Tomorrow is Easter Sunday and I feel the anticipation in my heart growing. This is because I love everything about Easter, especially the hope, the music, and the celebration surrounding the message that there is life beyond what we know here.
Unlike a small number of my fellow Christians, who look critically upon Easter visitors because they seem to lack the motivation to corporately worship God on a regular basis, I like the fact that we will see unfamiliar faces and young children dressed in new Easter clothing. I honor the idea embraced by many families that tomorrow is a day that warrants the shopping, planning, and traveling. Someone who may want to “do church” but is married to a reluctant spouse can legitimately have his or her way on Easter Sunday — especially with the promise of Easter brunch afterwards! And you never know … church members worship in many ways and tomorrow may be the day you find a place that feels right and warrants another visit.
It is healthy that those of us who haul ourselves out of bed most Sundays are being observed and assessed. It affords us the opportunity to step back for a moment, distance ourselves from our own routines, and honestly evaluate how we are conducting ourselves. Best of all, the Easter holiday is filled with opportunities to legitimately act in loving ways toward people we do not know.
Even though my children are in their teens and twenties, and my eldest is living away at college and will not be able to join us as she will work tomorrow, I don’t dare forget to share our household traditions with her. I packed an Easter “goodie box” and mailed it to her this week so she won’t feel forgotten. Tomorrow morning I’ll serve hot crossed buns and coffee before we head out the door for church. In the late afternoon we’ll enjoy lamb, side dishes and dessert. The kids can invite anyone they wish and we’ll get out the good plates and silverware. Because we are a casual family, this nod to formality quietly reminds the kids that family and holidays are important.
There is great joy to be experienced Easter morning because the season of Lent stands in contrast to the celebration of Easter. Lent is designed to be a sobering time and I have traversed the pages of my Bible and surfed the Internet for facts and theories about the key players in the crucifixion. It has been interesting and deepened my own understanding of the utter trauma and sacrifice experienced by the key players. I frankly can’t imagine how I would have reacted to the events as they unfolded had I been there.
Today, there is one last task that needs to be done before I can break loose in joy and celebration. Author Josh McDowell calls it “evidence that demands a verdict” and he is referring, of course, to the evidence that Jesus actually died and rose three days later.
There is nothing wrong with asking the tough questions and probably the first one to ask is this: Wonder if Jesus was only unconscious and later revived? This might have happened except for the fact that an official Roman soldier, tasked to observe the crucifixion (with the hope that the prevailing hysteria among the Jews could be brought to a “proper” end) reported to Pontius Pilate that Jesus was determined to have died upon the cross, beside two thieves crucified on either side of him. It was also reported that Jesus’ side had been pierced during the execution and when the deed was done Jesus’ body had been claimed by Joseph of Arimathea and his friend Nicodemus, who customarily wrapped the body and placed it in a donated tomb.
Could the body have been lost or misplaced? According to several accounts, found in various gospels and ancient writings, Mary Magdalene and Jesus’ mother watched as Joseph and Nicodemus entombed Jesus’ body. They knew of the tomb’s location and must have shared the information with disciples Peter and John, for both men arrived at the location as well without getting lost along the way. Deeply understood customs about caring for bodies were important to them all and they would have tended to Jesus’ body.
Might Jesus’ body have been stolen? This could have occurred were it not for the Roman soldiers who diligently sealed and guarded the tomb. Losing the body would have placed their lives in jeopardy with their superiors. It would also empower Christ’s followers and further inflame an enormous population control problem for the Romans. If a Roman had been able to produce Jesus’ body once it was discovered missing, it would have quelled all rumors once and for all. No Roman would steal the body and certainly no follower would either, for in time Christ’s followers not only grew to span the globe, but countless voluntarily gave up personal comfort and their very lives for the right to tell the world that a relationship with Christ promises life everlasting.
Tomorrow I’ll look into the faces of my husband and children, gaze at a photo of my dad who recently died of cancer, and rejoice. Christ is risen, indeed! His gifts of love, forgiveness, hope, and eternity are for my family and yours.
It’s time to rejoice.