“And the angel…said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said, Come, see the place where the Lord lay.” – Matthew 28:5-6
Each spring, these words flood the earth – we see them as we scroll through our social media pages, on the signs outside churches, read over the pulpit, shared in Hallmark cards, and we turn to it on Easter morning.
And then, to be honest, the Easter candy runs out, we close the scriptures, put that bit of the Gospel on the shelf, tuck away the signs, the decorations, and the cards til the next Easter season, all without much thought.
But here’s the thing.
Easter – the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the solemn, personal reception of the Atonement He made within the shadow of Gethsemane and upon the cross at Calvary – isn’t just a season, it’s a lifestyle.
That miraculous weekend was not meant to be briefly acknowledged and then consigned to the wayside in the teachings of Jesus Christ. It is not a blip on the gospel radar, a nice summation to a three-year ministry in Jerusalem. It is the pinnacle of His ministry, the greatest of gifts, the answer to prayer and pleading, the triumph over death necessary for us to return to live with the loving Father who created us.
So why do we really only focus on it for a season?
We live a mindful Easter season, why not live an Easter life?
Why not magnify that season into a life fueled by the Atonement and the Resurrection of Christ, and all that comes with it? Why not live a life filled with the joy and wonder of beholding a Savior and Messiah who overcame death, broke the chains of mortality, and made it possible for us to become greater than we ever dreamt?
Simon Peter, after Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension, wrote to the Saints in Europe and Asia, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you.” (1 Peter 1:3-4)
Did you catch that?
His abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
Lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
So what does this lively hope have to do with living an Easter life?
God loved us enough to send His only begotten son so that we could live with Them again.
And not your run-of-the-mill ‘live,’ either. God sent His Son so we could grow, thrive, learn, and seek joy. Everlasting life.
So how do we use that lively hope to live an Easter life?
Some things I’ve learned as I’ve sought to live an Easter life this past year (this isn’t just some spur of the moment Meg-loves-Jesus post, ya’ll).
Remember that joy is often preceded by pain.
Ask anyone who knows me personally what my favorite semi-abstract principle of the gospel is, and they’ll tell you in a hot second: joy. Sometimes you just have joy illuminate your life, coloring everything you see, do, and feel.
Other times, you have to fight for it, hope for it, believe in it.
Sometimes we feel lost, lonely, and un-loved. We all have our ‘Saturdays’ in our Easter
life, and we’re in good company. After Jesus Christ was crucified, His disciples were left alone on what was perhaps their darkest day: their friend and Master had been breaking bread with them just two days before in the upper room, only to be seized, scourged, and sacrificed before their eyes. Friday was earth shattering to them, overcome with grief, despair, and panic as they were. On Saturday reality sunk in, and the feelings of loss and loneliness likely flooded their lives.
Christ had told them that He would soon leave them, but who can blame them for not understanding what that meant? Elder Jeffrey R. Holland noted that they either could not or would not, entertain the thought of Him leaving them. And yet, it happened.
Then, after such a short time to learn and even less time to prepare, the unthinkable happened, the unbelievable was true. Their Lord and Master, their Counselor and King, was crucified. His mortal ministry was over, and the struggling little Church He had established seemed doomed to scorn and destined for extinction.
My heart aches think how lost those men must have felt without Jesus beside them. Their Saturday must have been one of great sorrow, loneliness, shock, and perhaps even regret. The earth quaking, the veil being rent in twain in the temple, and the storms tearing at Jerusalem must have felt inconsequential next to their loss.
So imagine the illuminating, overwhelming, perfect joy that came as their Saturday faded and Sunday blossomed: when the empty tomb was discovered, when the news was shared, when they felt the nail marks in the hands, wrists, side, and feet of their friend and Master, in His resurrected state. The comfort of His voice as He reassured them, blessed them, and taught them once more.
How much did the sorrow of their Friday and Saturday make the joy of their Resurrection Sunday brighter, more perfect, and more heart-piercing?
Our greatest joys in life come after – or even in the midst of – our greatest sorrows. Remembering this, and pressing forward with lively hope, is crucial to living an Easter life because it strengthens us, comforts us, and sustains us.
Never forget that doubters became believers.
If we were all to go around in a circle and take a moment to introduce ourselves and say, “I follow in [insert apostle’s name here] footsteps, I am that kind of disciple,” I would love to fill in Simon Peter’s name in that declaration. But in reality, I more often than not stand beside Thomas.
And that’s okay, because ultimately, faith was restored, and Thomas went from a doubter to a believer. Living an Easter life means building up your faith and seeking answers so that you can be a believer. It’s not an all-at-once, one and done sort of deal. It’s a process of growing belief, of self-examination, and many leaps of faith. Simon, fisherman son of Jona, did not become Peter, leader of the Church, overnight.
Believe in the Resurrection. Believe that Jesus Christ suffered for you, for your sins, for your sorrows, for your fears, for your infirmities, for your shortcomings. Believe that He died so that you could overcome the chains of death, and so that your life could be eternal.
