Easter can be frustrating for the apologist. With the pressure to assess evidence, arguments, doubts, Gospel discprepensies, and the timely “groundbreaking discoveries” about Jesus comes the temptation to over-intellectualize Christianity’s central season. When busy defending history, it’s easy to miss the Story.
What we need is a Real Easter with the Real Jesus. Rationalizing tends to kill the impact of our love for Christ and the resurrection he promises. Yes, there’s a time to defend, but there must be something to defend! What good is our apologetic if we aren’t joyful in our faith?
Balancing is key here. Vital spirituality and prepared intellectuality are both necessary for a fit Christian worldview (consider John 4:24), which is why our apologetic must embrace the total Easter experience: the worship of the heart (Matt. 28:9, 17; Luke 24:52; Heb. 12:28-29) and the proclamation of its truth (Acts 2:22-24; 17:22-31; 1 Cor. 15:1-8).
For those of us prone to over-intellectualizing our faith, here are three ways to experience Easter anew:
1. Imagine Witnessing the Events
In Beautiful Outlaw, John Eldredge highlights the playfulness of Jesus on Easter morning. He points out that upon achieving the Universe’s greatest triumph, our Lord doesn’t announce it with thunderous fanfare. He lets his personality slip out. When he encountered two disciples on the Emmaus Road, he cheekily plays dumb to facts he certainly knows (Luke 23:13-35), or when he casually asks Peter if they’ve caught any fish (John 21:5), which is a blatant callback to when he initially called Peter to ministry (Matt. 4:18-22). Playing on this inside story is heartfelt and shows the intentionality of Jesus.
Yes, we serve a God who is truly one of us, fully human with a personality.
Whether it be on the Emmaus Road, in the boat or even investigating the tomb, imagine yourself there. If you’re bad at envisioning the historical details, then just imagine the emotions. How they all must have felt! Imagine how Jesus, his mother, Mary Magdalene and the disciples felt (or the crowds, Pharisees, Judas or Pilate).
Remember, the words on your Bible page are invitations to rich scenes. There are no flannel graphs in Scripture. What we read are extraordinary events that were apparently ordinary. Imagine how shocking it must have been when an otherwise ordinary event became the reversal of their grief. Indeed, such a reversal became the plot twist of human history. Imagine that.
2. Confront Despair, Remember Hope
Despite all attempts to avoid tragedy and focus on the bright side of life, darkness finds us. Sometimes it comes with such force it seems to deliberately seek us out. Our lives constantly tempt us to despair (or distraction from it), but God invites us to confront it as Jesus did because he triumphed over tragedy. Christ subverted the greatest tragedy, death, by killing it. This is the hope to which we Christians cling (Rom. 8:19-25).
Sorrows may be here to stay, but so is Jesus. The difference, however, is that Jesus is forever. Sorrow will cease (Rev. 21:4). There will be a day when redemption is finalized (1 John 3:2-3). In the meantime, he promises to abide with us (Matt. 28:19). So we should trust that he is faithful, that any amount of pain is worth it:
“For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” ~2 Cor. 4:17
3. Abandon Distractions
Quiet reflection and meditation are shocking in the Age of the Devices, but such a jolt returns our focus to the one who abandoned all for our sakes. Cellphones, entertainment, the news or anything else that steals attention won’t miss you. Abandon them for the sake of communing with Christ.
This is the simplest, but possibly (and unfortunately) the most difficult, decision to take. But the time freed is worth it. Spend this time meditating on Scripture and fellowshipping with loved ones. Heaven is closer than we think, so it’s wise to savor the parts of this world that will endure long after it’s gone.