Easter Sunday—Year C
The Darkness That Precedes Joy
On Easter morning, we wake curled in beds warmed by, if we’re lucky, a ray of sun licking at our covers. Perhaps we are a little tired from the Easter Vigil the night before, or if we have little kids, perhaps colored eggs peep from the nooks and crannies of our homes. Chocolate awaits us, as does a celebration, maybe a ham or time with family and friends.
A few years ago it hit me that the mood that first Easter morning did not mirror our joy in shedding the darkness of Lent and prepping for a celebration. That morning was somber and sad, the darkness of Good Friday continued seemingly in perpetuity. The celebrations of the previous Thursday, Passover, had long dissipated, and the disciples were left racked with guilt and anger and disappointment. Guilt because they had left Jesus in His hour of need. Anger at themselves and at the situation. Disappointment because the Man they had chosen to follow, the Man who would restore Israel to its former glory, was gone. What had gone wrong? Nothing was as it had seemed just a week ago. Their world had turned upside down.
Life does that sometimes, doesn’t it? Turns on a dime. We all have those moments that define the before and after. When I imagine Jerusalem that Thursday, I picture a city filled with good smells, women scrubbing houses and apartments, men ceremoniously picking their animals up for slaughter at the Temple. I hear children laughing in the streets, and I can feel excitement ripple through the air. Just a few days ago, their guy Jesus had ridden into town on a carpet of palms to cries of “Hosanna!” Then, in less than twenty-four hours, He was gone and so were their dreams of the Jews rising again. They had been joyfully in the “before,” but that first Easter morning, they were in the remnants of the “after.”
But that’s not our experience of the “after.” After Lent is over, we celebrate. We know what happened next. We know Jesus was raised from the dead, and we celebrate accordingly. But, is it just a rush to get to the party or do we truly believe?
If it’s the latter, we spend a moment on Easter morning fully absorbing the gift we have been given. Like any true present, there are no strings. The gifts you don’t expect to get are the most memorable ones, the ones that surprise you because they aren’t obligatory but rather given out of love. That’s the resurrection—not obligatory, but given to us out of love. The grey somberness of the first Easter contrasted sharply with the joy the women experienced a few minutes later in meeting their risen Lord. Yes, the resurrection had been foretold to them, but they still weren’t expecting it. It was an unexpected gift, and so, the darkness of their “after” burst into an explosion of color and joy. They didn’t have the option to rush through the sadness to get to the party, but once they got there, it was true joy; they knew they had been given the pearl of great price (Matthew 13:46).