The words of the angel on that first Easter Day, “He has risen! He is not here” (Mark 16:6) are full of comfort and hope. That is especially true as Christians celebrate Easter in 2020, under Covid-19 restrictions. As we are physically absent from one another, the angel’s words show us that there is a surprising comfort in Jesus’ own absence. “He is not here”: Jesus is absent from the tomb, absent from the place where his crucified body was laid, and so absent from our own death-bound world.
At first glance, that may seem to be little comfort to us–but in fact, Jesus’ absence is very good news for us. It means that Jesus is risen from the dead and now exalted above the heavens. He is victorious over death, and one day our own bodies will be raised from death to be like his glorious body. It should fill us with hope and longing.
Yet Christ’s absence is not the whole story. In another very important sense Christ is truly present with us, in our daily lives and in our suffering, by his Spirit and his word.
I speak with my colleague Peter Orr, author of Exalted Above the Heavens: The risen and ascended Christ, about the comfort and hope we can draw this Easter from the risen Christ’s absence and presence, and why both of these truths matter deeply for us today.