Words have been failing Easter since the first Easter. Words of theological explanation miss the Spirit. Words of debate miss the point. The words of poets, like gospel writers, come closest, but even they miss the wonder. Easter is not meant to be spoken, but experienced.
The first reaction the women had on seeing the stone rolled away was not joy, but confusion. According to Luke’s version, two men offered the terrified women an explanation they were not sure they could believe. The women returned to the disciples’ hiding place and took turns trying to present a coherent story. Their listeners wanted to be polite, but they had never heard such nonsense. The women’s words about life from death were particularly unconvincing.
What did the women expect? They may have been upset that the other disciples dismissed their story as foolishness, but they must have understood. An empty tomb proves nothing. The last explanation to consider is the one that they gingerly suggested.
Resurrection does not square with anything else we know. No resurrection makes its way into Gray’s Anatomy or Pontius Pilate’s scribal records. This is a shaky beginning for the world’s most widespread religion. Modern Christians, with a modern understanding of what is scientifically possible, are tempted to apologize for Easter.
The writers of the New Testament make it clear that Easter does not happen on the basis of second-hand reports. Those who believed did so only as they discovered that they were not as alone as they had thought. Christ was somehow with them—making them braver, kinder, more alive, and more like Christ. The only reason good enough to believe in the resurrection life is if it happens to you.
Like the first group that hesitatingly made its way toward Easter, we must make our own way to the tomb, not to analyze its emptiness, but to hear the voice of hope. Easter cannot be experienced vicariously. So take a walk to the garden and consider the quiet. Gather with the church and sing the songs of new life. Serve the Risen Christ by caring for someone who is hurting.
Look for signs of Grace’s appearing—especially in your own heart. Are you tired of dusks and yearning for dawn? Open yourself to the possibility that the Spirit of Christ lives on among us—not as a memory, but as the outlandish presence of the Holy Mystery calling us to celebrate.