All around the world the month of March is a time when Christians have a heightened sense of hope represented by the approach of Good Friday and Easter. Most of our Roman Catholic, Anglican, and Lutheran friends had the formal season of Lent impressed on their minds while they were young by the practice of giving up something for those weeks, starting on Ash Wednesday. Among the Dutch Protestant immigrants with whom I grew up, there was less formality about it. After all, in the Dutch language the word Lente is also the word for the three months of Spring. Nevertheless, in the weeks leading up to Good Friday and Easter, there was still a strong awareness in our churches and in our homes that after Christmas we were looking forward to honoring the life and then the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Easter hope is focused on the truth that after Jesus Christ died for the forgiveness of sin God raised him from the dead. His body was alive again. His new bodily existence is the guarantee of God’s promise that those who put their faith in him will not only go to be with the Lord when they die, they will also have new physical bodies in a cleansed earth when Christ comes again. Those new bodies will be different from our present bodies in that they will never again get sick or die. This was the way God intended life to be from the beginning and, through Jesus Christ, his original plan and purpose will be realized.
But the hope of a resurrected body that will never die can be personalized in different ways, depending on life experience. I was reminded of that not long ago when I learned once again how the words we say may connect differently to different people.
It happened one Sunday morning in church when somewhere in the service I spoke about “jumping for joy.” Most of the people who heard those words had no particular response to them. They were just part of the larger message. But for one woman those words “jumping for joy” had a significant impact. You see, more than fifty years earlier, her son had been born with disabilities that robbed him of the ability to walk. Throughout his childhood and into his adult years there had been many visits to doctors. Countless times she and her husband had put on their best face to encourage their son with love while inside they were grieving for him. The efforts to find the best help for him were never ending. Many prayers had gone up to God for wisdom, for help, and for healing. The result is that with God’s blessing and help their son has gone on to live proudly and independently. Nevertheless, he still does not walk. So, when I used the phrase ”jumping for joy,” the response deep in her heart was a sudden heightened awareness of the fact that jumping for joy was something her son had never done. The longing for him to be able to walk and grief over the fact that there was no realistic hope that he ever would welled up inside her. After church she took a moment to share these feelings with me.
It was an important conversation. I sympathized with her very legitimate feelings for her son, but I responded by giving her the hope of the resurrection. In answer to her telling me that her son has never been able to jump for joy, I answered ” but one day he will.” That hope meant everything to her. It was months later that she reminded me of it. “Do you remember what you said to me when at the door we spoke about my son having never been able to walk?” she asked me. She glowed as she shared how the resurrection hope had been personalized for her.
Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, her son will one day have a new body and he will not only walk, he will also jump for joy. Jesus’ resurrection body is the guarantee of it.
During this month of March 2018, I hope and pray that many people who live at Holland Christian Homes will experience renewed health in many ways. My hope is that the work of our doctors and staff will be blessed in such a way that by God’ s grace many people will experience relief from pain, cures for illnesses, and the joy of renewed health. But each time pain is relieved and each time we are blessed with a cure for an illness, we should view it as just a wonderful appetizer for the complete newness we will someday experience because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Pastor Henk Bruinsma.