When I fondly think back on Easter, images of lightness and joy play like an old home movie in my mind. When I was younger — and, okay, maybe still — I remember thinking Reese’s Eggs were the absolute best part of Easter. I remember tromping around our front yard wearing a Little Mermaid nightgown and black cowboy boots, searching for bright-colored eggs early one Easter morning. I remember notes from the Easter Bunny — who I loved sharing my initials with — scribbled in handwriting mysteriously just like my mom’s. We’d go to church, have lunch after and peacefully rest in our refreshed joy and hope.
Until recently, I considered the hope of Easter much more than the dismay of Good Friday. It was easy to skip to the good part and rush through the uncomfortable tragedy. I do not think this thinking was totally misplaced but needed to be an extension of a more complete story to begin to realize the bellows of darkness and height of joy.
Needless to say, this Easter weekend has felt unlike any other.
One fateful Friday afternoon over two thousand years ago, Jesus died a tragic, agonizing death. Matthew notes that as Jesus hung on the cross for three excruciating hours, “darkness came over all the world.” (Matthew 27:45) Darkness enveloped the world. I can only imagine the ominous feeling and heaviness this scene must have had. Had I been there, surely hopelessness would have run rampant in my heart.
But. However. Then. Yet.
Thank goodness for words like these that dramatically change the course of a story. Right when we think we know the ending and we start closing the book — However! But! Not yet! Wait!
We count: One. Two. Three.
We wait: Friday. Saturday. Sunday.
Out of a horrible, dark, suffering the hope of the world resurrected. Out of an event so unimaginable, unfathomable and humanly unbearable, Jesus rose and became a living hope. Out of death, life.
Isaiah tells us: “He will swallow up death for all time, And the Lord GOD will wipe tears away from all faces, And He will remove the reproach of His people from all the earth; For the LORD has spoken.” (Isaiah 25:8)
But. However. Then. Yet.
Darkness is never the end of the story. Maybe I’m over simplifying it. But maybe it’s not that complicated.
Our Sunday joy is only fully realized after Friday’s seemingly irreversible defeat.
Isn’t this the gospel? Out of love, Jesus died and out of that horrible event, something beautiful happened. The “something beautiful” doesn’t lessen the shocking sting of darkness but only proves that darkness is not the end. It’s only the nasty, rotten breeding ground that Good can abundantly grow from.
It may take time for the light to glimmer but we know, even small seeds start growing long before growth is recognizable above ground. I imagine hope not necessarily as a beautiful flower, gracefully sprouting in a beautiful pot after having tender care and water. No, hope is that pesky weed that grows in the cracks between bricks and stones. Hope is loyal and sure. She’d gritty and defiant. Resilient is her middle name.
It’s a sorrowful exercise but when I try to apply this same application of unrelenting darkness leading to reliable light, I’m comforted. There is absolutely nothing possibly good in the death of my mom. Nothing. If darkness is the absence of light, we are abandoned far below in the depths of a of the earth without so much as a headlamp.
However! But! Yet! We know that darkness is never the last chapter. My mom is safe, at peace and understands the full glory of God. What a reality it must be. What an unbelievable peace and hope she now has. She’s surely better off than any of us and certainly doesn’t battle any earthly disease.
1 Corinthians 15:55-57
55 O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?[a]”