A Meditation for Easter

They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” (John 20:13)
He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” (John 20:15)

            The question comes to Mary twice.  Woman, why are you crying?  The angels ask the question first, and Jesus repeats it.  Mary answers the angels with the same interpretation of the events of that fateful morning she gave Peter and John earlier:  They have taken my Lord away, and I don’t know where they have put him.  (John 20:2, 13).  She mistakes Jesus for the gardener and in her confused thinking asks if he is the one responsible.  Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.   (John 20:15)


            The message here is clear and easy.  This is Easter Sunday!  Jesus is alive!  There is no room for crying on this the most glorious day of the Christian year!  Put a smile on your face, head to a crowded service at your local church, and sing from the depths of your heart: “Christ the Lord is Risen Today!  Alleluia!”


            And yet . . . Jesus is certainly alive, but on Easter 2021 we are on the verge of a fourth wave of the COVID 19 virus.  Jesus is certainly alive, but on Easter 2021 over 600 unaccompanied minor children cross the southern border of the United States each day (according to CNN).  Jesus is certainly alive, but on Easter 2021, woman continue to view abortion as the best or only option to deal with pregnancy.  Jesus is certainly alive, but during Lent, 2021 there were 64 mass shootings in the United States (defined as incidents involving four or more victims of firearm-related violence) including incidents in Georgia whose victims were mostly Asian-American women  and Boulder, Colorado where 10 were killed in a grocery store (“List of Mass Shootings in the United States,” Wikipedia).  I could go on.  The point is, whatever one’s political leanings, these are tragedies and they will continue once Easter has passed.  Why are you crying?  There are plenty of reasons for anyone concerned about what’s going on in society to be on the verge of tears if not completely bawling.


            There are those who would discourage followers of Jesus from experiencing the full range of human emotion.  They quote Paul’s letter to the Philippians:  Rejoice in the Lord always!  I will say it again:  Rejoice!  (Philippians 4:4).  The message they give is that Christians are supposed to be happy all the time.  Every Sunday they should attend church and sing praise songs, because “God is good, all the time; all the time God is good.”  Did your loved one die this past week?  He’s in a better place, so be happy for him.  Has evil shown its ugly head again this past week (see meditation March 30)?  Don’t get too upset.  God is Sovereign.  He is in control.   


            Mary cried because she thought Jesus was still dead, and now his body was missing. Jesus was a victim:  first of the cruelty of the cross and now of the greed of grave robbers. She was wrong.  On Easter we discover that Jesus is not the victim, but the Victor. The resurrection of Jesus allows us to once again rejoice, celebrate, and experience hope.  But it does not eliminate our pain and suffering.  The post-resurrection world is still a broken world, and it will be until Jesus returns.


            The same Biblical writer who who wrote that we should Rejoice in the Lord always also wrote,  do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.  (I Thess. 1:13).  This life we are living is not a utopia.  We still grieve.  But, because of the resurrection, we grieve in the context of hope.  That makes our grief bearable.


            There will come a time when God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death, or mourning, or crying, or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. That is the Christian hope, a hope secured on Easter Sunday when Jesus conquered death itself.


            Meanwhile, we live in a still-broken world, in the time between Easter and Christ’s final return.  Evil still exists.  Atrocities abound.  Sometimes it can get overwhelming.  We break down with sobbing that comes from the depth of our souls.  What we are experiencing is not what God wants.  But we sob in hope.  We work for a more just and holy world in the midst of our tears, knowing that God is at work and we are a part of His re-creation of the world he loves. Hear again these Easter words, and from them take hope:  “The Lord has risen!  He has risen indeed!”