Sometimes, Easter comes a little too soon.
While in high school, I played Jesus in the school musical. The show was not one of the usual Jesus ones. This one was Cotton Patch Gospel by the excellent Harry Chapin, and in it, Jesus heads to Atlanta rather than Jerusalem; talks about eating grits rather than bread; and prays that God might “spitball me Lord over the home plate of life.”
I enjoyed the experience of acting as of the Son of God. Whenever someone exclaimed ‘Jesus!’ in the day-to-day gauntlet of high school, I’d respond: Yes? It always made us laugh in the midst of the terribly anxious time that is high school—high school was hard for us, with friends who struggled with self-harm, all the usual worrying about the future, and more. The show itself was a wonderful project, full of music and dancing and silliness and the good kind of high school drama. Everyone formed that wonderful temporary community that high school theater allows. The whole thing was so full, so busy. I relished the strange job of imagining what Jesus thought and felt.
But in the whole of the show, the only time I ever truly felt connected to Jesus, something mystic, was when Jesus was dead. In the precious minute or two between being crucified on stage, and needing to jump up for a resurrection appearance, there was a brief narrative lull. For a minute or two, I was put in a box out of everyone’s sight. The sides of the box quieted the noise, the lights dimmed, and every time, I felt close to Jesus.
I wondered: how did Jesus feel, lying in a tomb?
After all the everything that is his last week, did the hard stone feel like the pillow he needed?
What was it like to wake up?
How did he feel about his friends, who also struggled with self-harm and who worried about the future?
Easter arrives fast and hard at this stage of our lives. Some of that is circumstantial, certainly. With three kids under 10 in a two-clergy household, we make a brave but unsuccessful attempt to meet all our various obligations for being good parents and attentive priests. Every year, we acknowledge our finitude by celebrating our Easter Day feast by getting take-out and serving it on our wedding china.
Easter comes fast, too, because we’re not always ready for resurrection.
Look, I know I’m not supposed to say we’re not ready for resurrection. Easter, I have always been assured, is more important than Christmas. It’s new life, new possibility! It’s forgiveness, eternal life! It’s grace! It’s supposed to make us joyful!
But here’s the truth: I wonder if Jesus longed to linger a bit. I wonder if the angels had to poke him to say, “Hey guy, you’ve been lying there a bit, and those women are going to see if you don’t get moving …” I wonder if Jesus wanted a few quiet moments to himself, perhaps with the Spirit, to catch up over coffee and process the trauma of last few weeks. “The Judas thing, huh? Man! Saw that coming, didn’t hurt any less!” I wonder if Jesus thought about the pausing the resurrection a day or two, just to catch his newly regained breath.
We’re not always ready for resurrection. Maybe it’s the whirlwind of Holy Week, with all its performance and tenderness and sadness, suddenly needing to be cast off. Maybe it’s our pace of life, where Easter needs to be religious and spiritual and special and also an egg hunt that is over in time to beat the neighbors to brunch. Maybe it’s that 2023 has been a tougher year than we hoped.
Nevertheless, resurrection won’t be put off. It comes right in. Jesus calls out to Lazarus, and Lazarus steps out. New life breaks through anyway. The grace of Easter comes fast, brightly, whether we feel ready or not. We need to be on to the next musical number.
But if you find yourself wanting to linger for a moment: perhaps on the spring blossoms; perhaps on the sadness of a Good Friday, which held special poignance this year; perhaps on the gentle early morning quiet; on the laughter of people we love; well, friend, you are in good company. I suspect Jesus knows just how you feel. Maybe this is the Easter you could take a moment, grab a cup of coffee, and talk to him about it.