The Easter season is a special time for churches as we celebrate the hope of the resurrection. For many people, simply hearing the word Easter brings up thoughts of joy, new life, bright colors, and spring. Easter is supposed to be a happy time. But this Easter season, something is different. Churches everywhere are rethinking their worship services and how they celebrate. People are trying to stay connected when they can’t be together. COVID-19 has cast a shadow on this Easter season. This is not what anyone expected.
But God often works in ways we don’t expect, and maybe this week is the perfect time to reflect on our expectations.
Palm Sunday was a day of celebration as the famous prophet Jesus entered Jerusalem. For hundreds of years, Israel had been waiting on their Messiah. They were waiting on the one who would overthrow Rome, restore the kingdom, and usher in a new era of glory. Was Jesus the prophesied one? Born in a manger in Bethlehem, could this rabbi from such a humble beginning be the new king? In just a few years, he’d gained a reputation that made people wonder. His ministry angered the religious leaders, but attracted sinners. His teaching silenced the educated, but comforted the simple. His miracles caused those in power to fear him, but those in need to seek him at all cost. The crowds had gathered to welcome Jesus into the city, and as they greeted him with shouts of, “Hosanna” (meaning “save us”), their hopes were high!
But as the week went on, something changed. Jesus was not who they thought he was. It was becoming apparent he hadn’t come for an earthly kingdom; his plan was not to overthrow Rome or offer political freedom. Instead he came for reasons they did not expect: to inaugurate an eternal kingdom in the hearts of his people, overthrow sin and darkness, offer freedom from death and separation from God, and demonstrate God’s love to the whole world. This was not what anyone expected — and in their hardness of heart, the crowds turned on him.
They lashed out in the end as the crowds, Jesus’s own friend Judas, the religious leaders, Pilate, and Herod all conspired to kill him. Unparalleled evil was committed against the very Son of God as they crucified Jesus just a few days after celebrating his arrival. But God was never out of control; he had a bigger plan, and a way to bring good out of the evil, light out of the darkness.
Today, he still does. Many of us are experiencing the darkness as we face isolation, uncertainty, and confusion. COVID-19 has challenged our expectations of God’s plans — but he is still working! He is near to the lonely. He gives peace, hope, and strength as we await the good he’s working. There may be darkness along the way, but for God’s people, brighter days are ahead; resurrection, victory, and celebration are right around the corner!
(Steve Adler is the associate pastor at Crossing Community Church on Silver Lake Road in Newtown. For more information, visit Crossing.org.)