1 After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.
2 There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4 The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.
5 The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”
8 So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Matthew 28:1-8 (NIV)
Death is confusing. We do not know how to handle the event of death.
Upon hearing of his royal bride’s death, Shakespeare’s Macbeth declared,
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor playerJust picture the faithful New Testament women standing out by the hopeless tomb desperately calling for more – more than shadows signifying nothing. Did they reason that all was lost? Did they gather that Christ’s “hour on the stage” terminated with nails and stones? No doubt their Sabbath was filled with grief and mourning. They huddled by the tomb, that place where nothing of joy occurs. That was to change!
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing. (V.v. 16-27)
The events of this text, once believed, change lives. The conclusive view of death dies. The problem, however, is that you and I struggle with more than death. We also bow under the stresses and tragedies of life. We may sing, “The joy of the Lord is my strength,” yet our emotions and bodies don’t always join our song – even in the light of the Resurrected Life of Jesus. We tragically forget the joy presented to us.
In 1876 Lewis Carroll, the creator of the Alice adventures, wrote a letter to children which calls for Easter Joy. One sentence from his letter that we all do well to hear says,
“For I do not believe God means us to divide life into two halves – to wear a grave face on Sunday, and to think it out of place to even so much as mention Him on a week-day.” (http://www.alice-in-wonderland.net/resources/chapters-script/alices-adventures-in-wonderland/easter-greeting/)From this wise counsel and the remainder of the letter, I see a couple of principles that will help you and me to really enjoy the joy of Easter.
1. He encourages us to “Rise and Forget”
“To rise and forget, in the bright sunlight, the ugly dreams that frightened you so when all was dark – to rise and enjoy another happy day, first kneeling to thank that unseen Friend, who sends you the beautiful sun?”2. He asks us to Rise and Rejoice
A. In the Present
“This Easter sun will rise on you, dear child, feeling your ‘life in every limb’, and eager to rush out into the fresh morning air – and many an Easter-day will come and go, before it finds you feeble and gray-headed, creeping wearily out to bask once more in the sunlight – but it is good, even now, to think sometimes of that great morning when the ‘Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in his wings’.”
Remember to enjoy the Resurrection today – now!
B. For the Future
“Surely your gladness need not be less for the thought that you will one day see a brighter dawn than this – when lovelier sights will meet your eyes than any waving trees or rippling waters – when angel-hands shall undraw your curtains, and sweeter tones than ever loving Mother breathed shall wake you to a new and glorious day”
Rejoice in the coming day.
In 1990 my paternal grandfather died due to the effects of leukemia. The night before his death as he lay on his literal deathbed, my grandfather told my father that he wanted to go home. He was not speaking of his street address. By those words he communicated that he was ready to see Jesus – his Lord and Savior.
A week prior to that day, while fully aware of his condition, Granddaddy lay in bed telling his wonderfully funny jokes. He even sent me on a mission to the local drive-up to retrieve an extra long hotdog with extra onions – foods his doctor discouraged.
Even in the moments of his death, he took time to have fun and enjoy simple pleasures. God wants you to rejoice in all situations, not because all situations are good, but rather because He is with you through each and every one.
Many Christians live in fear, trapped and unable or unwilling to rejoice. At the tomb the Marys would not settle for that option. Notice their response to the angel’s instruction to have no fear.
Their fear did not vanish; yet still filled with fear, they left room for joy.