I felt honored to be asked by The Lincoln County News to write a piece for their Easter edition this week. Then it occurred to me that its publication date would actually be Maundy Thursday, the day that Jesus was betrayed by his friends and arrested. There’s a difficulty, if you will, in trying to write about the Victory before the war has been won and when the outcome is so filled with uncertainty, but here goes.
Let’s begin with those awful days leading up to Easter. Gathered in the Garden on Thursday with his disciples, except now Judas, soldiers arrive to arrest him. After a minor scuffle, he’s taken into custody. He’s beaten and abused by his Roman captors before being taken before Pilot on Friday. Pilot listens to his case, sees no reason for his execution, but being a good politician, he has his finger in the wind and seeks the crowd’s wishes. They beg and plead for his execution.
In the middle of this, that same crowd begins to seek out his followers. When several recognize Peter, he loudly exclaims never to have known the man three times.
Finally, Pilot orders his execution and he is taken out and crucified, after being further beaten and abused. He dies and is laid to rest. His disciples hide for fear of their own lives. All is at an end. Hope is gone. The stone has been placed in front of the entrance of the tomb and there are guards just in case any funny business is planned.
A great American Baptist minister by the name of Tony Campolo wrote a great message entitled “It’s Friday, But Sunday’s Coming.” The short version is that, after everything went down on Thursday and Friday through Saturday, on Sunday morning the tomb was empty; the stone had been rolled away.
Depending on which Gospel account you read, one or more of the women who followed Jesus found the empty tomb and ran to tell the disciples, who were still hiding out in their fear. In Mark’s Gospel, the disciples first thought that the Resurrection was fake news, but out of the darkness of despair, hope appeared in the form of the Risen Christ.
My good friends, for us it’s Thursday, heading into Friday. We don’t yet know what lies before us. Hunkered down in our homes, we are like the disciples gathered in the upper room after the crucifixion, trying to understand how things could get so bad.
But in my heart of hearts I say to you, Sunday’s coming. Not just the Easter that we will celebrate this year, much in the way that very first one was observed, but that Sunday’s coming and we will eventually emerge from our own hiding places and into the sunlight as God sweeps this virus from our midst.
It won’t be easy, there will be loss, but together we can do this. Be safe, be careful, be patient. I bid you His Peace.
(The Rev. Rick Newell has pastored a number of churches in the area. He spent almost three decades with the Newcastle-Alna Baptist Church. Along the way, and in addition to Alna, he pastored the Damariscotta Baptist Church, the Sheepscott Community Church, and Christ Church. He lives in Newcastle with his wife of 42 years, Deborah. Together they have three grown, married children and seven grandchildren, with one on the way.)