“Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.” Matthew 27:51-53
We’ve all heard the Easter story many, many times. We’ve heard it told at least every Easter throughout our childhood and hopefully if we’ve been faithful attendees at church we’ve also heard it on into our adulthood. We’ve heard it so many times that, dare I ask, has the story has become less inspiring and awe-filled and simply repetitive and sadly maybe a little more mundane to us? Or am I wrong and we’re all moved to tears every time the crowd yells, “crucify him” as the Passion narrative is re-enacted?
I myself am moved to tears and near speechlessness during the Passion narrative year after year but even so, I am left with the question that I imagine haunted the minds of the apostles and friends of Jesus, the question of “okay, what now?”
I have a sterling silver cross I crafted many, many years ago while in college that I call, “The Dancing Jesus” and I think this image is part of the answer to the question of “okay, what now.” Unlike so many other representations, the crucifix pendant I crafted is somewhat abstract and demonstrative rather than a creation of representational realism. Christ’s body forms the cross in an almost sensual way and if one looks hard enough one can see life, movement, triumph, and celebration within this small silver interpretation of the crucifixion, an interpretation I call “The Dancing Jesus.”
The inspiration for the pendant came after reading a passage from the Gospel of St. Matthew 27:51-53. Never before had I realized that others were resurrected during that time! How had I missed that? Well, as it turns out many of us have missed that little fact all of our Christian lives. Wow!
The vision I was given was one of dance, of celebration, of triumph, of empowerment, and of love. It was as if a light, unable to be contained, spilled out of the darkness and brought light to the dark corners of the world, to the darkest corners of our souls. In the moment of Christ’s death, overpowering grace spilled out upon the entirety of creation and changed the whole world. The joy and permeating grace couldn’t be contained and it seeped into the depths of rock and soil and transformed or re-created men and women long dead, raising their bodies from the earth and empowering them to go out and proclaim the Good News – the earth shattering, death defeating, empowering love of God: Christ is risen!
While it is important to recognize our own sinfulness and need for grace during this time of the church year let us not stop there, soaking up grace and reveling in our own individual salvation. Let us not neglect the empowerment that is offered to us as Christians to “raise the dead” in celebration and remembrance of what Christ has done for us, indeed for the entire world!
Nelson Mandela said, “And as we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
That is the meaning of Easter! That is the empowerment that Christ offers each one of us! That is what we are called to do by virtue of His crucifixion, death, resurrection, and ascension! As Christians we are called to love fiercely and sacrificially, we are called to preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth, we are called to baptize, and we are called to empower others to do the same. That’s what Christ did for us and is still doing!
I invite you to do the same this Easter season. May the overpowering grace of this Easter Resurrection pour over you and forever change your life! May Christ illumine the darkest corners of your soul and shine through your life in this broken world and may you go out and change the world for the love of God! Let your light shine so that you may empower others even as you have been empowered by the Light of the World.
Blessings upon you and yours this Resurrection Day!