Easter came and went over the weekend, and we find ourselves in much the same place as if nothing changed. We’re still stuck at home. Our stores can’t always find the groceries we want. Our kids struggle with missing their school friends. Our sanctuaries remain empty. And thousands of people die each day from COVID-19.
Where, O Life, is your victory?
But perhaps that’s not a fair reading of the Easter stories in the Gospels, or of Paul’s taunt of Death as he recounted the Resurrection.
What if Easter isn’t the end of the story? What if the victory over death has begun, but isn’t yet complete?
I’ve heard many preachers take on Paul’s taunting tone as they declare, “I’ve read the whole Bible, and in the end, we win!” Sure, there’s truth there. But that jumps over quite a bit of the story. It’s like reaching the climax of a story, announcing “the end,” and closing the book despite several chapters of post-climax resolution.
Easter is the climax, but not the end. The trumpet blast of victory sounds the air, but it’s not quite over yet.
If Easter’s the end of the story, then why does Jesus give the disciples their next mission (the “Great Commission”) at the end of Matthew? And if Easter’s the end of the story, why do we find nearly two dozen more biblical books detailing events and issues occurring after Jesus’s resurrection and ascension? And if Easter’s the end of the story, why are we even here?
Jesus is risen. That is, indeed, a beautiful and important point. But that doesn’t take away our pains and struggles — not yet. We don’t preach a false ‘prosperity gospel’ where following Jesus brings wealth and health. We live with the promise of Resurrection, but not the full reality.
Jesus is risen. But that didn’t stop Peter from being crucified upside down. That didn’t stop Paul and James from being beheaded. That didn’t stop Thomas from being speared to death. That didn’t stop Matthais from being killed with the flames. That didn’t stop John from dying in exile on an island. That didn’t stop the flow of countless martyrs through the ages. It didn’t stop plagues, cancer, car crashes, and deadly storms. And it doesn’t stop us from experiencing pain, sorrow, and death today.
Jesus is risen.
Death has lost its victory.
But story’s not over yet.
Before every tear is wiped away, we must take on that mission here on Earth. Before mourning and pain are no more, we must bring comfort today. Before death passes away, we must point people to life.
There, O Life, is your victory.
And so, in a world where death dominates the headlines, we must live out the promise of new life. In a time when people are gasping on ventilators, we must bring the love of the God’s who breathed life into each of us. In an age when Easter seems so long ago, we must minister with the grace of the Resurrection.