By Pastor Chris Brown
Bethania Lutheran Church
I love happy endings. My favorite film is “Forrest Gump” and it has a beautiful happy ending. The movie starts with Forrest as a little boy getting on the school bus for the first time as he begins his difficult journey in life and the film ends with Forrest walking his son to the same bus stop with all the confidence and love he can bestow upon him. What makes this ending so happy and meaningful is we get to see the struggle Forrest goes through to get to this point. He’s ridiculed for his perceived intellect, he loses his only friend in Vietnam, he loses his mother and biggest supporter, and he loses the love of his life in more ways than one. The peace he has at the end of the movie comes from so much struggle and resilience and remaining a kind and giving person throughout. The audience knows that not only does Forrest deserve it, but he’s aware of how meaningful it is too. No wonder the film won Best Picture at the Academy Awards in an amazing year for film.
Easter is the happy ending for Christians. However, for a lot of Christians, it’s part of the story we try to rush to, often skipping over the cross and what we call “Good Friday.” There’s a part of the Easter story I particularly love: When Jesus resurrects from the dead, the first person he reveals himself to is Mary Magdalene, who is at his tomb weeping over his death. Unlike the rest of Jesus’ disciples, Mary did not run away when Jesus is arrested. She sticks with him, being at the foot of his cross while he breathes his last. While the men in Jesus’ entourage are cowering for fear of their lives, here stands Mary, weeping over the person she loves most.
I like to think Jesus appears to Mary first, not because she deserves it, but because his resurrection will bear the most meaning to her; because she witnessed the sorrow of his death so viscerally, she will experience his resurrection most powerfully. There is a moment after Jesus appears to Mary, where she is the only person in the world who knows he has risen — and I think Mary is the only person capable of holding on to this truth alone, even if but for a moment.
With this pandemic, our own Easter is on the horizon. When we finally get to this landmark of “post-COVID,” there will be a point where we need to ask “Where do we go from here?” For Jesus’ disciples, when they all witnessed his resurrection, they entered into a new world and asked where to go from there. What informed them was not to jump back into the way things were, but to reflect on what they had been through, including the stuff that was painful and a struggle. And their lessons were that in a world of inevitable pain and struggle, the central elements that create joy and beauty are love and compassion. As they ventured into a “post-resurrection” world, their ministry was centered on radical love and compassion, even in the midst of extreme pain and struggle, and I believe that’s the true hope of Easter. I hope therein lies some truth for all of us as we reflect on where we go from here.