Acts 10:34-43 or Jeremiah 31:1-6 • Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24 • Colossians 3:1-4 or Acts 10:34-43 • John 20:1-18 or Matthew 28:1-10
My focus is on the Matthew story of the resurrection, adding a few verses that come right before the text, - Matthew 27:62-66. It's a great subplot, taking place the morning after the crucifixion. First enter the chief priests and Pharisees, still worrying about Jesus, dead but not forgotten. After all, he had said he would rise again, after three days. Finding Pilate, they explain all this, adding that it would be easy for the disciples to steal his body and pretend he had risen. Pilate hears all this and – in my imagination, anyhow – he laughs. Maybe he snorts. He sees straight through the religious leaders. Their anxiety about Jesus has not lessened, even though the guy is dead now, as per their request. Pilate tells them to go ahead and make the tomb "as secure as you can." I wonder whether:
- Pilate was taunting the religious leaders. He had no respect for these anxious creatures, wanting to keep the crowds under their thumb, and willing to sacrifice any person with too much integrity for their compromising ways.
- Pilate, politically astute, knew that things had already shifted. The group Jesus had started would grow, regardless of how well the tomb was sealed.
- Pilate had seen enough of Jesus to wonder if it might be true. From his wife's bad dream to his own conversations with him, to this news of a potential come back, he had an inkling, a Hamlet moment, that there is more in heaven and on earth than are dreamt of, in many philosophies.
Perhaps Pilate was some mixture of all three of the above. And perhaps many of us are also approaching Easter this year with some mixture of skepticism and belief. As I write, the coronavirus continues its invasion around the world, infecting without regard to belief systems. Humans are vulnerable, including Jesus, who looked at life so differently that he had to die for it.
Some of us are going to die from COVID-19. Others will grieve for someone who has died. Many will suffer from the economic collapse we are now undergoing. Most, I think, are watching a way of life disappear and wondering what will be left. In the midst of many losses, though – and without minimizing how hard they are – there are also some small significant surprises. People are scratching their heads and saying things like, "Gee, you know it is nice to sit down and eat supper together." For many of us, dedicated medical professionals aside, the busy pace of life before the virus is, at least temporarily, a thing of the past.
What will emerge on the other side is unknown. Humans don't have control over life or death. Many things, though, are up to us to decide, including how we live. Talking with our families about living according to what matters to us would be a different way to observe Easter this year. The Easter egg hunts, the children, the flowers, the music, and all the rest of it, will be missed. There's a chance, though, that some good will come of it; and people who celebrate the resurrection of a lord who died on a cross might be on the lookout for that.
Like the women who found the tomb empty, each of us may recognize an emptiness in how we have been living. Each of us may respond as the women did: with fear and great joy, and maybe with a new clarity about what matters. Using emotions – letting both fear and joy fill the tank, so to speak – can bring energy for finding a new way of living worthy of Easter. In this, each of us is given the chance to participate in redeeming the times: making life better than if it had never gone wrong.
Morning: How does life look different to me this Easter? What ways of living are worth bringing back to life? What do I want to let go of?
Evening: When did I find a new way of living today? When did I get stuck in old ways?
Psalm 118:24 This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.