It's almost Easter. Secular media displays its annual interest in the life of Jesus. The marshmallow chicks and chocolate bunnies have reappeared. And for a change the weather is really nice in Atlanta. The daffodils are blooming, the trees are budding, and the sun is shining. You can feel the spring optimism in the air. Easter, the annual reaffirmation of life, seems within our reach.
Soon the twice yearly visitors will return to church in search of the familiar affirmation that Jesus is risen from the dead. I'm not going to play the grumpy preacher at this point and shoot down the impulse that swells attendance one Sunday a year. I simply want to distinguish between "almost Easter" and "Easter". "Almost Easter" sees life after death as a doable thing. The resurrection of Jesus is simply evidence of what we already know happens as winter turns to spring, and flowers rise from dark soil. We are happy to be along for the ride.
"Easter" is something else. It is not obvious. It doesn't even seem likely. And you have to "opt in" to the Easter experience. When Martha stands in front of her brother Lazarus' tomb with Jesus, the optimism of "almost Easter" recedes. Lazarus is four days dead. But Jesus raises a different possibility: Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?
The possibility being offered is that Jesus is the resurrection and the life, and we are challenged to "opt in" by faith into that reality. Is the annual optimism of "almost Easter" enough to carry us? Or are we ready to believe our way into a far different understanding of life?