- ￼“Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!” This is the greeting of the Greek Orthodox Church during the Easter season. Like the 12 days of Christmas, we celebrate the Easter season for 50 days. It’s just that important. Christ died for us and rose again on Easter. How could we get it all in three days?
When my kids were little, they took the liturgical celebrations of the Easter season quite literally. They milked it for all it was worth. So there was a perpetual Easter egg hunt in the bag yard that began in the wet spring and continued into the warmth of summer. We got our money’s worth of those plastic eggs. But of course we had to keep supplying them with candy to fill the eggs. Now, we don’t even have an egg hunt for the kids. It’s just for the dogs. We fill up those plastic eggs with dog kibble and throw them out in the back yard. Our three dogs have become quite adept at snatching up the eggs and cracking them open to suck up the treats inside. On Easter morning, my good friend, who is also our veterinarian, came to our house with her three dogs. The six labs looked like sheep grazing in the back yard searching for colored eggs.
The day after Easter, I was reading the Gospel of John’s account of the resurrection. Mary Magdalene had gone to the tomb to discover that the stone was rolled away and Jesus’ body was gone. So she went running back to get the disciples. When she returned, she sat outside the tomb crying. The scripture says, “She bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white seated where Jesus’ body had been. They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” (John 20:11-15).
That question struck a deep chord within me. Mary had a great reason to cry at the tomb. We know the end of the story, but she did not. She didn’t understand all the times Jesus had alluded to dying and rising from the dead. She lost her best friend, the man who changed her life. Her tears and her confusion at the tomb were quite understandable.
This day after Easter, it was Mary’s tears which resonated in my heart. I had just gone through a prayerful Holy Week which culminated in a triumphant celebration of light at the Easter Vigil. Yet, I envisioned myself, like Mary, sitting at the tomb crying and bending over to peer around the stone that was rolled away. I knew why Mary was weeping. But what about me? Why did this line of the Gospel speak to me more than the hope of the empty tomb?
Like Mary, I had my own reasons: worry about the details of life- health, money, struggles with people I love. Unlike Mary, I know better. I know what died with Jesus on the cross. I gave him my fears of the future and death. I gave him the hurt and the pain of broken relationships and the worries of this life. So, this day after Easter, as I saw myself crying with Mary at the tomb, I definitely related to the angels’ question,
“Woman, why ARE you weeping?”
My reasons just didn’t seem to make sense in light of the empty tomb. If Jesus rose to new life, then why am I still peering around the stone, trying to look into a lifeless tomb?
I continued to read John’s gospel about how Mary didn’t even recognize Jesus standing right next to her at the tomb. She was so consumed by grief, that she almost missed the One she lost who now rose from the dead!
She missed Jesus until she heard Jesus say, “Mary” (John 20:16). She heard him call her name and then she realized that Jesus had truly risen from the dead, just as He foretold!
That day after Easter, as I prayed with this scripture, I recalled another time that I found myself looking back at the tomb. My three eldest kids were very young and I was worried about something. I vividly remember carrying groceries, kids in tow, up to the front door of our tiny house. I was worried about the money I had just spent and the bills that needed to be paid, as I put the key into the locked front door. Much like Mary at the empty tomb, I glanced down at the keys to my car that were on the ring with the house key. Then as I turned the key, I heard the Lord call my name. “Eileen, why are you worried? Look at the key to your car!”
I was so busy being worried, in essence peering into the empty tomb of my cares, that I missed the promises of God which I held in my hand. Just one month before, I had been given a gently used car that was large and safe enough to hold our growing family. Despite that tremendous provision, that like the empty tomb, was a sign of new ￼life, I chose to shrink back into the deadly fear and worry. Until I heard Jesus speak my name and I remembered all that the Lord had done for me. The brain fog lifted and my heart rejoiced in God’s provision and the hope of new life.
All around us there are signs of resurrection and promises of new life. Easter happens in spring for a reason; to remind us that after the cold, dead winter, new life emerges.
If you find yourself like I did, crying next to the empty tomb, or waiting for the next shoe to drop, steady your heart and get quiet. Listen to hear the Lord call you by name so that you can recognize the new life that is standing right in front of you. Then we will cry out with joy, as Mary did to the rest of the disciples; “I have seen the Lord!” (John 20:18)
Then we can truly celebrate the Easter season as we proclaim, “Christ is risen! He has risen indeed!”
Eileen Benthal is a writer, speaker and wellness coach with a B.A. in Theology from Franciscan University. She and her husband Steve live in Jamesport and have four young adult children. Their youngest, Johanna, is a teenager with special needs. Eileen can be reached at FreeIndeedFreelance.com.