Easter is for Mondays
(Brian Croyle is a member of Grace, a husband, father, and a wicked guitarist.)
With all the many ways that we celebrate Easter, there is a subtle but significant nuance that most followers of Christ miss. For us, Easter falls on a Sunday. And indeed, it’s clear from the Biblical record and our understanding of the Jewish calendar that the first Easter fell on a Sunday. But because of how our lives differ from those of the disciples and early followers of Jesus, what we miss is the significance of the fact that Easter fell on a Sunday.
You see, as the Christian church developed and grew, it adopted numerous Jewish practices, while refining them in light of the changes brought about by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. One of the practices that we have adapted is that of the Sabbath, a weekly day of rest and worship, when we gather to acknowledge the greatness of our God. In part because of important holy days like Easter, much of the Christian church adopted Sunday as that weekly day of worship. So, when we gather to celebrate Easter – our most holy of days, when Jesus rose from the grave and defeated sin and death – we do so on a day of the week that has already been set aside to worship God. Like other Sundays, we gather on Easter to proclaim Christ – to associate our lives with His life, and declare our allegiance to Him. Certainly, Easter is bigger, but it falls on an established weekly day of worship. It’s (forgive me) the original Super Sunday.
But when we read the Gospel story, we realize that the experience was different for the first followers of Jesus. In Luke 23:55-56, we read that the women who had been present when Jesus breathed His last on the cross went away to prepare the traditional burial ointments with which to embalm His body. But the Scripture says that “by the time they were finished the Sabbath had begun, so they rested as required by the law.” In their Jewish tradition, Sabbath began on Friday evening and continued until Saturday evening. For them, their Sabbath Saturday was spent in sorrowful waiting, wanting to honor Jesus in His death but having to wait until the day after the Sabbath – until Sunday – in observance of the Jewish law. And so, Luke 24 begins with the statement that very early “on the first day of the week” the women were finally able to go to the tomb. That is when they found it empty, and discovered that Jesus had risen.
This is where we can miss something significant about Easter. Jesus wasn’t resurrected on the Sabbath; he was resurrected on the day after the Sabbath. The women weren’t on their way to church the morning they found the tomb empty – it was the day when everyone went back to work. In our current experience of life in modern-day Western culture, it’s as if Jesus was raised to life on Monday morning. While the world was beginning its workweek, starting its commute or jumping into the daily grind that would last the next five or six days, Jesus rose from the grave.
We don’t think of Easter as having fallen on a workday, but that’s what the Bible clearly shows us. And because we don’t think that way, we subconsciously miss out on the full power and impact of what Easter signifies.
Easter isn’t just for our holy days – Easter is for our everydays.
The fact that Jesus rose on a normal day – an everyday just like every other day – has enormous implications on our lives. It comes with both an obligation and a promise. The obligation that the everyday resurrection of Jesus conveys on us is this – that our lives Monday through Friday, and even Saturday, should reflect what Jesus did for us on Easter Sunday. Too often, we live bifurcated lives. Our spiritual lives are relegated to Sundays, when we celebrate the new life we have in Jesus. The rest of the week we live much as if the death and resurrection of Christ had little bearing on how we think and how we act. We invest in our careers and pursue our hobbies and fill our calendars in ways that suggest that what Jesus did for us only applies to Sundays. But when we compartmentalize sacred and secular, spiritual and physical, religious and social, we deny the reality that, even in our imperfect state, we are designed to be holistic and consistent beings. We were never meant to separate our worshipful selves and our social selves – we were designed to bring our worship into our world, taking the light of Christ with us everywhere we go and into every relationship we have. Our work and our play should reflect that we are grateful followers of a good God who gives us every single breath.
If our obligation is to let the resurrection of Jesus penetrate our everyday lives, then the promise is that His power will be present in every one of those days. The promise is that what Christ has done for us on Easter redeems every moment of our lives and every corner of our being. Our Lord is not just great on Sundays – He’s great on Mondays. He’s great not only in the safe confines of our church buildings, when we pretty ourselves up in both our literal and metaphorical Sunday best. He’s great in the midst of the grit and the stress of our harassed workweeks. He’s great in the midst of the mundane trappings and the endless turmoil we refer to as a rat-race. Jesus is great there – in the midst of the lives we wish were better, where we wish we were better but we find ourselves simply to be what we are – imperfect people on a daily journey to find our meaning and purpose, and wondering sometimes where we’ve missed it. It’s in the midst of that mess that Jesus finds us and redeems us. In fact, it’s in that very place where Jesus comes and fills us with the same Spirit that raised Him from the dead (Romans 8:11). Jesus redeems us in the middle of our grit and grime and turmoil, and He makes us new. He gives us hope and purpose, and He gives us a renewed capacity to live into that purpose in every day of our lives.
This fact is just as true today, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, as it has ever been. Jesus is Lord on Sunday, on Monday, and on a coronavirus-influenced day. He has not lost His power and influence, and He is not thwarted by this virus. What we suffer now is not God’s eternal intention for us, but it is absolutely part of what He will redeem for us. Easter shows us that Jesus has overcome sin and death and disease and hardship and heartache. COVID-19 will not have the last word, but the Word who became flesh and lived among us will continue to walk with us through this difficult time. And He will empower us to walk alongside others in their difficult time.
So, in gratitude for everything Jesus has done, let’s bring the power of the Resurrection to bear on every part of the new life He has given us. Particularly now, in the middle of global fear and desperation, let’s demonstrate the hope and love that we have experienced through what Jesus did on Easter. Let’s share it with so many around us who are right now more open than ever to hearing about the Good News of a great God who died for the very purpose of saving their souls, and who then raised back to life to prove that He could do it.