Something about Easter makes it easy to mark the years. When you’re a kid it’s annual photos posed next to a basket that’s overflowing with neon grass and chocolate eggs. In college, it might mean coming home for a long weekend and seeing friends and family. As I’ve gotten older, though, God has started weaving different parts of the Easter story with the actual events of my life. Somehow, He always seems to show me something new in a story I’ve heard all my life. He finds a way to speak right into my current season of life.
A few years ago after finishing graduate school, I made the decision to move back home. The thing is, home wasn’t really home any more. It had been years since I’d lived in Fort Worth and I didn’t know anyone my age in the city. I was in a season of making new friends everywhere and, truth be told, building a new community was more of a challenge than I was ready for. In this season of what felt like a million new faces, God showed me something about the Easter story that I’d never seen before.
Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table (John 12:1-2). This is where my “A-Ha!” happened: “The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him …” (John 12:13).
The thing is, that “next day” was what we now call Palm Sunday, the day Jesus rode into Jerusalem and into the final days of His earthly ministry. That means that Jesus chose for that last night — before the biggest week of His life began — to be spent around a table with people He loved. Can you picture it? I like to imagine it was the kind of night where no one wants to leave — plenty of stories, banter back and forth across the table, echoes of God’s truth and grace felt around the room. These new (to me) details jumped off the page because in a season of praying for new friendships, God was showing me that friendship is worth the work and that it’s something even Jesus reveled in.
A year later God had proven Himself incredibly faithful, filling my life with a growing church community, a job I liked and the beginnings of some really special friendships. It felt like life was springing up everywhere around me, but I still had plenty of questions about my future. That Easter, God taught me something about joy that I’d never known before: “… let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross … ” (Hebrews 12:1-2).
As I studied those verses – words I’d read many times before — God leaned down and told me something special: Because Jesus knew that us being redeemed was on the other side of the cross, He endured. Because He knew that all of us being restored to who we were created to be was within reach, He endured. Because He knew that the opportunity to provide us deep, abundant, whole, satisfying life would come through the cross, He endured. In a season of wondering what my next steps would be, of trying to understand who God made me to be, He taught me that I was His joy and that He was willing to endure everything for me.
The next Easter, I was on the other side of a heartbreaking loss. In just a year my family had celebrated the birth of a new baby, faced a devastating diagnosis and experienced the worst loss any of us had ever known. It was traumatic, it was an ocean of grief, it was like having my faith turned inside out. Before this year, I had celebrated Easter all my life, but after the loss of my nephew, I found myself more connected to the resurrection than ever before. The events of the past year had carved in me a desperate ache for resurrection, new life and all that God promises for the future. I thought about how Jesus had said to friends Mary and Martha just outside their brother’s tomb, “I am the resurrection and the life … Do you believe this?” (John 11:25). Yes, Lord. I believed it in a brand new way because I was desperate for that new life. That Easter it became the promise I grip onto with two hands and the truth I repeat over and over. It’s the hope I lay my aching heart in front of. Truly believing that Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life changed the way I celebrate Easter.
As I continued to grieve and heal, heal and grieve over the next few years, it was the Saturday of Easter week, between Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday, that I was drawn to. The Bible doesn’t talk a lot about that day, really. It’s just mentioned as a fact of schedule: “On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment” (Luke 23:56). In my own grieving, I couldn’t help but think of the questions that must have run through the minds of the disciples and everyone else who had loved Jesus. That Saturday became a comfort because, in a way, it acknowledges the tension we all live with — living while waiting, aching while healing, hoping while grieving. God taught me that even in this middle land of already-but-not-yet, He sees and cares for us.
And this year? I’m not yet sure what will mark this Easter, but I’m finding myself constantly reminded of John 10:10, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” and I feel like I’m marked by His love and healing. What about you? What is God showing you this Easter about His story and your life? The common thread through all my stories isn’t me — it’s Jesus. He’s a friend at the table, our champion, our redeemer, resurrector and healer. He is all this and so much more.
This week, I encourage you to ask God to show you something new about Easter, maybe even a way to mark this year of your life. No matter where you are or what’s going on, He’s ready to meet and talk.