The Resurrection - Thoughts on a commercialized Easter
Empty, what does it mean? Webster says in a rather anti-climatic way that it means “containing nothing, not occupied or inhabited”. No doubt, when one ponders such a word, floods of images and thoughts rush through the mind, but none as familiar as the notorious hollow bunny of Easter. In this single work of genius is found the joy of children from one to one hundred, which begs the question, why? Why is it that so many people are fond of this uncomplicated treat of Easter? How is it that from such emptiness one can seemingly satisfy an angry appetite of chocolate love? Simple as it may be, there seems to be some paradoxical relationship with Easter and emptiness.
Like a sea of drone-like candy carnivores people storm the shiny streets of supermarkets in search of those precious goods that seem to make Easter what it has so fondly become. With peeps, jellybeans, chocolate eggs, toys and baskets, Americans spend an extraordinary amount of money on the image of Easter. In this mix of celebratory activity and nearly conscienceless purchasing is what many scholars conclude to be Easter traditions traced back to folk customs and pagan tradition. Nevertheless, what’s the harm in chocolate bunnies, purple peeps and boiled eggs? The answer is an unequivocal “nothing” if it is the bunnies, peeps and eggs that are in consideration. However, if it is the exchange of the worshipful for the wanton or the miraculous for the meaningless the incomprehensible for the insolent or the immeasurable for the empty…then the harm is beyond description. What more can one conclude, empty Easter bunnies are quite appropriate for an empty Easter. Behind the candy coated smiles reside a people who have forgotten the day death was slain and a world with a melting hope. Easter and emptiness go together, but are held together by the fragile threads of humanity.
Clothes pressed to perfection, shiny shoes, and a discomfort deep within. No matter, tuck the feelings in like the new shirt and off to Church they go. Thousands of people make it their yearly routine to darken the doors of the church on Easter Sunday. Churches burst from the seams with the sharp dressed neighbors, the reluctant but willing family members, and the familiar faces of the community. The convictions of this most sacred day run deep and the determination to get it right on “this day” if on no other is unmistakable. However, on this most sacred day, the day celebrating the very anchor of the Christian Faith, the day of Christ’s resurrection, the allurement must not be mistaken for experiential understanding. For as the crowds are drawn and the seats are filled the discerning eye is left with a rather perplexing spectacle. How is it that people can be so expressively happy yet so lacking in joy. How can one explain an image that would seemingly indicate deep devotion while at the same time indicating the impoverished condition of our communities? How is it that churches could be so immensely full yet so alarmingly empty all at once? Unfortunately, the answer resides in the fact that the world as a whole is not much different than the hollow bunnies they consume. Easter Sunday becomes the indicting stage for hollow people who are too easily satisfied. It is often thought that the things of this world will never meet the demands of the human heart, for we were created for more than that which we see in this life. However, it was C.S. Lewis who so poignantly pointed out, on the contrary, that we are in fact a people too easily satisfied. What better explanation could be offered to describe how so many satisfy their hunger and thirst for righteousness through a single occasion of church attendance.
Certainly there will be those who bitterly disagree with the sentiment presented in these written words; nevertheless, their very disagreement is a mirrored image of the child who willfully refuses to receive the medicine prescribed for his or her troublesome condition. Those who find themselves performing in this charade of spirituality, in most cases I fear, are simply expressing a heart in which Jesus does not reside, He just isn’t there. Beware of celebrating the success of such a solemn day in response to those who merely warm the seats, for in doing so, it might rightly be asked of you, “Why are you seeking the living from among the dead?”. This is certainly not to imply that the backsliders and unbelievers should be unwelcome in our Easter Sunday Worship services but rather to communicate the necessity of knowing Christ and not simply acknowledging Him. Yet, in a most ironic fashion, the very root of the problem is the front door of the solution, namely, a sober awareness that Jesus is missing.
Empty people desperately need to gaze into the empty tomb. It is both in their hearts and this chamber for the dead that Christ is missing. The life absent of Christ’s presence is one of hopelessness and despair, futility and wind grasping, despondency and emptiness; whereas, a tomb vacant of Christ’s body is one of life changing hope, overcoming victory, and amazing wonder. With just a glimpse, the religious routines, commercialized carousing and Easter Sunday charades would lose their garments of importance and be revealed in the nakedness of their triviality. For what good is it on a single day of the year for dead men to make their dwelling with those who live? The dead who masquerade among the living are merely actors hiding behind an imaginary curtain which remains unseen by Him who withholds applause. How can God delight in a people who are far from Him but so close to His Word? When will they look? When will they look? When will they discover and acknowledge that the tomb is empty? When will they realize that a tomb empty makes possible a life that is full? When will they realize that a tomb absent of Christ’s body paves the way for a life full of His presence? When will they see that it is in the empty tomb that hope is present? When will they throw off their theatrical Christianity?
Empty, what does it mean? For some it simply means containing nothing. But for those who believe, it is a word describing a place that is not occupied or inhabited. Praise God for the empty tomb! Praise God for the resurrection!
And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is futile and your faith is empty. Also, we are found to be false witnesses about God, because we have testified against God that he raised Christ from the dead, when in reality he did not raise him, if indeed the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is useless; you are still in your sins…1 Corinthians 15:14-18