Beyond the Easter Bunny: The story continues

People flock to churches at Easter because they know they are going to hear good news.

But, Easter is terrifying news.

According to evangelist Mark, early on a Sunday morning, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Salome made their way to a tomb to anoint the dead body of Jesus.

Mark also tells us these women had earlier watched the crucifixion of Jesus “from a distance.”

When it was all over, they saw Joseph of Arimathea pull the dead body off the cross, wrap it in a linen cloth, lay it in a tomb cut out of a rock and roll a stone over the door of the tomb.

The women began to watch what happened from a distance.

That is our favourite perspective on death — we do all we can to keep our distance.

We try to stay healthy, work out and watch what we eat. It’s all a way of keeping death at bay.

But, occasionally it catches up to someone we love and then we know we have to see death up close.

About six years ago, it became painfully clear death can always bridge the distance to find any of us when four young RCMP officers were shot and killed on a farm in Mayerthrope, Alta.

When these peacekeepers became victims of a peace hater, what fell on that day was not just four Mounties, but also the illusion that somehow practitioners in use of firearms could save themselves from their own deaths.

When the twin towers in New York crumbled in 2001, Americans woke up to the realization they were far from safe from the violence the rest of world has known for a long time.

It does not matter how wealthy, well-defended or far-removed we are from evil men. Terror can still find us.

In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2011, many of our social commentators repeatedly said: “Everything has changed.”

It remains to be seen just how much we have changed — beyond tolerating longer lines at airports.

The women who made their way to the tomb on the first Easter morning had been with Jesus since his Galilee days.

In Galilee, Jesus had been so full of life and was constantly restoring the lives of others.

Before Mary Magdalene met him, her soul had been torn apart by seven demons.

All the women knew they were something less before meeting Jesus.

This man was their saviour but now, he was dead.

Maybe as the women walked down the road toward the tomb, someone mentioned the world has always been hard on saviours.

Or, like most people in deep grief, maybe they said nothing as they closed the distance between themselves and the tomb of death.

Their only dilemma, according to Mark, was how they would get the stone rolled back.

Many of us also know about pushing against stones of life.

We have all been pushing against something for a long time.

Maybe this Easter is finding us pushing against a superior who is hard to satisfy or against the threat of being downsized in our jobs (or, for some seniors, having to downsize a large home they have lived in for years).

Or, maybe some of us are pushing against a marriage that seems destined for the ditch or against a disease, depression, loneliness or some obstacle that is between us and our dreams.

Lately, we are pushing against the anxiety a tsunami, earthquake or radiation might hit us.

We think that if we can just get this burdensome thing rolled back, we will be fine.

But, as the story goes, even if we get rid of our huge stone, all that is waiting on the other side is death.

When the women arrived at the tomb, they were startled to discover the stone was already rolled back.

They walked inside, saw an angel in white and became alarmed.

No wonder the women fled the tomb in fear. We may not care much for death, but we understand it.

It’s what sets the agenda for the rest of life.

That is why we push so hard at life — against aging, diseases, or terrorists.

We want to stay away from death as long as possible.

According to Easter message, the point of life is not to collect as many things as possible, to hold your loved ones as tightly as possible or  to waste our precious few years of life trying to postpone death.

Easter declares the point of life is to discover a death-defying hope.

That is why it is such a profound opportunity this Easter to join the two Marys and Salome in staring at the tomb of Christ.

Then, we can stare at our own tombs of loss and death without fear.

When the church first began, it struggled through periods of persecution for centuries.

Every week, when believers gathered, they took time to embrace each other because they did not know who might be martyred for the faith before their next assembly.

They died with Christ, however, only to be raised to a new life with him and in him.

Only in Christ’s death and resurrection, it is possible for us also to die to the old agendas and rise to a changed life no longer crippled by fear.

The greatest catastrophe of history happened not on Japan’s shore on March 15, 2011 or on Sept.11, 2001 in New York.

It took place 2,000 years ago, when we crucified the Son of God.

That was the ultimate experience beyond humanity’s limit.

But, it was then that history was given the possibility of resurrection also.

When Jesus defeated death, he did so that we may experience something beyond our limits — to rise with him into a new life.

But, it will be up to us to walk out of our graves as new creatures.

Narayan Mitra is a chaplain at Thompson Rivers University, Kamloops.