Zechariah’s prophecy addresses Israel’s misery after destruction and captivity. The famous call to Jerusalem, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion” (Zechariah 9:9), is set among predictions of calamity for those who have acted unjustly. The prophet assures the people of God’s persistent love and care, manifest in, and despite, historic reversals. Things will get better. The way to restoration does not sound easy or even pleasant, however. God promises joy, but not at the expense of avoiding truth about how dire our circumstances may be. Reversal implies that we needed it.
The ultimate reversal is the resurrection of Jesus, which overcomes the despair of his friends at the first Easter. As three later “daughters” of God’s promise confront their own desolation in Zion at the tomb, God’s capacity to overcome our deepest adversities is shown in the transformation of their grief—eventually.
The women are afraid at first, not overjoyed. Mark’s version of the story, which ends at 16:8, leaves us with a reminder that transformation is not the same as cockeyed optimism or a “glass half full” mindset. The women left the tomb in fear. We know that their fear was turned to joy, not as a “happy ending” to the gospel but rather as an extraordinary new beginning. This is what God offers for our sorrow, our need, our brokenness, too, and the world’s.
Is there a difference between optimism and hope?
Where do we need to hear God’s promise to bring justice and to overcome oppression?
Risen Christ, you overcame death to set us free; raise us up from despair to hope, and make us signs of your power and love for all. Amen.