Early on Sunday morning, as the new day was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went out to the tomb. (Matthew 28:1, NIV)
Minnesota dawned sunny today, this Easter morning.
Can I be honest with you? I do not always wake up happy. Many mornings, thinking about all that is wrong, dark, or hard about our days, I am covered in a heavy blanket of fear and anxiety. It often takes a hot shower and (most importantly) the word of God to give me a sliver of light and a surge of strength for the day. I was comforted recently to learn, in an interview on the radio, that Joni Eareckson Tada wakes up in “desperate need for Jesus.” Of course, her needs are physical as well as emotional and spiritual. I’m not a quadriplegic, but I know the feeling of desperate need. Lately I’ve been asking God to satisfy me in the morning with his unfailing love (Psalm 90:14) and I have felt this joy, sensed his nearness.
This Easter morning my heart beat with a trace of its usual heaviness. God, satisfy me in the morning with your unfailing love. Although I typically wake up over a cup of coffee and the pages of my Bible, the sunshine beckoned. I put on my Nikes and headed outside for a run.
As I jogged along the North Cedar Lake Regional Trail near our apartment, bikers raced along, birds chirped, and I wondered about that first Easter morning.
Any other day
Some days just feel ripe with promise, days when you can hope confidently for something good. Like weddings! Vacations!
The day Jesus rose from the dead, no one knew it would happen. It was just another day – and what’s more, a man had just been publicly humiliated and crucified in a horrible manner. Can we assume the day contained extra sorrow?
Did the disciples, waking to the world, come to consciousness out of a land of nightmares? Their rabbi had been nailed to two wooden beams on Friday. They fled as he died. Did Peter wake wallowing in shame? He denied Christ publicly. Did that failure haunt him as the sun rose and he had to face a new day?
Do you think Mary Magdalene woke with a pit in her stomach? With Christ, she had found a sense of purpose, belonging, and value that her culture didn’t give women. Without him, what would the rest of her life look like?
I wonder about her walk with the other Mary as they headed to the tomb early that morning. I wonder if she’d eaten breakfast. I wonder if she had morning breath. Was her hair a mess? Did she have ready words to share with the other Mary as they walked? Were their spirits low?
To relive the resurrection
The resurrection account is powerful and dramatic. It is the reason we celebrate Easter every spring. It is the centrality of Christian hope.
But after many retellings, ancient Israel can feel distant. The details of that day feel foreign, and we take them for granted. When we imagine each moment of the resurrection story, it is easy to see it in our minds as a cheap, badly staged melodrama. Sappy swelling music, two ladies in togas, and angels glowing like Edward Cullen. “He isn’t here!”
But if you pay attention, the words of the gospels give us hints of that first Easter morning reality. The women learned of Christ’s rising first, but when they told the other disciples,
..the story sounded like a fairy tale to the men—they didn’t believe it. However, Peter ran to the tomb to look. Stooping, he peered in and saw the empty linen wrappings; and then he went back home again, wondering what had happened. (Luke 24: 11-12, TLB)
They didn’t believe immediately. It seemed too good to be true. Oh, that is comforting! And then Peter “ran” to see for himself. As I ran this morning, I tried to place myself in the shoes of Jesus’ disciples. They woke to another day, a day of sorrows, a day of uncertainty. Then they received the greatest news the world has ever heard: that what seemed far too good to be true was, indeed, true.
The promise of His presence
Before she produced incredibly well acclaimed music as part of The Civil Wars, singer Joy Williams gained a lot of fame in a solo career. Her album “By Surprise” is one that I’ve owned and loved since middle school. One song on the CD, called “Wish,” poignantly expresses the simple desire to have experienced firsthand the life of Christ.
Don’t we all wish for this? We wake to Easter morning without having experienced what Mary and Peter and the disciples did – the experience of the risen Lord! We wake every day to a world where Christ reigns, but we have not seen him face to face.
We wake to a world of sorrows, but, because of the resurrection, we know that one day we will see him face to face.
No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me;
From life’s first cry to final breath.
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.
Here in the power of Christ I’ll wake to a new day – and face it in his power alone.