"But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is our faith." (1 Corinthians 15:12-13, NIV)
By Bishop Robert Hayes Jr.
The Easter lilies that adorned the altars and pulpits of our decorated sanctuaries have been removed and taken home. All the brightly colored eggs that littered the church grounds, some tucked under rocks and into tall grass, have been found. (At least, we hope so!) The soaring special music is only memory. The people whose presence swelled the worship attendance in our churches on Easter Sunday likely have returned to what they were doing the week before Easter.
Yes, for many of us, it’s time to put away the new clothes and get back to the usual routine.
My response to that is: How tragic!
The message of Easter 2012 proclaims to us again that we cannot return to what we once were, nor can we go back to where we were before we knew of the Resurrection. Jesus refused then to let his disciples fall back into anonymity, and his message for us now is still the same.
There is no going back to normal!
Because of that first Easter, Christians today cannot act as though nothing happened. What difference did Easter make then? What is its impact now? Let us search together for answers.
Travel back in time with me to the days following that first Easter. Pilate was still the governor of Judea, Caiaphas was still the high priest, and the Scribes and Pharisees still held the reins of religious life. The road to Jericho was still unsafe for travel. The moneychangers moved back into the temple courtyard (despite the fact that Jesus earlier had thrown them out). Rome still ruled with an iron hand.
The events of Good Friday and Easter morning seemed only a momentary disruption. For most people, a newfound prophet had come—and gone.
As for the disciples, early reports that Jesus was not in the tomb drove them into further isolation. If they could just hide out for a few days, they thought, everything would go back to what it once was. They would return to fishing, and in time they would be forgotten.
Behind doors, the disciples gathered.
It seemed that Christ raised from the dead made no difference at all.
How wrong they all were!
Imagine the disciples’ amazed faces as Jesus came to them through those locked doors. That’s right: through closed doors! And instead of scolding them for hiding, Jesus’ very first words were "Peace be with you."
So much for going back to normal.
After seeing firsthand that closed doors could not keep out Jesus, that truly even death could not defeat him, the disciples were transformed that day. They went out from that place and lived in the strength of all those things for which Jesus died.
No, that first Easter didn’t reform all the world, but the Resurrection did transform those women and men who were willing to make a difference in the world.
On the surface, not a lot has changed since Easter Sunday 2012. We know that some of the people who were present in our churches on Resurrection morning will not be back in the weeks to come. Lives will continue in their routine ways, and we will let the excitement of the season run its course. The Thunder will continue to win, everyone will pray for rain, and OSU and OU still will be bitter sports rivals.
Our society still will struggle with the disparities between rich and poor, and homeless persons still will stand on street corners in our larger cities, displaying their signs asking for help.
And yet …
And yet the risen Savior has managed once again to enter into locked homes, barricaded churches, and closed hearts of society today. He again has transformed a faithful few! Jesus convinces us that we can make a difference in this world if we allow the Easter spirit to dwell in us.
I believe him! I believe that I can help change the world if I invite the risen Lord into my life.
Just as Jesus did then, he comes to each of us now and speaks to us personally. He speaks those precious words of peace and gives us his promise that he will be with us, "even unto the end of the world!"
With that hope, can your life ever go back to being the same as it was before you knew him? I know that I can never go back to what once seemed normal and, for Christ’s sake, I pray that you can’t either!