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 | By Sister Ann Shields

Lent is Over, Here’s How to Focus on Easter

Before you read any further, go and get your Bible. First, read John 20: 1-29. If you don’t have a Bible, go out and buy one. It can be a small and inexpensive one. You need God’s word at hand all the time. You need access to it to learn to understand God’s mind and God’s perspective in all our daily personal relationships and activities. It is especially important during the time of major feasts because God wants us to be able to see how each feast we celebrate has a very particular message for us.

The greatest feast we celebrate is Easter. This is the celebration of God’s love for us. He was treated as the worst of human criminals and died a horrible death on a cross in order that the debt of our sin be paid and that we, because of his sacrificial act of love, become genuinely and truly sons and daughters of God. We have royal status.

By his death on the cross, he proved his love for us and gave us the gift of eternal life. Do you believe: 1) Who he is and 2) Who you are? You are known to him, loved by him, raised to a dignity you could never attain by yourself and given a future full of hope – because he rose triumphant from the grave. You will also if you put your faith in him and follow him. Do you believe that?

It is a decision of the will. By his grace, I decide to believe his word and what he did for me on the cross. It is not a fairy tale – not some symbolic story. It is the most real action ever done on this earth – by God – for you and me.

Look at the first 10 verses of Chapter 20 in the Gospel of John. The most logical conclusion Peter and John could have gotten from the evidence would have been that someone stole Jesus’ body, but verse eight tells us John looked and believed. He made a decision to believe God’s promises and not to believe a possible conclusion from the physical evidence. He didn’t operate on the level of information from his senses, but chose to believe what Jesus had promised them. Peter saw the evidence of the missing body and all Scripture says is that he and John went back to their homes.

Don’t you wish you could have heard their conversation as they returned home: John believing Jesus had risen and Peter, uncertain, still sifting the evidence in his mind? These two disciples represent most of us. Put yourself for a moment in their place. Which of the two represents most the way you would have reacted? What would you have done if you had gone to the tomb that day?

In verses 11-18, we see the beauty of a woman’s love for her Lord. She just wanted to care for his body – to render the last act of service she could do for the one who had forgiven her so much; the one she loved so much. When a man asks her why she is weeping, she responds, “They have taken away my Lord and I do not know where they have laid him.” Then wonder of wonders, the stranger says her name. She suddenly recognizes that voice of love and mercy and kindness. Jesus right then makes her the first evangelist: “Go to my brethren and say to them ...” Mary does and tells the disciples, “I have seen the Lord ...” Faith leads to evangelization (announcing the good news).

Verses 19-24 tell the disciples’ experience as the Lord appeared to them and later the remarkable and compassionate revelation to the doubting Thomas. No matter how far we have strayed or how little we believe, if we come to him asking for faith, he will restore and heal and make well for the glory of his Father.

To my regular readers, may the Easter grace be one of deepening faith in Jesus, our Lord, our Savior and our brother. May your faith increase day-by-day. To those who perhaps have picked up this magazine for the first time, or for those with little or no faith, may the abundant life-giving grace of Easter penetrate your heart and give you a new hope in the Lord. It is a hope that will not disappoint. Happy, blessed Easter – all 50 days until Pentecost.

Sister Ann Shields is a renowned author and a member of the Servants of God’s Love. Questions can be addressed to Sister Ann Shields, Renewal Ministries, 230 Collingwood, Suite 240, Ann Arbor, MI 48103