The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.”
Typically, at Easter, Christians across the globe gather in churches to worship and celebrate the death of Jesus Christ on Friday and his glorious resurrection on Sunday. But not this Easter. We are in the middle of a lock-down. But, while traditional church services are cancelled, this does not mean Easter is cancelled. Easter is being celebrated in family bubbles around dinner tables, and en masse online.
What is the meaning of Easter Sunday? And what does that have to do with COVID-19 and the problems we face in our real lives? Easter is about how God breaks down every barrier that exists to enter into the closest of relationships with us and make it possible for us to find our fulfilment, purpose, peace, and joy in him. In a world of fear and dislocation caused by isolation, sickness, and anxiety, we need to hear the words of comfort again, and of peace, and love. Easter speaks just these words over us.
A barrier-breaking is seen in the resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday. Here, the barrier is a massive stone that seals his tomb. The kind of tomb in which Jesus was buried was shaped like a house. At the entrance to the ‘house’ was a door—a sealing stone. The difference between the tomb and a house is that a house and its door are designed to open while the sealing stone on the tomb is meant to be permanently closed.
The sealing stone at the tomb was a symbolic barrier between this world and the next. The women who first came to Jesus’ tomb witnessed this barrier removed—the stone had been rolled away—Christ had risen! “The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the angels said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here but has risen’” (Luke 24:5). Christ had left the tomb, departed from this world and, in doing so, tore the heavens apart and opened up human access to God.
COVID-19 is the latest in a long list of barriers in life. Fear, loneliness, panic, anxiety, and a host of other emotions lurk close to the surface for many people, and the Easter message is that God is not unaware of how we feel, nor is he passive in the face of such challenges. COVID-19 has put up barriers between us. Most of us can no longer be in our usual vocational, educational, or leisure spaces. But God has no limits and offers us a new perspective.
Easter Sunday is about the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is about Jesus breaking down every barrier that separates humanity from God. Birth and death are mysteries and, in between, we live beneath the sky for a while in our frail little dwellings. We enter life through the door of a woman’s womb; we enter God’s presence through the door of a house of worship; we enter eternity through the door of a tomb. God, who loves us, breaks into our world, passing through the barrier of the sky to walk with us.
Dr Myk Habets, Head of Theology