The Easter Story may be one of joy and celebration and new life, but it’s also a story of grief, doubt and bewilderment. Which makes sense, really, because it’s a story about life. And, right now, we need a good story about life.
I want to celebrate as much as the next person and find the joy and happiness that’s been a bit of a struggle lately, to “rejoice and be glad” because “this is the day that God has made” (Psalm 118:24, sort of). I’d like to be finding that in every day, of course, but Easter’s the big one. Jesus is alive! Hallelujah!
Maybe, though, it’s a bit of journey still to get there, for many people. And that’s okay, because the story’s about that, too. See, I think we know how the story goes and we’re always keen to get to the hallelujahs, the chocolate eggs, the butterflies and the lilies, but let’s also spend a little time where we’re really at right now, because that’s in the story, too.
The initial reaction of the women who first found the tomb empty wasn’t just joy, it was fear and confusion, too. They were not expecting to find anything but the body of Jesus in a tomb guarded by Roman soldiers. They were still grieving. The story allows one day for grief in between his death and resurrection, but grief has its own sense of time. I can’t imagine that they were anything but bewildered and confused and still grieving.
The disciples didn’t believe them and doubted Jesus was alive until he appeared to them. It wasn’t just Thomas, it was all of them who needed proof that they could see and touch to validate what they wanted to believe. Again, though, I imagine that their grief and the sense of loss they experienced was not quickly put aside, like it might sound in a few sentences of the short story we read.
Other followers met the risen Jesus and didn’t recognize him, not until he did something that the Jesus they knew had done. I think they didn’t expect to see him. After all, I guess they weren’t looking for Jesus to be alive in anyway but in the body they knew was dead. That would be cool, but impossible.
Grief takes all the time it needs and there are many people in the world who are bewildered, confused and grieving.
But, it’s not a short story, like we read. It’s life and, alive, it’s a forever story. In his own life, Jesus was always taking the impossible and making it possible. Everyday, lives were changed, hurts were healed, broken hearts were made whole and all along, Jesus was showing us how to do it, to make the impossible possible. And this story of overcoming the ultimate impossible, full of grief and doubt and the unexpected, brings us back to that life that is now in us. Jesus is alive in me and you, in shared grief, in care and compassion, in love. Still find it hard to see? Look with an open heart.