In 2021, Emily and I had a vow renewal celebration on our anniversary. We invited almost exclusively family, and a few of our LONGTIME friends, and had a tiny little ceremony and a HUGE party at a friends local farm. We hired a square dance caller lady, wore fancy clothes and ate lots of really great food. It was a really special time, filled with great conversations, tons of awkward dancing, and some really important words spoken between two people who were choosing to continue to love each other into the next phase of their relationship.
Most people probably wouldn’t have renewed their vows on their 15th anniversary, many wait until their 25th or 50th. But as I eluded to yesterday, Em and I have had a very challenging first fifteen years. After the passing of her mother, her dad took his own life only 22 months later. Emily is an only child and so ALL the responsibilities fell on her. Paperwork, lawyer meetings, paying the bills, selling the house and the cars – all that and more became her responsibility. And just for fun, her husband who should have been there to walk alongside her through it all and support her while she grieved, well he fell apart with crippling PTSD and OCD, and became basically useless as a husband and a support system. Even though I eventually got to a healthy place and was able to walk through some of it with her – suffice to say, there was a lot of “baggage” for us to work through, both personally and as a couple.
But Aaron, it’s EASTER! The happiest day of the year! Why on earth are you starting this devotional on such a downer?!?! That’s simple. Last year, after a TON of work, Emily and I chose one another all over again, in front of most of the most meaningful people in our lives. We RENEWED the promise that we would continue to grow as people and as a couple, and that we’d strive to be better in all sorts of ways too. And we also acknowledged that we knew that every day that followed wasn’t going to be as incredible as that one (in fact we had a tiff that morning), but that we would walk through whatever it was TOGETHER, with God and our friends and family’s help.
That day felt like a turning of the page, the start of a new chapter, like life had been breathed into our relationship. It felt like a weight had been lifted. Like in that moment, we said, enough trauma and drama – let the good times roll!
By this point of the Easter story, Jesus’ followers have been through their own set of dramatic and traumatic circumstances. They’ve gone from a parade to a passing away. They’ve seen one of their compatriots betray the man they all loved so much, and then seen both of their lives end with extreme, unexpected suddenness. They are scared and scarred. Not knowing what will happen next, or how to pick up the scrambled pieces of their lives. The man they thought would walk through them through EVERYTHING, had now been reduced to nothing. No one, not ONE of them, expected what was going to happen next.
Luke 24:1–12 (ESV)
But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” And they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.
As a famous pastor friend (ok I’ve never met him) of mine is known to say; nobody expected NO body. No one had hope that this story or HIS story wasn’t already over. And suddenly, in that moment Jesus RENEWED not only their hope, but their eternal lives. Suddenly everything He had ever said made more sense. Much of it could be seen in a different light. Not only were they no longer afraid, but they were filled with passion, conviction, purpose, and eventually – the Holy Spirit that is God Himself. God had come through on His promise to His people, and was going to continue to love them with an everlasting love.
Jesus spent 40 days on earth, appearing at least eleven times to His disciples and followers. He walked with them, ate with them, even spent some time in a fishing boat for old time’s sake. 40 days with of preaching and teaching. 40 days of laughing and smiling. 40 days of celebrating Jesus’ victory over sin and death.
From that moment on, the disciples never doubted Jesus’ status of King again. What kind of King was He? The Risen King. Eternity’s King. King of Heaven and Earth. Their relationship with Him, and their Heavenly Father was so cemented that each one of them risked their lives to preach His story to the ends of the earth. No longer fearing death in any way, all but one of them met their end, for preaching the Gospel to any who would listen. It’s as if they KNEW, it wasn’t the end – because it’s not.
The Apostle Paul (who was so convinced Jesus was King that he went from killing Christians to becoming one) penned these words;
1 Corinthians 15:52–57 (ESV)
in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
He was right. And for two thousand years, people have been living in the victory that only Jesus’ resurrection that first Easter Sunday can offer.
Let the good times roll (the stone away).