holy day should serve as a launching pad for propelling the church forward in its mission and ministry to a needy world. The unified message of the church is that our fear has been transformed into faith. “Christ is risen indeed!”
What happened? Tremaine Hawkins sings a beautiful gospel song about the transformative power of Jesus, she says, “a change, a wonderful change has come over me!” The disciples were changed by the power of the resurrection and in turn they changed the world.
The power that raised Jesus from the dead is still available for us today. The personal testimony of the early church was experiential. Sunday after Sunday we gather in mini-celebrations of the resurrection. The joy and passion that we celebrate on Easter Sunday should sustain us in our community ministries Monday through Saturday. The joy of Easter is for sharing with a needy world. We are called to be energized by the resurrection message, “He is Alive.”
Allow this good news to provide the energy and the passion that enables you to move forward as a difference maker so that it might be said of us that we too are “turning the world upside down!”
Bishop Frank J. Beard