Jesus' resurrection brings light, hope
(Read John 20:19-22, Luke 24:13-35)
A few weeks ago the Coronavirus crisis came upon us with a sudden rash of closings and life changes. Much confusion ensued, and several people I knew seemed to be panicking.
As this unfolded over several days, I started to think about a passage from J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. There is a place deep into the story when Hobbit Sam is wondering what the future holds:
“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack … Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty forever beyond its reach.”
Tolkien was a Christian and the themes of hope and light overcoming despair and darkness permeate his most famous work.
At this same time, we were fast approaching Easter Sunday and the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead – the event that is the foundation of our Christian faith and our ultimate source of hope.
Easter was very strange this year. Most years the church is full and the worship electric. This year I preached to an empty sanctuary for our video recording.
On top of this, Easter Day brought a blizzard, the first time that has happened during my 20 years as a pastor. It could have been easy to lose hope.
The Christian church has long spoken of an “Easter season” or “Great Fifty Days” that stretches from Easter Day until Pentecost. Augustine once referred to this as the season of “Alleluia” and it’s a time when the stories of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances to his followers are read and freshly considered.
As I’ve been reading these passages and preaching on them, I have been freshly impressed by how they speak of light piercing darkness and hope defeating despair.
Take, for example, the disciples of Jesus hiding out in fear in John 20. Risen Jesus enters this atmosphere of despair and says to his disciples, “Peace be with you!” (John 20:19-22).
Or consider what happens in Luke 24. Two followers of Jesus are walking on a road from Jerusalem to the village of Emmaus discussing their disappointment about the death of Jesus. A stranger starts walking with them and begins a conversation. The two followers of Jesus express how their hope had been shattered when Jesus died. That stranger turns out to be Jesus who explains what the Scriptures say about the Messiah: that he would be crucified, and die, and RISE AGAIN! In the end, those two followers of Jesus come to a sudden recognition that they are in the very presence of the Risen Christ. As a result, their hearts are lifted.
Reading these stories over again can lift our hearts.
These are challenging and heavy times, but I believe that this shadow is a thing that will pass and that there is light and high beauty beyond its reach. In the Christian church, the resurrection of Jesus and our ongoing realizations about what that means give us a source of light and hope.