The story of Easter includes an episode of two travellers on the Emmaus road (Luke 24: 13 – 35). They, like many of us today, were distressed and down-hearted. Life was tough, with challenges that burdened them. This place of disillusionment and grief is common to man. Disappointments are everywhere.
We live in dangerous and uncertain times that bear unresolved grief’s rough edges. Many of us have lost friends in the pandemic. If we estimate that ten persons are struggling with the passing of each close relative, we understand the magnitude of our challenge.
In reporting the deaths as pure statistics, we miss the enormity of the personal pain that families are enduring. We do not take into account the shortened lives that these deaths represent.
The loneliness of the passing and the feeling of helplessness of the survivors are unremarked but very real. We have hoped that our families would be unscathed by the ravages of the dreaded virus; we have hoped that those infected would live. Many of us have had dashed hopes.
Before we could have processed the effects of the pandemic, we were confronted with disrupted supply chains and constant price increases that batter us into a state of helplessness.
When will the war end? How will we cope? What will become of our young children and us in this tumultuous time?
We are precisely where Luke’s two travellers were. Our downcast faces are the expression of our dispirited souls. We talk and discuss these things with each other with no apparent conclusion. We, like them, had hoped for redemption, but now we are dumbfounded. We do not know what to make of our life’s unending mess.
Human nature longs for redemption. We look to men and history as though they have the power to rescue us from the mire. But the lessons of history teach that man has limitations that cause good and evil to be locked in a perpetual battle. Can we find happiness on this side of life?
Hope is not the same as blind optimism but is an insistence that there is something better ahead. It recognises the enormous tasks that beset us but is willing to fight for a better future.
It moves us from the sidelines watching the unfurling of dread news to a stubborn resistance against all odds. It is a choice we make.
Even as that choice is made, some would seek to beat us down. The world is filled with stories of exploitation and abuse. Often the powerful elites use religion and the Bible’s words to control rather than redeem. To be free is a constant battle.
For example, in the slavery days, there was a Bible called ‘Parts of the Holy Bible, selected for the use of the Negro Slaves, in the British West-India Islands’. This egregious action sought to justify slavery and prevent enslaved people from rebelling.
This version was published three years after the Haitian Revolution had ended. It excised the story of the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt but included Joseph’s time as an enslaved person.
The Galatians passage about equality between all people and the Book of Revelations (which tells of punishment for evil done) were excluded.
The compelling story of Exodus tells us that we can oppress ourselves. When Moses told the Israelites God’s plan, they would not listen because they were discouraged, and the cruel bonds blinded their eyes to any such possibility.
Pharaoh had pushed back on Moses’ initial request and had put more staggering burdens on the people. Nothing comes easy.
But God told Moses that He had heard the Israelites’ groaning and remembered His promises to them. He declared, “I will free you… I will redeem you… with mighty acts of judgment.”
After 400 years of humiliation, the promise is to be fulfilled. None of the people who went into Egypt was alive, yet God remembered His promise. Despite the sadistic leader and the enabling taskmasters, redemption would happen.
Notwithstanding their crushed spirits, the Israelites would leave the land victoriously. It would happen, but not because of them. God said it would happen to show that He was their Lord that could deliver them from the Egyptians’ cruel bondage.
Easter represents the same redemptive act of deliverance for us tormented by life’s woes. We can rise above the endless, meaningless chatter and see the future ahead. Easter assures us that God cares about all of us—none is excluded.
We may not know when the change in our circumstances will come but let us keep faith that it will. Let us also commit ourselves to creating a better society where everyone is acknowledged as an expression of God.
‘Nothing […] worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore, we must be saved by hope. Nothing […] true or beautiful or good, makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore, we must be saved by faith.
‘Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore, we are saved by love.’ — Reinhold Niebuhr.