What does the resurrection mean?

Published 12:29pm Thursday, April 24, 2014

By Rev. Bob Henderson

You know, I’ve always known that Easter and the Resurrection was important.  But, as crazy it sounds, for a long time, I was never able to crystallize, at least in my mind and in my words, exactly why the Resurrection was important.

But finally, at least for myself, I’ve got it.

For me, the important thing about the Resurrection has nothing to do with sin.

That happens on Good Friday.  Jesus died for our sins on Good Friday and because of his death, our sins are gone.

The fact that the tomb is empty and Jesus risen is confirmation of our redemption, confirmation of the fact that God has come to us.

You remember the story (Matthew 28:1-10)  Early in the morning, as Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were going to Jesus’ tomb, there was an earthquake.  When they got to the tomb, the stone was rolled back and an angle is sitting it.

Not a cherub, but one of God’s mighty angles, the kind of angel you want with you when you face Satan, the Arnold Swartzenegger of angels.  He spoke and it was like lightening, and his dress was white as snow.  The Romans guarding the tomb were so frightened, they couldn’t move but were like dead men.

And yet, even in his fearsome appearance, even as a symbol of the Church Militant fighting against evil, his gentleness was evident as he said to the women, “Fear not.  You’ve come to find Jesus, but Jesus isn’t here. Go, tell his disciples” and they went.  But as they went, they met Jesus in the garden.  He greeted them and they worshiped him.  Then they went to find and tell the disciples that Jesus had risen.

Our redemption was confirmed in Resurrection, and that became the story of the early Christian Church.  That was the selling point, what brought converts to the Faith.  That was the astounding thing for everyone.  It even happens today.  My brother, a self-proclaimed non-believer, once asked me, “Bobby, do you really believe Jesus was dead – died, dead and brought back to life?”  “I said, “Yeah, I do.

“Dead and brought back to life by God and God’s miraculous power.”

But, why?  What does resurrection mean to me, to us, in our lives today?  Well, I had an experience that taught me why and what.

I don’t know what his name was.

I don’t think I’ll ever know his name, but I’ll remember him forever.

One day, I pulled into a parking place at a Texaco station to get a drink on the way back from Columbus.

I stopped and looked over at the van next to me.   There was a glare and I had a hard time seeing into it.

I got out, walked around the van toward the door, looked back and saw him clearly.

He was probably 13 – 15 months old, standing up in the driver’s seat dressed only in a diaper, all alone in that van.

One hand was reaching up, curled over the window that had been let down a couple of inches.  I really couldn’t see him well but I could see that he was holding on to that window and his head was moving back and forth.

When I looked in his eyes I could see the fear and the hurt and the pain and the desperation.

And I could see his mouth open, but he wasn’t crying.

I knew how abandoned he felt because I know that a child that age doesn’t understand when you say, “I’ll be back in just a minute.”

All the child  understands is you’re gone.

He has no conception of whether you will be coming back or not.  It’s like you’ve just dropped out of his life.

But he does know what it means to be abandoned and alone.  Even though a child that age doesn’t know what death is, a child that age knows that to be abandoned means to die.

Now, you may wonder why I used the word “he.”

It isn’t an accident, because when I looked at that little boy’s face and I looked into his eyes, I knew who he was because I recognized him.  When I looked into his fear and his pain, his desperation and his loneliness, I knew he was me.

Like him, I’m afraid.

I’m afraid others might find out who I really am.  I’m afraid that I really am as awful as I sometimes I think I am.

I’m afraid that when the people around me do find out, they’ll leave and abandon me.

I’m afraid I won’t ever be able do enough or be enough as a priest or as a person to be loved.  And most of all, I’m afraid that in the very end, I will be left, abandoned, eyes searching, mouth open in a soundless cry, all alone, helpless and abandoned by other people and by God.

That’s Good Friday.

Easter comes to tell me, assure me I’ll never be abandoned by God.  That’s the message of the tomb, of the resurrection.

That’s why we can’t go to the tomb to find God, because God and Jesus aren’t there.

God and Jesus are alive in you and me.

God and Jesus are with us always, and will never be abandon us, even thought we fear, even though we cry, even though we are afraid.

Jesus is not in a tomb somewhere, but right beside us to hold us and to love us.

It may be in the smiles or comfort of the people around us; it may be in a mystical, transcendent experience of being touched by the love of God, but Jesus is with us.

Whenever we are sad or cold or afraid, whenever we experience Good Friday, we can be assured that Easter is not far behind, that Jesus and God will are with us.

That’s why we come to the tomb on Easter – not to find Jesus, but to be assured he’s risen.  We leave the tomb to go into the world to experience the risen Christ, living with us.  And that’s why we leave the tomb and leave our Churches on Easter morning saying, “Alleluia, Alleluia, Christ has risen, Alleluia!”


The Rev. Bob Henderson is rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Wetumpka.

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