Early in the morning on the first Easter Day, three women came to the tomb with spices, revealed in Mark 16:1-8. They intended to complete the rites of burial of Jesus Christ. A heavenly messenger, dressed in white, addressed their overwhelming awe and fear with the words, “Do not be alarmed... he has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him” (v. 6). If years of familiarity have dulled the sense of awe at Easter, read again Mark’s account of that incredible morning.

The Easter story reminds us: God’s ways are different from our ways. The Pharisees did not understand this truth, and neither did the apostles. They waited for the messiah to come on their terms. When Jesus entered their lives, even those who called him “Lord” were not certain who this Christ was. Judas apparently wanted a military leader, or at least someone who could lead them out from under Roman domination. After Jesus’ death, the apostles were shaking in their sandals behind bolted doors and shuttered windows. The faithful women, rising early that first dawn of what would become the new Sabbath, went to a cemetery expecting to find the body of Jesus Christ. What they found was a messenger of God. Grief turned to fear and wonder. Could it be that Jesus was alive? Is that what he had meant when he spoke of rising on the third day and later ascending to heaven to be with his father? We begin to make sense of life when we ask “Who?” Perhaps our pattern has been to ask “How?” or “Why?” Most often, however, the Bible addresses the question “Who?” The creation accounts of Genesis are not intended to give the formula for how God created the universe. Genesis tells who created everything and whose we are. The Gospels do not detail the method of Mary’s Holy Conception of Jesus. They simply state the Holy Spirit came upon her and she conceived.

The message of the Gospels emphasizes whose son Jesus is and who Christ is for us. Scripture does not describe the physiology of Christ’s resurrection and ascension. Not one human witness was present at that precise moment. We do not have a clue as to the details of how it occurred. What we have are witnesses to the empty tomb and to the risen Christ. Who is raised is what matters! Christ arose! It is our acceptance of God’s grace that helps us to make sense of it all. We cannot say that God’s will causes everything that happens. The God revealed through Christ does not send tornadoes to kill young children who are singing God’s praises. The same God behind the creation of the universe is at work even now wherever there is crisis or sorrow or pain. God is at work bringing comfort, hope and resurrection. It is faith that bridges the gap. Faith steps in when we cannot understand yet choose to believe in the gracious God who is about the work of redemption. Only God can take the tragedy of the cross and turn it into an Easter celebration. The church dares not forget the incredible grace we have to celebrate. It is grace that rolls away the stones from the tombs of our existence and helps to make sense of it all.

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J.B. Morris leads the St. Andrews United Methodist Church.