When I went to camps as a teenager, I loved going on night hikes. We felt a real sense of adventure as we headed off in the dark down unfamiliar country roads, trying to dodge potholes, tree branches and other obstacles and we attempted not to fall, trip or get lost along the way.
While it was fun walking in the dark, we were still relieved when the lights of the campsite would come into view and we could see our destination. Knowing where we were heading made the walk easier. We could see the endpoint of our journey and it gave us the hope of being warm, safe and sometimes even dry with a cup of hot Milo to enjoy. Being able to see the lights of our destination helped us get through the darkness that surrounded us.
This year we won’t be able to gather in worship at sunrise on Easter Sunday for our annual dawn service. I’m disappointed about that because it’s a highlight of the year for me. There’s something special about getting up in the dark, and meeting together outside in worship as the dawn breaks and the sun rises. It is a way of connecting with the first Easter morning when the women went to the tomb and were greeted by the angels with the good news of the resurrection of Jesus (Matthew 28:1-10).
For the women and men who followed Jesus, the news of his resurrection from the dead was like light bursting into a dark place. They had been grieving Jesus’ death since Friday. They must have felt lost, confused, uncertain about the future, and afraid of what might happen next. In their darkness, the good news of Jesus’ resurrection must have been as welcome as the morning sunlight. It gave them hope. It gave them joy. It gave them purpose. The resurrection of Jesus gave them life!
In our own time and place, a lot of us can feel like we are in dark places too. Everything that’s happening with the COVID-19 virus is upsetting our regular way of life and generating uncertainty about the future, fear, anxiety and worry. In addition to these, many of us are also coping with illness, grief, disabilities, mental illnesses, addictions, broken relationships, and so much more. I can understand that at times life can feel like a night hike which seems to go on without end as we struggle in the dark from one day to the next.
The message of the resurrection of Jesus is still good news for us today. When we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection, we don’t just remember something that happened two thousand years ago on the other side of the world. The resurrection isn’t even just about going to heaven when we die. Instead, the good news of Jesus’ resurrection casts life-giving light on our lives right here and now.
In Colossians 3:1-4, the Apostle Paul writes,
Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honour at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory. (NLT)
The way Paul talks about Jesus’ resurrection is significant because he writes that we ‘have been raised to new life with Christ’ already! Through faith in Jesus we are united with him in his death and resurrection. The life of the risen Christ is God’s gift to us by the power of the Holy Spirit through faith. No matter what else is going on around us or within us, we carry the life of the risen Christ in us. That shapes and determines our reality.
Paul encourages us to set our sights on Jesus and the new life he gives to us. Like seeing the campsite lights when we were on our night hikes, the light of the angel’s words helps us see where we are going. The good news of Jesus’ resurrection helps us to see our destination. Its light also helps to illuminate our path through life so we can see each step we take a little more clearly. When we set our sights on the risen Christ and look beyond what’s happening in us or around us to see the future Christ has for us, it helps us find our way in this world.
It doesn’t mean that we ignore the realities of this world, that we pretend they don’t exist or try to escape from them. Setting our sights on the reality of heaven doesn’t mean that we deny or minimize the difficulties and challenges of this life. What it does mean, however, is that we see them from a different perspective. When we set our sights on where we are going and the future God has for us, we can see through our current struggles or problems to a better tomorrow in the faith that Jesus is carrying us there. That makes it possible to put one foot in front of the other, following Jesus into a better future, in the faith and hope that the source of our lives is the risen Christ. Faith in Jesus’ resurrection doesn’t ignore or escape from the darkness of this life. It gives light to our path so we can be confident that Jesus will get us through.
We set our sights on heaven’s reality by reading God’s word and listening to what the Bible has to say to us. Story after story tells us how heaven’s realities broke through into different people’s lives so they could live in the light of the goodness of God and the life Jesus gives through his Holy Spirit. As we read or hear their stories and the ways that setting their sights on heaven’s realities made a difference in their lives, God will provide us with what we need to set our sights on our common destination. That’s when we will find the help we need and the courage that comes through faith in the risen Jesus to keep going.
Christ is risen. He is risen indeed!
This message was good news for the women when they went to the tomb as the new day was dawning all those centuries ago. It was good news for Jesus’ followers as it drove away the darkness of fear and uncertainty. It is still good news for us as we experience the darkness of life in this world in a lot of different ways. The good news of Jesus’ resurrection is a light in our darkness, showing us where we’re are heading, giving us a destination to hope for as we live in the reality of Jesus’ resurrection and his victory over the darkness.
More to think about & discuss:
- Have you even tried to find your way in the dark? What was it like for you? How did it help to have light to help you find your way?
- As you look at the world around us at the moment, where do you see the darkness of fear, worry or uncertainty? Where do you experience darkness in your own life?
- How do you think the good news of Jesus’ resurrection can bring light to the darkness we are going through at this time?
- How do you react when you hear Paul say that ‘you have been raised to new life with Christ’ already? What sounds good about that? What is difficult to believe?
- How might you see what’s happening around you or within you differently if you look at it from the perspective of Jesus’ resurrection and the reality of heaven?
- What might you do different today in the faith that the hardships you might be experiencing will pass away, but the life of Jesus in you will last forever?