Over the last few weeks we purposefully walked through the three essential days of the Easter story: that would be Friday, Sunday and Monday. You’re probably thinking that we made a mistake. First of all, if we narrow it down, aren’t there only two important days, Friday and Saturday? But if we do add a third, wouldn’t Saturday be the most important? All great questions. Glad you asked.
Every good story has a before, an after, and an after that. There’s a incident that sets up the story, followed by a something in the story to look forward to, like a problem to solve or a tragedy to overcome. Even though we can’t read past the last page, there is more to the story, an after that if you will. Something that came from or out of the story. I call this life after the credits.
The Easter story has all of the above.
The before is of course the death of Jesus. The lead up to his death and the death itself is the part of this story we remember. By remember I mean, we reflect on it, ponder it, and are grateful for it. Unfortunately, when tied to the Easter events we sometimes rush through it. We so look forward to Sunday, that Friday is simply a tragedy to overcome. However, it’s in the death of Jesus that we find the life in this story and in ours. In Romans 5:6-8 Paul says, “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us”. Those words express the power of Friday. While we were still weak, still powerless, still failures, still broken, Jesus died. Not only did he die, but he died for us, in our place, instead of us. Wow. If we rush to the ‘after’ in this story, the ‘Sunday’ in this story, we may not appreciate the magnitude in the ‘before’, the power of the cross. Never rush through this part of the story: appreciate it for what it is, God’s love in action for a broken world.
The after is of course the resurrection of Jesus. This is ‘oh my’ moment, the surprise, the climax, etc. It’s in this moment that we realize who the main character is: Jesus, the son of God, God incarnate. A read through any of the closing texts in the four gospels and we will see how shocked and surprised the disciples were: From the women who first witnessed the empty tomb, to Peter and John who ran over to see what the women were talking about. I’ve heard it said that Easter is always a surprise. No matter how well you know the story or if you were in the middle of it like the first disciples; Easter is a surprise ending to a really bad weekend. Even though it’s in Jesus’ death we are saved, it’s in his resurrection we are affirmed that he is God. This is, as some people say, the party of all parties, and rightfully so. Easter Sunday is something to celebrate, and I’m thankful that even though it’s one day on a calendar, we (the church) celebrate it every day.
Now here’s the part of the story that some people miss out: the afterward. It’s so easy to close the book on resurrection day, appreciate the hype and the party, but end there. We can’t do that. Every good story pushes us forward, causes us to react or respond or live differently because of it. If you’re like me, at the end of a movie or a TV series, you imagine what life will be like after the credits, after the last scene. Why? Because there has to be more to the story. The resurrection is that kind of ending…it’s really a beginning. The resurrection should be a launching pad, a turning point, a spring board into the future. 1 Corinthians 5:17 says that in Christ there is a new creation. 1 Peter 1:3 says that the resurrection gives a new birth into a living hope. Romans 8:11 says that the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead is living in me…in you. Those are all future impacts to a historical event. The resurrection was never meant to be a one day thing, but an event that launches us into new life. Life, that Jesus hinted at, would be abundant and full (John 10:10). So never let this story end on a Sunday, instead may every day after it be a new and fresh day to live out the power of Jesus’ resurrection. Oh, and how does this new life look like? Take a look at places like Galatians 5:22, Colossians 3:12-14 and 1 John 3:14 for clues.
When we think about Easter, may we think about it as a full, rich and true story; that looks at the (our) past and looks into the (our) future. May the death of Jesus and his resurrection do what it was meant to do, launch us into a new creation, into new life.