Today we remember and celebrate that day in history when our Lord’s tomb was found empty and his disciples were startled to learn that death did not have the last word. So it is that Easter is always the best day for the church. Simply put, without the resurrection, there is no church, period, end of story. A good teacher, a fantastic healer, a compassionate feeder of the hungry, and a tireless advocate for the poor died. Without resurrection that is all Jesus would have been; and while we might still remember Him, there would be little to celebrate.
Yet, we believe that God was in Christ reconciling Himself to the world in all of the events leading up to and, of course, including Easter. That being the case, Easter is far more than just a day for those who would profess faith in Christ. It is the event that is foundational to all the ways that we might know God and be known by God. No one day is big enough to hold all that Easter means to the church nor what it does in the lives of individual believers.
The question arises: If Easter is the defining event in God’s ongoing effort to connect with God’s creation, have you had your Easter yet? As a body of believers, we celebrate His resurrection. We have remembered His suffering and His victory over sin and death. Even so, the truth of the matter is that Christ did not simply die for all of us; He died for each one of us. Easter is always the best day for Christ’s church, but the event itself is an intensely personal matter for those individuals who make up that church. Frankly, sometimes it is easier to keep Easter at a distance. Sure, let the choir sing, let the preacher preach, and certainly the children will want to hunt for eggs.
We find it easier living around the surface of our lives most of the time. We focus our energy and effort on exterior components of our living rather than the interior, living from the outside in rather than from the inside out. This tendency makes having a personal Easter experience somewhat difficult. The Easter event did not just happen on the first day of the week. There was that final meal on Maundy Thursday. Then there was the betrayal and arrest in the garden. Before Jesus was finally nailed to the cross, there was a trial and Peter’s denial. Ultimately, there was a tomb with a stone rolled in front of it. The church tries, sometimes better than others, to remember the events leading up to Easter. Those events are an important part of the story.
They are also important for us as individuals as we seek to let the reality of Easter inhabit our lives. The truth is that many of the events leading up to Easter are not filled with overly pleasant memories. In fact, some of those events reveal the darkness of evil at work in the world, and quite naturally we would rather not linger near them any longer than we have to.
In a similar way, within us there are places that are marked by betrayal and denial. There are stored away deep within us the transcripts from the trials we have endured, and perhaps even the trials through which we have put others. Inside of us there are crosses that we have born and may still bear. To be certain, there are tombs; there are graves where parts of us have died or maybe where we wish we had.
We cannot get to the Easter that would happen within us if we only pay attention to the concerns on the surface of our lives. We cannot get to it without rising up earlier on the third day to go to those places down in our souls where we expect to find heavy stones marking the dead places within us, only to find that they have been rolled away. If we don’t go to those interior places, to those hurting times in our lives, to those dying times that we have pushed to the very bottom of our memories, we cannot know whether or not the stones are still there. We cannot know if they have been rolled away or not.
Christ is risen! That is the easy part. The more important question for each of us to ask is whether or not He is alive in us. Has the risen Christ taken residence in our lives, rolling back the stones that cover the tombs in our lives? These are Easter questions, questions that we do well to ask, not just on one Sunday morning in the spring of the year, but each day that we seek to follow the resurrected Christ. That may seem like something of a burden, yet it points us to the image of Christ standing at the doorways of our lives, knocking and waiting for us to open our lives fully and completely to Him.
Part of the wonderful mystery of Easter is that Christ is risen, and whether invited or not invited, Christ is near to our lives seeking to love us anyway He can.