I wander down the aisles of the Hallmark store replete with their perfectly aligned cards and matching envelopes. Scattered everywhere throughout the shop are pink, blue and yellow bunnies nestled alongside hand-painted eggs. This is not my Easter either.
I join the throngs in the grocery store, filling my cart with treasures for a meal that I will serve to cousins and sisters and husband and children at Sunday lunch. The cash register goes ching, ching, ching, and I am out of there with a laden car and a tired back. This, too, is not my Easter.
Once home, I set the table, arrange flowers, and slice mountains of squash and onions, grease casserole dishes, tear lettuces, and chop herbs. I am working ahead. It is special, this beauty I seek to create, but it is not Easter.
I walk outside to bask in the warmth of the late afternoon sunshine. The silver maples are showering their helicopter seeds all over me. I wink at the sky and smile. But Easter? No, this is a compelling beauty from a Divine hand, but it is not Easter.
I climb back into my Bible, suddenly thirsty for the Holy cup and the bread. I want to linger there at the meal shared with My Beloved, but I am called onward toward a hill outside the city of Jerusalem. It is here that I find a story played out that shakes my soul to the core. It is a tale, oft told, of a suffering and a sacrifice so wretched and so raw that it is at once almost unbearable and unbelievable. I am suddenly there. I smell the blood. I see the heavy splintered form of the cross and the broken God-man upon it. I look into the faces of the betrayers and know that their shame and their guilt mirrors my own. I know what I deserve. But the God-man hanging there will have the final word. "Forgive them," he cries as he shudders and gasps for air. Then He cries out to the Father.
In a little while, the sky grows dark. The earth shakes. The bolts of lightening accelerate as they penetrate the darkness with a terrible light. I quake inside as I turn back to the cross. It is finished. The God-man breathes no more.
I want to run from the scene. I am a betrayer and a rebel of the first-order. I don't even have to wait until the cock crows. I know my own heart. I feel the crushing weight of my own sin and my paralyzing grief. And yet. And yet.
I limp through the days bereft. The morning of the third day dawns bright and beautiful. The women have been busy with their preparations. Their faces are worn with grief and exhaustion but they are filled with a sense of mission and purpose. They have come to anoint the body of the Beloved One. I have tagged along.
One of the women runs ahead, spurred and driven by a need deep within her. Yet something is amiss. The guards have disappeared, and the giant stone is no longer blocking the darkened entrance to the cave-like tomb. A deep and powerful voice pierces the quiet surrounding the tomb. It is coming from an unusual creature standing vigil by the tomb, "Why is it that you seek the living among the dead?" The air seems to quiver at the sound of his words.
The angel looks with something akin to incredulity at the mounting disbelief in the face of the stumbling weeping woman. Like her, my human mind struggles to apprehend the words and all that they imply.
She runs to look inside. Her voice trembles as she announces that the tomb is empty. My vision grows blurry. How can it be? THE TOMB IS EMPTY. I fall to my knees, and something inside me begins to take on a life of its own.
What is this glorious hope, this unspeakable joy rising up within me? Can the terrible suffering of the God-man on the cross find its completion and its consummation in an vacant tomb with its empty ledge and neatly folded linen?
Yes, yes, my soul cries. Yes. This, this is my Easter. It is an empty tomb. It is here in the dust of the dimly lit cave that I have come to find life. And hope. And victory over an ancient sin and despair that have held my soul in their clutch. This tomb, this place of burial where the body of the Messiah was laid to rest is the Easter I have sought. And it is not just mine. It is for all who dare to believe.
My heart leaps within me at the truth and the glory of it all.
Christ the Lord is Risen.
Indeed, He is Risen!
Let the earth and the heavens rejoice...