Friday, March 11, 2016

What Does Easter Mean to Me?

When I was young, my mother brought me to a protestant church in Santo Domingo. I remember, even before I attended “fun-to-learn” or kindergarten that I no longer wanted to hear in Sunday School only about Abraham and King David but I wanted to learn about Jesus because somehow there was something very special about Jesus. In high school, one early evening I opened the Bible to a gospel to read Jesus’ words because, I thought, if only I could understand them I would grasp something special for my life, but at that moment Jesus’ words were incomprehensible to me. In college, one beautiful morning when the sun illuminated all of nature I thought how tragic it would be if God did not exist, so I bowed down on my knees by my dormitory bed and asked God, “If you exist, show yourself to me.” Only a few weeks later, another student invited me to attend a joint InterVarsity Christian Fellowship meeting of the Douglass and Rutgers student groups. At the last moment, she decided to go to the meeting with her boyfriend leaving me abandoned to go by myself. That night I sat in the campus bus alone, wondering why I was doing this, yet somehow in a bubble that surrounded me as I slowly crossed the desolate town of New Brunswick. When I arrived at Rutgers, the campus appeared deserted. I found my way to the classroom building. It too was deserted. Slowly I climbed the stairs going around and around up and up through empty hallway after hallway, wondering why I was doing this hopeless endeavor. Finally, at the top floor, I walked down a hallway, and opened a door, where a room full of believers in Jesus welcomed me enthusiastically. I realized, I was carried by the love of Jesus to find the love of Jesus in the love of his disciples, who genuinely cared for me.
God turned what looked to be a hopeless endeavor into a victorious event! Many times in my life God has done the same—turned hopeless endeavors into victorious events. And, even when I die, God will turn this hopeless event into a victorious one because the God who loves me now will still love me then because neither life nor death can separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
And this is what I learned Easter means. At Easter the triune God was victorious over death. Jesus, the Son, was raised from death to life by the Father through the Spirit (Rom 8:11; 10:9). Jesus conquered death. Jesus crushed the head of Satan, ending the grave repercussions of Adam and Eve’s sin, death and suffering (Gen 3:6-19). It is not that death and suffering have been eliminated in this world, but rather that God can bring victory despite suffering.[1] Therefore, those who humbly trust their lives to Jesus’ care, can be, as the Apostle Paul explained, “more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Rom 8:37). Death and suffering cannot “separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 8:39b). The death and suffering caused by Adam and Eve and even by ourselves cannot separate us from a holy and loving God.
Therefore, we too can live a victorious life. We can overcome evil’s bruising of our heel. God can overturn the evil intentions of others to victorious conclusions for us.
Have a triumphant Easter celebration.

[1] See further Aída Besançon Spencer and William David Spencer, Joy Through the Night: Biblical Resources on Suffering, House of Prisca & Aquila Series (Eugene: Wipf & Stock, 1994). The picture is of Aida in front of a first century empty tomb in Israel.