Editor’s note: This is a special Easter column from Norris Burkes.
What does Easter mean?
My own pastor likes to say it’s the biggest celebration of the year — “the Christian Super Bowl.”
He says that because most theologians will tell you the resurrection is the watershed of Christianity and believing it determines whether you are a Christian.
Church may not be your thing, nevertheless, it can be the day your spouse resurrects you from bed to go to church for the first time this year.
For kids, it’s often a day of hunting eggs while their parents are searching for the desserts that follow a massive holiday brunch.
On the first Easter morning, two women went on a search of a different kind.
Their names were Mary and Mary Magdalene, and they went to the cemetery searching for the body of Jesus. After all, Jesus was dead, and cemeteries are the traditional place dead people reside.
The women carried burial spices with them so they could anoint Jesus’ body. When they got to the tomb, they were astounded at what they saw and didn’t see.
They didn’t see the stone authorities had placed in front of the tomb so Jesus’ supporters couldn’t steal his body and claim he was resurrected. The stone was rolled aside like a ball of cotton.
The women quickly ventured inside, where Mary cried out, “They have taken my Lord away and I don’t know where they have put him.”
If seeing that Jesus’ body was not there was scary, it was absolutely terrifying to see what was there: two men cascaded in light.
“Why are you looking for the Living One in a cemetery?” asked the shining men.
No answer from the women. They just fell to the ground.
Then, as if gently scolding the women for pointlessly searching for the living in a dead zone, they reminded the women of Jesus’ promise to return three days after he was killed.
The story connects me with the present day in at least two ways.
First, I hear a concern expressed over the possible theft of Jesus.
These days, there are a lot of people looking to steal your Jesus. They’d like to transfer him to bumper stickers or protest placards. Others would like to grab his endorsement for political office.
And you always will find a church or two that would like to confiscate his backstage pass to heaven and become the exclusive gate guards.
But no worries. The real Jesus comes standard with OnStar, Lojack or whatever GPS (God Positioning System) you can think of. No one can steal him. The real Jesus is the one who was resurrected in us and lives within the people of faith.
And the second connection I have with the story is expressed in the question asked by the shiny men: “Why are you looking for the Living One in a cemetery?”
These days, after looking for Jesus in all the traditional places, people have become discouraged. People look to the priest, only to find he’s flawed. People look to the smiling television evangelist, only to find he’ll deliver Jesus for the right donation. They look into crystals, diets and all kinds of spiritual dives.
Looking for Jesus among these kinds of folks is like looking for the spiritual life among the dead.
So where should we look?
Simple. Go to the source: his words and his teachings. I recommend beginning your search by reading the Gospel of John.
Then, after you find Jesus in his words, James 1:22 leaves us with one last piece of advice.
“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”
Burkes is a former civilian hospital chaplain and an Air National Guard chaplain. Write firstname.lastname@example.org or visit thechaplain.net. You can also follow him on Twitter, username is “chaplain,” or on Facebook at facebook.com/norrisburkes.