Imagine you haven’t slept a wink since Friday, and you’ve scarcely been able to eat either. You’re heartbroken and scared. Heartbroken because the one you love so dearly is gone, the image of his suffering so clearly burned in your mind. Scared because it feels like your world has come tumbling down.
Somewhere in the back of your mind you remember the strange promises Jesus made about rising from the dead, but you’re afraid to trust it will happen. You’re afraid to set yourself up for more disappointment. Your heart is already under siege and you’re not sure you can handle any more pain. You tell yourself you must accept this or the agony will surely crush your lungs and you’ll forget how to breathe.
So with grief as your companion, you quietly walk toward his grave, hoping you’ll find your own peace in the place where he is peacefully sleeping. But, as you enter the garden, you see that the stone has been rolled away, so you run as fast as you can to take a look inside.
You’re horrified to see that Jesus is not there.
“Who would do this?” you wonder, as you hurry off to find Peter.
“Who would add pain and humiliation to his already tragic death?”
You’re overcome with panic, believing the worst as you return to the empty tomb with Peter and the other disciple.
They step inside and see the linen wrappings that have been left behind, and now they are even more frightened that their lives are in danger, so they quickly depart.
But, you remain, wanting to be in the place where you last saw him.
The tears are flowing freely as you peer into the tomb once more, but this time it is not empty. You see two figures robed in white, sitting in the place where Jesus’ body had been.
You are confused when they ask you, “Why are you weeping?”
Isn’t it obvious? Someone has stolen Jesus from his resting place.
Anguish shakes you to your bones.
You wonder what to do next, and as you turn around you see another figure standing there. Your eyes are swollen, your vision is blurry, and your mind is a bit fuzzy, so you’re not quite sure who this person is. Maybe he’s the gardener.
He asks you that same question: “Why are you weeping?”
The words tumble out of your mouth: “Sir if you have taken him, please tell me where and I will go to him.”
Then it happens. He calls you by name.
The hairs on your arm stand on end and you’re covered in goosebumps. It’s him. It’s really him.
Jesus is alive.
After all he’s been through, he’s smiling and you can feel him radiating love. You’re so happy that you wrap your arms around him. You want that moment to last forever, so you hold on tight. You never want him to leave you again.
But then he says, “You must go. Go tell my brothers that I am alive. Tell them I will ascend to my God and your God.”
So you let go, your heart bursting with joy because now you know you can survive even the longest night. You know that no matter what happens, his love will never leave you.
And when you’re afraid, you can keep going forward because he will be with you always. Even when fear shouts at the top of its lungs, it will not deaden the sounds of your Lord calling out your name.
Yes, sometimes the fear will hurt you. But it won’t defeat you. Jesus will be in your heart, whispering, “I know the way. I’ve been here before. Follow me.”
And you’ll pick yourself off the ground, with an alleluia rising in your throat, because now you know the story of hope. You know the story of unimaginable, unexplainable life. You know the story of love taming fear and transforming the forces of destruction.
So like your risen Lord, you will not be held back. You will not be put in a cage that separates you from new and endless life. And like the resurrected Jesus, you are a force of liberating love. By his rising, that is the spirit he has put in you.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you must always be fearless. Instead, it means you will not be dragged down forever because fear, shame, sin and hopelessness are no match for your Savior’s eternal, death-shattering love.
So now that your soul has been strengthened by this Easter miracle, your feet once again pick up the pace. And you go into the world to sing the good news: He is risen! Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen.
Written by: The Rev. Kay M Houck