New York City operates the largest school system in America. Its buildings can be used after hours for nearly anything—dance recitals, labor-union meetings, etc. And so churches have been meeting in schools on Sundays for the last 12 years. When the Supreme Court recently upheld a ruling barring such religious activities, many Christians assumed they would once again be subjected to discrimination. Now Mayor Bill de Blasio has announced that rules will be written allowing churches the same use as other organizations. What looked like a defeat is turning into a victory.
The NCAA men’s basketball championship game is tonight, but the loser will still win. The exposure, television revenues, and recruiting advantages afforded by the title game will persist long after the sting of defeat fades.
On Good Friday, it seemed that Jesus lost. On Easter Sunday, it was clear that he won. (Tweet this) In my Easter sermon yesterday, I began by reciting words shared by billions of Christians around the world: “He is risen—he is risen indeed.” Why is the Easter victory of Jesus Christ still relevant today?
If you feel abandoned by God, know that his Son knows your pain. In his classic The Crucified God, theologian Jürgen Moltmann states: “When God becomes man in Jesus of Nazareth, he not only enters into the finitude of man, but in his death on the cross also enters into the situation of man’s godforsakenness. In Jesus he does not die the natural death of a finite being, but the violent death of the criminal on the cross, the death of complete abandonment by God.” According to Moltmann, “God weeps with us so that we may one day laugh with him.”
If you are seeking hope and happiness, know that the risen Christ offers what you seek. John Paul II: “It is Jesus that you seek when you dream of happiness; He is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you; He is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is He who provoked you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise; it is He who urges you to shed the masks of a false life; it is He who reads in your heart your most genuine choices, the choices that others try to stifle.
“It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives, the will to follow an ideal, the refusal to allow yourselves to be ground down by mediocrity, the courage to commit yourselves humbly and patiently to improving yourselves and society, making the world more human and more fraternal.”
In a culture that measures success by the transient victories of today, remember that God measures success by the eternal victory of faith. When we trust Jesus with our deepest pain and greatest hope, we find that he is risen indeed. And we learn that the crucified God is all the God we need. Moltmann: “When the crucified Jesus is called ‘the image of the invisible God,’ the meaning is that THIS is God, and God is like THIS.”
He still is.