April 12, 2020 Easter Sunday
Isaiah 25:6-9; John 20:1-18
There was once a man who, through a new marriage, became the father to a young boy. Their relationship was neither alien nor affectionate. The only thing they had in common was their undying love for the woman who stood with them.
This man was gentle, kind and thoughtful. And the boy wanted to trust him but didn’t know how. The weeks passed and the months did too. The man wished to do something special for the boy. But what? The man observed the boy, and learned his heart. One day the answer came to him. On the night before Easter he placed a rabbit in a cage with a bow on top. And then set the gift under the table next to the seat where the boy ate breakfast.
When morning came, the man and wife woke the boy. And the boy jumped out of bed in search of an Easter treat. The boy rummaged about, looking in closets and under beds. He pulled back curtains and lifted cushions off the couch. He opened drawers and cupboards and explored every square inch of their humble home. The boy did not give up. Neither did the man.
Together they shared the joy, the thrill of anticipation as the boy looked high and low for his Easter surprise. All smiled as the boy’s face came alive in a way that had yet to be seen by the man. For the first time since the marriage, the two felt connected. In sync…their eyes moved, towards the bow that appeared from under the table where the boy sat. Then together, in tandem, their countenance fell.
The man looked at the wife. The wife looked at the man. And the boy looked under the table. For what was there the night before was now no longer. The cage was empty. The bunny was gone. The boy looked up. The man looked around. And the wife looked at the cage.
There was no sign of foul play. No tampered lock, no secret escape hatch. But yet, no bunny at all. Not in the kitchen. Not in the drawers or cupboards. Not behind the couch or curtains. There were no little bunny clues leading back to the messiness of the boy’s room. It was as if there had been no bunny at all. It felt like a cruel joke had been played on all of them.
The man tried to reason with the boy, but the boy refused to hear. The man tried to rationalize the mystery, but the boy doubted the man. Heartbroken they returned to that place where they had first begun, neither alien nor affectionate.
The next day turned to the next. The man sat in his chair, and the boy sat at his place at the table. The house was quiet as neither spoke. Still, something stirred in them both. More than seething or anger, their was the desire to be connected. It was in that moment, their hearts began to mysteriously beat - quietly, in sync.
Each at the same time felt a familiar presence the room, one that poked at the pain that was put upon their hearts. Unexpectedly and in one accord, the two lifted their heads and looked towards the patio door. Their curiosity connected as they watched the bunny hop across the patio into the light of the sun.
The man jumped from his chair and boy from his as they raced out the open door. Two heads, like two hearts - one of the boy and one of the man - came together. Together, in unison, they collided. Together, fell to the ground in laughter. The boy looked at the man. The man looked at the boy. Their smiles became one. From that moment onward, the cage remained empty to remind them of how full their hearts had become.
This is a story about a bunny, an Easter bunny if you will, that mysteriously goes missing, on Easter morning. As a result of the cage being empty, the man and the boy are given a new opportunity to pursuit what they desired – joy, together, as a family. Easter is a time when we gather together, as a family of believers, to celebrate the joy of the resurrection of God’s beloved Son.
John’s Easter story begins not with a rabbit, but with a woman. It’s early in the morning and Mary Magdalene is on her way to visit Jesus’ tomb. John doesn’t say what she’s doing there, all alone in the dark, but we know from the other gospels Mary is going to prepare Jesus’ body for burial.
But why so early? Did Mary have trouble sleeping? We all know how hard it is to sleep when your heart is broken, or when your mind is racing, trying to make sense of all that’s happened. Maybe she came before dawn because she knew what would happen if someone saw her there. Like a thief in the night she went to the graveyard, only to discover someone else beat her there. The stone to his tomb had been moved. And Jesus’ body was missing!
To the 21st century Christian, this is our Good News. The Easter present we long for. We’re not afraid of an empty tomb because we know God has raised Jesus from the dead. To us it’s like an empty rabbit cage, we know it’s not the end of the story. It’s the beginning of something greater.
We can celebrate today because we’ve had two thousand years to make sense of it all. But for Mary, it was just one more disappointment added to her weary heart. No wonder she runs away, to go be with someone who can relate to what she’s feeling. That person is Peter, who perhaps out of guilt or excitement, raced to the tomb with the other disciple. When they get there, they too are stupefied. Like Mary, they have no idea what to make of the emptiness that they were seeing and feeling.
