I confess that in my days as a church minister, I was nervous when Easter came around each year. Oh, I loved the lilies and the special music on Sunday morning, but what could I possibly say in my lesson that was new?
In truth, there’s nothing new about Easter. In a way, that’s the point of our celebration.
We know the story of Jesus’ crucifixion, entombment, and resurrection because we have been taught it. We also see ourselves in his experience because we have lived it.
The Easter story is a metaphor for what we experience repeatedly in our lives. We have been telling this story—every year for 2,000 years so far—because the pattern of death, tomb, and resurrection resonates deep within us. It reminds us that sometimes the worst events of our lives might be leading to good.
Our personal difficulties are rarely as dramatic as the Jesus story, of course; most disappointments and frustrations don’t destroy our lives. But the three parts of the Easter story speak to us in events large and small.
Have you experienced deaths in your life? Not only the loss of people you loved, but pain even to the point of feeling “crucified,” when everything familiar was ripped away. Some people have experienced public shame or financial destitution or devastating disease, some the kiss of a friend who betrayed them.
It’s not too dramatic to say that nearly all of us go through periods when it seems the world has turned against us, when it feels as if we are carrying a cross on our backs or being pierced in the side, when the sky turns dark.
We cringe at Jesus’ suffering because we have endured it even to a small degree; it’s part of the human experience. We marvel at his courage and strength, as well as his compassion for those around him.
Darkness Before the Dawn
You’ve probably experienced time in the tomb as well. When life as you knew it has changed irrevocably, you might feel as if you’re trapped alone in a bleak cave with no guarantee that the stone blocking the door will ever be rolled away.
For me, the Saturday of Easter weekend has become the most mysterious and fascinating part of the story. Jesus had been crucified, and his followers had scattered in fear for their lives. We can only imagine their grief and confusion. They didn’t know a happy ending was on its way, and neither do we in our periods of entombment. What a long day it must have been!
And then, the dawn.
The Sun Will Rise
The four gospels each tell a slightly different story of that morning, but in each of them, women are the first to discover Jesus has left the tomb. They aren’t sure immediately what it means. It takes time to realize the man they knew—the essence or energy of Jesus—is still very much with them.
Again, this is our story. We might not immediately see the good that has come into our lives after a shocking event. We’re not always sure exactly when or how we left the tomb.
However, the day comes when you notice life is better. Maybe you laugh again for the first time in months. Maybe you start a new project. Finally, you can see a bit of light in the future.
Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying bad things have to happen in order to bring about good. You might give anything to return your life to the way it was.
When those events we label as “bad” do occur, the story of Easter reminds us that good can come from even the worst circumstances. Somewhere amid our suffering and grief, the sun rises, the stone rolls away, and life resumes, albeit never quite the same.
Like the despairing disciples, we don’t have the big picture. We can’t see the future. We are entitled to our feelings for as long as it takes.
What if the bleakness is temporary? What if this is how life looks on the way to a magnificent manifestation?
That’s why we celebrate the story of Easter. Not only to commemorate Jesus’ resurrection but our own.