A community church in North Andover, Massachusetts

An Easter Reflection

Here in the changeable March weather, we long for the days written of in Song of Solomon 2:10-13: 10My beloved speaks and says to me: “Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away; 11for now the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. 12The flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land. 13 The fig tree puts forth its figs, and the vines are in blossom; they give forth fragrance. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.”

As I write this, so much in this season of reflection and remembrance has yet to happen. Dark and stormy days lay ahead, with Jesus arriving in Jerusalem, the crowd hailing him as king with delirious dreams of messianic triumph filling their minds. These dreams will quickly sour into a call for his execution, encouraged by leaders who have their own motivations and see Jesus as a threat to their comfortable status quo. His disciples will scatter, Peter will deny Jesus three times as predicted, and Jesus will be handed over after a sham trial to an unwarranted execution at the hands of Roman authorities who have no patience for troublesome rabbis who disturb the “Peace of Rome” (Pax Romana). Even a thief on the cross will recognize the injustice of Jesus’ public execution. It will seem to all who knew and loved Jesus that a dark storm had descended upon them, a storm that would never end.

Jesus will cry out from the cross the first sentence in the first verse of Psalm 22: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Yet, left unsaid is the triumph to come at the end of that psalm, in verses 25-31: “From you comes my praise in the great congregation; my vows I will pay before those who fear him. The poor shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the LORD. May your hearts live forever! All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD; and all the families of the nations shall worship before him. For dominion belongs to the LORD, and he rules over the nations. To him, indeed, shall all who sleep in the earth bow down; before him shall bow all who go down to the dust, and I shall live for him. Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord, and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn, saying that he has done it.”

The only followers of Jesus who remain with him throughout his crucifixion ordeal are those deemed untrustworthy by their own people to testify to what they observe. Women remain with Jesus through his death. Faithfully, they come to his tomb to honor him three days after burial. Heading for the tomb at the crack of dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary are shaken as the ground lurches beneath them. Despite the presence of soldiers, a figure in startling white (a color unavailable to humans and emblematic of the divine), with a face like lightning (ancient Judaism believed angels were made of fire), drops from above and rolls aside the stone from Jesus tomb. With a flourish, the angel casually sits upon the stone.

The soldiers are frozen in fear, as the angel turns his fiery visage on the Mary’s. Don’t be afraid, Jesus isn’t here, he has been raised from the dead. Take a look for yourselves and then tell his disciples. Heaven’s messenger makes these women the first evangelists of Jesus’ resurrection. They leave in fear and great joy, running to tell the disciples, until Jesus himself brings them to a halt. Jesus also assures them not to be afraid and to tell the disciples to meet up with him in the Galilee district, a safer place for a reunion than Jerusalem.

Ringing down over the centuries is the joyful witness of Jesus’ defeat over everything from the power of his peoples’ religious leaders and of Rome, to the power of death itself. Jesus is victorious over them all. Jesus assures us not to be afraid, the victory is shared as well. New life is just around the corner, as Jesus assures us. We should not be afraid. This is the reason for joy. May we all enjoy the new life of this season and of Easter morning.

~Pastor Jeff