What difference did Easter make?
"It stands to reason, doesn't it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, He'll do the same thing in you that He did in Jesus, bringing you alive to Himself?" (Romans 8:11, Peterson's Translation)
By Bishop Robert E. Hayes Jr.
Well, another Easter has come and gone. The lilies have been taken home, and the Easter eggs that once littered the church grounds have all been found-at least we hope so.
Any leftover elaborate bulletins have been gathered and thrown away, and the day's spirit-filled worship services that lifted us to a higher plane are, at best, a memory. Even the overflowing crowds that found their way to churches for Easter morning have slowed to a trickle. It seems things are now back to normal.
So quickly and so completely, things returned to what they were before that high holy day. It begs the question: What difference did Easter make?
To be sure, it brought a temporary lift to a great number of people, but did Easter make any real difference or cause any lasting change in our lives or in the life of the Church? Did the day come and go without leaving any trace of its passing?
My greatest fear is that most people WILL think it's all right to return to normality, complacency, and even mediocrity. If Easter conveys anything at all to us, it insists that we cannot return to what we once were, nor can we go back to where we were before Resurrection Day.
Jesus refused to let his disciples fall back into anonymity THEN, and the message we need to hear today is that we cannot afford to do so NOW.
Let's look briefly at "then" and "now." I want to show you that "back to normal" is a tragic mistake. It is a spiritless vacuum that frustrates the Kingdom of God, and it causes many talents and lives to be wasted.
Going back to normal is dangerous. Even more dangerous is knowing that but not saying anything about it.
When you look for the difference that first Easter made, you probably would first conclude that it made no difference at all.
Pilate was still governor of Judea after Easter. Caiaphas was still high priest. The Scribes and Pharisees still held the reins of religious life, and the road to Jericho was still unsafe for travelers. The tax collectors still bled the people, and the moneychangers still sat at their tables on the porch of the Temple.
And the people-if they even knew what happened on that fateful Friday and on Resurrection Morning-soon forgot it.
In fact, the disciples were counting on that. They hoped they could hide until the hubbub blew over, and then they could return to their relatively safe job of fishing. And so they hid, waiting for things to return to normal.
Until Jesus appeared to them!
When Jesus returned in his resurrected form, the impact was everything but normal. Seeing him, talking to him, eating with him, and hearing what he had in store for them made a tremendous difference in the lives of those disciples and everyone else who came in contact with him.
They understood that forgiveness, confidence, trust, and love did not die on the cross. They understood that all Jesus stood for had not been destroyed. Instead, God's love was now affirmed in final victory!
After seeing that even death could not defeat God, they were ready for anything, and they went out and lived in the strength of the love for which Jesus gave his life, believing that unconquerable love was alive and vital, at the very heart of life.
They knew they could go forward, no matter what the world thought or said, because they knew nothing could separate them from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
We can say this about that first Easter: The resurrection of Jesus did not reform the world. No. Instead, it rallied a few people willing to live the Christian life in spite of anything the world might do to them.
And in God's economy, only a few were needed.
Indeed, as we look out at pews that were packed with people only a short time ago, we could be discouraged, could conclude that life is simply back to normal. Yes, there are many who have not returned after spending "one hour" with us.
But... there are some who did come back, and they do so Sunday after Sunday, and it WILL be in those few who return that we experience the difference Easter can make now.
As Easter people, we must be encouraged by the significant others who have been raised to a new level of life, who have experienced for themselves the living Lord who rose from the dead.
These are the people who keep pushing ahead in spite of what others do or don't do. They have seen for themselves that Christ is risen. They know the power of his resurrection.
Like yeast rising in uncooked bread, these are the ones who will change the world! These few of whom I speak are the resurrection!
If Easter is to make any difference now, it WILL be because it makes a difference in those who have been raised with Christ to a new and higher level of life, who are able to ALLY themselves with the things that are known to be right and good.
Let me ask you: Did this Easter make a difference in your life? If it did, then go out and tell somebody!