Reflections on the miracle of Easter…
by Rhonda Lloyd –
After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you” (Matthew 28:1-7).
This familiar passage of Scripture is one of the most significant to all of Christendom. Years ago, when our children attended kindergarten at a private Christian school in Seattle, Wash., the entire class memorized that passage. I can still quote it to you some 20 years later—even with the same voice inflection that our 5-year-old daughter had.
The account in the Gospel of Luke, however, has a line that has profoundly impacted my life and how I view the Easter holiday as well as the spring season.
Luke 24:5b & 6 says: “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of the sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ Then they remembered his words.”
Spring—a celebration of rebirth
Much of how we celebrate Easter today relates to the pagan celebrations of spring—particularly the passage of creation from the death of winter to the life of spring. Baby chicks, colored eggs, candy, and tulips seem to have little to do with these Scripture passages speaking of Christ’s death and resurrection. Yet, even the Lord Jesus himself used illustrations from creation to help his disciples understand the spiritual concepts he was teaching them!
As I consider the passing of the seasons, I have to say winter in Southern California is hardly noticeable compared to other parts of the country. However, the experts report that we have had one of the coldest winters on record. Just a few weeks ago my husband and I were walking through the South Coast Botanical Garden and noticed what we soon discovered were the effects of the cold on many areas of the landscape. We wondered at all the brown leaves and bare stocks. Were the plants even alive? What might have caused them to die? Was it neglect or disease? Later we read in the garden’s newsletter that volunteers were needed to help with the pruning and cleaning up of the plants that had died due to the unseasonably cold weather, in preparation for the new growth expected this spring as the temperatures begin to rise.
Already, though, in the middle of the frost-scorched vegetation, we noticed a small green shoot with one little blue flower poking up. We marveled at the sight of it and the reality of winter giving way to spring—life amongst death.
How fascinating it was to see this seemingly fragile life inch its way out of all the death and visible destruction resulting from our mild Southern California winter that had such obvious impact in the garden!
Isn’t that what spring and Easter are all about? Life versus death? Life winning over death? Nature bringing forth new life whether it is in the animal or plant kingdom?
Last year, while on a similar nature walk along the bluffs overlooking the ocean near the training college, we observed the expansive wind-scorched ice plants along the hillside. To our amazement, in the middle of the brown, dead branches and sand, a small bit of new growth struggled into being. This wasn’t next to the dead plants, but growing right out of them! Life literally out of death! The sight of it has stuck in my mind as if I had witnessed it just yesterday.
True understanding—“an everlasting sign”
Again, as I think of the Easter story—or better yet, Resurrection account as found in the gospels and memorized so sweetly by my children—I wonder why I should be surprised that life springs forth from death. Is it that I, like the women at the tomb, have heard the words of Jesus yet have not really listened to or understood their meaning?
Isaiah reveals, “the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands…this will be for the Lord’s renown, for an everlasting sign….” And in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus is recorded as saying, “I tell you…if they [his followers] keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”
Proclaim the new life!
I vow that as long as I have breath I will be one (hopefully among many of his followers) singing and praising God for the miracle of new life in him, as the angel instructed the women at the tomb. But should we be dismayed that the entire world also sees creation doing the same thing? In Romans 1:20 Paul says, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”
As Christians we can be quick to dismiss the ways of the world—often, rightly so. But, as the old cliché warns, we need to be careful not to “throw the baby out with the bath water.” The miracle of spring is the perfect natural illustration for the concept of new life in Christ!
That one verse keeps coming back to me…
“Why do you look for the living among the dead?”
Nature aligned with Scripture
Indeed, why does the world welcome the song of the robin, the warmer weather and the crocus poking through the hardened earth of winter? Isn’t it obvious? Each of these signs in nature brings along with it the hope of the coming spring! The hope that the long, cold and dreary winter (yes, even in Southern California) can be made fresh and new again in spring.
Nature joins with Scripture to shout to all who will see or hear that life without Jesus leads to death, but those who hope and trust in him “are new creations—the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Cor. 5:17)
Just as the earth is lavished with beauty, color, fragrance and splendor at the coming of spring, our Heavenly Father lavishes his love on us—and “whosoever believes in his name.”
In 2 Corinthians 2:14-16, Paul says, “…thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; and to the other, the fragrance of life.”
Nature’s beauty/God’s glory
Nature simply fulfills its purpose and in doing so brings glory to God. Seeds and bulbs must die so that the flowers can bloom, sharing their beauty and fragrance with all who have eyes to see.
The Christian must die to self so that the beauty and fragrance of new life can live through us. We have the opportunity to live out our purpose this Easter as Christ “through us” spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him.
So let us look for those who would seek life amongst death! Let us share the fragrance and splendor of knowing the Lord—the hope that is within us during this beautiful season of the year and this ever-special Easter holiday!
Life amongst death truly is the message and hope of Easter!