Where is the wonder of Easter?
I’ve not yet made it to the Grand Canyon, but it’s on my list of places to see before I “kick the bucket.” I understand it’s a place of awe that takes your breath away.
Editor Esther Wanning was writing about her first trip to the Canyon, and quoted nature writer John Muir, who is rarely at a loss of words: “Try as I may, not in the least sparing myself, I cannot tell the hundredth part of the wonders of its features – the side-canyons, gorges, alcoves, cloisters, and amphitheaters of vast sweep and depth . . .all this, however, is less difficult than to give any impression of the wild, primeval beauty and power one receives in merely gazing from its brink.” (Esther Wanning, “For a Change, the North Rim,” www.nytimes.com, June 21, 1987).
Another first time visitor, a Native American, who stumbled across the canyon simply stated, “Something happened here.”
Easter shouts that something significant happened in the garden on that morning just days after the crucifixion of Jesus, and we celebrate it not just on Easter, but every Sunday that we gather for worship.
The Gospel of Mark (16:1-8) records that the ladies came prepared to anoint the body of Jesus. They were still processing the horrible crucifixion they had witnessed on Friday, and were grieving Jesus’ death.
They expected to find a sealed tomb guarded by intimidating Roman soldiers. If they could access the tomb, they expected to find the body of Jesus.
Yet, according to Matthew’s account (28:1-8), something completely different greeted them.
They suddenly found themselves in the middle of a great earthquake. I’ve felt the split-second quivering and brief loss of equilibrium of a small tremor, but never a great earthquake. The ground beneath them quaked and quivered.
Then an angel descended from heaven and rolled back the stone. The angel was as bright as a lightening flash. The soldiers standing guard were no longer intimidating. They were as dead men, frozen in fright.
Then the angel delivered a message that the women were shocked to hear: “I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay” (Matthew 28:5, 6).
You mean to tell me that Jesus, whom we watched die, is alive!? He is risen from the dead? How crazy is that? Can you imagine their astonishment?
They were totally shocked in a good way! In that instant of realizing the reason the tomb was open and the body was gone was because Jesus was alive, they came face to face with divine mystery and the power of God.
Something big happened here. And I imagine something dramatic happened to them. They were impacted by the wonder of Easter. Simply amazed. Totally blown away.
Wonder may be the missing ingredient of our Easter experience. Do we sense wonder at all? Or are we used to the old, old story? Do we have that feeling of surprise and awe? Do we ever expect God to do the unexpected?
G. K. Chesterton wrote, “The world will never starve for want of wonders, but only for want of wonder.”
Rick Ezell wrote, “The trouble is that we don’t feel wonder anymore. Wonder is rare, especially as we grow older. The catch phrase of our culture is: ‘been there, done that.’ We are spiritually and emotionally obtuse. We are a people saturated with analysis, explanations, and experiences – but void of wonder.”
Not only do we need a childlike faith, but we need childlike wonder. Does Easter astonish us? Do we have any awe? Do we allow ourselves to experience any wonder?
Easter is a tremendous work of God.
The tomb is empty. The stone is rolled away. Death is conquered. The power of sin is vanquished. The certainty of eternal life is possible, and we celebrate that this life has meaning and purpose through Jesus Christ.
Do you want to recover a sense of wonder? Then experience the presence of the living Lord. He is risen! He is risen indeed!
[Dr. David L. Chancey is pastor, McDonough Road Baptist Church in Fayetteville, Georgia. The church family invites you to join them this Sunday for Sunrise Service at 7 a.m., Bible study at 9:45 and Easter worship at 10:55. Visit them on the web at www.mcdonoughroad.org.]