By Bob Hostetler
It’s a busy time filled with Easter baskets, Easter bunnies, egg coloring, egg rolling, egg hunts, new clothes, church activities, cooking, eating, and more. By the time our celebration of Jesus’ resurrection is over, however, we may feel more dead than alive. Worse, the beauty of the resurrection can end up feeling no more real than the synthetic grass in our Easter baskets.
It doesn’t have to be that way. The annual celebration of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead should revive us and—most of all—honor the one who died and rose again.
So how can we more intentionally honor the resurrected one at Easter? We might take our cue from a couple of Jesus’ followers on the first Easter Sunday.
Luke 24 records an incident that happened late on the day Jesus rose from the grave. Two of his followers—a man named Cleopas and another disciple—trudged homeward after Passover and tried to make sense of the momentous events of those past few days. It would turn out to be probably the most memorable walk of their lives—and significant enough to earn a mention in Luke’s careful account of Jesus’ life. From their experience on that Sunday stroll, we can pick up a few tips for honoring Christ at Easter.
Walk with Jesus
The journey from Jerusalem to Emmaus would have taken between two and three hours, depending on the travelers’ pace. Since they were apparently deep in conversation, these disciples’ pace was probably slower than someone walking alone. So it is likely not only that other travelers occasionally passed them on the road, but also that Jesus didn’t need to perform a miracle to overtake them and fulfill his earlier promise that “where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them” (Matthew 18:20).
Joining other travelers for company and conversation helped to pass the time, and it was a fairly common occurrence in that culture, as travel was slow. The text doesn’t say whether Jesus joined them early or late on their journey but simply that he “came up and walked along with them” (Luke 24:15). We may infer, however, that the two travelers enjoyed hours—not minutes—of Jesus’ company because “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” (v. 27).
Can you imagine? A Resurrection Sunday school lesson taught by Jesus himself! And yet, somehow, “they were kept from recognizing him” (v. 16). In Mark’s Gospel, an earlier account than Luke’s, he probably refers to this incident when he wrote, “Jesus appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking in the country” (Mark 16:12). The Gospel writers offer no more detail than that. It is a mystery.
As he did that first Resurrection Sunday, Jesus draws near and walks with us. We may not recognize him, but he is there. One of the ways to make this Easter meaningful is to open our eyes to his presence and intentionally walk with Jesus. There are numerous ways to do this. You might take the time to read the crucifixion and resurrection accounts in the Gospels or watch a movie such as The Passion of the Christ, The Son of God, or The Gospel of John. You could attend a special worship service or Easter program. Or you might find your own unique way to walk with Jesus this Easter.
Invite Jesus In
The account continues: “As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, ‘Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.’ So he went in to stay with them” (Luke 24:28, 29).
At first glance it looks as though Jesus employed a ruse to coax an invitation out of his traveling companions. But there is no reason to think he had to resort to deception. The simple truth is more likely this: Jesus is a gentleman. He will not barge in. He never imposes himself on anyone. He waits to be invited.
The most impactful way to honor Jesus at Easter is to invite him in to take an active part your daily life. After all, the traditions and pageantry of Easter are meaningless without the presence of the risen Lord himself. You may invite him in with simple words like the disciples in Emmaus—“Stay with me”—or you might echo the poetry of hymn writer Fanny Crosby: “Come in, come in and dwell with me, I yield my all to Thee; My heart, my life, henceforth are Thine; Come in and dwell with me.”
Receive His Grace
Jesus’ companions didn’t recognize him, even when they opened their home to him. But everything changed when they sat down to eat: “When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight” (Luke 24:30, 31).
It is a strange detail. It was their home, their table, and presumably their food. But Luke says that Jesus handed out the bread. Maybe that is because “every good and perfect gift” comes through him anyway (James 1:17). In any case, when Jesus blessed and broke the bread, they recognized him.
So try this Easter to do as they did—receive his grace as easily, as freely, and as frequently as you open your hands to take and your mouth to eat. Accept God’s forgiveness. Feel his favor. Receive everything—from new clothes to a family dinner or a smile from a stranger—as a gift from him and an opportunity to find him in the giving.
Share the News
Cleopas and his companion had just made the seven-mile trip home from Jerusalem. Yet when they recognized that it was the risen Jesus who had visited them, they “returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, ‘It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon’” (Luke 24:33, 34). There is no better way to honor the resurrected Christ than to go wherever you can go and do whatever you can do to share the news—to find ways to say to friends, neighbors, family members, classmates, and coworkers, “It is true! The Lord has risen!”
One of the simplest ways to do this, of course, is to invite someone to worship with you on Easter. Or include someone in your family meal on Resurrection Sunday. Send a card, or take the news to someone in a nursing home or a prison cell. However you do it, make this an Easter to remember by sharing the shocking, earth-shaking news that is proclaimed around the world on this morning: “He is risen; he is risen indeed!”
Bob Hostetler is a writer whose thirty-eight books include The Red Letter Life and The Red Letter Prayer Life.