Not! If you are familiar with the classic children’s book, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” then you already know how this story will end. The COVID-19 can no more steal Easter from us than the Grinch could succeed in stealing Christmas from all those Whos down in Who-ville. Some things just can’t be done. And stealing/defeating Easter is one of those things. Not even the dreaded COVID-19 virus of 2020 is any kind of a match for the empty tomb!
The Grinch did succeed in stealing a whole lot of stuff from all those Whos, but Christmas still came. It came without trees and trinkets and treats. Likewise, Easter is here, arriving this morning, right on time – without bonnets and bunnies and baskets. Those things are the trappings of Easter, but they are not Easter.
The cross and the empty tomb – that’s Easter, or Resurrection Sunday as it is more accurately called. The cross has not lost its power and the tomb remains empty to this day, because death was defeated once for all time on that very first Easter and nothing has changed since then, the tomb is still empty, death is still defeated.
Today, on this Easter day of 2020, we witness this virus of death attempting to take over a day that has always been a celebration of life. COVID-19 is no match for Easter and we will experience that truth today, each in our own way. Whether we “attend” church online, walk out into God’s wonderful world, or reach out to friends and neighbors in encouragement, the message of Easter is that life wins out over death in the end.
So, how ironic that today, on this day which has always been a celebration of eternal life in Christ, we have been engaging Death in a dual to the death and wondering who will win – COVID-19 or mankind? All around the globe, the COVID-19 virus has been terrorizing people in every nation, filling them with fear. Borders are closed around the world as people shelter in place, attempting to hide themselves from this enemy, perceived as all powerful.
In Matthew 10:28, Jesus told His disciples, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”
COVID-19 can kill the body, but it cannot kill the soul! It is a virus and like all other physical diseases, its power is limited to our physical bodies, it cannot touch our eternal souls. The empty tomb of Easter is our guarantee.
In Hosea 13:14 we learn of God’s plan to rescue us from death, put into place so long ago; “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. Where, O death, are your plagues? Where, O grave, is your destruction?”
Paul encouraged the believers at Corinth with these words in 1 Corinthians 15:53-56, “For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’ Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
This morning, I witnessed a bank of pure white, huge billowing clouds stretched out across an otherwise empty clear blue sky. I could not tear my eyes away from the simple brilliance of what was before me. Those clouds looked ready to receive royalty, they seemed to be waiting expectantly for the triumphal entry of the risen Savior, Jesus. Those clouds know what day this is!
“Look, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of Him. So shall it be! Amen.” (Revelation 1:7)
“At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And He will send His angels and gather His elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.” (Mark 13:26-27)
Today is Easter and COVID-19 has no power to change that. The churches may be empty on this Sunday which usually sees them filled with more people than at any other time, but the tomb is empty too and nothing can keep the celebration of eternal life in Christ from taking place today. I noticed violets growing up through cracks in the cement sidewalk today. Not even concrete could stop life from springing up out of the earth!
And so it is with the celebration of the empty tomb that is Easter. All creation is praising God today and we are invited to join in with them. We are invited to celebrate once again Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, triumphing over death, leaving the tomb empty and powerless.
“The angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; He has risen, just as He said. Come and see the place where He lay. Then go quickly and tell His disciples; He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see Him. Now I have told you.’ ” (Matthew 28:5-7)
Jesus, come back to life from the dead, defeating death, leaving the tomb empty, alive and sitting at the Father’s right hand making intercession for us continually, this is why we celebrate Easter. I especially like the words in Isaiah 25:6-9, which talk about death’s defeat and our God’s salvation –
“On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine – the best of meats and the finest of wines. On this mountain He will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; He will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; He will remove the disgrace of His people from all the earth. The Lord has spoken. In that day they will say, ‘Surely this is our God; we trusted in Him, and He saved us. This is the Lord, we trusted in Him; let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation.’ ”
Yes, “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24)
Rejoice! the tomb is empty! He is risen! Jesus Christ is risen indeed!
sincerely, Grace Day