It's a strange combination.
The week we've been told there will be so much pandemic dying that it will be "this generation's Pearl Harbor."
And then there's Easter. Definitely a unique, "no frills" Easter to be sure. But Easter. The high point of the year for Christians.
At first, they seem totally incongruous. But, then again, maybe Easter's coming just in time.
Hope is pretty scarce these days. A lot of places we've had our hopes are looking pretty shaky all of a sudden. We're facing the unpleasant fact that there are some things too big for any human solution.
Maybe that's why Bible publishers are reporting a huge surge in Bible sales. And Google is reporting an explosion of online searches for information on "prayer."
When the storm is too big for us, we look for hope that is bigger than the storm.
Yes, maybe Easter's here just in time.
Because it's hope bigger than even our most invincible enemy. The one that has conquered every emperor and king, every priest and President, every big star and billionaire.
Death has stopped every person who's ever walked this planet.
Jesus. Nailed to a cross on Friday. Blowing the doors off death on Sunday.
And since that decisive victory over our ultimate enemy, Jesus has animated "hope" with a word that transforms it from a concept to a relationship.
Not just hope in a belief or a religion. A living hope! Described in the Bible this way:
"In His great mercy God has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (1 Peter 1:3).
And in a world where we "delete" friends...where loneliness is an epidemic...where our "go to" anchors just go away, the promise of the resurrected Jesus is unloseable hope -
"Never will I leave you. Never will I forsake you. So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid'" (Hebrews 13:5).
My wife is gone, but I am not alone. And no one need ever die alone. "I am with you always," Jesus promised (Matthew 28:20).
As the One death could not hold, Jesus has proven that He is bigger than my biggest fear, my fiercest battle. For 2,000 years, for millions of broken people, He has been the difference-maker. He's hope for your "impossible." He's hope for a future beyond your grief. For freedom from your chains and for healing what no one else can heal. For restoring what seems hopelessly broken. And He is hope for forgiveness from your darkest sin and deepest shame.
And just as Jesus added the "living" to hope, so He's added the "eternal" to "life." He said, "Anyone who believes in God's Son has eternal life." And "I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in Me will live, even after dying" (John 3:36, 11:25). A bold claim - until I consider the basis for it - "Because I live, you also will live" (John 14:19).
Jesus proved He has eternal life when He walked out of His grave. It's on the basis of His resurrecting power that He can promise that forever life to anyone who places their trust in Him.
By bringing eternity to our broken world...to our suffering...to our hospital rooms...to our funerals, Jesus infuses our darkest times with hope. Living hope. "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me" (Psalm 23:4).
Human suffering continually changes its label, but not its product. Today suffering is named COVID-19. Sometimes it's named cancer or paralysis. Poverty or prejudice. Abuse or abandonment. Jesus is no distant observer to our suffering. He was nailed to a tree He made by men He created. He suffered the excruciating pain of crucifixion and the cosmic loneliness of being abandoned by God. Because He was carrying all our guilt, our shame, our hell.
But suffering looks different - smaller - against the panoramic canvas of eternity. This hurting is not all there is. Jesus' resurrection has opened eternity, and reduced my grief, my pain. to a relatively short chapter in a long and wonderful book called "Forever."
Most importantly, Jesus has changed death forever. One Bible writer asks, "Where, O death, is your victory?" (1 Corinthians 15:55). Because of Jesus, the Living Hope, death is no longer the terrifying end of our story. It's the open door to an unfathomable forever.
The heaviness in our hearts is met with living hope today. In this week where dying is in the headlines, Resurrection Sunday is on the horizon.
For it is Jesus - and Jesus alone - who can resurrect our shattered dreams, our despairing spirit, our broken family, our fearful future.
He knows your "Good Friday." He wants to be your "Easter."