Are You Coming or Going? An Easter Reflection

The Disciples Peter and John Running to the Sepulchre on the Morning of the Resurrection, By Eugene Burnand, 1898

I love the visuals of Easter, the bunny rabbits, the baskets, the colorful eggs, the new outfits, the signs of spring. These are bright and beautiful reminders of the joy of this day. And speaking of this day…

With all the hints he gave them, all the spoiler alerts, the breadcrumbs he laid down, and all those clues… still they did not understand. But then again, how could they? Nothing like this had ever happened before. Someone who clearly and most definitely was no longer alive… now, risen from the dead? It defied their expectations, logic, and everything they understood. To that point, you lived, you died, and then that was that. But this one morning, on first day of the week, Mary of Magdala, and then Peter and John, all came to realize that nothing was ever going to be the same again.

I love the contrast between the beginning of this Gospel account and the end of it. Talk about a descent and then an ascent, a bottoming out and then an elevation. After hearing from Mary that Jesus, their friend, had been taken from the tomb, Peter and John ran frantically toward the open tomb. They were overcome with worry, dread, and despair. It was tragic enough that Jesus had suffered and died, but now to add insult to injury, they took his body away and denied him a proper burial.

We only hear that when they encountered the empty tomb and went inside, they “saw and believed”. They believed. That doesn’t mean their faith was unwavering or that they understood everything that was taking place completely. No, it only meant that they believed. It was a belief based on trust.

What was that trip back from the tomb like? We don’t know because we don’t hear anything about it. But it’s easy to imagine that it was filled with wonder, awe, optimism, and anticipation. There was the coming to the tomb, the empty tomb, then the believing part, and then the going away from the tomb. This is the story of faith for so many of us. We descend, we experience a conversion of heart, and then we rise.

And so friends, where are you in your life, right at this very moment? Are you proceeding to the tomb… or are you departing from it? Are you filled with all of the emotions that anyone would have as they approach death and defilement, the true end to our story, with the complete absence of light and hope? Or, are you coming away from the tomb, full of wonder, optimism, and anticipation?

This is, to me, a simple question, though not an easy one to answer. The greatest, the biggest, and the boldest message of the great teacher, Jesus of Nazareth, is that we no longer need to fear the tomb and that our entire life is not just some dread-filled race to it, much as John and Peter experienced. Instead, it can be the walk back from the tomb – the one full of hope and joy and great anticipation.

That is the message of Easter morning. That is what Jesus was trying to teach us all along, even though sometimes, despite all the clues and hints, we just don’t seem to get it. He asks us to believe this. To trust in him.

Today, as you are surrounded by the images of Easter, I would like to suggest you find another, different image. An image of an empty tomb. They are everywhere on-line… just google it… and if you don’t go on-line, maybe talk to someone who does. Print it out and hang it up someplace where you will see it often as your visual reminder. The empty tomb. And then ask yourself, every time you look at it: am I coming or I going?

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