Easter is in the rearview mirror, but it deposited several guarantees for the road ahead that make our current journey through Covid-19 very purposeful.
By Dennis Rainey
So much about the coronavirus pandemic is absolutely terrible: the illnesses and deaths, the EMT/nurses/doctors/hospitals all overwhelmed, its catastrophic financial impact on so many Americans, their families and their businesses.
It seems insensitive to say that there really is a good side to all this.
But I’ll say it … Covid-19 has revealed our self-sufficient arrogance and reminded us of our mortality. It has shown us that there’s more to life than what we see … that there is a spiritual dimension to life … that we have souls … and that we were made for an eternal relationship, with the Creator of the universe.
Like most of you, “sheltering in place” has been our daily ritual. A week ago on Good Friday, Barbara and I were reaping the benefits of a simpler lifestyle. No travel. No activities. Less choices and thus fewer distractions. For the most part, our heads and hearts were clear.
We were ready for a different kind of Easter.
As Barbara and I sat down to dinner on Good Friday, we determined that we would ponder afresh our Savior’s death, burial and Resurrection.
We engaged in stimulating conversations about why Jesus died on “Silent Saturday” (as Barbara calls it), and about His death-defeating resurrection on Sunday morning.
Experiencing the Easter story
The days that followed have been a spiritually enriching process for us, and I thought I’d share how we experienced the Easter story and some of what we gleaned personally.
With the help of our good old friend, Alexa, we listened to and sang several of our favorite songs and hymns, including:
· “Was it a Morning Like This?” by Sandy Patti
· “Christ the Lord is Risen Today” by Charles Wesley
· “Hallelujan Chorus” by Handel (I want to be in that choir in heaven when we sign it to the One it is about!)
· “Is He Worthy?” by Andrew Peterson … Barbara’s fave, and becoming mine.
And then there was “Untitled Hymn” by Chris Rice. The lyrics reminded us of where a lot of believers are today:
Weak and wounded sinner; lost and left to die;
O, raise your head, for love is passing by;
Come to Jesus, come to Jesus;
Come to Jesus and live.
What happened to Peter?
Then we read a portion of Peter’s sermon on Pentecost in Acts 2:22-24:
“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves know—this Jesus delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed him by the hands of lawless men. God raised Him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for Him to be held by it.”
There’s a lot in this sermon, and I’ll mention a couple of things that stood out to us.
First, what in the world happened to Peter? Think of the cowardly lies he blurted out three times just days earlier to a servant girl. His denials of knowing Jesus are legendary: “Woman, I do not know Him.”
Now in this sermon we see a bold and courageous Peter speaking the truth to the religious mafia, the thugs who took Jesus out and murdered Him. Something definitely happened to Peter.
On Friday after Jesus’ death, he and the other disciples went home. We don’t know how they processed what they witnessed, so I’m going to speculate what likely happened.
Undoubtedly they woke up the next day feeling horribly confused. “Silent Saturday” found them failing their greatest test of faith. It’s not beyond the realm of reason that they were asking, “What happened to Him?” And, “What about all those claims and promises He made about Himself? They likely doubted the One who had claimed to be “the light of the world,” having watched as His life was snuffed out like a candle.
Death was defeated
What happened next to Peter? And to the other disciples?
The Resurrection of Jesus.
Unquestionably the GREATEST event in human history. (Okay, the Incarnation is in a very close, second place.)
What did God do? He did battle with perhaps the greatest fears of all humanity—the fear of dying. He took on death in an invisible epic contest and crushed it with the greatest conquest of all time.
Look again at Peter’s words: “God raised Him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for Him to be held by it” (Acts 2:24).
Three things are clear about how death was defeated:
It was God who raised Jesus from the dead.
It was an easy victory … “loosing the pangs of death.” It was like God simply untied the grip death had enjoyed having over humanity since Adam and Eve’s fall.
It was not an “even contest” … the Scriptures give us the color commentary on this incredible win: “it was IMPOSSIBLE for Jesus to be held down by death” (my paraphrase).
In all of history only three men were not defeated by death: Enoch, Elijah, and Jesus. Enoch and Elijah didn’t die, they were just taken up by God. Only Jesus died and was resurrected by His Heavenly Father.
Listen to Paul taunt death, the defeated enemy of man in 1 Corinthians 15:54-57:
Death is swallowed up in victory
O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?
Then later in the passage Paul gives thanks to God for the victory. Look at what is promised:
But thanks be to God, who gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Resurrection of Jesus Christ was will remain throughout all time as the GREATEST game changer. Christ’s victory over death gives us the promise, the guarantee, and the hope that a grave is not where we are taken to just rot. Dying and death are much different for a believer in Jesus Christ.
Seeing past the pain
All this reminded me of a poem by Calvin Miller that captures what a grave truly is:
I once scorned ev’ry fearful thought of death, When it was but the end of pulse and breath, But now my eyes have seen that past the pain There is a world that’s waiting to be claimed. Earthmaker, Holy, let me now depart, For living’s such a temporary art. And dying is but getting dressed for God, Our graves are merely doorways cut in sod.
I woke up this morning with thinking about COVID-19. Here we are surrounded by the images of death … the unspoken fear of the “death angel.” The resurrection of Jesus gives believers huge advantages as we process COVID-19 and “Sheltering in Place,” the reality of so many people dying, and the financial strains of the pandemic. Here are my applications:
I have HOPE now and beyond the grave. I don’t have to be paralyzed by the fear of death—I have been given the greatest victory of all time, God gave us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Fear is powerful, but faith embracing Almighty God is invincible. Will I believe His promises? Will I embrace and make God my refuge?
As I encounter others processing the pandemic, I need to be available and ready to speak to the needs of their souls. Do they have hope? Have they received God’s forgiveness of sin? Be ready to share how they can KNOW they have eternal life. The Scriptures tell us we CAN KNOW in I John 5:12-13, “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.”
Because we have hope, each of us needs to know and embrace your God given mission. I’m reminded of the missionary Amy Carmichael who courageously served God in difficult circumstances. She knew her mission. She said, “We have all of eternity to celebrate our victories, but only a few hours before sunset to win them.”
If you know Christ as your Lord and Savior, you and I have been given the greatest win of all time … now let’s go get some more wins in the time we have left and not waste any of the opportunities that COVID-19 has brought to us.
Christ is Risen,
He is Risen Indeed,