Easter and hope are synonymous.
The special day never arrives without its refreshing reminder that there is life beyond this one. True life. Eternal life. Glorious life. Those who live on what we might call the "outskirts of hope" need a transfusion. Easter gives it.
For some strange reason, I've experienced times in my life when several people with whom I had regular contact were all at once living with the dreaded disease of cancer. Talk about people living on "the outskirts." I remember when one of my dearest friends, who had fought a gallant battle with cancer for well over a year and had gone into remission, had a relapse. At that same time, the wife of the president of the seminary where I trained was diagnosed with melanoma—a tumor in her liver. Yet another was a 22-year-old fellow from Indiana who at the time was enduring the horrible reactions to chemotherapy because of liver cancer. All of these and others with whom I was corresponding represented merely the tiny tip of a massive iceberg of men, women, boys, and girls for whom a hope transfusion was essential. I was reminded then and I know now—as many more struggle with cancer—that Easter provides this hope.
And then there are those who are grieving over the recent loss of a mate, a child, a parent, or a friend. Death has come like a ruthless thief, snatching away a treasured presence and leaving only hollow memories in its wake. The sadness of those who mourn casts a spell of loneliness too powerful for spoken words or shallow songs to break. What is missing? To paraphrase the statement of Oscar Wilde:
Something is dead in each of them,
And what is dead is Hope.¹
There is nothing like Easter to bring hope back to life.
Easter has its own anthems:
Jesus lives, and so shall I:
Death, thy sting is gone forever!²
Christ the Lord is ris'n today, Alleluia!
Sons of men and angels say: Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
Sing, ye heav'ns, and earth reply, Alleluia!³
Easter has its own Scriptures:
I know that my Redeemer lives,
And at the last He will take His stand on the earth.
Even after my skin is destroyed,
Yet from my flesh I shall see God. (Job 19:25–26)
"O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?" The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord. (1 Corinthians 15:55–58)
And Easter has its own proclamation:
"He is not here, for He has risen." (Matthew 28:6)
I cannot explain what happens, nor do I need to try. The simple fact is this: there is something altogether magnificent, therapeutic, and reassuring about Easter morning. When Christians gather in houses of worship and lift their voices in praise to the risen Redeemer, the demonic hosts of hell and their damnable prince of darkness are temporarily paralyzed. When pastors stand and declare the unshakable, undeniable facts of Jesus's bodily resurrection and the assurance of ours as well, the empty message of skeptics and cynics is momentarily silenced. As the thrill of standing shoulder to shoulder with those of "like precious faith" flows through the people of God, an almost mysterious surge of power floods over us (2 Peter 1:1 KJV). The benefits are innumerable. To list only a few:
- Our illnesses don't seem nearly so final.
- Our fears fade and lose their grip.
- Our grief over those who have gone on is diminished.
- Our desire to press on in spite of obstacles is rejuvenated.
- Our differences of opinion are eclipsed by our similar faith.
- Our identity as Christians is strengthened, as we stand in the lengthening shadows of saints down through the centuries who have always answered in antiphonal voice: "He is risen, indeed!"
This season, a hope transfusion awaits us. It happens every year. Alleluia!