On Easter Sunday we sing “On this day the Lord has acted; we will rejoice and be glad in it” (Ps 118:24). In doing so, we announce the heart of the Good News: God has won the battle of all battles by raising Jesus from the dead. The religious and political leaders colluded to destroy this life that was an alternative to the status quo, but God could not be thwarted. On Easter, and the 50 days that follow, the Church announces the Good News that God has won the battle against the forces of death and invites the listener to live their lives in light of this victory. This victory makes it clear that the world is not governed by power hungry religious and political leaders and their powerless gods, but by the God of self-emptying love who will eventually bring into being a world where love reigns supreme.
This Good News is what ultimately changes lives because it addresses the core problem: where do we put our trust? Do we put our trust in the God of the Bible who brings life out of death, or do we give our obedience to the idols of a consumer culture that have no power over the forces of death? The consumer gods provide fleeting satisfaction. The God of Jesus Christ has the capacity to transform even the most hopeless situation. The psalmist put it like this: “Weeping may spend the night, but joy comes in the morning” (30.6).
The example of the life-changing power of this Good News that I know best comes from my own life. When I went to college, my identity was governed by the gods of success and accomplishment. Those gods deliver—until they don’t. Early on in my first year that approach was falling apart. Not only was I not very successful, but I was beginning to discover that such an approach to life isn’t very meaningful. However, relinquishing my trust in these gods wasn’t easy to do; it was a slow death. For three months, I was in the pit. While I was there someone in my dorm suggested that reading the Bible might be helpful. One night on the couch in the common room of the dorm, I read the Gospel of John from beginning to end (Why John? I don’t know). When I finished, something dramatic had happened. I had begun to discover that who I am is not what I accomplish. Who I am is a human being loved by God—full stop. The pathetic little gods I had worshiped were overthrown by the God who really is God. In that moment I began to experience what it means to be “born from above” (John 3: 3).
Since that initial encounter with the Good News, my ongoing challenge has been to allow this Good News to govern my whole life. In the beginning, the Good news mostly affected my capacity to love myself and my immediate neighbor; it was very personal. Overtime I began to see that my obedience to the alternative way of Jesus had larger social and political implications. I realized that obedience to Jesus was about fighting injustice, breaking down barriers that divide people, resisting political oppression, and working with others to help God bring into being a world where everyone can flourish.
The Good News of Easter has the power to liberate us from an oppressive life governed by impotent gods with no capacity to deliver; and it has the power set us free to be part of God’s life-changing mission in this world. This is exactly what Paul announced to the Galatians when he wrote: “For freedom Christ has set us free” (Gal. 5:1). Let us live our lives under the gracious rule of God and let us announce this life-changing possibility to others.