“We are witnesses to all he did…” (cf Acts 10: 34ff). The shame and despair of that day we now call “Good” Friday is replaced by the joy and brightness of Easter Sunday morning. “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad!”
Christ is risen – and his resurrection from the dead casts a decisive light on all that preceded it. Now, in the light of the Resurrection, Jesus words and the words of the prophets who preceded him are understood with a new clarity; his miracles through which he healed the sick, gave sight to the blind and even raised the dead, even his boldness in forgiving sins, acquire an even greater significance. The Cross once rightly regarded as an instrument of cruel torture and shame is now revealed as the Tree of Life: from now on we understand that in embracing the cross we are not robbed of life but instead we find true life. Life is redeemed – for all its sorrows, pains and disappointments, life has meaning. For Easter convinces us not only that Jesus is risen – but that we would rise as well.
Our Christian faith is born not so much from the acceptance of a doctrine but from an encounter with a person – with Christ, once dead but now risen. The same Christ who encountered the women who came to the tomb is the same Christ who encounters us today in his Word and Sacrament. Jesus is not just a character from a far distant past. He is not remembered in the same way as the great men and heroes who lived long ago are remembered. We might talk about them – and about their deeds. But we cannot talk to them or befriend them. Jesus, however, is the same yesterday, today and forever. He lives. Having broken the chains of death, he walks before us as one who is alive – and he calls us to follow him, the living one, and to enter into a relationship of friendship with him. In this way we discover the path of life, a life that is always new because it will never die.
Through our baptism into his death and resurrection, we have become alive in Christ and are called to witness to all he has done. But our witness must be a joyful one. As Christians still living in the world we will experience all manner of trials and tribulations. The sufferings of Christ do not exempt us from suffering ourselves; but his sufferings seen in the light of his Resurrection give meaning and hope to our own. And so even suffering does not take away our joy in the future promise of our own Resurrection.
In the gift of Easter lie the demands of Easter: “if you were raised with Christ seek what is above”. Jesus’ whole life was shaped by his obedience to his Father. For us, to be alive in Christ means that we will never allow the things of this world to distract us from the true purpose and goal of our existence. We must seek to do God’s will in all things –even in the seemingly most mundane things. But, doing God’s will and following the commandments does not deprive us of joy but it is what makes true joy possible.
Indeed, joy is a sign that we have been with the Lord. And this joy comes not only following God’s law but from knowing God in his son Jesus Christ. It comes from experiencing his mercy and grace and sharing in his divine life. Our witness will be that much more credible if it is joyful – our joy allows God to smile through us and thus bring renewed hope to the world. “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad!”