The Easter Surprise
by Pastor George Van Alstine

There’s every reason to believe that Jesus’ closest friends and followers were totally surprised by his resurrection! The past few weeks, our Sunday morning sermons have focused on the three separate times when Jesus had very clearly told them about his coming death, each time adding the promise of his rising again on the third day:

“Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.” (Mark 8:31; see also 9:31 and 10:33-34)

They shut their minds to the bad news, that he would die, so they also missed out on the good news, that he would rise again.

The day after the awful trauma of watching their dreams torn apart through his helpless agony on the cross, they awoke with the dawn, after a few hours of fitful sleep. They probably sought each other out, hoping to find that it had only happened in their imaginations, but being disappointed all over again when they confirmed to one another that it was true. The second morning, they were awakened by the same sun, which no longer represented for them warmth and hope and growth, but had become a reminder that every new day from now on would usher in another episode of meaningless existence without a Savior.

The third morning promised to be more of the same, as they settled in to the reality. It began as the previous two had, with tiny shafts of harsh light cutting through the darkness from the eastern horizon. Then the sun itself made its appearance, arrogant, disdainful, as if to say, “Nothing new here; just another day of futility; they’ll all be the same.” Two women followers went through the motions of ritual mourning, bringing spices to show respect to his body before the tomb was sealed. But the tomb was open and empty; his body was gone! Stolen so that his enemies could further insult him and demoralize his followers? No! Glorious angels appeared nearby and said: “Don’t you remember what he told you? He warned you he would suffer and die, but he also promised he would rise again the third day. This is it. He is alive!”

That was just the beginning of a new kind of dawning, when the eternal sun of faith began to shine among these chosen friends and disciples. They became the Church, a fellowship of believers who ever since that first Easter Sunday have worshiped him, served him, lived for him and died for him. For them, life is no longer a series of futile days, each beginning with a rising sun which mocks them with false promises. Instead, for them every day brings new surprises, as it reflects that first Easter morning and anticipates the eternal morning of the Kingdom of God that Jesus constantly talked about.

Maybe you will approach this Easter Sunday morning with despair in your heart. Or maybe you will think of it just as the beginning of another ho-hum day. But maybe this will be the Easter of your surprise, when you make your personal discovery of the empty tomb and the risen Savior. If so, no dawn will ever be the same for you again!