Life is beautiful. It speaks of God in every sunrise and every raindrop and every breeze. Life is good. Love is good. God’s fingerprints are all over it.
And yet, with Good Friday still seared in our minds, we can’t deny… it hurts so much. To begin with, there’s the baseline brokenness; we want things we can’t have, and sometimes we get what we thought we wanted and we still aren’t satisfied. Sometimes we don’t even know what we want. We just know it’s… more.
And that’s just the background noise, the everyday brokenness of the human heart. Punctuating it are the true sorrows: the truly crushing losses and disappointments. And the end and ultimate of these is death. It’s the ultimate affront to us because it’s the ultimate affront to love. Our hearts were made for forever. We use the word all the time when we talk about love, despite the obvious glaring fact that we don’t get forever… at least not here.
I recently heard a young woman talking about losing one of her circle of friends, in college. Bailey was diagnosed and died within a few short months. In the time after, her grieving friends spoke about the extreme frustration of hearing people complaining about having an early class, or being bored some evening. “Bailey’s dead. This doesn’t matter.” It was like they were living in a different world from all the kids around them. Maybe you know that feeling, when you’re grieving, and the world just annoyingly and incomprehensibly keeps going, when your world has stopped. But really, isn’t it the grievers who had the better hold of reality? Those little things don’t matter. They are vanity. But what’s the alternative? How else can we get through life?
My grandfathers are both buried a few hours away so we don’t get there super often… once in a while as a family and once in a while by myself. I’m just imagining one of those visits; one day I walk up to the grave and the ground is dug up. There’s a big hole there (I guess that would be our equivalent of the stone rolled away). And sitting right there on the tombstone, dangling his legs, is a young guy in a white robe who calmly tells me, “you’re looking for who? No… he’s not here. He walked away from here. He said he’d be waiting for you back home.”
Imagine your own version of that story. And imagine how different life would be from that day. Imagine how different everything would be.
Well I’m just one guy and I don’t know how much stock my witness carries with anybody, but that’s happened to me. I’ve met the risen Lord. He isn’t just an inspiring holy guy who lived long ago and whose cause goes on. He’s someone I know. He’s alive. And if that can be true, I take him at his word: he will raise us too.
A moment of candor: Easter sermons are hard to write and they all seem to end up kind of the same, because with this highest holy Feast of our religion, everything just seems to get really simple. Most of the time, there’s plenty of complication in learning how to love, and following the Commandments, and trying to be good witnesses to Christ. Life is complicated. But there’s a simplicity behind and beneath that shines out of an empty tomb. Jesus is alive. Love is stronger than death. And when our hearts cry out that we were made for forever and nothing less, that only forever is time enough for love, Easter is the promise and deliverance of that love we were made for. Jesus is alive.
For most of us, we hear the news from someone else first. Mary Magdalene runs back to tell the Apostles. They tell Thomas. My parents told me. But sooner or later you have to see for yourself. You have to meet Him.
To meet Him, to know Him, to give your life to Him, it really changes everything. Our tears are never again in vain; they are mingled with His. Our hurts are no longer senseless; they are the kind of hurt you share with someone you love because you love them. And our death is no longer the end of our relationships… even the hardest goodbyes are only goodby for now.
At some point in life, this becomes the only thing that matters… the only thing. He will bring us back together. We will be together again. And we will be with Him. And all the things that hurt us so much now will be a price we won’t mind having paid, if that’s what it took to get us there.
These are the kinds of things you can believe if you meet Jesus Christ. And you can. And I hope you will, today and every day. Our God is alive.