In today’s Gospel reading Mary Magdalene is the first to discover the empty tomb. Her initial thought is that someone had stolen Jesus’ body. She runs to fetch some of the disciples. They arrive, look into the tomb, and are shocked by what they see. They’re not sure what to think, we’re told: “For they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.”
Now, of course, we are all so familiar with the rest of the story that the first followers’ confusion seems a little silly. How could they not know? When we read the Gospels, we see that Jesus repeatedly told them how is physical life would end, and what would happen afterwards. Shouldn’t they immediately recognize that his prediction had come true, and look for the resurrected Christ?
Well, thinking about this, I’m not sure we’re that far ahead of those first followers after all. I ask myself, do I really understand what it means that Jesus has risen from the dead? I’ve been told and taught about it since I was baptized as an infant. Maybe I understand the concept, but I’m not sure I fully believe the reality.
Jesus is risen. We’ve had some 2,000 years to soak this in. God is stronger than death. God’s love is unstoppable and unchangeable.
Yet, if you’re like me, you tend to live as if God’s love is both limited and conditional. We feel we must perform well, acquire things, look good (or at least better than others), cling to things like jobs, homes, possessions, status and beauty to feel important and valuable.
I think if I fully believed in the truth that the resurrection of Jesus represents, I wouldn’t be much concerned about any of those things. If we know that God loves us no matter what we do or have, and that what we do or have makes no difference at all in our value as a person, then why waste a minute fretting over these things?
We all know about the empty tomb. It stands before us this morning in a special way. Easter is when we focus on the joy of Christ’s resurrection. It ought to stand for our own resurrections as well — not what will happen after we die but what can happen while we live. We can experience the liberation and freedom from fear that Jesus keeps calling us to.
Look at the lilies decorating the church today. They don’t worry for a second about being beautiful. They just are. So are we.
It took quite some time for the first Christians to comprehend the resurrection of Jesus. It can take each of us a lifetime not to understand the concept, but to embrace the spiritual truth. God’s love has no limits. It is there for each of us to apprehend and experience. He is risen.
Bill Peatman writes from Napa. He may be reached at [email protected]