An Easter weekend reflection
For those who loved Him, the day after Jesus’s death must have seemed interminable. Reeling from shock at the injustice and brutality they had just witnessed, their grief and sense of isolation would have been acute.
Many who love Him today across the Middle East and North Africa know the forces of violence and oppression only too well.
Cities like Raqqa – where SAT-7 and LFAN teamed up to record the first on-the-ground footage since Islamic State militants left – lie in ruins. Their shattered buildings echo the shattered lives of their inhabitants, including trafficked women and girls who were traded for varying prices, depending on their youth and perceived beauty.
Before encountering Jesus, Mary Magdalene’s life had also been bruising, and defined by rejection. In John’s Gospel, we read of her weeping outside His empty tomb. She believes she has lost her Lord a second time, once on the day of His death and now again as she fears His body has been stolen.
Through her tears, she notices a figure she takes to be a gardener. But at the sound of His voice speaking her name, there is immediate recognition. The intensity of her unrestrained joy is clear as she clings to the newly risen Jesus.
Today, like Mary, we celebrate.
The ultimate price was paid – not for our exploitation, but for our freedom. The figure in the garden with the scarred hands represents a healing and a hope bolder and more beautiful than we could ever have imagined.
Like Jesus, His people carry scars. Over the course of Lent, you’ve heard the voices of believers across the region tell of their suffering, share their faith, and show their inspiring courage and ability to forgive. You’ve heard how SAT-7 programmes are helping to shine light in the darkest places, and bring the voice of the God they love to millions of viewers.
It is clear that, where hope seems dead and life extinguished, Easter power is at work.
After months of terror in his home town of Tabeka, Abdel Hakeem has told us how “life is returning”.
Lily Malky of Resurrection Church, Beirut, has reported how people from over 285 Life Groups are uniting to meet the practical needs of the Syrians, Iraqis and Lebanese in their communities.
Moroccan Pastor Rachid has shared with us that, despite restrictions, there is a spiritual awakening in North Africa.
Today is a day for heartfelt thanksgiving and bold prayers.
Let’s ask God to replace brokenness with wholeness, fear with faith, and isolation with deep connection.
Let’s pray that the whispered worship of secret believers would ring out across the Middle East and North Africa. May many voices, including our own, join with them and grow in number and volume and passion.
We are the people of Good Friday and the children of the resurrection. Together, with our family across the region, let’s raise our Easter song.
May it resound from the mountains and echo in heaven.
“Then young women will dance and be glad,
young men and old as well.
I will turn their mourning into gladness;
I will give them comfort and joy instead
Image: Olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jerusalem (Ian Scott/Flickr.com)