For many Easter is a time for holidays. To get away from it all, just to relax, or enjoy activities. Many travel, we are warned that holiday roads are busy highways and need safe and careful drivers. For others, Easter is also a holy time, a time of Holy days and festivals central to faith, a time to consider and celebrate.
There are many significant pathways and roads for us to travel on the journey of Easter. There is the Palm Sunday road on which Jesus and his friends travelled on the way to Jerusalem for the Passover. Word of his teaching and miracles had spread. Symbolically, he chose to ride on a donkey, the vehicle of a king coming with a message of peace. Crowds flocked to welcome the procession. They waved palm branches, scattering them across the way, and shouted their greetings in symbolic words, “Hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” But danger lurked in the cheering throng. Watching were those ready to arrest him, but not just then, because of his popularity.
After his arrest in the Garden, his denial by his friends, his trial and condemnation to death despite his innocence, came the road to Golgotha – the hill of skulls – where criminals were put to death; sadly a well-worn track. Jesus, lashed and bruised, unable to carry the heavy wooden cross, stumbles. Simon of Cyrene is compelled by soldiers to carry it for him. In the crowd somewhere, his friends, anonymous, look on. His distraught mother and a beloved disciple are close by.
There are other Roads of Easter, travelled after the discovery of the empty tomb. On the Road to Emmaus, two friends walk along discussing the events of the day and reported sightings of Jesus are joined by a traveller. Walking with him, they were strangely affected by his presence. As it is towards evening they invite him to dine with them and, over supper, they recognise him as Jesus.
There is the Road to Damascus. Saul, a fierce opponent of the early Christians, is travelling down the road with letters of authority to arrest his followers and stamp out his message once and for all. He too has an experience which changes his life forever. He becomes Paul the Apostle.
Significant too are the Roman roads, masterpieces of engineering skill which reached out to the whole of the Roman Empire. Along these travelled the apostles to spread the Good News, and on from there it spread across the seas, over deserts, later by air to many lands. Some were thrown to the lions in the colosseum, martyred for their faith, such was their conviction. Many more followed down the centuries.
The story of the world community called the Church attests to the power of the Easter story.
All the Roads of Easter form into one great highway. A ‘Highway of Hope’ for us and for the world. How important is this message, where road-side crosses mark makeshift memorials for those senselessly killed at Easter. For war-ravished communities, where death is a daily occurrence, innocents are murdered, families destroyed and where there is little hope for the future. At Easter God comprehends and confronts the suffering and sorrows, griefs and tragedies of the human condition, and all evil in the world, head-on.
In troubled times the holy days of Easter bring me back to the Highway of Hope and remind me God is not defeated.