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How to Feel the Difference Easter Makes

Easter Curiosity

It’s common to approach Easter from a theological perspective. We study the Gospels and delve into 1 Corinthians 15 to sort through the nature, timing, and intent of the resurrection, both for Jesus and us. Such an approach is not only appropriate, but highly profitable. We ought to understand the teaching of Scripture on such a vital event. But our understanding will be partial. The theme of resurrection offers many answers, but even more questions. What age will our resurrection body be? Will we recognize one another in our new form? If I was overweight before my death, will I carry those kilograms into eternity?

God does not resolve our curiosity. The first Easter morning has a measure of mystery about it. Our future resurrection does the same. There are things that we simply leave to God in faith. That is the tact of the Gospels. The four accounts of Easter convey the miracle of God accurately, but they do not explain everything. In place of every question answered, we get a sense of the emotional reactions of the first resurrection witnesses. In other words, we discover, “What did the first Easter morning feel like?”

Feelings of Easter

The appearances of the living Jesus solicited a variety of emotions. Mary’s heart shifted from grief to worship (Jn.20:16). The other women at the tomb were filled with, “fear and astonishment” (Mk.16:8). The two Emmaus disciples moved from disappointment to amazement. They were left with burning hearts (Lu.24:32). The huddled disciples were frightened of authorities and shamed by their running. Jesus appeared and extended peace to them (Jn.20:19). For those who loved Jesus, a spectrum of emotions flooded their chest. Regardless of what they initially felt, their hearts were resolved into relief and comfort. Here’s why.

For the followers of Jesus, His resurrection would feel like a return. Once the fear and bewilderment wore off, they would see Jesus and think, “He has come back!” His re-appearance would be welcomed as a return – a return to normal. They can eat with Him again. They will have walks like they used to. What they lost in His death is now returned with unimaginable relief. All of that is completely understandable. That’s how we all would react to the restoration of a deceased loved one! All the yesterdays thought gone, have been replaced. What was, is again! The disciples would have been comforted by a return to what has been. It would be relief beyond imagination. But the empty tomb of Jesus is not a replacement of the past. The empty tomb doesn’t speak of a return, but a resurrection. That became obvious quickly.

Normal Is Gone

Jesus was alive, but different. He was recognized, but He was not exactly as they knew Him. He could appear in a room without using the door (Jn.20:26). He would disappear just as quickly. He was not a “ghost,” and ate some fish to prove it (Lu.24:40-43). He could mask His identity as He walked and talked (Lu.24:16). The body that went into the tomb was the same body that came out of it, but there was something incorporeal about Him. He was new. He was glorified. When Mary held His legs in the garden, Jesus warned her not to cling to Him (Jn.20:17). He was not going to stay — and He didn’t. He ascended into the clouds (Act 1:9).

The disciples’ hope for permanence lasted only 40 days until He left them once more. If they were looking for the old relationship, they were reminded of Jesus’ words about sending them the Spirit as Comforter (Jn.14:26). They would know Jesus, but now in a new and different way. The point is simple. If the disciples thought that the resurrection was a restoration to all that had been – they were mistaken. Yes, this was Jesus, but He was not exactly as they knew Him. The resurrection was not a return to normal. It did not restore the past. It pointed to the future. Resurrection is not about yesterday. It introduces all our tomorrows.

Easter Is a Door to Eternity

Since Easter occurred over 2000 years ago, we tend to look backwards. But to understand Easter, we need to turn to the future. The resurrection of Jesus is an arrow pointing to what we will be and where we will be. The resurrection is a glimpse of Kingdom glory. It doesn’t take us back to the familiar, but thrusts us towards eternity, which holds a new heaven and a new earth (Rev.21:1). We all are prone to holding on to what is familiar. We find safety and comfort in what we have. If resurrection was up to us, we might offer our brokenness and loss to Jesus and simply ask Him to fix it. We’d want Him to restore what was and improve what is. But God is doing more than we can imagine. He is leading creation to what will be.

In His resurrection, Jesus is the “first fruits” – the template of what we will be (1 Cor.15:20-23). The new earth will not be so dissimilar that we won’t recognize it. But it will be new in every way and fixed in perfection. Our new bodies will have the ring of recognition and the gong of glory! When all is completed and every power has submitted, even death itself is vanquished, then Jesus lays it all at the throne of the Father, that “God may be all in all” (1 Cor.15:24-28). Clearly resurrection is more than restoration of life after death. It exceeds our wishes for a recovery of what we had. Resurrection is creation’s renewal. It is the promise of God through Jesus Christ that the Genesis curse is broken (Gen.3:16-19). The blessing of Revelation approaches (Rev.22:1-5). What will be surpasses what is and what has been by infinite light years. It is beyond our ability to guess or fully know (1 Cor.2:9).

So, we get back to the mystery. I have questions about what the new will be, but this I know – I want it. I would rather have an unknown future from the resurrected Lord than a re-run of normal. The mystery may baffle our heads, but Easter still engages our hearts. I may not understand all the theological details, but the emotions stirred by the Resurrection rush to the surface. Gratitude. Joy. Wonder. Awe. Goosebumps. Anticipation. Excitement. Praise. Hope. Longing. Courage. Love. These don’t need detailed explanations. They are nurtured by faith.

As Joyous as Christmas?

Easter is a time to nurture, not only our theological understanding, but our emotional reply. Christmas moves our affections, but Easter is greater. It is the fulfillment of what Christmas promised. How can our hearts be nudged to align with God’s Truth? Before Easter Sunday morning arrives, give your attention to the reflections below. They are not easy, but they can direct your heart towards praise and hope. You will take Easter to heart.

  • Consider your own mortality.

Death comes to everyone, but we tend to ignore the reality. Don’t. There is wisdom in numbering our days. Do you fear your death? Does it seem to you like a loss? What will you leave behind? What will you gain? What do you say to God about your own death?

 

  • Imagine the return of a deceased loved one.

If a deceased parent, child, spouse, or friend walked once more through your front door, what would you feel? What would you say?  How would life after death impact the way you live in the now?

  • How will you respond when you see Jesus?

All who love and follow Him will see Him (1 Jn.3:2-3). The unseen is visible. That which seemed far becomes close. He will be heard with your ears and touched by your arms. What will you do? What will you feel?

 

  • Reflect on heaven and eternity.

Many will attend a Good Friday service and then return to celebrate Easter Sunday. The Saturday in between is silent. Take time in that space to reflect on heaven and eternity. Make an intentional effort to sit before God and contemplate what He has in store for you.

 

  • Remember your most joyous moment in living.

There is a moment in your life of supreme joy. A wedding. A birth. An achievement. A reward. Of course, whatever moment of joy you have had, it passes. What if it had no end? Think of that instant of supreme joy and love – now extend it into eternity. Heaven – joy unending. Joy that doesn’t fade.

Scott Tolhurst

Scott Tolhurst

Scott and his wife have spent almost 50 years following God together through life, marriage and ministry. They’ve hop scotched across Canada and landed at the water’s edge on Vancouver Island. They’ve harvested the riches of family (5 grandkids!) and the delights of God’s people. Life has not always been clear but the fog has been pierced with these truths. The heart matters. Kingdom work is God’s. Nothing can replace faith. It never ceases to amaze Scott that, if his life is a gift, how great the Giver must be!

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