I am reminded of a story that tells of a little girl who was so excited about Easter. Her mother wanted to be sure that her daughter had some sense of what Easter meant and so she asked, “do you know what Easter means?” And the daughter said, “Yes!” Her mother said, “well, tell me, what does Easter mean?” A huge smile spread across her daughter’s face. She slowly raised her arms in the air and shouted at the top of her lungs, “Surprise!”
Each Gospel writer tells the resurrection story differently. The one thing they all have in common is that the experience of the Risen Christ came as a surprise. Jesus predicted his death and it happened just as he said it would but most of the people around Jesus at that time, including the disciples, had very little, if any, expectation that resurrection would actually happen. They were caught by surprise.
The truth is that we, too often, don’t expect resurrection either. How often are we surprised when we see Jesus in places, in people and in circumstances where we did not expect him to show up. The world around us, our culture, and situations in life have conditioned us not to expect shattered hopes to be restored, broken relationships to be repaired, the marginalized to be liberated, justice to prevail, and the peace of Christ to rule and reign in our hearts and in the world. When the glory of God intersects with our human experience and conditions we are often taken by surprise. When God uses us as an instrument of God’s grace and healing, most often, we are taken by surprise.
The Angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here, he has risen, just as he said. So, the women hurried away from the tomb afraid but filled with great joy.” (Matthew 28:5-6)
Isn’t it strange that the cross which was an emblem of death, suffering and shame is a symbol of God’s radical and redemptive love? The cross is the gift of salvation … our hope and our victory. The empty cross is a reminder that even when love gets nailed to the cross by hate and when life gets buried in the dark tomb of death, God is always surprising us bringing light into darkness and turning tragedy into triumph.
The promise of Easter, the Easter story, is that the tomb is empty, and God has already done an amazing thing – once and for all. The Resurrection of Christ is a continuing event for today, tomorrow, and forever. It is victory over death. It is the promise of new life. And it is our commitment to embody and proclaim the love and grace of Jesus Christ and to be creators and doers of God’s justice.
Executive Secretary to the Bishop’s Office
Board of Ministry
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