By Pastor Mike Lotzer, April 12, 2020
We are all longing for a swift return to “normal.” We miss the normal routines and freedoms enjoyed before the Coronavirus turned our lives upside down. Although yearning for a return to normal may be natural, there is something much better than normal. The “better than normal” that awaits us provides practical hope this Easter.
When Jesus rose from the dead and walked among people, he was still Jesus, but He was far from normal. Scripture tells us the resurrected Jesus could embrace and eat with people, yet he could also pass through walls!
He was miraculous restored from death, and yet his body still evidenced the physical scars of the torture that took his life. Many of those who knew Jesus best didn’t even immediately recognize him in his newly resurrected body. That is until he spoke to them by name or ate a meal with them. When Jesus rose from the grave, he didn’t just become “normal” again—He became better than normal!
Eventually, this Coronavirus Pandemic will end. When this happens, we’ll have the opportunity to return to some form of business as usual. Or we can reach for something more. What if God wants something much better than returning to normal for you?
Consider that this tragedy might serve us all as a kind of spiritual reset. What would “better than normal living” even look like? Even a brief examination of what was better than normal about the resurrected Jesus Christ would help us answer that question.
1. WALLS OF FEAR WOULD NOT CONFINE US.
The disciples were sheltering in place just like we are now. It wasn’t a virus they feared but rather the danger of being associated with their recently executed Master. Doubts about who Jesus claimed to be, in addition to fear for their own safety, now penned them in. It looked like Jesus was just another failed revolutionary—In a long line of “would-be saviors.”
So they huddled in fear and isolation. Confined behind the walls of the upper room, they ignored the mission given to them. That is until Jesus physically appeared in front of them! Incredibly, he just passed through the physical walls of the room.
While they were telling these things, He Himself stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be to you.” But they were startled and frightened and thought that they were seeing a spirit. And He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? “See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have. – Luke 24:36-43
Jesus, in his resurrected new body can pass through material objects somehow. That is to suggest walls, doors or barriers no longer confine him. What if we have access to a version of that better than normal ability now? Please don’t try to walk through a wall. Instead, consider how the disciples, no longer let walls of fear and doubt confine them from the mission God had called them to.
Think about it. For the moment, we are all confined to live behind walls, isolated and physically distant. Thank you very much global pandemic. That said, eventually, this restriction will lift.
Will we continue to let the walls of doubt and fear about who Jesus is and what other people think of us confine us? We could, but we don’t have to. Why? The Holy Spirit has enabled us to walk through those walls. We can start passing through these walls even while sheltering in place. Get creative.
2. SCARS OF LOVE WOULD REMIND US.
Typically scars remind us of pain and suffering. The scars of Jesus remind us of love.
They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence. – Luke 24:37-43
When the disciples doubt if Jesus was physically standing before them, he offered his hands and feet as evidence. Why?
Certainly, touching someone who you suspect might be a hallucination or a ghost seems logical. There is something more going on though. The hands and feet of a recently crucified person would resemble roadkill. They would be hardly recognizable and have had no time to fully scar over. We learn elsewhere, when Thomas encounters the risen Jesus, that his wounds have now become scars. If Jesus can be raised and made even better than whole, in every visible way, why would he retain the scars on his hands and feet? Would they serve to merely assure shocked followers? I doubt it. For as we see, Jesus had to eat a piece of fish to convince them further he was “real.”
What if the scars remain intentionally, as a reminder of why Jesus died. What if they are “scars of love.”
Imagine a life that is better than returning to normal because whenever we question if God loves us, or if we matter, we see those scars of love and are reminded of their meaning.
Scars of love would have even further ramifications. They would impact our identity to such an extent that we would begin to more accurately see how costly and toxic sin is—for Jesus went through hell to deal with it. They may also convince us to be less ashamed of our wounds and scars because we know that his scars of love now invite us to a new level of vulnerability and healing toward each other.
If the wounds of Christ can be healed from death, and still serve as reminders of what matters, then perhaps our wounds can be both treated and serve as scars of love for other people. Imagine being free to ask for the healing of your wounds unashamedly. Imagine feeling the liberty of no longer hiding the scars of your past, because you now know God can use them. He can use them to help others heal and grow.
Is this not much better than a return to merely normal?
3. RECOGNIZING JESUS WOULD OPEN OUR EYES.
It will also make us loving revolutionaries.
Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him. He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” – Luke 24:13-17
When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” – Luke 24:30-32
It is so strange that people did not instantly recognize the risen Jesus. Likely it was doubt, shock, and disbelief in some cases. In some instances, it appears that Jesus does not allow individuals to recognize him until he speaks their name or until they have a meal together. Why would this be the case? I am not entirely sure. What is clear to me is this: When his followers do recognize Jesus (on their own or with his allowance), they are transformed and sent out with power and purpose.
They go turn the world upside down with the good news about God defeating death! To be sure, encountering the Risen Jesus Christ turned cowardly, demoralized, and under-educated and resourced people into history-shattering revolutionaries! What if, on the other side of COVID-19 you and I recognize who Jesus truly is? What if we thought through the implications of the Lord, Lunatic, or Liar question that C.S. Lewis posed so many years ago? What if we concluded that Christ is Lord?
Well, that would mean a departure from our pre or present pandemic life as normal. It would animate us in ways we can hardly grasp. We would no longer fear death. We would see or at least trust the purpose in every action and opportunity.
Yes, we would live in light of eternity secured and exhilarated by the one who walks through any wall and whose love emanates from even the worst of scars. He has Risen. He has risen indeed. Try to recognize him. If you cannot keep trying. As you do, go walk through walls of fear. Let God heal your wounds and help you show your scars to others so they can be healed.
May you recognize the risen Jesus. May you trust him for eternity. May you start trusting him with this very moment.