How happy can Easter really be for someone who has lost a loved one?
How happy was the first Easter for Thomas? He had just lost a loved one and Easter was one of the saddest days of his life.
While his best friends were giddy with astonished joy as they related the story of Jesus appearing to them in the upper room, Thomas was wrapped in sorrow.
“Peace be with you,” Jesus had told the disciples before showing them his wounds.
Imagine their joy at spending time with the resurrected Jesus.
But Thomas had not been with them. He’d missed out and Thomas was so unhappy that he went down in history as Doubting Thomas.
“We have seen the Lord,” his fellow disciples had told him, their faces undoubtedly split wide open by huge smiles, their eyes alight and sparkling with happiness—just as ours might be at the end of an Easter morning service, wishing happy Easter to all we see.
But how happy could Easter have possibly been to Thomas, who had lost Jesus to the hammer and nails of the crucifixion?
“Happy Easter” was just two words that meant nothing to him.
Or, worse, they rubbed salt in his wounds of sorrow.
“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe,” Thomas had replied.
I might have spoken those same words if I had been standing in Thomas’ shoes.
But Jesus appeared again and this time Thomas was there. A week later, Jesus gave Thomas a chance to touch his wounds and “Happy Easter” suddenly became two words that meant everything to him.
Thomas joined his friends as resurrection witnesses, trying to convince others that Jesus had risen, that “Happy Easter” could pour its meaning into the deepest of our earthly sorrows—even into the place deep inside our heart where we mourn the loss of someone we love most dearly.
Easter matters because resurrection is promised to us all. Easter would indeed be a hollow mockery to our human hearts if it were just something experienced by Jesus alone.
If Easter was just a Jesus event it would be pointless. God rose from the dead? Big deal. But Easter is not just a Jesus event. Easter is a you and me event. Easter is an event our departed loved ones have already experienced for themselves. Jesus said so. Some day, we shall join them. Jesus said so.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me, that you may also be where I am,” Jesus tells us in the 14th chapter of the Gospel of John.
There are days and nights and weeks and months when our tears of sorrow will make it hard for us to read those words but there are no tears on Earth that can wash the promise of those words away.
Can I prove it? Probably not. But doesn’t the world—don’t you and I—desperately need something far more wondrous than anything I can prove? That is precisely what God’s love has given us. But it is okay to doubt it.
If we doubt then we are in good company. We are locked in that upper room in all of our sorrow with the disciples. And Jesus is coming to touch the mark of our deep wounds. Jesus doesn’t doubt our wounds. He knows we all have them. That is why he is on the way.