I’ve observed over 60 Easter seasons in my life, and my appreciation for this most important event in the Christian calendar has grown over the years.
As a young child, I was excited about Easter because it meant a new outfit, complete with a hat and patent leather shoes. If I was lucky, growing up in Northern Maine, I got to wear it without a snowsuit.
The Easter Bunny didn’t play any role in my childhood and there were no Easter egg hunts or presents. When I was in grade school I do remember poking a hole in the bottom of eggs, blowing out the insides, dying them pastel colors, and eating scrambled eggs for breakfast for what seemed like an eternity.
I had a stretch in my life when I didn’t attend church regularly. I was not even a Christmas and Easter Christian but lost in the world of not needing any spiritual discipline or guidance to live my life. That didn’t work out too well but I’ll save those details for my future memoir.
Anyway, now I attend a United Methodist Church and next week is Holy week. I procrastinated about giving something up for lent this year and alas I’ve missed that stained glass window of opportunity. Note to self: Next year, give up procrastination.
Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week and we wave palm branches celebrating Jesus’ triumphant ride into Jerusalem. But wait, wouldn’t a real king ride a horse and not a donkey? Yes, if the king was intent on war but this king rides a symbol of peace because he’s not like the others.
On Maundy Thursday when you approach a fellow parishioner bearing a basin of water, kneel to wash their feet, and let them wash yours it’s a bit more intimate than the usual handshake. I can relate to Peter who shouted, “No! You will never wash my feet!” And I would have added, “And I don’t want to wash yours either!”
I barely recover from the foot washing trauma when Good Friday dawns. It doesn’t seem very good though since we strip the sanctuary and put a black robe and crown of thorns on the rough-hewn cross we hammer into place for this bleak occasion. A prayer vigil provides companionship to this ghastly scene.
The lights went out. Jesus died. The temple curtain tore in half.
Why do we have to experience Good Friday during this celebratory time? Why do we have to relive the agony?
The first Easter
The answer came to me when I thought about those who lived through the original crucifixion. Sure Jesus had been dropping hints to his followers about his impending death. But he also told them the punch line: he would rise from the dead on the third day.
But think how you would feel if you watched the person you thought was the savior of humanity humiliated, beaten, and brutally murdered. Would your faith be strong enough to believe he was coming back? Or would think you he was an imposter? Maybe you put all your fishes and loaves in the wrong basket. Maybe all that quality wine from the wedding made you vulnerable to a smooth talking guy who seemed divine but now he was just another dead guy.
If they had truly believed he was coming back wouldn’t they have set the hourglass for three days and sat around planning the welcome home party? Would they have doubted Mary Magdalene and the other Mary’s proclamation that they had seen the risen Christ?
The full Easter package
These questions chilled my soul as I contemplated a life without hope and gave me a deeper understanding of how important it is to observe the entire Easter package. Without celebrating a king riding on a donkey, foot washing that teaches us servanthood, and the desolation of Good Friday, the joy on Easter morning would be as hollow as the chocolate Easter bunny that never fails to disappoint.
How do you think you would have reacted as a follower of Jesus waiting for him to rise? Would you think you had made a big mistake? Whatever your beliefs, don’t you think it was cool Jesus revealed himself first to two women?