Last week we celebrated the birthday of my oldest grandson and myself. So on his birthday I left work and headed home expecting a nice birthday supper of pizza as chosen by Jake. When I got home I was greeted at the door and invited to the playroom for my early birthday present.
I followed, thinking that the boys had made a craft for me as the do from time to time and that it would be given to me with all their love. But it was much more than that. I rounded the corner and was greeted with “surprise”…. and there seated on the couch was my mother who had flown in for our birthdays. What a lovely surprise and a great joy.
As I worshiped on Easter Morning the minister was talking about the surprise and shock that the women felt at hearing the news, “he is not here, he is risen.”
He pointed out that this should not have been a surprise after all Jesus had repeatedly said that he would return. No one listened. The power of denial is of course very strong. The message of his death that Jesus spoke of was not in their belief and hopes of a Messiah and so they rejected the message. Then as they watched him die on the cross the pain, fear and anguish they felt overwhelmed them. They forgot what they had refused to acknowledge.
Pain, fear and grief stayed with all the disciples in the days following the death. Those overwhelming feelings are what drove the women to the tomb that Easter morning, bringing spices to anoint the body. There is a comfort in doing what you can for the one who has died. We do the same thing as we bring flowers to the graves of those whom we love. Those acts help us as we grieve.
But grieving was not on God’s agenda. Although the followers of Jesus should have known, they did not and as the women approached the tomb they were in for a surprise.
When I think of the joy of my surprise a few days ago I wonder at what they must have felt as they saw the angel and heard his message.
Surprise, joy perhaps, but I think that the shock of the news of life coming so hard on the heels of the shock of seeing death, must have rocked their world. How do you make sense of the unthinkable? How do you believe the unbelievable? What does it take for the magnitude of that kind of surprise to sink in?
We often forget, you and I, that we live on this side of Easter. We come to the tomb during worship and we know what we are going to see. We expect to hear the words, “he is not here, he is risen”. We love the surprise of Easter, even if we know that it is coming.
But the women did not know and that makes the surprise even bigger.
Yes it took them time to process the news, it took the actual sight of Jesus before it all began to make sense and for them to believe.
But for all of us the good news is the same. He is risen and because he lives we are forgiven and redeemed. He is risen and because he lives we live also. He is risen and because he lives we are given a calling and a purpose.
This is Easter.