Our God likes to deal in paradoxes and the one I’ve been trying to wrap my mind around lately is the paradox of the now and the not yet. In the strictest sense, this term refers to the tensions of the kingdom of God: it is simultaneously here in the present and yet it is also something to be fulfilled when Jesus comes again. Jesus has won the victory over sin and death yet suffering still exists. But how are we supposed to live in that tension of the now and the not yet? And how do we support those around us that haven’t seen the now and are just living in the not yet?
What are you supposed to do when you’re disappointed? How are you supposed to respond when you keep asking for healing, prayers, and miracles but they don’t happen? (I know that the answer is oftentimes not yet instead of no. But there’s no guarantee that the answer will ever be anything other than a no. I don’t know about you, but my faith quickly wanes in the discouragement of a hope deferred). It is easy to be discouraged when you live in the not yet part of the kingdom.
But how do you live in the now of the kingdom when you are surrounded by the sorrowful not yet? Pope John Paul II said, “Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and Hallelujah is our song.” But how are we supposed to be an Easter people when we live in the reality of Good Friday? The sin and sorrow of the not yet part of the kingdom still very much exists and trying to manufacture joy devalues the intensity of very real suffering. How do we live out joy, peace, freedom, and hope when the hopelessness, suffering, grieving, injustice, and sorrow permeate our world at a microscopic level?
For me, Good Friday looks like unanswered prayers, struggling relationships, chronic illness, unrelenting annoyances and inconveniences that wear you down day by day. What do we do when we can’t even see the hope of the now because the now is still the not yet?
I sometimes imagine what it must have felt like for Jesus when He woke up on that Sunday morning. Perhaps it felt almost normal. The birds started singing their morning rituals and maybe Jesus could hear them from where He lay. Maybe Jesus was cold and sore from His body lying on a cold rock all weekend. Maybe instead of shaking off sleep like he normally did He had to shake off the stiffness of death before rolling away the stone.
The not yet fulfilled in the now
I love that the first thing Jesus does after leaving the tomb is to comfort Mary. Mary is still living in the now of Good Friday. Everyone He loves is still living in the not yet of the Resurrection. I think it would have been easy to try and avoid reliving the suffering of Good Friday and just focus on the good news of being alive.
Jesus could have sent the Holy Spirit to the disciples and just gloried in His return to the Father from the suffering of humanity, allowing the Resurrection to be an individual experience outside of relationship with Him. Instead, He lets Mary grieve before revealing Himself to her. The God of Easter stepped out of the grave – fully alive and powerful – and immediately stepped once again into the suffering of Good Friday for His loved ones.
Jesus never judges anyone for mourning, being afraid, or not believing His Resurrection. He steps in and allows the disciples to touch Him and to cling to Him as their sorrow and skepticism turn into hope and joy.
Maybe that’s what it means to be an Easter people: to be willing to step into the sorrow and suffering of Good Friday. To sit and be still with someone as they’re still experiencing the present reality of the not yet. To be the Jesus that walks out of the grave still covered in wounds, reminding us that the kingdom is in our relationships, not just in the objective joy of the Resurrection. To be a physical reminder that there is a tomorrow coming where the not yet will be fully fulfilled in the now.
Rebecca constantly strives to practically love people around her. She also loves fuzzy socks, her five sisters, pink and orange alstroemerias, calligraphy, and sour gummy worms.