But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.
From the days of my early childhood Easter pushed the envelope of credibility. Even if you could get your mind around Santa being pulled by reindeer on a one-night global tour, there was something about the notion of a big rabbit delivering baskets and eggs – the same eggs you colored the day before – that struck me as slightly bizarre. The chocolate part was a good idea, I always thought, and still do.
What I liked best about the whole peculiar routine were those large eggs made of hardened sugar, decorated elaborately, with one end open so you could look in – and inside the egg was a magical miniature world; tiny trees and houses, children playing, sometimes a horse or a cow. I was always fascinated by that alternate world but embarrassed to admit it. Dreamy escapism was not highly valued in my home of origin.
I now understand that that alternative world is not a bad metaphor for the message of Easter; an invitation to live in a new reality, a world in which the dead don’t stay dead and even the most gruesome events become a force for life. That is an idea so big, so earth-shattering, the most eloquent can only stutter about it, or stand in reverent silence – which is exactly how this first story of the first Easter tells it.
Jesus, an itinerant rabbi from Galilee, came to Jerusalem for Passover and five days after his arrival was arrested, tried in a hurried kangaroo court arranged by the religious and political authorities, convicted, sentenced, executed and buried – all very efficiently. The crowd that welcomed him on Sunday turned on him. His friends abandoned him fearing for their own lives. So he died alone – except for the women, the only ones to stay with him.
The Romans made sure he was dead before sundown on Friday when the Jewish Sabbath began and then turned his body over to a local – who buried him in his own garden.
Saturday is the Sabbath, a quiet day. And then at dawn, on the first day of the week, three of the women who were there as he died showed up at the tomb. They wanted to pay final respects, anoint the body with oils and spices. They were focused on the task at hand. Their concern was pragmatic. There was a large stone covering the tomb and they weren’t sure they could move it.
What they found when they arrived was disconcerting to say the least. The stone was already rolled away. It would have been very disturbing, but what happened next was terrifying. Fearing the worst – that someone had stolen the body – they peered in and were startled to encounter not a dead body, but a young man who said, of all things, “Do not be alarmed – he isn’t here – he has been raised – go tell Peter and his disciples that he is going ahead of you to Galilee.”
Galilee? Why there? Why not march back into the Temple and show those Romans who has the power now? Why not Rome, where he could lead a grand processional to the emperor’s throne and take his rightful seat? But Galilee …? That’s just a rolling hillside of tiny peasant towns of little consequence.
Except for the fact that it’s home for them. That’s where they live, have families, work and play. Galilee is daily routine. That’s where the risen Lord promises to meet them. What an intriguing suggestion – that the risen Christ comes to us, not in places we expect him, structures we have made for him – religious tradition and rites, liturgies, creeds – churches, or even halls of power. He promises to be where we live and work and play. He promises to bring hope and life and rebirth and love and new possibilities into our lives at their most human and most ordinary. He promises to bring the power of love and creativity and new possibility into our life situation whatever it is.
Distinguished scholar Walter Brueggemann says – Easter is “not only truth disclosed, but it is life disclosed. Because of Easter,” Brueggeman says, “I can come out from behind my desk, my stethoscope, my uniform, my competence, my credentials, my fears – to meet life a little more boldly.”
That’s what Easter is about – stepping out from whatever we are hiding behind and meeting life more boldly, more hopefully, more confidently because in this person named Jesus, the Christ, God has overcome the power of death, brought new life, and promises to meet us right where we live.
Jesus Christ is Risen!
Lift in prayer today
All the ways we see that “Christ is Risen”
in Charlotte and the world.