Easter Surprises

June 2nd, 2019 Posted in writing

These days Christians start to wrap up the Easter season. We probably can’t imagine a year without Easter. But if we can imagine a world in which there were no Easter, we might get a glimpse of how remarkable, even earth-shaking the first Easter must have been. I’ve been thinking about two surprises from that first Easter and how they have changed how we can look at life and our understanding of God.

The first change began with Mary Magdalene’s report that she had gone to the place where Jesus had been buried, found the tomb empty AND had seen him alive and talked with him. The disciples likely tried to convince her that she must have imagined it, for when someone had died with all the pain and agony Jesus did, that person was going to stay dead. No one would have expected anything else. But then, that evening, Jesus himself appeared to the disciples and spoke to them. That must have been an incredible surprise, and the gospel writers said the disciples were filled with joy.

But perhaps seeing him alive wasn’t joy all the way through, for what would Jesus say to all those followers who had run away at his arrest? They had disowned him, so, why wouldn’t he disown them for their disloyalty and cowardice?

That was the second surprise. Jesus spoke only words of peace, not condemnation, breathed his very own spirit (the Holy Spirit) over them and into them and asked them to continue his work of spreading the good news of reconciliation and forgiveness. Rather than condemning them, Jesus was drawing the disciples more closely to himself — and never once did he demand from them a word of explanation or an apology for their behavior. Instead, Jesus showed them they had not forfeited his love. That surely would have remade the disciples’ understanding of God’s justice and the reality and power of his forgiveness.

The disciples would have fifty days between Easter and Pentecost to begin to get used to the meaning and implication of their experience of the first Easter, and the gospel writers say that during those days there were times when they and Jesus spent time with each other. And two millennia since that first Easter, we as individuals and as a church still work to deepen our understanding of what it means that Jesus is truly Risen and alive and that, no matter what disloyalty or lack of faith may mark our lives, nothing can separate us from his love.(Romans, chapter 8)

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