If you’re struggling in life, pastel colors and chocolate bunnies won’t make you feel better. Deep down, it all feels a little trivial. What we need is Resurrection Day—in its full meaning. Here are four ways Easter is authentic hope for every day of the year.
For many of us, Easter is an emotional day—full of disappointment, grief, and depression. As we officially move into Spring, we think of all that isn’t and all that could be. And we’re sad. We reflect and don’t feel hope but despair. But for the earliest Christians—who likewise experienced intense pain and disappointment—Jesus’ resurrection changed their entire state of mind.
I think of Paul the apostle, who went through unbelievable difficulties including shipwrecks and beatings (2 Corinthians 11:16–33). And yet despite this, he declares:
“What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith” (Philippians 3:8–10 NIV).
For Paul and other early Christians, resurrection was a state of mind. The resurrected Lord Jesus gave them hope, despite incredible obstacles. Such a hope can change the way we look at each and everyday. It can give us what we need to overcome our feelings of despair, depression, and grief. It can give us what we need to move forward.
The pain of losing a loved one is absolutely searing. The grief knows no bounds. But even when facing this grief, Paul the apostle could have hope. He declares:
“Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first” (1 Thessalonians 4:13–16 NIV).
There is hope for the living and the dead in Christ. There is a final resurrection day coming. Because of Jesus’ resurrection, those who believe experience resurrected life (compare Colossians 1:18; John 3:16–17; 11:25). This is hope for every day—no matter what loss may come our way. We can look to the future of what God will do and declare it good.
Jesus did not die merely for our salvation, although he certainly died for that (see Isaiah 53:10–12). He also died so that we can have freedom from sin and its ramifications. Jesus’ resurrection gave us the ability to be freed from sin’s power over our life. Resurrection gives us liberating hope. Paul put it this way:
“We were therefore buried with [Jesus] through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been set free from sin” (Romans 6:4–7 NIV).
Perhaps today you are feeling bound by the sin in your life. Jesus has hope for you. Jesus’ resurrection can reign in your life and release you from the bondage of sin. Jesus can give you new life. Jesus wants you to be free. Jesus wants to offer everyone in our world the liberty of resurrected life.
Throughout our world, there is unbelievable pain. There are famines, extreme poverty, and those who have never known the freedom of Jesus. There are people in desperate situations who desperately need help. The call of the gospel—the call of Jesus—is that we would have new life in him and that we would offer new life to others (Matthew 18:5; 25:40–45; John 14:6; James 1:27).
Jesus’ resurrection and ascension offers us the very power of God in our lives (John 14–16). It gives us a chance to have the transformational power of God as Holy Spirit working in us. It gives us the chance to be God’s representatives here and now. With resurrected life on our side—in us and working through us—we can do anything God calls us to do (Philippians 4:16). Resurrection is real and tangible hope, right now.
Imagine the great and incredible power of offering new life to the broken and hurting of our planet. Imagine equality and the freedom of Jesus reaching every ear. Imagine the hope that we could have this day and everyday if we were truly about Jesus’ love.
Resurrection is what we need. Resurrection is what our world needs. Resurrection is hope for every day, in every situation.
On the cross, Jesus felt the agony of the entire world, including those who feel voiceless in the developing world. He died for us, all of us, so that freedom from sin and all of its consequences could be accomplished; so that we may live in relationship with God once again. All we must do is choose him back (John 3:16), to cry out to Jesus.
"Yet Yahweh was pleased to crush him; he afflicted [him] (with sickness). If she [Zion/Jerusalem] places his life a guilt offering, he will see offspring, he will prolong days and the will of Yahweh in his hand will succeed. From the trouble of his life he will see light. He will be satisfied. In his knowledge, my righteous servant shall make the many righteous and he will bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will divide to him [a portion] among the many, and with [the] strong ones he shall divide bounty, because he exposed his life to death and was counted with transgressors, and he carried [the] sin of many and will intercede for transgressors" (Isaiah 53:10-12, my translation).
500 years before Jesus, these words were prophesied. And in them is resurrection, for all of us. There is resurrection for the suffering in the developing world, who have placed their hands in my hands asking for prayer for relief from the pain. There is resurrection for the homeless man who I watched cry out "Jesus Christ my Lord," asking for salvation from his addictions. There is resurrection for me, the sinner who is only saved because of Jesus. There is resurrection for all of us.
Here, in the gospel according to the prophet Isaiah, I see a suffering servant dying as a "guilt offering" at the hands of his own people, Zion (or Jerusalem). I see a servant who does things that can only happen in life, after his death has already occurred: He sees offspring, prolongs days, and sees light. In these things he is satisfied, for he has accomplished the will of God.
I see resurrection here for all of us.
Jesus accomplished all the things in this prophesy. He is the suffering servant. In Jesus, I see hope for the entire world, including hope to overcome the pain being experienced by those in poverty in the developing world.
It is in Jesus that all things are possible (Philippians 4:13). In Jesus, one day, all things will be made new (Revelation 21). It is Jesus who can sympathize with our weaknesses and intercede on our behalf. It is Jesus who has overcome all.
Perhaps the author of Hebrews states it best:
"Therefore, since the children share in blood and flesh, he also in like manner shared in these same things, in order that through death he could destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and could set free these who through fear of death were subject to slavery throughout all their lives" (Hebrews 2:14-15).
Jesus has come to set us free. And we are given the opportunity to set others free, from spiritual and physical poverty. Let us live that message this day. Let us feel it. Let it be like the joy of Easter Sunday, the resurrection day, when we embrace the spiritual resurrection Jesus offers now and the resurrection of the dead when he one day returns. Let us live the resurrected life now.
(The views on Isaiah 53 in this post are based on my book The Resurrected Servant in Isaiah, published by InterVarsity Press, 2010.)