In light of Holy Week, this week’s devotion looks forward to Easter morning, wherein we find great hope for the hopeless, in the midst of great suffering and great loss. It comes from Rev. Jacob Smith, who will be the chaplain for this month’s NYC conference.

Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified.  He is not here, for he has risen, as he said (vv. 5, 6).

Matthew 28 opens with the account of the first Easter morning.  However, on this Easter morning there is no singing, no hams baked, and no large ornate hats.  Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary” were going to the tomb to anoint with spices the man they thought was going to gloriously save the world. The tone of the first Easter morning is one of sadness and great loss.  Most of us can relate to that, a time when we found ourselves in a moment defined by those two themes. Maybe for you it was when you lost the job you had worked at for a long time or had loved.  For you it was at the death of a loved one, maybe a spouse, a parent, a child.  You may have experienced sadness and great loss when you learned a cancer diagnosis or discovered another pressing illness.  In the context of these experiences, these ten verses contain three pressing points which convey a tremendous amount of hope for those of us who have been in or found ourselves in the midst of a situation as bleak and hopeless as the first Easter morning.

These moments bring us to the realization that we are helpless.  These two women, completely helpless, would not have been believed: in those days it took the testimony of at least two women for there to be any validity to it; and yet God appears to them first.  The first point is that God always reveals himself to the least, for it is as the least that we actually see our need for him.

The second point is what the angel and Jesus say to the women.  They don’t say, “Hey, come on ladies, you don’t have the attitude of winners.” The angel and Jesus tell them both “Do not be afraid.”  In the midst of sadness and great loss, we often think it is the direct result of our relationship with God, that he is angry with us.  While we may feel awful, we need not be afraid because Jesus Christ has triumphed over the awfulness that defines you and this world.  And because he has triumphed over them you need not be afraid, especially of God, because you can know with certainty that things like the loss of a job, death, or sickness have not had the final say.

Had I been Jesus coming out of the tomb,  I probably would have shot laser beams out of my hands and said, “Ladies tell those disciples, my so-called friends, I am bringing the heat.  After I deal with Rome, and those pesky Pharisees, I am coming for them.” Praise God, I am not Jesus.  Rather Jesus still calls them brothers and he tells them to meet him at Galilee, where it all started.  This is my third point, that sometimes in the midst of great loss, as opposed to just moving on, it is best to go back to the beginnings, whether that is relationships, careers, or faith. Christianity is a religion of going back to the beginnings, going back to the Galilee of our lives, where we can be constantly refreshed with the grace of God, renewed once again with the same old story of God’s demonstration that we need not be afraid.