Unwrapping Easter For my wife’s 21st birthday, back when she was still just my From that very first Easter morning, people expected Jesus to stay girlfriend, I got her a very small box. I wrapped that box, and put it in the tomb. The women who visit the tomb certainly thought so. in a slightly bigger box, and repeated that process until I had a box When it came to their belief that Jesus was still dead, (2) the about three feet square. It took her almost fifteen minutes just to women were unflagging. When Mary Magdalene discovered that unwrap the boxes, nested one inside the other; but when she opened the stone door had been removed from the grave, she never the last one, her engagement ring was inside. She decided it was dreamed that Jesus had walked away. She came to the only logical worth it. Easter is the greatest gift God has ever given to the world; conclusion: “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do and John’s telling of the events on that first Easter read like the not know where they have laid him” (John 20:13). slow unwrapping of a gift, layer by layer by layer. The first thing we know is, the tomb is empty, and that’s all we know for a while. People are more at ease with a Jesus who either stays really dead, or Then we get the news that the grave-clothes are empty, in a peculiar who isn’t really dead, whether by ancient methods or modern ones. way. Then we get the word that Jesus has risen from the dead, and The world would be quick to welcome the idea that Jesus was finally Mary recognizes him for who he is. But even that is only cryogenically frozen on Good Friday and thawed on Easter, than the beginning of the story. believe what the Bible says, that God raised him from the dead. From the day of his death, there was controversy around the burial There are two things intriguing here: first — how we tend to put of Jesus. Right after he was crucified, priests and Pharisees Jesus on ice, thaw him out on special occasions, and then slip him swooped down on Pontius Pilate and asked for a guard of Roman back in the tomb. A frozen Jesus is much easier to handle than a soldiers to keep the disciples from stealing Jesus’ body. But Pilate risen Lord who makes demands upon our lives. And second — how told these troublemakers to use their own guards to secure the tomb. we often put ourselves on ice, reluctant to thaw out. So they did, hoping that sealing him in a solid stone tomb would bring to a close a messy period in Jewish history. We put Christ on ice: even we who are called the Church, in our more honest moments, have to admit that we can fall into this trap, But the disciples were terrified; they had no courage for themselves, because we know that we are attracted to a Jesus who’s more like and certainly none to spare for their leader’s body. So when the what we expected: women come to tell them of the empty tomb, there’s no “nudge- • A Jesus who taught about love, but not a Lord who commands us nudge, wink-wink” behavior among them, to indicate that they to love our enemies; knew what was going on. These are not experienced political • A Jesus who helped the unfortunate, but not a Lord who tells us to plotters of intrigue; these are terrified fishermen, converted sell what we own and give the money to the poor; swindlers, and religious students. Even when the women told them • A Jesus who went to worship and Bible study, but not a Lord who the tomb was empty just like Jesus said it would be on the third cleanses the Temple and reforms all our traditions; day, (1) The disciples were unknowing. But something is clearly • A Jesus who was a friend of sinners, but not a Lord who happening in the graveyard, so a few of them go running off to see encourages us to embrace the people we feel are beneath us; what’s up. Of course what we prefer is a moot point. He is risen! Jesus is not only alive; from the beginning of Easter, (3) Jesus was his differences. But because of a creative teacher, they began to undying. The glory of Easter is that Christ is alive, bursting the accept him as part of the group. bounds of death and running wild and free through human life. When we try to preserve Jesus as just a good person, he rips The Sunday after Easter, the teacher brought plastic pantyhose through these limitations as though they were flimsy linen grave containers, the kind that look like large eggs. Each receiving one, clothes. On the day of resurrection, Jesus laughs at our attempts to the children were told to go outside on that lovely spring day, find limit him in any way, and he leads us into a future that only he can some symbol for new life in Jesus, and put it in the egg-like control. container. Back in the classroom, they would share their new-life symbols, opening the containers one by one in surprise fashion. When Jesus appears to Mary, he is in a form that she does not recognize — she believes him to be the gardener (vv. 14-15). After running about the church property in wild confusion for fifteen minutes, the students returned to the classroom and placed When he speaks to her by name, and she realizes he is the risen the containers on the table. Surrounded by the children, the teacher Lord, he forbids her to hold on to him. He knows that he must move began to open them one by one. After each one, whether flower, onward, to his Father in heaven. But before he leaves, he gives her butterfly or leaf, the class would ooh and ahh. Then one was a mission: “Go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to opened, revealing nothing inside. my Father and your Father, to my God and your God’” (vv. 16-17). The children exclaimed, “That’s stupid.” “That’s not fair.” Indeed, the Easter gift will not be completely unwrapped until we “Somebody didn’t do their assignment.” go to tell the story to those who are still unbelieving. Our faith must be unflagging. Our testimony is not of ourselves, but of our Philip spoke up, “That’s mine!” Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who remains undying. This Lord is not a comfortable Jesus, one who proclaims a gospel of success and “Philip, you don’t ever do things right,” one student said. “There’s offers himself as a better business partner. nothing there!” This Lord is not a predictable Jesus, one who does and says what we expect all the time. “I did so do it,” Philip insisted. “I did do it right. It’s empty. Jesus’ This Lord is not an individualistic Jesus, one who encourages a tomb was empty!” focus on the self and a neglect of the world’s needy. This Lord is, instead, the Jesus who truly challenges our real life ... Silence followed. From that moment, Philip became a full member and every life. of the class. Jesus wants us to be revitalized, reanimated, turbo-charged, super- Sad and happy ending: Phillip died not long afterward, from an justified and hyper-sanctified children of God, like this kid named infection most children would have shrugged off. At the funeral, Phillip. Little Philip, born with Down’s syndrome, attended a third- this class of 8-year-olds marched up to the altar with their Sunday grade Sunday school class with several 8-year-old boys and girls. school teacher, each to lay on it an empty plastic pantyhose egg. Typical of that age, the children did not readily accept Philip with I’d say Easter was unwrapped for them, wouldn’t you?
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