Recognize your own road to Emmaus.
In Luke we read about the experience two apostles had as they traveled to the village called Emmaus.
“And they talked together of all these things which had happened. And it came to pass that while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them. But their eyes were holden that they should not know him.” (see Luke 24:13-35)
Did they not see Christ for who He was because of the Christ’s will, or because they were not looking for Him?
Are we not seeing Christ because we are not looking for Him as we walk our roads to Emmaus, to Damascus, to Nauvoo, to eternity?
Seek to recognize when the Savior walks beside you, when He is speaking with you along your journey. We get so caught up in looking for the blessings that come from His hand that we forget to look and seek His face, to recognize that when we need Him most He’s not so far as we think.
Mindfully embrace the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
This is a huge aspect of living an Easter life that probably will get its own blog post one day, but the heart of it is to mindfully, prayerfully, and gratefully embrace the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
What does that mean?
It means reflecting on the sacrifice that He made, on learning to apply and learn from the Atonement not just when things get hard because you’ve sinned or transgressed, but to lean on Jesus Christ in every aspect of your life, to recognize that it is because of His sacrifice that you can have hope, peace, and joy.
It means striving to recognize the influence Christ’s sacrifice has on you every single day, applying it to every aspect of your life. The Atonement of Christ will amplify your joys, ease your burdens, soothe your worries, and cleanse your soul. Reflecting and pondering that sacrifice with increased purpose and focus will strengthen you and strengthen your relationship with your Savior and Redeemer.
A prime example of embracing the Atonement of Christ fully is found in The Book of Mormon (3 Nephi 11, to be exact), when Christ (after His crucifixion and resurrection) visits His children in the Americas. He appears to them, and they are in awe of the Messiah of whom they had prophesied and waited for finally appearing to them. They kneel and worship Him, but it’s not driven into their hearts until they each have the opportunity to handle the marks in his hands, wrists, sides, and feet (like the apostles in Jerusalem), when they embrace Him, that they shout Hosanna and recognize Him not simply as the Messiah of the prophecies, but as their personal Savior & Redeemer.
He became more than a prophecy fulfilled – as they embraced Him, they embraced His atonement, His sacrifice, and felt the enduring and perfect power of His love.
What is it that keeps us from a similar experience?
And finally, seek to become a ‘post-post-resurrection disciple.’
Before Christ was killed, His disciples were pretty awesome (anyone recall James & John wanting to call lightning? Peter walking on water?).
After He was killed, they returned to their nets, to their patients, to their families, to their “pre-Christ” lives. It had been a miraculous 3 years, but what more could be done? Their Master had been killed, and their little Church would surely die with them.
After He was resurrected, they rejoiced in the empty tomb, in the victory over death, but yet again returned to their nets. They were post-resurrection disciples.
But then, those fishermen-turned-disciples had the most literal ‘come to Jesus’ of their ministry.
Elder Holland, because he is the Lord’s eloquent and fiercely loving bulldog, says it better than I could (and if you could, insert your name when you see Peter’s), as he illustrates the experience of Peter and his brethren being called from their boats to the shore:
What I need, Peter, are disciples – and I need them forever. I need someone to feed my sheep and save my lambs. I need someone to preach my gospel and defend my faith. I need someone who loves me, truly, truly loves me, and loves what our Father in Heaven has commissioned me to do. Ours is not a feeble message. It is not a fleeting task. It is not hapless; it is not hopeless; it is not to be consigned to the ash heap of history. It is the work of Almighty God, and it is to change the world. So, Peter… I am asking you to leave all this and go teach and testify, labor and serve loyally…
(read the full address here)
He called them to the shore and charged them to go forth, to set aside their nets and get to work – His work. To live lives that would exemplify His teachings, to cry repentance, to tell of His Atonement and Resurrection, to shout the love of their Father in Heaven from every rooftop, hill, and mountain they could climb. He sent them as far as they could go, and go they did, without fear or hesitation.
He asked them to give Him their all, as post-post-resurrection disciples, those who had witnessed, repented, and witnessed again.
C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity, “Christ says, “Give me All. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want You. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half-measures are any good…Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked–the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself: my own will shall become yours.””
A post-post-resurrection disciple living an Easter life gives all. Mindfully, gratefully, gives all, understanding that Easter is not a season, but a lifestyle. It is getting rid of those things which keep you from Christ, that keep you from witnessing of that empty tomb and those folded linens.
The Resurrection and the Atonement (for they are truly inseparable) are not a fleeting thought in the doctrine of Christ – it is at the center, and that is what we build upon.
Celebrate it, share it, live it.
Every day, we need to be striving to live an Easter life. It’s too important to our growth and our faith to allow Easter to influence our thinking and our faith but once a year – it needs to be a daily, heartfelt, mindful aspect of our lives.
Learning to live an Easter life really comes down to learning to be a post-post-resurrection disciple and pressing forward into an Easter eternity.