“…because I live, you shall live also.” –Jesus (John 14:19)
This Easter falls in one of the most uncertain times in American history. The anxiety associated with the coronavirus crisis ranges from our being disconnected from many of our loved ones, to job loss and financial insecurity, to literal concerns about life and death for ourselves and our family members. If ever there was a time when the church needs to loudly proclaim our message of hope, it is now.
The apostle Peter wrote in his first epistle that we should “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” (1 Peter 3:15). This presumes that people will notice our hope, and that they will ask about it. Not our opinion about the pandemic, nor our politics, but our hope.
Something should be setting the church apart from the world all the time, but especially in times like these. Our beliefs, which are grounded in God’s word, remind us that we have other-worldly hope that supersedes circumstances. That we have peace that doesn’t succumb to worry, and faith that overcomes fear. And if we really believe what we say we believe, it should be so obvious that people will notice.
And that is never more true than at Easter, when we are reminded that our hope comes because of Jesus and His redemption and resurrection. On this Good Friday, we stop to reflect on His sacrificial death for us, and on Easter Sunday we celebrate His glorious resurrection from the dead, defeating death and the grave once and for all. And that’s more than just a historical event, but something that has very real application to our lives today.
One of my all time favorite “old” hymns was not written in the 18th or 19th century, but in the late 1960’s. It’s a simple message, and is especially relevant during these uncertain days this Easter season. Bill and Gloria Gaither wrote the song together during a traumatic time in their own lives. Bill was recovering from a serious health issue, Gloria was facing a period of anxiety and depression, and they were also expecting their third child. All the while, the world around them was filled with social upheaval, racial tension, and betrayals of national and personal trust. The cover of Time magazine had even declared “God Is Dead” for all to see.
Gloria tells the story that on New Year’s Eve, she was sitting in their living room, in agony and fear. Then suddenly, and quite unexpectedly, she was filled with a gentle, calming peace. It was as if her heavenly Father saw his child and came to her rescue. The panic gave way to calmness and an assurance that only the Lord can impart. She was reminded of the truth of Christ’s resurrection, in all of its power, and the assurance that the future would be just fine, in God’s hands.
And she wrote the lyrics to one of the most famous Christian songs of our time, “Because He lives.”
God sent His son, they called Him Jesus,
He came to love, heal and forgive.
He lived and died to buy my pardon,
An empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives.
Because He lives, I can face tomorrow,
Because He lives, all fear is gone.
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living, just because He lives.
It’s been right at 50 years since that song was first introduced to the church, but its meaning is as relevant as ever at Easter 2020. Jesus came and lived and died to purchase our pardon. He was resurrected on the third day, and because He lives there’s nothing we face in this life that cannot be overcome.
The grave is empty, so our lives don’t have to be! That is our hope, for Easter, and all the year ’round. And I hope…that you know that hope today.
I can’t even begin to tell you how much I miss seeing my church family. I am praying for you all daily, and if you have a need, or if there’s any way we can serve you, be sure to let us know. In the mean time, please continue to be safe, be wise, be careful and be faithful.