Have you ever noticed those before and after pictures shown in popular magazines or on the T.V. info-commercials? Take Weight Watchers for example: on the left side you have the picture of the 300+ lb. man dressed in a sweatshirt and sweatpants. Not the most flattering photo. On the right side you have a picture of the same man but this time he’s 180 lbs. and dressed in a skimpy bathing suit. What a change! Or, how about that advertisement of the latest stain fighting formula? In the first picture, you have a garment that’s been stained with every stain imaginable: mud, wine, blueberry pie, or grape juice. What a mess! In the second picture however, that same garment is bright, clean & completely stain free!
Do you remember the “before Easter” picture of Jesus’ disciples? Before Easter the disciples often didn’t have a clue about Jesus’ saving mission. Before Easter Peter rebuked Jesus when he talked about his suffering and death. Before Easter the disciples selfishly fought with one another and argued about who was the greatest. Before Easter the disciples were weighed down with every kind of fear and anxiety imaginable. Some even denied they knew Jesus, while others simply ran away.
But oh, what a different picture we see after Easter! The results were pretty dramatic. No more hiding, no more denying, no more running away. The disciples now were willing to witness openly in Jerusalem, and even continued to witness under the threat of punishment and death. Even more, impetuous
Peter who once denied his Lord now boldly stood before crowds of people saying, “God has made this Jesus whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ!” Now, even threats of punishment and jail did not deter the disciples from telling the world the good news. Now, even when threatened, they confidently proclaimed, “We must obey God rather than men.” So full and complete was their Easter joy that nothing would stop them from making Christ known to whomever would listen.
If you were to post a before and after Easter picture of Jesus in your life, how would the two compare? Would you be able to see the difference? Would we still be living as if Easter never happened and Jesus was still in the grave? OR – like those disciples, would we discover that there really is such a thing as Easter joy! Would we discover that the Easter message really has made a difference in our lives?
Does this picture seem a little too optimistic? Oh sure, there might still be those times when our outward circumstances may be challenging. But then again we remember what God said through the apostle Paul; he tells us, “our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all!” And even though there may be those times that we feel alone and abandoned, we have Jesus own promise, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” Even though we may still feel fear we hear Jesus saying to us, “Don’t keep being afraid!” Why? “Because in my house are many mansions, and I go there to prepare a place for you, that you may be where I am!”
Bottom line, we know what that after picture of Easter looks like but unlike some of those before and after pictures that we see in advertising, the after picture of Easter isn’t a retouched photo. We’re never going to have to say, “It worked for them but not for me” because the after Easter picture that Jesus brought about did not depend on us. Instead, it depends on the finished work of the one who has already risen victorious from the grave! As the early Christians used to say – He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!