Easter in the season of Corona
This is a continuation of my “Holy week” post of two days ago: “Holy week and the imposition of Covid restrictions” …
The theme then was the salvation and deliverance of the Lord and the underlying message of hope. It occurs to me that this is the second Easter when Corona lockdown restrictions were in place. The hope a year ago was for these to be time limited and, just as when it appeared that we were over the worst, we went into further lockdown, although the signs are, notably from recent government announcements, that we are now coming out of lockdown and moving into a new normal, whatever that means. Views are sharply divided on the whys and wherefores, ranging from we are not doing enough to protect ourselves from Corona and quite content to accept all those “in the know” tells us on the subject, to the restrictions imposed are part of an evil Deep State agenda that is designed to enslave us, with the carrot now being dangled before them looking for hope in normality, specifically as a result of taking the VACCINE, which instead of making things better could well do the opposite. I confess, I veer toward the latter view and tend to put more store on some “conspiracy theories” I believe will eventually be proven as facts than the lies of mainstream / social media and the political class, accepted by the majority. As well as questioning vaccines, I believe the net result of Covid restrictions has been harmful.
While there is a place for debate, rather than the polarised acrimony we have been seeing, made worse by the afore-mentioned players keen to promote their narrative and shut down those who question it, this is NOT what this post about, even though I think there is a place for this not so lone voice in the wilderness to let rip. Rather, this post is about hope – no better seen than in the Easter story. Besides the where do we go from here concerning Corona question, there is an even more poignant one – which global reset is it going to be – the one orchestrated by the black hats or that by the white hats and/or, in Christian parlance – are we heading for ruin and onto the Antichrist Great Tribulation or revival with a harvest of souls for the Kingdom of God? I discuss these ideas in Chapter 21 of my new book: “Prophets of the Bible” (see here). But, as far as this post goes, I wish to return to the hope that the Easter story represents, which remains true whichever direction world events take us.
We are now in the period between Jesus being crucified and rising from the dead – Black Saturday. Having had their hopes raised when Jesus was acclaimed king, riding into Jerusalem on a donkey the previous Sunday, just as the prophet Zechariah has foretold 550 years earlier, Jesus’ followers had had their hopes dashed on the Friday, when the one they had looked toward as their promised Messiah, who’s coming had been prophesied on several occasions in the Hebrew scriptures, was executed as a common criminal the following Friday. If that was where the story ended, it would be a tragedy, as it would give us scant hope. But it wasn’t, for on the following Sunday Jesus rose again from the dead and shortly after revealed himself to several of His followers. The very fact that Jesus was, and still is, alive is good reason for hope – on all sorts of grounds. For example: it reinforces the gospel message of salvation and points to the day when He will return to reign in glory. One aspect of hope is that of life and, given the spectre of death associated with Corona, the world longs for such a message of life that is bound up in hope. The one who can give this to us is Jesus. When it comes to the uncertain and unsavoury happenings around us, we can point to the glorious future when all that which is evil and against God will be judged and Jesus the Messiah reigning. There are several Easter stories we can cite to encourage us – and I turn to two that I am inclined to regard as my favourites.
Jesus shows himself to Mark Magdalene (John 20:1:18)
“The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre. Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him. Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre. So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre. And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in. Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie, And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself. Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed. For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead. Then the disciples went away again unto their own home. But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre, And seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him. And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away. Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master. Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God. Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things unto her.”
There are many aspects of this account that can be loved, not least the naturalness of Mary Magdalene but the surprising twists in the story. This was the first time Jesus revealed himself to anyone following his resurrection, and it was a WOMAN, and not just any woman but one that had a checkered track record. We know Mary Magdalene was part of the close circle of devoted followers of Jesus. Understandably, she was grieving and wanted to be near the one she had loved, NOT expecting He would rise from the dead, even though Jesus said this would happen. Imagine her surprise when she met the risen Christ (who she at first thought was the gardener), and how her sorrow was turned into joy as a result of this meeting, when her feelings of hopelessness were turned into hopeful expectation.
Jesus shows himself to two disciples on the Emmaus Road (Luke 24: 13-33)
“And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem about threescore furlongs. And they talked together of all these things which had happened. And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them. But their eyes were holden that they should not know him. And he said unto them, What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad? And the one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answering said unto him, Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are come to pass there in these days? And he said unto them, What things? And they said unto him, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people: And how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified him. But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, to day is the third day since these things were done. Yea, and certain women also of our company made us astonished, which were early at the sepulchre; And when they found not his body, they came, saying, that they had also seen a vision of angels, which said that he was alive. And certain of them which were with us went to the sepulchre, and found it even so as the women had said: but him they saw not. Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they went: and he made as though he would have gone further. But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them. And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them. And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight. And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures? And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them”.
These two disappointed disciples, of whom we know very little, other than they were sincere and feared God, believed, at least up to the time Jesus was put to death, that Jesus was the Messiah, the promised deliverer of the Jewish nation, who had been prophesied in the Hebrew Bible, typifying how quickly hope can turn into hopelessness. But meeting Jesus on the Emmaus Road changed all that. It was only at the end they realised they had been conversing with Jesus, and only after He had explained that all the events that were uppermost in their mind had been predicted by the prophets, and were necessary. As with Mary, adjectives can hardly do justice to describing their feelings after their surprising meeting the risen Christ. We know their heart had burned within them and we can only imagine what hope meant to them afterward.