Easter: A Bittersweet Season

Bittersweet. An odd combination of sorrow and celebration. That is the best word I have found to describe this Easter season. Those of us who are in Christ are simultaneously experiencing the tragic effects of living in a fallen world, while rejoicing in our future hope. We understand that this world is not our home, yet it’s where we find ourselves during this brief moment in time. In a time of year typically celebrated together with family by hunting beautifully decorated eggs, eating lovingly prepared meals, and joyously celebrating our risen Savior, many now find themselves isolated, alone, and longing for the warm embrace of loved ones. The fallen nature of even the natural world necessitates physical separation from family and friends this Easter.

The world as a whole desperately longs for healing. Scientists all over the planet are racing to find a cure for a virus that has left sickness and death in its wake. But long before COVID-19, the world was already ill. Jesus came to earth as the first and only frontline response to the pandemic of sin that has separated us from our creator since the very first transgression. He is still our only rescue from that horrible ailment. As such, He understands our pain, and provides the antidote that gives us hope. Isaiah 53:5 tells us “But he was pierced because of our rebellion, crushed because of our iniquities; punishment for our peace was on him, and we are healed by his wounds.”

I read recently that even unpleasant, bitter tastes serve a purpose in helping to identify poison in the things we might attempt to ingest. The same article indicated that sweet tastes help us identify energy-rich, beneficial nutrients. If we apply this physical principle to our spiritual lives, we need both bitterness and sweetness in our lives. The bitter times remind us that we live in a fallen, sinful world and cause us to long for the hope of eternity. The sweet times compel us to express gratitude for all our Heavenly Father has bestowed upon us. I believe we are living in the tension between these two necessary flavors of life right now.

As I read over the events of the very first Holy Week described in scripture, the words leave a bittersweet taste behind. Jesus knew full well what events lay ahead of Him as He prepared to drink the bitter, poisonous cup of death. He was completely aware that it was only by consuming this cup prepared for Him by the Father that we could reap the sweet, life-giving benefits of forgiveness. In my mind’s eye, I juxtapose the ugliness of the cross, arguably the most brutal execution known to man, against the beauty of redemption accomplished once and for all by our Savior and Lord.

As we consider our current most unusual Easter season, may we be encouraged by the accomplished work of Christ on the cross. The words of scripture in 1 Peter 5:10 assure us that “The God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, establish, strengthen, and support you after you have suffered a little while.” My prayer is that God would use the bittersweet flavor of these days to cause us to hunger all the more for fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ, and ultimately with God Himself by drawing near to Him to answer the deepest needs of our hearts.