As I write this it is has been a year since the Coronavirus pandemic forced our world to shut down. It is also a little over a month until our daughter’s wedding date. At the time the doctors and scientists said it was doubtful the pandemic would be over by that date, but we had hoped a cure would come more quickly than predicted. The reception hall said it likely would not be able to accommodate our group size and dancing would need to be socially distanced, but we had hoped both the ceremony and reception celebration would be mask-free and jam packed with joyous dancers. Yes, we had hoped. But now, like so many, we will wait until later in the year for such a celebration.
“But we had hoped.” How many people have uttered these words in the last year? But we had hoped the virus would not touch our lives. But we had hoped mom would get off the ventilator. But we had hoped not to lose our job. But we had hoped the kids would be back in the classroom by now. But we had hoped the senior trip would be possible and we could have a prom. But we had hoped to be in church to worship by Easter, by Christmas, by Easter.
On the same day as Jesus’ resurrection two of his disciples were on the road to Emmaus when the risen Christ joins them on their journey. “What are you talking about?” Jesus asks. They explain the events of the last few days, of Jesus who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God who was handed over by the leaders to be condemned to death and crucified.
“But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.” It wasn’t just Jesus who died on the cross for these disciples. It was their belief in a Messiah who would redeem Israel from their Roman occupiers. Their hope was in a national messiah, not a Savior who would defeat death itself for the sake of the whole world. Even after Jesus interprets the scriptures to reveal this truth to them it isn’t until he breaks bread with them that his identity is disclosed. It is the Lord!
The disciples’ definition of the Messiah was short-sighted. Jesus didn’t come to save Israel from Roman occupation. Jesus came to save the world from the power of sin and death by dying on the cross and rising from the tomb. And because Jesus died and rose again we need no longer fear death having the last word in our lives. Of all the things we could hope for in our lives is there anything greater than death being defeated so that we no longer fear it?
We have experienced many manifestations of death in our lives over the last year. Half a million dead from Covid-19. Jobs lost. Home evictions or foreclosures. Celebrating holidays, milestone birthdays, graduations, weddings and other major events without the grandness or pomp we had dreamed about. Yet, because Jesus rose from the tomb those “little deaths” do not have the last word when it comes to our work, where we live, family gatherings, and other events of life that have “died” in the last year. We are Easter people who believe and trust in a Savior who saved us from death itself by joining us to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ in the waters of Baptism. All that for which we “had hoped” pales in comparison to the Easter resurrection hope our risen Jesus offers the world.
We still have a journey to travel of this pandemic. We still may have hopes that may or may not come to fruition. But thanks be to God that when our ultimate hope is in the resurrection of our Lord, Jesus, then there is no “death” we experience that God cannot provide new life. I pray you experience this hope in these days of the Easter season and beyond, and may the peace of God comfort and console you when your hearts are heavy with sorrow or despair. For Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia! Amen.