One of the things that I have loved about Kenya is that Easter is such a big holiday. After Christmas, I feel that Easter is the biggest holiday here. I love celebrating with friends ad family with nice food, thinking about the crucifixion of Jesus, and travelling upcountry. My favourite Easter weekend trip was to Tsavo West. We camped there with friends, sang Easter hymns together, and we had someone share a sermon. All of this happened early in the morning as the sun was coming up. It was beautiful. All of these beautiful Easter memories seem like they are far in the past in light of COVID-19. Our current world is filled with emotions like sorrow, loneliness, weeping, and fear. However, whenever I think of the first Easter, the exact same emotions were felt by the disciples and early followers of Christ around that time. Looking at these emotions can help us process what all we’re feeling and going through during this COVID-19 Easter holiday.
During the Passover feast right before Good Friday, the disciples all met together in the upper room to share a meal (Matthew 26:17-25). It was a festive time for many, but this particular Passover had some hard news for the disciples. They were told that one of them would betray Jesus (Matthew 26:21). You can imagine how that news would have caused everyone to put their food down and look at Jesus with shock. The Bible says “And they were very sorrowful…” The word for sorrowful in Greek is lupĕō, and it means to cause pain or grief. It was not just simply feeling a little sad, but they were feeling a deep pain in their gut because someone was going to betray Jesus. The betrayal would ultimately lead to his death.
Rejoicing in the Passover
Something was about to be taken away from the disciples, Jesus himself, and the reason was because of betrayal. You can image how sorrowful that would have made them. We can feel sorrow during this COVID-19 Easter holiday because we’re not able to celebrate in the same normal ways, however, consider that immediately after the sorrow of the disciples comes the eating of the first Lord’s Supper (Matthew 26:26-29). The Lord’s Supper is a powerful thing that the Lord instituted to remind us of his death for our sins and to help us proclaim his death until he returns (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). The body represented by the bread is to remind us of the body of Jesus (Matthew 26:26). His body was pierced with nails and crushed with unbelievable pain (Isaiah 53:5). He did this so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness (1 Peter 2:24).
The blood represents his extreme suffering on the cross, which was shed for the forgiveness of our sins (Matthew 26:28). The shedding of Christ blood also ushers in a new covenant which enables us to walk in obedience to Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 26:28, Jeremiah 31:31-34, Ezekiel 36:25-27). The blood of Christ represented by the wine reminds us of that our sins are forgiven and that we can go to heaven (Romans 5:8-9, Hebrews 9:22). Even though sorrow was a part of the first Easter in hindsight as we remember what happened we see that it was a reason to rejoice despite the sorrow we might feel (1 Peter 1:1-6). Jesus wanted us to remember the sorrowful times of the first Easter because it led to incredible rejoicing. Remember the body and blood of Jesus this Easter amid COVID-19, and it should lead you to rejoice too.
Loneliness and Weeping
After Judas betrayed Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:47-56), the disciples fled from Jesus and left him all alone (Matthew 26:56). Peter also denied Jesus three times publicly, and whenever Jesus looked at him, he wept serious tears (Matthew 26:69-75). Man, this was an emotional Easter for all that were there. Jesus was abandoned by his disciples and even the leader of them; Peter denied him three times. This must have been a difficult moment for Jesus. Amazingly though is that even though Jesus was left alone by his disciples, he was not alone because God was with him (John 16:32). God was especially close to Jesus during this hard time in his life.
Just as Jesus may have felt lonely, we can feel lonely during this COVID-19 Easter holiday. We feel that we’re not around people that we love. We want to greet people even hug them, but were not able to due to social distancing protocol. However, as Jesus was not truly alone, we are also not genuinely alone (John 16:32). Jesus had the companionship of his Father during his trial with Caiaphas and the Jewish council (Matthew 26:57-68). He would have had his Father with him as he was whipped or scourged (Matthew 27:26). He also would have had the Father with him as he was mocked, stripped, and crowned with thorns (Matthew 27:27-31). Even though this Easter was filled with loneliness and weeping, Jesus was not truly alone, because God the Father was right next to him in the midst of the suffering. Like Jesus take heart that you’re not truly alone even though it might feel like it (Isaiah 41:10). God is with you (Romans 8:31-39). He is hearing your prayers and is there to give you comfort even in the midst of a difficult COVID-19 Easter holiday (1 Peter 3:12).
During Resurrection, Sunday Mary Magdalene and another Mary went to the Jesus tomb (Matthew 28:1). I can imagine that they felt great sorrow because Jesus had just recently died a terrible death on the cross (Matthew 27:45-50). However, they were met at Jesus’ tomb by an angel who caused great fear amongst the ladies (Matthew 28:2-5). The angel told them that Jesus had risen from the dead (Matthew 28:6-7)! Even though they were still feeling fearful of the angel and the events of Jesus’ death, they also had great joy (Matthew 28:8)! They had great joy because their Saviour was not dead, but he was alive! Not only did they have great joy because Jesus was alive, but they got to see and greet him (Matthew 28:9). Meeting the resurrected Jesus caused the women to fall at his feet and worship him (Matthew 28:9).
The Resurrection of Christ led to great joy and worship from the women. The Resurrection of Christ should also lead us to great joy and worship, even during a COVID-19 Easter holiday. The reason it should is that the Resurrection of Christ does six amazing things for us (1 Corinthians 15:12-20)*.
Preaching Is Not In Vain (1 Corinthians 15:14)- “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain.” Since Christ has been raised, our preaching is not in vain!
Faith is Not In Vain (1 Corinthians 15:14)– ” . . . and your faith is in vain.” Since Christ has been raised, our faith is not in vain.
No False Witness From The Apostles (1 Corinthians 15:15)- If Christ has not been raised, “we are found to be misrepresenting God [literally: we are false witnesses] because we testified of God that he raised Christ.” Since Christ has been raised, the apostles are not false witnesses about the work of God.
No Longer Dead in our Sins (1 Corinthians 15:17)– “If Christ has not been raised then your faith is futile, and you are still in your sins.” But since Christ has been raised, we are not still in our sins.
Death Does not Lead to Destruction (1 Corinthians 15:18)– If Christ has not been raised, then “those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.” Since Christ has been raised, the dead in Christ have not perished.
No Pity Needed (1 Corinthians 15:19)– If Christ has not been raised, then “we are of all men most to be pitied.” Since Christ has been raised, we are not to be pitied.
So despite the emotions of sorrow, loneliness, weeping, and fear you may feel during this COVID-19 Easter holiday there is reason to have great joy and worship as Mary and Mary did (Matthew 28:8). Praise God for the death and resurrection of Christ; Christ has risen! He has risen indeed!