According to John, they saw but didn’t understand what God was doing. They had no idea this is what the Kingdom of Heaven looks like. Who could blame them? The cross has robbed them of their joy. And now, the empty tomb has robbed them of what little hope they had left. When I put myself in their shoes, all I can think about is how empty I would feel without Christ in my life. Something would be missing for sure.
It’s safe to say Jesus, in more ways than one, has saved me from myself. He has taken on my burdens. And tended to my deepest wounds. He fills my darkest moments with his divine light. He continues to calm the storms around me and in me and gives me peace. How blessed are we to know that this empty tomb is just another way God is revealing to us who Jesus really is. Just as it was in a dirty stable, God comes to us in places we least expect.
Even though they have spent years traveling with Jesus, witnessing the Kingdom of Heaven firsthand the disciples can’t see that God’s finger prints are all over this place. That God is the mastermind behind it all. The one who robbed the tomb of death. In the coming days, Jesus will reveal himself to them and make sense of everything. But for now, Peter and the other disciples run and hide. They’re smart enough to know that you don’t want to be at the scene of a crime when the cops show up.
Yet Mary stayed behind. She wasn’t afraid, nor did she give up hope. Instead she poured out her heart out to God. When Jesus heard her weeping, he moved to comfort her. That is so much like Jesus isn’t it? Always there, putting the needs and wellbeing of others first. Still, it’s not until Mary heard him speak her name that she really got what’s going on. In one gesture of kindness Mary was able to see Jesus in a new light. And to comprehend what God was up to.
Easter is the dawning of a new day, where we wake up to a new reality. God is revealing God’s self once again to the world. A proclamation of God’s love for you and me. Jesus is the visible presence of God’s love and the empty tomb is the proof of how far God will go to love us...and to save us. Not from our sins per se, but from ourselves. Jesus is calling you by name so that you might recognize God’s love for you in him.
Moreover, Jesus comes to you, to show you how to be that love in the world.
Just as Jesus told Mary to go and tell others, He is calling on us to do the same. To go and proclaim God’s love in such a way that others will see and understand. And be comforted and cared for. Some call this salvation. Others call it healing. I call it Easter.
Because this tomb is empty, we live. And can proclaim the good news with a joy filled heart - without fear or worry. Because this tomb is empty, we can walk through the darkest nights, we can walk through the shadow of death, knowing Christ is illuminating our way.
Because this tomb is empty, our hearts can overflow with God’s love, and we can share that love knowing there is plenty to go around.
Because the tomb is empty all who mourn will be comforted; the merciful will receive mercy; and the hungry will be fed. Our pain and suffering, like the tears and anguish they bring, will be no more. Death has lost its sting! Christ has risen...and it is Christ who will raise us up.
This is what the kingdom of heaven is all about. Healing and restoration. Living in the fullness of God’s love. This is salvation. This is Easter. The tomb is empty. Christ is alive. Because he lives, so too can we.
Like the bunny, Christ cannot be contained to a cage. Instead he lives inside us, through us, and all around us. Once we see how God reveals himself to the world in him, then we can understand why God sent Christ in the first place. As it is written, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son so that those who believe will have life...everlasting.”
Easter is about living forever in Christ. Today is a day to turn our hearts and our whole being towards Christ the visible presence of God’s love and righteousness. It is Christ who calls out to us. And gives us the assurance that there is no boundary to God’s love for us…not even death. Easter is the day we are called to abandon our dark tombs. And run after the One who loves us unconditionally.
As you move from this day into a new week, I hope you will remember this. It’s not just an empty tomb that we celebrate, but the everlasting life that flows from it.
If you haven’t already done so, I invite you to open the cage of your heart and run free with Christ now and forever, Amen.
Let us pray:
Lord Christ, as we look at your empty tomb, we confess that we have not always been our best - often putting ourselves and our needs above others. We have hoarded our resources, been unkind to our neighbors and co-workers, we’ve allowed injustices to harm your children, and we have turned our back on those who cry out for help.
We have not loved as you have taught us to love. And we are truly sorry. By your tender mercy heal us from our brokenness. And redeem us from all our wrongdoings. Give us your Holy Spirit to guide us in your ways - so that we may always walk to the glory of your name bringing honor and meaning to your glorious resurrection. Amen.
has been blogging under the name: Jesus not Jesús: Looking for Christ in the face of strangers. You can read his posts and browse his archives by clicking here.
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