Your new-look ADVANCE
The COVID-19 Opportunity
Let's Be Transformed
By Missions Director, Stephen Baxter
Well, I've never experienced an Easter like that before!
Jenny and I had plans to celebrate it with our daughter in Paris, on her YWAM base. Instead, we were in isolation at home, putting together online Easter services. Not surprisingly, we are disappointed and disorientated. The COVID-19 crisis and the world's response has affected us all.
Despite my feelings, I am greatly encouraged.
Each year, Tasmanian Baptists have a theme, and this year we chose Emmanuel - God with us. How appropriate for this moment, and how important to be reminded.
A good reminder
It's so easy to slip into thinking the Easter holiday is about escaping life with all its pain, confusion and death. I can be tempted to dream of being whisk us away from this godforsaken planet and taken to heaven - an imaginary world constructed out of my hopes and fears.
This Easter, however, I've been challenged a fresh way to appreciate how the death and resurrection of Jesus is much more profound than that.
Jesus honours what it means to be human
Easter does not reject life in all its challenges, rather it validates it. The Son of God became human, and says that humanity is okay and our lives matter. By experiencing all our experiences, Jesus honours what it means to be human. And that includes life's difficulties - our suffering, pain, humiliation, shame and death. Profoundly, Jesus didn't try to avoid al these challenges, in fact he embraced them all.
To the Death!
Despite the promise found in Revelation of a day where there will be "no more death or mourning or crying or pain," (Rev 21:4) God does not save me from my challenges and trials I face now. Rather, God saves me through them. This is what Jesus experienced. In death he identified with me in all my doubts, darkness and despair. In resurrection he proclaims the victory at the other end of death.
When the Son of God embraced humanity and lived a very human life, he modelled the way I am to live in this world. He is, as it says in Hebrews, "the pioneer and perfecter of faith". (Heb 12:2) He is the one who has gone before us and laid the path. In it he demonstrated that death has no sting, it is only the necessary precursor to resurrection.
The Pathway to New Life
In fact, death is the pathway to my transformation. It will be so on that day when this body finally retires, but it is also true every day. In all the myriad of 'small deaths' I experience each day, I can be confident that as I take up my cross and follow Jesus, the other side of the death is resurrection.
So, rather than give me a ticket of leave from death, Easter takes death and transforms it. It no longer has control over me. I have no need to fear it. Death is the way to transformation and life.
Easter takes death and transforms it
Amid the isolation and challenges the COVID-19 crisis presents us, there is a profound and unique opportunity. As the apostle Paul wrote, "I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!" (Phil 3:10-11 NLT).
I encourage us all to join Paul in his desire that at we may know and experience resurrection power each day as we live through this profound moment.