I don’t remember where I first heard Christ-followers referred to as “Easter people,” but this weekend I have pondered the phrase. (I could Google “Easter People” and find the answer, but I am tired, and I’d like to resurrect this blog before midnight. I am running out of time. “Easter people” is sure to lead me right down an interesting bunny trail.)
Easter floors me repeatedly. We are going to a church that is great for our family right now, but that little church wasn’t gathering for Good Friday. We’d been to an interactive Stations of the Cross service several times at another church, but some wonderful friends invited us into the Stations of the Cross at their Catholic church. It was beautiful. We all got into the rhythm of sit-stand-genuflect-stand-kneel-stand-sit and the poetry of the scriptures we read, and the mournful song we sung. I was struck by thought that all around the world, there were millions of other people worshiping with the same words in other tongues at the same time, all thinking about the amazing fact that God became man and suffered for us. That started me thinking about Easter people.
Saturday evening, we went to our own tiny church, where there are more kids than adults and babies cry and boys say silliness too loudly and books drop onto the floor. Things are messy because life is messy but there is always Jesus, and we try again. In our sanctuary, we looked at Joseph of Arimathea, and we saw courage. John tells us that “Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews” (19:38). Joseph was too scared of public opinion to openly follow Jesus, until he watched Jesus die. When the curtain of the Holy of Holies was split in two and night came early, Joseph found his courage and went to ask Pilate for Jesus’ body. Joseph and Nicodemus wrapped Jesus’ body in linen with about 75 pounds of spices (worth about US$200,000 in today’s money) and laid His enshrouded shell in a tomb that Joseph had most likely bought for himself. I don’t know if that was literally Joseph of Arimathea’s everything but it had to be pretty darn close.
We thought on Saturday night that it was strange that Joseph did that after Jesus was dead. Was it because he was sorry that he hadn’t openly followed Jesus sooner? That would be understandable. Or was it because Joseph of Arimathea was a student of the Scriptures. Could he have seen something in Isaiah that told him that it really wasn’t over yet? We can’t know. But watching Jesus die on the cross changed Joseph, and he found courage to not worry about what other Jews would think of him if he followed Jesus. Joseph’s old self died, and Joseph was resurrected because he believed that Jesus was the Son of God even while he tucked spices around Jesus’ cold body and rolled a stone over the opening of the tomb.
Maybe Joseph was the first Easter Person. Was he the first to look at Jesus’ sacrifice and his own selfishness and understand that life is about Jesus and not about Joseph? First, to realize that his own personal life had a time Before Christ and a “But then Jesus” moment in which he realized that Jesus is God that changed the color of the lens through which he looks at life? I spent a lot of life looking at life through my own fear of what other people would think. But if I look at life through God’s grace, it changes my perspective. It isn’t about me at all.
I wish I could have seen Joseph of Arimathea’s face on Sunday morning, when the cry “He’s ALIVE!” spread among the disciples. We know on Good Friday that Sunday’s coming… that Jesus rose and won. Joseph must have been floored.