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Remembering the real meaning of Easter

If you walk through Walmart and look for Easter, you will find candy — lots and lots of candy.

If you read the newspaper ads, Easter is about a bunny who gives out eggs. If you walk into a store, Easter is about getting new clothes or flowers. A recent news article said Easter is about relationships and family.

All good things to enjoy and celebrate, but nowhere near the real message of Easter.

In the Bible on Easter morning, there are several stories about the resurrection of Jesus. Some report how the women and the disciples discover the empty tomb. They run to discover Jesus is gone. They run back to tell the others, but, in the excitement, one of the women, Mary, is forgotten.

What follows is an intimate and closer view of Mary. All week she has been a quiet witness to the horror of the arrest, the trial, the whipping, the agonizing hours on the cross and now the final blow — the missing body. More than she can bear, she stands outside the tomb and cries.

Asked why she is crying, she says, “they have removed my Lord and I don’t know where they have put him.”

Can you feel her pain and anguish? It is at that moment when Jesus appears.

She turned to leave and saw someone standing there. It was Jesus, but she didn’t recognize him. “Dear woman, why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who are you looking for?”

She thought he was the gardener. “Sir,” she said, “if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.”

Then in a beautiful, touching moment, Jesus quietly says, “Mary!” (Parts of John 20)

There is the real meaning of Easter. It is in the revealing and the recognition, the knowledge of knowing that Jesus is alive. The hope, the excitement, everything is restored. Jesus is alive!

Easter is about Jesus rising from the grave to offer us eternal grace and hope. Lent is about asking questions: Why? How? When? Where? Who? Easter provides answers: Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.

After Easter, we apply God’s plan for our lives, our church and our world. Joel Freeman writes, “Christians have no tidy answers to suffering, no easy 10 principles for happy sufferers. They only have attitudes for meeting it, handles for overcoming it and outlooks for transcending it.”

I have seen this truth demonstrated in remarkable ways. There was a lady in Norfolk dying of cancer. When first diagnosed, she decided to keep a diary. That diary became a spiritual journal in which she recorded her joys and her struggles as she walked with God through those moments of intense pain and suffering.

I visited her at a time when the cancer had taken its toll. Her outlook, however, was as beautiful as her faith. She had been tested and refined by fire, but she continued to give glory and praise to God for his remarkable love and power. She witnessed to many who were battling cancer.

Her son had a dramatic conversion from a life of using drugs. His mother’s faith and strength convinced him of his need for Christ. Not only has he been saved from the addiction ruining his life, but he also works in a rehabilitation center helping others.

I also read about a group of prisoners returning from Vietnam. After all the torment and torture endured by captors who scorned their beliefs in their country and in God and laughed at their faith. After all this, how did these men return?

Singing hymns. They formed a choir at one of the prison camps. After landing at Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines, they recorded a concert and sent it home.

President Nixon had a party at the White House for all the returned POWs with some 1,200 guests. Bob Hope was master of ceremonies. The highlight of the evening was a performance by the POW choir.

Men treated terribly singing hymns to God. When they finished, the director took a handkerchief from his pocket to wipe away his tears. He was not alone. The newsmen and other guests were doing the same.

I still like Easter candy. Easter eggs are nice. New clothes are exciting. Receiving fresh, colorful flowers is fun. Getting together as a family and strengthening relationships is important.

But this coronavirus-filled Easter 2021 and every Easter that follows, I am grateful to be reminded that: Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.

REV. LARRY E. DAVIES can be reached at larrydavies@vaumc.org.