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From Despair to Joy

This Easter, imagine the difference between that Friday afternoon and that Sunday morning! The difference between "I am a sinner" and "Jesus saved me" is just as enormous.

The disciples had followed their Rabbi for three years. They had left their jobs, been away from their families, slept outdoors or in temporary lodgings, gone without money (maybe even sometimes without food). No matter: It was all worth it to spend time with the Messiah. He had been promised for centuries; He was going to reign on David’s throne and restore Israel to prominence; His kingdom would be glorious forever…and they were in on the beginning of it!

Besides that, Jesus was wonderful. He was loving; He was funny; He was wise; He was powerful. They would never tire of hearing Him tell about the Father, or of watching Him heal the sick. It was such a thrill to see a blind man look around for the first time, watch skin clear from leprosy, dance with the man who had been lame, witness a mother’s joy at a now-healthy child.

But then….


Despair

Soldiers led Him away, and He let them. The religious leaders put Him through the mockery of a fake, illegal “trial”, and He didn’t stop them. Pilate would have released Him given the flimsiest of feedback, but He gave none. He submitted to insult, torture, degradation, and execution…and did nothing. Finally, He died along with the lowest of criminals, as one of them.

He was hastily buried, to get it over with before the Sabbath evening started. The burial was by strangers, Joseph and Nicodemus, in a borrowed tomb. The disciples didn’t help with the burial; they were too busy hiding to avoid the same fate. Peter certainly didn’t help; he was beating himself up over having denied the Master he loved. The women didn’t help; they watched but were powerless to do anything.

And so, they all sat…and grieved…and worried…and despaired. Friday night… all day Saturday… Saturday night…


Joy

The women had had enough. They were going to do something to honor their Rabbi. They got the burial spices together and headed toward the tomb. They’d deal with moving the stone away once they got there. But…

The stone was already moved. The tomb was empty. Angels were saying “He’s not here. Remember, He said that He would live again. Go tell the others, including Peter.” Want to see just how fast a bunch of women in long robes and veils can run?!

The men’s reaction? “Nah, that’s too good to be true. Y’all must have mixed something up. We’ll go see for ourselves.” So, they did. And guess what? The women were right. The tomb really was empty! But what had happened? Where was Jesus?

He was walking along the road with them. He was joining their private meeting. He was cooking breakfast for them on the beach. He was giving a forgiven Peter instructions to care for His people. He was speaking to large gatherings. HE WAS ALIVE!


Despair is…

  • Realizing how holy God is, and how un-holy I am.
  • Understanding that no matter how hard I try to do better, I’ve blown it again.
  • Looking at the immensity of Creation, and feeling very, very small in comparison.
  • Knowing that nothing I can do will bridge the separation between me and God.


Joy is…

  • Realizing that God sees me through the lens of Jesus. To Him, I am holy, clean, innocent, redeemed.
  • Understanding that Jesus expects me to blow it, and has already paid to forgive me.
  • Learning that the God of Creation knew me before I was born, knows my thoughts before I do, has even the hairs on my head counted…and still loves me.
  • Knowing that Jesus has bridged the gap. There is no more separation!


Easter

Thank you, Jesus, for turning death into life, and our despair into joy.

Here are some links to help you join me in worshipping Him:

Footnotes and Scripture References

  1. Even though we often sing this at Christmas, it is actually in Handel’s masterpiece following the resurrection. See this link for the lyrics of the three sections: Christ’s birth, His death and resurrection, and His return.