“He is not here; he has risen!”
What are your fondest Easter memories? The first Easter that I can remember was when I was five years old. My Uncle Buddy had joined the Marine Corps shortly before Christmas and didn’t return home from basic training until near Easter. Consequently, my mother left up the Christmas tree so we could have a combination Christmas/Easter celebration. By Easter that tree looked like Charlie Brown’s needleless Christmas tree.
A year later I had a severe case of the measles at Easter. During that time, I was confined to the couch in the living room. On the day before Easter, I was greeted by surprise guests. Mom and dad had purchased two live baby bunnies that were not supposed to be seen until Easter morning. But the bunnies had a different idea and escaped from their box in the kitchen.
I also recall my annual Easter basket of colored eggs, marshmallow peeps, and chocolate bunnies that traditionally followed with a big family dinner at my grandmother’s house featuring her homemade coconut Easter Bunny cake. Additionally, my childhood Easter celebration always included going to church. Easter Sunday services were always packed to overflowing with decked out parishioners sporting brightly colored new outfits.
Just like you, I have many fond Easter memories and have shared only a few to get you thinking about what you remember most about Easter. However, those things we recall about Easter pale compared to what Jesus’ disciples experienced on that first Easter Sunday morning. Can you imagine what it was like when they went to the empty tomb?
There are certain events in your life that are so significant that they remain etched in your memory as if they happened just yesterday. Your wedding day, the birth of your first child, the death of a loved one, the day you graduated from high school, etc. These experiences vividly stay with you in great detail. So it must have been for those disciples who looked into the empty tomb.
I have often thought about the courageous women who followed close behind Jesus on the road to the cross. How it must have grieved them to see the pain already inflicted upon Him through the cruel beating, flogging, and crown of thorns and then to see the nails driven through His hands and feet and to watch for six horrific hours as Jesus suffered the cruelty of the cross. They witnessed the punishment, the ridicule, and the murder of the One they loved dearly and even after His death they waited for Jesus’ body to be removed from the cross.
When His body was carried off for burial, they followed to see where He was entombed. They finally left out of obedience to observe the Sabbath. Even then they planned to return to the grave for the proper preparation of Jesus’ body with spices and perfumes. How that miserable ordeal must have played over and over again in their minds.
When we are shaken by traumatic situations, the agonizing thoughts stay continually with us. As they awoke on that first Easter Sunday morning they were surely greeted by thoughts of overwhelming grief. In fact, the weight of emotional stress may have been so great that sleep eluded them. They approached the tomb, not in joy, but in great sorrow.
With an unpleasant task before them, they returned to the tomb to give Jesus a proper burial. Upon arriving they were hit with yet another setback. The tomb was empty. And then…
While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but 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: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’” Then they remembered his words. (Luke 24:4-8)
The resurrection of Jesus changed everything for them. Sorrow turned to joy, defeat turned to victory, discouragement turned to hope, and death turned to life. Three simple yet powerful words changed their lives forever. He has risen.
My Easter memories have no real value other than just the recall of happy times from days gone by. Oh, but the Easter memories of those women who faithfully followed Jesus. I’ll take their memories over mine any day.
I can only imagine how things will be in heaven. Maybe someday I’ll be so fortunate as to sit by some of these women as they recall their experiences on that first Easter. And if someone should ask me to share my favorite Easter memory I’ll simply say, “My most favorite Easter memory is the same as yours. He has risen!”
For more on this topic, check out this article: When Christ Returns to Take Us Home
(Reprinted from The Forever Notebook, Book 2, April – June)
Reprinted from The Forever Notebook, Book 2 (April – June) Get your copy here: Paperback and eBook/Kindle formats.