March 27, 2018
Growing up in a traditional church, Easter Sunday was always something I looked forward to, because I always got to experience the Easter bonfire and hot chocolate. My lola would make the best tsokolate espeso and pair it with suman at mangga (people who grew up in Western Visayas would know how remarkable this combo truly is). We also got to look for Easter bunnies and Easter eggs in church with other kids.
This annual experience gave me some of my best childhood memories, but it never really connected me to the relationship between Easter, Jesus, and His resurrection. Until I started to have a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ, I did not understand why His resurrection was something to celebrate.
In 1 Peter 1:3, Peter was so exultant about the resurrection that you could feel it from his writing: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…” Here were the early Christians, being persecuted left and right, some even beaten to death, and Peter was joyfully exhorting them to put their hope in the resurrection. What was so wonderful about the resurrection that gave Peter and the early disciples so much confidence and faith?
You see, the very first disciples had initially put their hopes on Jesus’ life–on his power over nature, over sin, over evil spirits, over sickness, and over lack. So they expected him to use this power to free them from the oppression of the Roman empire. And then that hope died with Jesus on the cross. But praise God that hope did not stay dead! Because with the resurrection of Jesus into an imperishable body, the temporal nature of this life with all its fleeting joys and suffering was revealed and the eternal life that we have in Jesus is magnified.
Trials and suffering have a way of stripping us of our false hope on other things—on our family, on our abilities, on our dreams, on our friends, and on our circumstance. When people fail us, when our dreams elude us, when we fail our loved ones, when we fail to reach our goal, when we lose someone to sickness or calamity, when we lose our precious belongings, we realize how fragile these sources of happiness and hope are. And this is why our true, living hope in something as eternal as the resurrected Jesus is the only thing that can truly ground us and help us overcome our grief over our failures and our losses.
Viktor Frankl, a Jewish psychologist and Holocaust survivor, gave one of the best descriptions of having hope to go on living despite our present circumstance. While they were being beaten and abused, Frankl had a vision of his beloved wife, who was in another concentration camp.
“A thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth-that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which a man can aspire.
Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of human is through love and in love.
I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss, be it only for the brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved. In a position of utter desolation, when a man cannot express himself in positive action, when his only achievement may consist in enduring his sufferings in the right way-an honorable way-in such a position man can, through loving contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved, achieve fulfillment.
For the first time in my life I was able to understand the meaning of the words,”The angels are lost in perpetual contemplation of an infinite glory.””
He found this hope with just the thought of a woman, but we have an everlasting, living hope in the resurrected Jesus, who loved us to the point of death and who won the victory for us over sin and death. This is why fixing our eyes on Him can make us go on no matter what—to grieve over lost dreams and lost loves, yes, but to grieve unlike those who have no hope (1Thessalonians 4:13).
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”