Sunday, April 4th will mark my twenty-fifth Easter as a Christian. I came to Christ as an eighteen-year-old in South Carolina. That makes me forty-three. At this age and after these many years, I seem to need the same reminder every Easter. I need someone to remind me Easter means more than pastels and eggs, peeps and chocolate bunnies, tulips and warmer days. I need someone to remind me why Jesus’s resurrection matters today. This year I’m giving special thought and meditation to the presence of Jesus, which comes to us through his Easter resurrection. Because of Easter, Jesus is not only known to us as alive, crucified, and buried. but is present today, at work, and coming again. Let’s think together about how his presence makes the difference in each moment of Christian life.
The presence of Jesus infuses all the big and small moments of life with comfort, hope, courage, and promise. The moments of leaving kids at college. The moments of suffering and loss. The moments when the business plan falls flat. The moments of difficult counseling issues. The moments of loneliness, grief, disappointment, despair. In all the moments, his presence makes the difference.
Have you ever given much thought to how the presence of Jesus has become so very important to your Christian life? Or maybe how Jesus’s presence in daily life is even possible? The week leading up to Easter makes for an excellent time to meditate on questions like these. If not for the Easter resurrection, we would know not the daily, personal presence of our living, working, comforting Savior. In each of our mundane moments, we need a renewed sense of the importance and impact of his presence. In an effort to fuel our meditation this Easter week, consider with me four ways the immediate presence of Jesus makes the difference in the ordinary moments.
His presence is our ultimate hope in a hostile world.
Do you remember in the book of Exodus, when Moses led Israel out of bondage and through the wilderness? Not only had they suffered the utter hostility of Pharaoh’s oppression, but in every step of their journey they faced a hostile world, not much unlike the world in which we live. It was a world of hardship, temptation, struggle, failure, and danger. Moses pleaded with God for a sign of his favor on their journey. God replied, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest” (Exodus 33:14 ESV). Moses immediately knew the importance of God’s presence. In fact, he said in return, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. . . . Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?” (Exodus 33:16). Indeed it was the presence of God which made all the difference in their hostile world. And it makes all the difference in ours. By his Easter resurrection, Jesus proves himself to be our Emmanuel—God with us—forever.
His presence is our reason to get up in the morning.
Do you remember in the Gospel of Luke, when two men were walking down a road to the village of Emmaus? The men were gravely disappointed following Jesus’s death—as were the rest of his disciples. Demoralized and despairing, they panicked about their lives. Where would they go? What would they do? How would they survive if the same authorities who killed Jesus came for them? What reason did they have to get up in the morning? Their King was dead and gone. Suddenly, in some kind of disguise, Jesus walked with them on the road. He unfolded the Scriptures from Moses forward, and explained why he had suffered and died. As the sun set, the men asked Jesus to lodge with them. Seated at the table, Jesus broke bread. By some natural or supernatural effect, they recognized Jesus and were shocked that he was alive and present. Sort of like a magician, Jesus vanished from their sight, and their hearts were set aflame. Despite the late hour and the dark road, they got up and sprinted back to Jerusalem to herald the resurrection news which changed their lives in one strangely magical moment: “The Lord has truly been raised” (Luke 24:34). Just as his presence motivated them to sprint back that night, his presence gave them and gives us incredible motivation to get up in the morning.
His presence is our gladness.
Do you remember what happened right after Jesus appeared and vanished before the two men in Emmaus? Jesus reversed his vanishing act. After the men found the rest of Jesus’s disciples locked in a house, they told the disciples the amazing truth that Jesus was again alive and present. Then, in another astounding display of power, Jesus appeared before them in the house. They were startled and frightened and thought they were seeing a ghost. I don’t blame them. To them as well, Jesus explained the reason he had to live, die, and had then risen again (Luke 24:47). His presence in that room filled them with joy and amazement. In their darkest moment, his presence made them glad. What about you? Are you glad about his resurrected presence? You can be.
His presence is our assurance of past forgiveness and of future grace.
Do you remember what Paul says in Romans 6? He says our sin earns our death. Just as a job earns wages of money or other benefits, “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23)—spiritual, eternal, terrible, death. And so Jesus died in our place, for our sin, which earns us death. But think of it: if we died from our sins, and Jesus died for our sins, then we’d be just dead with him. In God’s plan, Jesus would not only die for us, but rise again for us. He rose again to be with us, to keep us, and remain ever-present for us. When we celebrate the forgiveness of our sin through the resurrection on Easter morning, we truly celebrate his presence. He has finished his redemptive work, granting us forgiveness, and he will remain with us always as our present, living Savior. Into the future the presence of Jesus will deliver as a flowing river a constant and unending supply of grace.
So this week, take time to get reacquainted with Easter by ruminating on Jesus’s presence, brought to you in the power of his resurrection. In all the moments—big and small—his presence makes all the difference.