For reasons I can’t quite explain, I hate to watch the snow melt. For me, it speaks of a death of sorts, that the frigid beauty of winter is over. And yet, within a few days, the snow will be replaced with a few delicate floral droplets, equally white, and then more, and then more, until the ground is blanketed with them. Although I know that the snow must melt for the flowers to grow, in the moment it is hard to imagine.
Perhaps that captures some of the emotions of the first followers on the first Easter weekend. They had been told time and again what would happen – that Jesus would die and be buried and on the third day rise again. And yet, watching their friend die, watching him be laid in a tomb, is it any wonder that in the moment they could not imagine it? Even their reactions post–resurrection speak of that confusion: “if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him,” Mary pleads, as the risen Jesus stands right before her.
Perhaps that is our emotion too, as lockdown is drawn, hopefully, to an end. We live with the grief of all that has gone before, in tension with the hope that is to come. We know that things will change, even if in the moment, we cannot imagine it. Our sadness is met with joy, and our joy is tempered with sadness. We live in the waiting, in the in–between time – where Christ’s followers have always lived. Much like the disciples, caught between cross and resurrection; we are caught between the now of our existence, and the hope of a life to come.
If that’s you this Easter, I invite you to remember the ache of Good Friday, the uncertainty of Easter Saturday. Picture with me the traditional Holy Week service called Tenebrae (Latin for ‘darkness’). As passages from the crucifixion are read out, candles are gradually extinguished, until we are left sitting in the darkness, pondering the impact of Christ’s death, longing for his resurrection. We may have been there during lockdown – sitting in the darkness, waiting for the light. If the light never comes, our hope is gone, extinguished with the candles. But if as John 1:9 puts it “The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world,” then there is reason for hope.
“Peace be with you”
In the accounts of Easter Sunday, we catch glimpses of what that hope may look like. Jesus’ resurrection appearances are startling to his disciples yet undramatic in nature – Jesus doesn’t go on a massive resurrection tour; instead he meets with the people who knew him, walks with them, breaks bread, cooks breakfast, calls them by name. His message to them is not a victory speech, but simply “Peace be with you.” It’s an acknowledgement: there has been despair, but now there will be peace – peace with God, peace with each other, peace within. The kind of deep–rooted peace that we have all longed for this past year.
This Easter take a moment to sit in the darkness – acknowledge the griefs that lockdown has brought, follow the footsteps of “a man of suffering, and familiar with pain,” as he walked the agonising path to the cross, remember the disciples, huddled in their own locked–down room. But don’t forget to remember the hope too: Mary’s delight over the calling of her name, the disciples’ incredulous joy, the words of peace that Jesus offers to each one of us. As Jeremy Marshall writes in Hope in the Face of Suffering, “every Christian has the same hope. Jesus stands in front of us in our fear, suffering and grief and says, ‘I am the resurrection and the life’ (Jn. 11:25).”