Can you imagine what Easter would look like if Hollywood got to write the story? It’d be like the end of every action movie ever. The disciples would arrive cheering, carrying the resurrected Jesus on their shoulders right up to the Temple. The chief priests would be humiliated. Pontius Pilate would beg for forgiveness. You were right all along, Jesus. You really are the king of kings!
But that’s not how it happened.
The authentic gospel story ends with the disciples in hiding, fearing for their lives. The women fled in terror from the tomb, saying nothing to anyone. The authentic resurrected Jesus doesn’t show up, Rambo style to confront his persecutors. He reveals himself secretly to those who are mourning him. He comforts his beloved friends, and invites them to continue following him, despite his apparent failure and death.
The resurrection isn’t the kind of cheap happy ending that movies and fairy tales specialize in. Rather, it’s an invitation to double down on trust, defying a world that tells us that love is crushed and evil triumphant. The resurrection is the story of losers and nobodies, cast aside on the margins while the somebodies of the world continue on with business as usual.
The hope of the resurrection challenges us to the core. It’s not any kind of ending – happy, or otherwise. It’s a beginning, an invitation into the hard work of a lifetime, walking the road of discipleship with Jesus. No wonder we get scared. We already saw what they did to him! Like the women on that first Easter morning so long ago, we are seized by trembling and amazement.
We know the resurrection is real because he doesn’t let us off the hook. The angel doesn’t say, Rejoice, Jesus died for your sins, so go home and have some Easter ham with your families. Instead, he invites us to continue on trusting and struggling. Jesus has gone ahead of us to Galilee; will we follow him yet again, knowing what it might cost us to love as fiercely as he has?
The resurrection isn’t happy in the way the world measures such things, but it leads to joy. It leads to life of the deepest kind. In the resurrection of Jesus we discover a way that leads us again into the fray of human frustration and suffering. We find the boldness to come out of hiding and embrace his earth-shaking, cross-carrying ministry together.
So don’t let anyone sell you a chocolate Easter bunny version of the resurrection. Don’t trust any so-called Easter story that isn’t accompanied by fear and trembling. Because the authentic resurrection of Jesus Christ requires that we die, and God knows that’s scary.
But in Jesus we come through the fear. We come to the other side of it, past the terror and into a promised land of love and peace, where not even the whips and nails and nooses can reach us. Living in the resurrection, laying aside all the happy endings that the world pulls over our eyes, we see the truth, and it sets us free.