I wrote this post a couple of years ago on the Monday after Easter, but never posted it.
The day after Easter I commuted to work taking the usual route, passing two cemeteries. As I traveled by the second one I noticed a canopy and chairs set up next to a freshly dug grave. A funeral would be held later that morning.
As my drive continued, I began to think about the family. I thought how difficult it must have been to plan a funeral Easter weekend. But then again, is there a better time? The great triumph we celebrate on Easter Sunday happened in the cemetery.
No death denial
Rightly celebrated, Easter does not deny death. The events of Thursday, Friday, and Saturday are gritty. Real blood is spilled. Real tears are cried. Real pain–physical, emotional, and spiritual–is felt.
Too often we Christians act as if we are in the death denial business. That simply isn’t true. Every Holy Thursday, we leave the Upper Room with Jesus and follow him to the Garden of Gethsemane. We know what’s coming, but we go anyway. We remember his arrest and so-called trial. We stand with Peter in the outside the courtyard and wonder if we too would have denied knowing him to save our own skin.
On Friday, we come back together where we remember the crack of the whip on his back, the crown of thorns pressed into his brow, and the nails piercing his skin. We hear him cry out in pain, breathe his last, and watch with the women as his lifeless body is interred.
On Saturday we grieve with his followers. We wonder what it was like for them to feel like it was over. We remember our own seasons of hopelessness, and the times we felt that Jesus had been taken from us. The death of Jesus is real, as real as the death of the one for whose funeral the cemetery was prepared.
It is not that we Christians ought to pretend death isn’t real, doesn’t hurt, or doesn’t matter. No! What we profess instead is that it is not final.
That’s what struck me on Easter Monday. Because of Easter that funeral was different. Because of Easter we know about resurrection. Because of Easter we have hope in the face of the most painful thing we know—the death of a loved one.
Jesus doesn’t deny death. He redefines it. It is scary and sad, but it doesn’t win. That changes everything!
Knowing the end is not the end ought to change how we live.
Christianity isn’t death denying, but it is life affirming. Jesus’ life could not be conquered by death. It burst through. The same is true of us and the person whose funeral held on Easter Monday. Death doesn’t conquer life. Life wins. Jesus showed us that the tomb, the grave, the urn cannot hold life.
May we live life to the full today, because the tomb is empty. We are Easter people.
Easter people, raise your voices,
sounds of heaven in earth should ring.
Christ has brought us heaven’s choices;
Heavenly music, let it ring.
Easter people, let us sing.