Today I’d like to share with you a few thoughts about the Resurrection of Jesus, one of the greatest mysteries of our faith. These thoughts are gleaned from the Gospel accounts of that very first Easter. The first thing that strikes me about the Easter story is how shocked the disciples were on that Easter morning. When Peter and John enter the empty tomb, they are stunned. It seems as if Jesus’ rising from the dead was not something they—his closest friends—expected. Ironically, Jesus’ enemies thought he had predicted rising after three days. They were the ones who asked Pilate to put guards by the tomb so Jesus’ disciples didn’t try to steal his body.
Jesus’ empty tomb that morning also filled the early followers of Jesus with great fear. In Mark’s gospel, the women who come to anoint his corpse, are so terrified by their experience of the empty tomb and the angels, they run madly away. Peter and John are also so afraid, they high tail it back to the other disciples and huddle together with them behind locked doors.
What moves Jesus’ followers beyond shock, fear, and disbelief? Bishop Thomas Gumbleton says it was one thing: their encounters with the risen Jesus. He writes, “What brought resurrection faith were the in-the-flesh appearances of the resurrected Jesus.” He goes on: “Slowly, gently, through these appearances, Christ built up their faith until they no longer needed these appearances.” We too are built up in the faith through the appearances of Christ in the flesh. Where does the resurrected Christ have flesh in our world? Says Gumbleton: in people who make our hearts “burn within us.” Who might such people be? Here are some on my short list:
+ those who remind us that there’s so much more to life than what can be seen with our human eyes only…
+ those who show us that happiness consists essentially in loving and serving others…
+ those who remind us that bitterness leads only to death, while forgiveness leads to life
+ those who show us that pain and tears can be redemptive
+ those who remind us that cynicism is a form of despair
+ those who love us despite our failings and shortcomings
+ those who lead us to believe that God is alive and active in our world
+ those who remind us that, in the end, the only thing that really matters is that we love
+ those who, despite their struggles and trials, hang on to their sense of humor
Another detail that is seen in the Easter story is this: The disciples didn’t recognize the risen Jesus. Mary Magdala, who knew him so well, mistook him for the gardener. The two disciples on the road to Emmaus, took him for a stranger. Only in the breaking of the bread did they realize he was Jesus. Later, on the shore, most of his disciples also didn’t recognize Jesus and assumed he was a cook. What lesson here? The Risen Jesus in the flesh can look quite ordinary. He could be the woman who slices your cheese at the deli… the man who gives you a break in traffic… your daughter’s third grade teacher… your kind and competent hair stylist… the meteorologist on the local evening news… the person who gives your car an oil change… the priest mingling with people after Mass… the police officer on night patrol in your town… Maybe to detect the risen Jesus among us, we have to look more closely at the faces of the people we meet every day—and appreciate their simple goodness.
I find great consolation in these details. First, the first Easter reminds us that our God is a God of surprises. We do not control our lives—let alone control our God. On the contrary, much of our life is “given to us.” As some have said: “Life is what happens to us while we’re making other plans.” In the Easter story we also see that fear is not an emotion to be ashamed of. It is often a perfectly human response to danger or bewilderment. Easter shows us that God can come to us no matter what we may be feeling—even shock, fear, confusion, shame, despair. No human emotion can prevent God’s love from breaking into our lives.
And so I want to wish all of you:
With much love and many prayers, Melannie
Is there anything in this reflection that struck you?
Is there anything else in the story of the first Easter that you find particularly meaningful, memorable, or intriguing? If so, would you want to share it with us?
Here’s a gentle but beautiful Easter song written by Sarah Hart, Sarah Kroger, Josh Blakenley, and Trey Heffinger. It’s called “Hallelujah Is Our Song” and is sung here by Sarah Hart. My favorite line is: “What hope we have, even in the longest night, for the light will overcome.”
I welcome your comments or other Easter thoughts below.