L: He is risen!
C: He is risen, indeed!
So goes the greeting on Easter Sunday. What a great day it is!
Do you ever feel a let down after Easter? The anticipation is much longer than even for Christmas. The build up to Easter took 46 days (40 days of Lent, plus the six Sundays in Lent). While it doesn’t receive much attention in the media (as does Christmas), the progression through Lent does in fact prepare us for Easter. And then what?
In Holy Week we follow Jesus on Palm Sunday and his majestic ride into Jerusalem. Jesus’ entry in this fashion is appropriate for the King. We join the disciples shouting “Hosanna to the Son of David!”
We hear of the Passover celebration on Thursday that becomes something more, something unexpected, even unexplained. Jesus institutes the new covenant/testament/last will and testament of his body and blood for the forgiveness of sins. This is not just a ritual of obedience but a life-giving feast.
But the mood of celebration has an undercurrent of impending doom. Jesus’ claim that someone would betray him, his cryptic statement to Judas, then his plain challenge to Peter’s “defense” that will result in denial of Jesus—three times. As they journey to the Mount of Olives later that night, the betrayal occurs, Jesus is arrested, Peter tries to defend with a sword, and Jesus heals the man’s ear. And all the disciples flee from Jesus.
Friday seems nothing like good. In fact, Jesus is tried and then punished as the worst of the criminals. The insults of the soldiers and the crowds, the despicable spitting in his face, and the horror of crucifixion—all elements of “good” Friday.
Yet, through his suffering and death Jesus endured all that to pay for the penalty of our sins. Even the pain and shame of what he endured could not stop him from fulfilling this essential work of salvation.
For the joy set out for him he endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2 NET)
Then he was put in a tomb, to rot, to be forgotten like a common criminal. But it was not to be—the tomb is empty on the third day!
The shock, uncertainty, questioning of that first Easter is often overlooked. It wasn’t an annual “we have always done this” of our lifetime. Rather “He is not here!! Who took him?” That changes to overwhelming joy! Joy of realizing just how earth shattering, life changing this event was, and now is.
Sometimes we forget that, and when Monday rolls around we are ready to “get back to normal.” But the Church has never done that. In fact, the resurrection on the 8th day became the standard for worship, Sunday. Thus, every Sunday was a celebration of the resurrection. In fact, the Sunday became a participation in Maundy Thursday (Lord’s Supper/Sacrament of the Altar), Good Friday (Confession and Absolution), and Easter (the new person is raised from the death of sin to life in Christ). Thus, we are still celebrating Easter today, this Sunday, every Sunday.
Formally, the Church also began to extend the Easter celebration for seven weeks until the Pentecost Sunday (May 19 this year). We will read and hear about the account of the resurrection and the impact this made in the lives of the first Christians. We celebrate not just because it was an ancient event and “the thing to do.” No, we celebrate because everything that Jesus did in his life, death, and resurrection was for us—even today. We “poor, miserable sinners” are now declared righteous through faith in Jesus Christ.
God made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we would become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21 NET)
And that is why Easter continues. It will be the festival for everyone who believes. We continue to celebrate until we too will be raised with an imperishable body when Christ returns.
L: He is risen!
C: He is risen, indeed!