Easter is always celebrated as a time of joy. The Easter Bunny set hides eggs, people dress in bright clothes, and buy enough chocolate to support a small nation. The churchy set dress in bright clothes, go to church, sing happy songs, and are generally happy that Lent is over. Church on Easter Sunday is a happy joyous place.
So on the way to church this morning I was naturally a bit sad.
I even said something like that out-loud to Heather. Well, not exactly sad, but more wondering if the followers of Jesus had an Easter Egg hunt or were exploding with joy after receiving the joy of an empty tomb. I was thinking about the experience the disciples were really having on that day before we modern people layered symbols and other meanings on those events.
As we sat waiting for traffic lights to change Heather and I discussed this. I had on my mind the Bible passage I was asked to read during service, John 20:11-18 which starts, “Mary stood outside near the tomb, crying.”
The passage isn’t exactly bursting with joy.
I don’t know about you, but my emotions as a disciple on that Sunday morning would be far more complex. Think about all that happened in the week leading up to this day. First a triumphal march into the city, then an arrest, an execution, the fear …
The disciples on Easter morning were likely feeling a mixture of grief, guilt and fear. Grief that their teacher was dead. Guilt that they had abandoned him in his last moment of need, and fear that they were next to hang on a cross. Their three-year journey suddenly ended with the future being a dark and fearful place.
There must have been a lot of questions and some anger – What was all our work for? Is this to end this way? But I suspect the biggest question was, “What now?”
Where do we go? What do we do? How will I live with the shame of what I did?
Then Mary arrives from the tomb and turns your world upside down. He’s alive. He spoke to me. He told me to tell you…
Think about how your life can be overturned by the death of a loved one. Everything changes. Things you used to do are now different. When your parent dies you realize you’re on your own and have to make your own way in the world. Suddenly younger family look to you and you wonder if you have the wisdom or strength.
If I were a disciple listening to Mary Magdalene, I’d be in a confused state. It’s not over? There’s more? How is this possible? How will I be able to go on and teach as he did? Will I run away to hide or continue on the path Jesus showed?
The situation is a cause for change. There is a pre-Easter and a post-Easter world. The followers of Jesus would have faced that reality. It makes me wonder if we in our world today are holding Easter in the best way. Perhaps Easter should be less about joy and more about how our lives are changed by the events of that day so long ago.
Still, nothing wrong with a couple of chocolate eggs and the choir singing a rousing Hallelujah Chorus before we consider the changes in our lives.