Summary: In the resurrection of Jesus, God opens my eyes to the greatest meanings of Easter.
The Empty Tomb Opens My Eyes
Surely you’ve heard the joke about the three college students who were appearing in a national academic competition. The contest had come down to three final students. One was from Rice University, one was from Princeton University and the third was from Oklahoma State University.
The moderator told the finalists, “Our final question comes from the category of religious studies. Contestant number one, describe the Christian observation of Easter.”
Contestant number one answered, “Well, at Rice we really haven’t covered that. Isn’t that the practice where everybody hides a bunch of eggs and then children run everywhere trying to find them?”
“No, I’m afraid that’s not the Christian observation of the Easter holiday. Contestant number two?”
“Well, ma’am, at Princeton we’ve covered a lot of religious backgrounds. I think Easter is when everyone goes outside early in the morning to watch the sunrise… and to see if a big bunny named Peter Cottontail is hopping down some old dirt trail.”
“No, contestant number two, I’m afraid that’s not the Christian observation of the Easter holiday. Contestant number three, can you describe the Christian observation of the Easter holiday?”
Number three, being from Oklahoma State thought long and hard about this. Rice and Princeton are very impressive, very well respected institutions. Those students had been way off. The young lady from OSU decided to trust her instincts and began to answer. “In the Christian church, Easter is the day when people recognize and remember the death of Jesus Christ on a cross many years ago. He was buried in a tomb for three nights and three days. Then on the third day, the stone was miraculously rolled away… then I think he poked out his head and started looking for his shadow. If he sees his shadow, he runs back inside and we know we have six more weeks of winter.”
Okay, it’s an old, lame joke. But the irony of it, the struggle of the contestants seems to exemplify the times in which we live. There seems to be so much misunderstanding about the true meaning, nature and beauty of Easter.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I think the Peter Cottontail story is cute. I love watching the kids hunt for Easter Eggs. Who doesn’t love biting the ears off of a chocolate bunny – and I love those Cadbury Eggs – Bauck, Bauck, easter bunny.
But that’s not what Easter is about. And to be blunt, I think the misunderstandings are due to some spiritual misinformation. Our enemy would like nothing more than for us to live in a world where Easter is celebrated as a weekend holiday with sweet pictures of bunnies, sweet tasting chocolates and no mention of the real treasure of Easter.
Because as cute as Peter Cottontail is, he’s spiritually harmless to Satan. Satan doesn’t lose any sleep over people wearing Easter Bonnets, filling us Easter Baskets or baking their Easter Hams. But I promise you this; he trembles at the realization of the real message of Easter.
Satan is counting on our eyes being distracted, being diverted from the real Easter message.
And, honestly, those of us in the church even find ourselves treating Easter as just another day. We’ve heard the story. We reflect on it each week at communion. We know the details. Jesus died, was in the grave three days and then rose from the dead. Most Christians can’t remember the first time they heard the story; they can’t recall a time when the resurrection of Jesus was new or unknown to them; most will say they’ve always known it.
But sometimes we can become so familiar with the story that we end up having our eyes closed to the strength and majesty within it. So this morning let me try to open your eyes again. Let me take you back to that Resurrection Sunday and remind you of what the empty tomb of Jesus really means to those who trust in Jesus.
The Empty Tomb Opens My Eyes to Trust Beyond Calculation. Normally, we trust someone or something as much as we can calculate their trustworthiness. If our experiences with a neighbor add up positively, we trust them to watch our home while we’re out of town. If we’ve enjoyed a number of very positive experiences with a young student we’re more likely to calculate them as trustworthy to baby-sit our children. If we’ve had a number of difficult experiences with a co-worker, our calculations leave us a little hesitant to trust them with a project or concern in the office.
But the empty tomb brings us to trust in God clear of any calculating we might try to do. The questions we ask no longer center on whether or not God’s plans add up or work out as we might expect. Stepping into the empty tomb changes that perspective forever.