Reflections on Easter

Good News From the Graveyard

By, Rev. Howard C. Earle, Jr., D.Min.

For more than half of my life I have been serving in ministry and most of the time has been full time.  One of my most common ministry tasks and meaningful has been presiding over funerals and delivering eulogies. I have eulogized nearly 200 people during my pastoral tenure inclusive of all my grandparents, both parents, and an uncle. What is usually coupled with the funeral service in the sanctuary is the trip to the cemetery.  The procession of cars snakes through the city, at a slow somber pace, with headlights on. I’ve watched families make their way to gravesites; noting the graves of relatives, friends, and acquaintances as they take steps to their loved one’s final resting place. You can usually feel the emotion of this somber walk. I remember standing around my parents’ caskets at the National Cemetery in Augusta, MI. Mixed in with my grief were feelings of peace and contentment because I knew my parents were now with the Lord and I would see them again one day.

We’re in Holy Week and I’m thinking about another scene at a cemetery. Over 2,000 years ago, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, according to Matthew’s gospel, went to visit the tomb of Jesus. They were going to anoint his body for a proper, Jewish burial. I can’t be certain of the thoughts going through their heads, but I can imagine they shared some of the same thoughts we have when we are at the gravesides of loved ones. Just three days ago, they witnessed the death of their most beloved friend. As far as they knew, hope for a better life, one free of Roman oppression died with Jesus on the cross. Now they were carrying out their final act of love and devotion. Their despair and grief are understood, even expected. But grief wasn’t the only emotion at the tomb that morning. To their surprise, even horror, the tomb was open and Jesus’ body was gone. They were greeted by an angel who explained to them that the one they were looking for was not there. His absence was not due to his body being taken, but he was risen. The same Jesus who they saw die on Friday exited the tomb under his own power on Sunday.

It’s the best of news; too good to be true. Jesus is not dead; He’s alive! The best news on the planet is reported in a place associated with perhaps the worst of news, the graveyard. Matthew records that the women departed quickly with “fear and great joy.” The worst-case scenario had already played out before their eyes, the death of Jesus. Now they were leaving an empty tomb propelled by the reality of a risen savior. This first century news cast from the scene of an empty tomb still carries the same weight as it did 2,000 years ago. For centuries the empty tomb has and continues to broadcast this news; the power and penalty of sin and death have been defeated! From a place normally associated with death and defeat, we have the powerful imagery of life and victory.

We can also share in the women’s joy as they departed from the tomb. Even though you’ve celebrated dozens of Easters over your lifetime, allow the empty tomb to still speak good news. Easter evokes new leases on life, new opportunities, victory, and freedom.  There are no age restrictions on the life and freedom afforded by the resurrection. Don’t let bunnies, eggs, and baskets dominate the imagery of the season.  You, in your aging body today, are the best imagery for Easter. You’re alive because He rose! Maybe you can’t walk as fast as you used to. You no longer sing in perfect pitch. The vision isn’t as clear as it used to be, but you make the most of what you have because of the resurrection. Live your own resurrected life! Explore new interests! Make new friends! Extend forgiveness! Find someone or something to celebrate every day! Embrace the lyrics penned by Gloria and Bill Gaither in 1971 as they welcomed their third child into the world. The headlines of 1971 didn’t look much different from today, seemingly more bad news than good.

 

Because He Lives, I can face tomorrow;
Because He lives, all fear is gone;
Because I know he holds the future;
And life is worth the living just because he lives!

You’re alive, so live!

You belong here.

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