Then they drew near to the village where they were going, and He indicated that He would have gone farther. But they constrained Him, saying, “Abide with us, for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent.” And He went in to stay with them.
Now it came to pass, as He sat at the table with them, that He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and He vanished from their sight.
And they said to one another, “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?” So they rose up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, “The Lord is risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” And they told about the things that had happened on the road, and how He was known to them in the breaking of bread.
Luke 24:28-35 (New King James Version)
Today is Easter Sunday, Resurrection Day to others. It’s the day we say, “The Lord is risen!”, and we reply, “He is risen indeed!”. It’s a high day on the Liturgical Calendar.
Easter’s also a predictable day. We pretty much know the routine-even going back to the start of Lent we knew the outcome. It’s the age-old drama we revisit every year. We come to Palm Sunday with our waving the palms and Passion Plays. Then we go through Holy Week preparing for Easter. We pick out our Easter outfits, plan our Easter meals, attend Maundy Thursday services where we recount the Last Supper. We attend Good Friday services-especially those focused on the “Seven Last Words” of Christ or reenactments of Jesus’s procession-with cross-to Golgotha. Then comes Holy Saturday/Easter Eve where we meditate on Jesus’s being in the tomb. Don’t forget ABC TV’s annual airing of The Ten Commandments on the night of Holy Saturday.
Then comes Easter Sunday. We attend sunrise services where we hear preachers do their “EARRRLY SUNDAY MORNING” to the delight of their congregants. Easter masses are being held. In some churches, Easter breakfasts are served. The Easter Parade’s in New York City. It’s all a slam dunk since we on this side of the cross know how it’s all going to play out. Jesus rose-end of story. In fact, let me be bold enough to assert that Easter has lost its ability to surprise us. We’ve become so used to the day, its wonder and amazement has all but died in us. In fact, Easter becomes predictable; it becomes boring…ZZZ….
But let’s hold on a minute and put down that piece of Easter ham! What about those whose lived during the cross? Those disciples and close followers of Jesus who witnessed their boy being set up, go through a sham trial, suffer being beaten, and worst of all-for a Jew like Jesus-be crucified. Those early followers didn’t know that Jesus would rise again. They hoped like Peter (ref. Matthew 16:22-24) that Jesus would not suffer at the hands of the powers that be with his ultimate crucifixion. No. I believe Jesus’s posse wanted him to be around a long time-teaching and preaching; and eventually to restore the Kingdom to Israel (ref. Acts 1). However, with the cross-shaped money wrench tossed into the works these folks didn’t know what the day would hold. In fact, when the first day dawned (we call Easter Sunday), we find the disciples in hiding-afraid they’d be next on the crucifixion list.
The possibility of resurrection was a stretch of the imagination for Jesus’s gang. They heard Jesus’s promises of rising three days after his death during his ministry, yet it didn’t click with them. They probably were like Martha (ref. John 11:24) where they thought the Resurrection was at the end of time. On the other hand, the priests and Pharisees-the Religious Right of Jesus’s era-thought the whole thing was a sham cooked up by Jesus and company; to the point of having the tomb secured with guards and government seal!
But then Jesus has risen as he said! He lives! The disciples couldn’t grasp it at first. In fact, when Jesus materialized in an locked room, the disciples thought it was his ghost. When Mary saw him the garden where the tomb was, she took off running to tell the guys. Each resurrection encounter totally blew the minds of those who encountered Jesus. Resurrection Day was totally-and wonderfully-unpredictable for the disciples. Jesus who was crucified is now alive? Whoa! That was a surprise…
Twenty centuries later, with ecclesiastical encumbrances, doctrinal dryness, and predictable Passion, Easter has lost its unpredictability. The shock, surprise and wonder of that blessed morn needs to be brought back and taught in our churches. We need to see Easter with fresh eyes and hearts-like the disciples of old. I’ll be bold to say that we need to stop looking at Easter as “was”-like an old movie to which we know the plot. Instead let’s look at Easter as is-a continuing story for us all for all ages. The story of life coming out of death. Of light coming out of darkness. That God still surprises us with His/Her unpredictability.
When we begin to see Easter in this new way, our hearts will then truly be grateful to God for making it all possible.
Peace and a blessed Easter.