Growing up, my family enjoyed community with a group of amazing, loving, socially conscious, peaceful activists. Some of those people are still among my parents best friends. That speaks a lot about the quality of people they are. I have some great memories of events my parents participated in. But right now I want to share my most traumatic experience.
A sunrise service on Easter is a brutal thing to wake up for, especially when you are young. I was perhaps six or seven and the shock of waking so early was somewhat placated by the promise of an Easter egg hunt following the service. The only thing I remember from the service was the singing of Cat Steven’s Morning Has Broken. But, oh, I remember the Easter egg hunt.
The rolling hills of Coyote Point presented a perfect location for hiding eggs. Hundreds of eggs carefully stashed awaiting being found by a dozen eager children. Before setting out, organizers shared the presence of two gold eggs with legendary goodness inside. I must find those gold eggs. Dashing out to a meadow, I picked up a couple colorful (notably of the hard-boiled variety) eggs. I focused my attention on the fringes of the meadow where the thickets made perfect hiding places.
I moved and searched quickly, bypassing numerous of the hard-boiled ilk looking for the crowning jewels of this hunt. Disbelief and elation suspended in slow motion as I closed in on what appeared to be something shiny. Could it really be? Do my eyes confound me? It was. I found one of the cherished eggs. Words cannot express the euphoria I felt. I glided around continuing to look nonchalantly. Lo and behold the second golden egg caught my eye. Since I had found the first I knew what to look for. Could this have turned out any better? No…this was in fact the greatest day of my life.
Once returning to the home base area, it came to the knowledge of the organizers that I found both eggs. After some deliberation, it was deemed unfair for one kid to keep both of the golden prizes, so I was stripped of my bounty. Oh, not a good moment for a tired seven-year-old. I collapsed into a heap of tears—unconsolable. Could this turn out any worse? Yes…this was very quickly becoming the worst day of my life.
I regrouped. The golden egg with the promise of goodness unparalleled rested waiting for unveiling. I cracked the plastic egg spilling the contents into my basket, dreaming of finding sugary delights galore only to find raisins, walnuts, almonds, carob chips and other wholesomeness. Not what I wanted to find. Disconsolate echoes filled those hills. A broken-hearted child is hard to appease.
I don’t remember what finally calmed me down. It really wasn’t the worst day of my life, but it was pretty disappointing.
On Friday through kangaroo court proceedings Jesus was sentenced to execution. Over the course of the day Jesus was scourged (whipped 39 times with a cat o’ nine tails), made to carry the cross bar of the Roman crucifixion device, and nailed to the cross. Some of the disciples and followers of Jesus witnessed the execution. They must have been crushed…disconsolate.
This was not the end they were expecting. Days before the masses hailed the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem with palm branches. Celebrating him as king. That is what they expected. Now Jesus hung on a cross dying.
Their Sabbath day spent hiding and mourning the death of their friend in whom they had placed their hopes. It was an uncertain and difficult day.
Sunday morning again radiated the unexpected.
“On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them..the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee.” -Luke 24:1-7
Later Jesus appeared to the disciples, “he showed them his hands and feet. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, ‘Do you have anything here to eat?'” (Luke 24:40-41) Jesus ate something showing he wasn’t a mere ghost, he was flesh and blood. The disciples must have been flabbergasted.
Wondering, startled, frightened, joy, amazement, elation—so many emotions. “The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.” it says in the Gospel of John 20:20. How could this be? The resurrection was completely unexpected. Their mourning was replaced by joy.
Something else resurrected on that Sunday—faith. It wasn’t until after Jesus rose that they could finally see the full picture. In the Gospel of Luke 24:45 it says “Then he [Jesus] opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.” They finally were able to put the dots together to grasp why Friday was necessary and why Sunday’s resurrection was indispensable. So indispensable that the Apostle Paul says “if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.”¹ The resurrection was the dawning of the “to the death” trust the early followers displayed.
Here 2,000 years later, are we still in awe of these chronicled events? The Good Friday death of Jesus that purchased our forgiveness—still as powerful. The resurrection Sunday and the proof that life can follow death—still as impressive and compelling. The “to the death” faith the early followers (and many throughout the world today) held—still as enviable.
Resurrection Sunday was just the beginning for those first eyewitnesses. Never again would they look at apparent difficulty as reason to lose hope. Even under persecution, being threatened, flogged, and jailed the followers rejoiced that they had been mistreated.² It would be impossible to view difficulty as something good unless they went through the gauntlet of Friday and Saturday and saw what God did on Sunday. They now knew God could overcome. And their faith became supercharged. They could not be quiet about what they had seen. A resurrected Jesus changes everything.
Finding the unexpected happens all the time in our lives from hearing bad medical news to receiving money from a fortuitous source. We can choose to believe that all things happen for a purpose or everything happens by chance. Believing all things happen for a reason brings purpose and infuses every moment with meaning. Even bad things can somehow be redeemed. They deepen our faith, make us stronger, and show us we can overcome.
Do you want to live life as an overcomer? Do you want to walk through difficulty relishing in hope? Do you want an attitude that doesn’t crumble when the unexpected seems too weighty to bear? Resurrection Sunday instigated that hope in Jesus’ first followers, and it can instill it in us today. We need that kind of hope. We need that kind of durability when the unexpected hits. Look to the empty tomb because a resurrected Jesus changes everything.