What difference does Easter make if it is celebrated with the Easter Bunny as the central figure or Jesus? I mean, C’mon… who REALLY believes someone can rise from the dead? And what does it matter anyway 2000 years later?… Isn’t it much easier, nicer and cleaner to believe in a Bunny that brings candy and rolls eggs….and it certainly looks a whole lot more attractive on an Easter card than a cruel Roman cross.
Well, it makes all the difference in the world to those who have been forced to navigate the reality of deep loss and death. Perhaps a mother who mourns over the unexpected loss of a child, a spouse who lost the love of their life after many years, a parent whose child is struggling through the deep throes of addiction…. these are the dark nights of the soul when it matters. Those who have suffered this type of loss this past year will not do much contemplating about the Easter Bunny on Easter Sunday.
There once was a woman named Mary who understood this type of painful loss.
Mary had the dark privilege of washing the dried blood from Jesus’ lifeless body as two other followers prepared his tomb. Oh, how Mary must have cried in anguish as she washed the body of one she loved so deeply…
Mary had been born in the lap luxury. She was a native of Magdala, a town along the coast of Galilee. But money had brought Mary the exact opposite of happiness. She recalled her early years as a painful blur of compulsive behavior. Her parents had thrown up their hands in despair, she recalled. She recollected the gnawing fear, the self-loathing that ate at her very core. And she could remember the bold, but loving penetration of Jesus’ eyes as he had confronted the demons that tormented her for so long. And how could she forget the way He commanded them to be gone forever?…..and wonder of wonders… THEY OBEYED! That had been the last of the old, anxious Mary. A gentle, peace-filled Mary had taken her place. But today a fresh new anguish would visit her soul.
Today she had seen her Lord die an excruciating death; his body hanging limp from the nails driven through his hands and feet, suspended from a cross like a common criminal. Her heart was beating in her throat as she remembered His voice and His eyes…. But now she wept and washed away the clotting blood with her tears.
Was all her hope for naught? What of all the diseased bodies he had healed? The broken lives he had restored? The promises of the Kingdom of God?
….It was early Sunday morning when she returned to the tomb to finish anointing his body. When she arrived, the tomb stood open, stone pushed to the side, ashes of the Roman guards’ watchfire still smoldering. “How can they be so rotten?” she must have felt as she ran to tell the apostles.
But it wasn’t the cruelty of Roman soldiers that rolled away the stone that Easter morning. It was the powerful hand of God as Jesus Christ stepped forth brimming with Life.
Mary saw him, mistaking him for the gardener. But there was no mistaking his familiar voice–“Mary.” With one word from her Master she fell at his feet, tears of grief melting into tears of joy. “Rabboni,” she said, as she looked into his face.
In an instant history changed forever! Where once the human mortality rate had held stead at 100%, it now skipped a beat as Jesus broke through the statistic and created a new way for all would confess Him. Death is no longer the last word for those who follow him; He has come to bring life and to bring it more abundantly. Hallelujah for the Cross!
“Believe in Buddha”, some still insist amid the marketplace of the world religions. “Confucius is the one”, say the Chinese. “Mohammed”, cry the Muslims. “Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh”, shout his followers; and the list of adherents to worldly Philosophies in the name of their leaders goes on and on…..but their leaders are ALL dead, buried and decomposed.
“Jesus changed my life”, Mary would say in response. And millions of believers around the globe will echo in unison this Easter, “Mine, too. He touched my life, too.”
While religious leaders have come, and gone, only One stepped forth from the tomb victorious. Only one has risen from the realm of death exactly as He promised. Only One has conquered death. Only One offers the promise of eternal life to those who follow him.
The Easter Bunny may bring candy, but he brings no eternal hope!
But Jesus said, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live”; John 11:25 Have a blessed and Joyful Easter!
In Christ’s love and service,
Pastor George Augustine Palombo