Everything in Christian life, thought and culture has its roots in Easter. It all starts here. Bach and Handel and Michelangelo. All of the hymns we sing. All of Christian art and literature. All of our history – every separate strand of Christian belief and practice somehow traces back to Easter morning.
The first Easter Sunday wasn’t a day when everyone suddenly understood the whole story. The truth is that it took a while. People saw different things, and it took time as they compared their different experiences.
In Matthew, when Jesus dies, you’ve got spectacular events. There’s an earthquake. The veil that closes off the innermost room of the temple, which hides the presence of God, is torn right down the middle. In every cemetery in town, the tombs and graves open up, and dead people are raised to life. Matthew is clearly trying to make a point here with his version of the story.
In Mark, you’ve got the stripped-down version. The women go to the cemetery and find the empty tomb, and the angel. But then it says, “They went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid. . .”
In Luke, you’ve got the same Easter story, but instead of just one angel, there are two of them. The women report to Jesus’ friends what they’ve seen, but it says, “these words seemed like an idle tale” – a rumor! – “and they did not believe them. . .” Later that day, Jesus met two of his friends as they walked along the road from Jerusalem to the village of Emmaus. But they didn’t recognize him. Only when Jesus said the blessing over the meal, did they figure out who it was.
In John’s gospel, we’ve got the same basic story. But this time it was Mary Magdalene who didn’t recognize Jesus. She was crying so hard that she couldn’t see him. It wasn’t until Jesus called her name – “Mary!” – that she knew who it was. I always think that’s an important part of the Easter story. We don’t recognize Jesus even when he’s right in front of us. And then Jesus calls us each by name.
I believe in the message of Easter: “Do not be afraid. You are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here, in the tomb; he has been raised. See the place where he lay. He is going ahead of you; you will see him. . .”
– Josh Brown