I have many questions about the first Easter morning. My theological muscle tries to wrestle the event into a size I can grasp, but my curiosity is swallowed by mystery. Rather than delving into what we don’t know, let’s consider a more approachable question. What did the first Easter morning feel like? The post-resurrection appearances of Jesus solicited a spectrum of emotions. The women at the tomb were filled with “fear and astonishment” (Mk.16:8). The two Emmaus disciples morphed from broken hearts to hearts that burned (Lu.24:32). The huddled disciples were frightened of authorities and shamed by their running. Jesus extended peace (Jn.20:19). For those who loved Jesus, whatever emotions filled their chest, their hearts would be resolved with relief and comfort. Here’s why.
I am certain that for the followers of Jesus, His resurrection would feel like a return. Once the fear and bewilderment wore off, they would see Jesus and think, “He has come back!” His re-appearance would be welcomed as a return – a return to normal. They could go back to what they once had. They could eat with Him again and have talks like they used to. What they lost by His death is now returned with unimaginable relief. All of that is completely understandable. That’s how we all would react to the return of a deceased loved one. We would welcome the restoration. For the disciples, it would be relief beyond imagination. The lost “yesterdays” have been replaced. Life could now go on as it had once been. But the empty tomb of Jesus is not a replacement of the past. His life is not a return but a resurrection. That became obvious quickly.
Jesus was different. He was who He always was, but not as they had known Him. Jesus could appear in a locked room without using a door. He could vanish in a moment. He could share a fish dinner, but there was something incorporeal about Him. He was new. He was glorified. When Mary held His legs in the garden, Jesus warned her not to cling to Him. He was not going to stay — and He didn’t. The disciples’ hope for a return to the familiar lasted only 40 days, until He left them once more. If they were looking for the old relationship, Jesus spoke about the coming Spirit. They would know Jesus, but now in a new and different way. The point is simple; the resurrection doesn’t give us the old, improved. It ushers us into what is brand new. It does not restore our yesterdays. It points to our tomorrows.
Even though it occurred 2000 years ago, Easter is future oriented. It’s an arrow pointing to what will be, for both us and creation. It doesn’t take us back to the familiar but thrusts us towards eternity – a new heaven and a new earth. We prefer the familiar. Too often we find safety and comfort in what we know. We simply want Jesus to improve it. But He smiles and does more. He makes everything new and then lays all of it at the throne of the Father (1 Cor.15:24). The resurrection doesn’t evaporate all my theological mystery. I have many questions about what the new will be! But this I know: I would rather have an unknown future from the resurrected Lord than a re-run of normal.