This Holy Week, the world was stunned by a catastrophic fire at Notre-Dame in Paris. Like everyone else, I was deeply touched by this loss. But I was even more surprised that within two days, nearly $1 billion was pledged to the rebuilding effort. Is it possible that in the wake of this tragedy, many might be stimulated to consider anew the central importance of the vibrant Christian faith that secular Europe seems to have largely left behind?
If so, that would be typical of God, because he specializes in turning great tragedy into victory for the salvation of humanity. That is exactly what he did in the first Holy Week.
To those who loved Jesus, his crucifixion was an unadulterated tragedy. “We had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel,” one of his followers said (Luke 24:21).
But their deepest desperation would soon be turned into celebration.
Even though Jesus had prepared his followers for what was coming, they did not understand. When the women went to his tomb and did not find a body, they were confused. When angels appeared to them, they were scared. But the turning point came when “they remembered his words” (Luke 24:8).
The two followers of Jesus traveling to Emmaus had already heard the report of angels declaring that Jesus was alive (Luke 24:23), yet they were still downcast (v. 17). Not until Jesus, after rebuking their foolishness and explaining the prophecies of Scripture, broke bread with them were their eyes opened (Luke 24:30-31).
When Jesus appeared to his still-frightened disciples in Luke 24:36-49, he gave them four messages that moved them from fear to joy. First, to demonstrate his bodily resurrection, he displayed his wounds and ate fish. Second, he showed how his death and resurrection fulfilled the Old Testament. Third, he commissioned them to preach repentance and proclaim the forgiveness of sins to all nations. Fourth, he promised that they would be “clothed with power from on high” by the Holy Spirit.
I can understand why, in the immediate aftermath of the resurrection, Jesus’ followers were still confused. But we have no excuse—for we know that Jesus is risen from the dead and has been transforming the lives of those who serve him ever since!
Recently I experienced shock and agony upon learning that my godson, musical director at a Christian school in Indonesia, had died of a stroke at age 40. All who knew him were stunned, but his school community overflowed with love and compassion for his wife and daughters. Their moving, even joy-filled tribute was possible only because the resurrection has decisively conquered all sin, suffering, and even death for those who believe.
As we celebrate this Easter, may we recognize Jesus’ power to turn our most depressing moments into victory as well, and may we emboldened to communicate his gospel of redemption to all.
Bp Efraim M. Tendero
Secretary General / CEO
World Evangelical Alliance