Fifty Days

Posted by Jill Carattini on April 10, 2018

There is a great amount of anticipation leading up to Easter Sunday. For all those who wander the wilderness that is Lent, Easter Sunday can feel like a door finally opening up to a verdant, spring meadow from a long, cold, dreary winter. Even for those who are “Christmas and Easter” church-goers, or for those who simply sit at home and dream of Easter baskets, chocolate rabbits and colored eggs, anticipating Easter is to anticipate the new beginnings and new birth that comes with the season of spring.

Yet, for many, the day comes and goes and then what? For many, winter still hovers above and the grey of death has not given way to the springtime. The candy is eaten, the brunches are over and everything seems to return to normal. All that anticipation ends in just one day—with grand celebrations and powerful sermons, and perhaps with even a first playful roll in the springtime grass—and then Easter is over again until next year. Or is it?

Eugène Burnand, The Disciples Peter and John Running to the Tomb on the Morning of the Resurrection, oil on canvas, 1898.

The celebration of Easter is insignificant if the celebrations do not point to the continuing reality of the Risen Lord. Indeed, in many church traditions, the season of Eastertide which lasts until Pentecost asks this very question: how do we perceive the continuing presence of the risen Lord in our reality? Indeed, how do we? Is it all about remembering a historical event that happened long ago, that only comes to mind once a year? Or does the entirety of reality change as a result of the on-going presence of the Risen Jesus?

When we’re honest, many of us do wonder what difference the resurrection has made in the practical realities of our lives. We still argue with our spouses and loved ones; we still have children who go their own way. We have difficulties at work, or at school. We still see a world so broken by warfare, selfish greed, oppression and sin. Like the two men on the road to Emmaus recounting the events surrounding Jesus, perhaps we wonder aloud: “But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel” (Luke 24:21a). Things seem pretty much as they were before Easter Sunday, and the reality of our same old lives still clamor for redemption.

This is often the way we feel if we have only understood resurrection as an event long past that only speaks to a future yet to come. We feel this way if we do not connect Jesus’s prayer for God’s will to be done “on earth as it is in heaven” with the reality of the cry, “He is risen, as he said.” The glimpse into the kingdom of God that we get in the life and ministry of Jesus is ratified through the resurrection.

The risen Jesus told his followers; “As the Father has sent me, I also send you” (John 20:21). Jesus’s resurrection is not a promise for escape from the world, or a life free from trouble, but rather commissions those who would remember that he is risen to be his agents in the world. He sends us out with this extraordinary news—death and evil do not have the last word! Living in light of resurrection means living as ‘raising agents’ in this world—those who serve and work and suffer so that new life continues and grows. As N.T. Wright has concluded: “Jesus is raised, so he is the Messiah, and therefore he is the world’s true Lord; Jesus is raised, so God’s new creation has begun—and we, his followers, have a job to do! Jesus is raised, so we must act as his heralds, announcing his lordship to the entire world, making his kingdom come on earth as in heaven.”(1)

Eastertide is far more than a season coinciding with the spring. Eastertide is a mandate to serve the Risen Lord in the world, and to bring new life as agents of resurrection. We are sent out beyond Easter Sunday into Eastertide to present the Risen Christ in our acts of service, in our jobs, and in our relationships—especially in places of difficulty or darkness, conflict and chaos. For as a result of the resurrection of Jesus and the reality of his continuing presence through the gift of the Spirit, greater things than these will you do. The fifty days of Eastertide call to live out the power of the resurrection in all the dead places of our lives and of this world. As we do, we give witness to the continuing presence of the Risen Lord.

 

Margaret Manning Shull is a member of the speaking and writing team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Bellingham, Washington.

 

(1) N.T. Wright, Surprised By Hope (New York: Harper Collins, 2008), 56.