So Easter comes with all its glory and sense of victory. Victory over all that enslaves us and prevents our flourishing. Victory over sin and death. Victory over the powers of darkness.
But this is not triumphalism as you might expect from a victorious army general or politician. No swaggering and vain glory. Rather, Jesus’ victory is seen in the garden when he lovingly calls Mary by her name, or in the Upper Room where his first word is “Peace”, or on the road to Emmaus where Jesus walks alongside two disciples and they only realise who he is when he breaks bread with them, or when he calls to the disciples from the shore and then shares a fish BBQ with them, or at the Ascension when he leaves the disciples in the act of blessing them.
We can, of course, sing with fervour the wonderful Easter hymns about victory:
Jesus lives! To him the throne over all the world is given....
Triumphant in his glory now, his sceptre ruleth all...
But while we hold that vision, indeed reality, of his victory in our heads, we also know that the world still awaits the consummation of that victory. We still live and operate in a world which is far from that vision. This is a world where a vicious virus can kill thousands, a world where people encounter danger of many kinds, a world where hate is never far below the surface, a world where faith falters or is rejected.
The virus brings home to us the subtlety and mystery of Christ’s victory. Like so many others we ask the questions voiced in the lovely hymn: Thy kingdom come, O God.
Where is thy reign of peace and purity and love? When shall all hatred cease, as in the realms above?
Our voices inevitably cry out: “We pray thee, Lord, arise, and come in thy great might...” That will happen in God’s own time, but Christ’s victory is not triumphalist. It never was!