They had been traveling together for 3 years. Many had abandoned family and friends to walk with Him. They gave up their trade and risked the wrath of the authorities. He gave them signs and wonders which convinced them He was the Messiah, Son of Man, not sent to build a kingdom on earth, but rather to reveal to them a way to get so close to God, it would be like parent to child. On a mountain, they had a glimpse of His evolution...how He would be when no longer constrained by the laws of this world. Then, in an instant, He is crucified, dies, is buried and they are left to wonder what went wrong? How did they get into this? What do they do now? Will they be next? They huddled together waiting for the other shoe to drop...scared, sad, lost.
Suddenly, rumors began to fly. He was alive. They had seen Him. They remembered Him telling them He would die only to rise. They were no longer scared. You couldn't shut them up. They talked to anyone and everyone. They had good news. The stone had been rolled back and they were convinced He was alive and conquered death.
The Easter story is the key to Christianity. Without it, Christmas is the birth of another Jewish boy named Joshua. With it, all the insights and epiphanies and revelations He had taught them were understood. Not only were we in a new relationship with God due to the incarnation, (Christmas), but now we know death is not the final answer. We GO On!
It's hard to take an event 2,000 years old and find ways it applies to people living in the 21st century. This is an era of extraordinary discovery and knowledge. From the Hadron Collider giving as an external view of the universe at its very beginning, to the Human Genome Project giving us a glimpse of the DNA which brings us to life in that universe, we live in a time when a rolled back stone, burial cloths and a ghost story seem quaint, but so distant.
The good news must be seen as one piece, one epiphany, and one revelation. From His birth, through His life and His death and resurrection, Jesus preaches the same message. We can know God. We can be so close to God it is like being mother and child. God wants to know us. She created us out of love and wishes to be loved in return. This relationship with God cannot be ended by the death of our physical body. It, and we, GO ON!
Despite all the advances of human kind, death still haunts us. Yet, the message of Jesus is one Einstein would have resonated with. Einstein said you can't destroy energy. You can change it, but not destroy it. At our deepest point of humanity, we all sense we are more than the sum of our parts. We are not defined solely by the chemicals and matter that constitute our body. We are more. Our identity is dependant on a corpulent form, but not limited to it. I transcend my body. I am more. It is this more that some refer to as the soul...an energy that cannot be destroyed, only transformed. One of the messages of Easter is death does not conquer us. Who I am goes on. The real question, and the message of Easter, is who is the "me" who will emerge when my stone is rolled back from the tomb?
As we read the gospels, Jesus doesn't spend much time on the meaning of resurrection. There are few stories in scripture post resurrection. He does, however, spend an inordinate amount of time on how we should live now, in this world. We are to love our enemy. (Since this cannot be truly done perhaps we are not to have enemies) Turn the other cheek...forgive an infinite number of times...care for the least of our brothers and sisters...above all love our neighbor like God loves us. (as the Good Samaritan points out...everyone is our neighbor) Jesus promises us we can have life and life to its fullest if we listen to Him. In the 21st century, what is the definition of a full life? We know what Madison Avenue and the pop culture tell us. A full life means money, property, and lots of "stuff". A full life is ski vacations and a summer home. Our children are told to build "aps" and start companies, to achieve a level of success that carries with it all the accouterments of achievement defined by the current powers that be. The message of Easter is countercultural. The happier and more fulfilled we are now...the more we love and are loved in return...every time we choose to humanize ourselves and others, we are drawing closer to God. It is the promise of a wonderful life and a promise we will transition and evolve ever closer to God when we GO On!
I wish I had seen this sooner. I bought the whole package about what a good life meant, and I was wrong. The "me" who would have gone on would be someone caught up with ego and envy, arrogance and pride, anger and selfishness. The promise of Easter was lost on me, as it is on so many caught up in acquiring things and achieving success while missing the love of family and friends and the joy of being there for others.
Christians are Easter people. (named after a pagan goddess of course) God's promise extends to anyone who chooses to live a life of love and caring, however for Christians without Easter there is nothing.
So let me ask you...who will be the "you" who goes on? What is your definition of a full life and does it draw you closer or push you farther from God? The good news is you can get so close to God it will be like a parent and child. (How much do we all love our children? Imagine then how a close loving relation with God would feel.) The good news is death doesn't have to scare you. The good news hit the apostles like a ton of bricks and so empowered them they didn't care what happened to them when they shared what they knew to others. This ragtag band of simpering, whining, scared and imperfect people were transformed after Easter into bearers of news so amazing they had to shout it to anyone who would listen.
Easter is the culmination of the Christian year. It reminds us to take stock of who we are and the kind of life we are living. I am living proof you can completely screw it all up and yet it's not permanent and we can change. (and when we do change, God promises us forgiveness...not just forgiveness but says She will have no memory of what we had done) Please don't be afraid. Don't feel alone or abandoned. Don't hide in a room waiting to see what happens. Experience the joy of loving and being loved. When the stone is rolled back for you, the good news is you GO On! On this Easter may "you" experience the joy of the risen Jesus and realize the world is alive with the grandeur of God.