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Easter is fast approaching. We have faithfully paid attention to our Lenten disciplines but we can’t wait till Easter arrives. I love the story of the little three-year-old girl who was anxious for Easter to come as she had been for Christmas to come. The family went shopping. With Mom’s help, she picked out a new dress and a lovely white bonnet to match. As they stopped by one final store to buy a new pair of shoes, she said, “I can’t wait for Easter, Daddy!” Dad asked her, “Do you know what Easter means, honey?” She replied, “Yes.” Dad wanted to hear more, so he asked, “Well then, what does Easter mean?” In her own sweet three-year-old way, with arms raised, a big smile on her face, and at the top of her voice she said, “Surprise!” What better word could sum up the meaning of Easter? Surprise, death! Surprise, sin! Surprise, mourning disciples! Surprise, modern world! He’s alive!

Easter is a deep subject. There is so much to take away from what God has done for us in Jesus Christ. Scholars and thinkers, preachers and ordinary laypeople have chewed on the subject for centuries and have drawn many wonderful and inspiring conclusions. That’s what Easter does— it calls us to experience the mystery and power of God’s amazing grace. Have you taken the opportunity to encounter the living Christ?

Barbara Brown Taylor is an Episcopal priest and author. I like the way she describes Easter as an “encounter.” She says that “so many of us focus our energy on that tomb, on that morning, on what did or did not happen there, and on how to explain it to anyone who does not happen to believe it too...

“Resurrection does not square with anything else we know about physical human life on earth. No one has ever seen it happen, which is why it helps me to remember that no one saw it happen on Easter morning either.

“The resurrection is the one and only event in Jesus’ life that was entirely between him and God. There were no witnesses whatsoever. No one on earth can say what happened inside that tomb, because no one was there. They all arrived after the fact...but as it turned out, that did not matter because the empty tomb was not the point.

“The empty tomb was just a cicada shell. The living being that had once been inside it was gone. The singing was going on somewhere else, which may be why Peter and the other disciple did not stay very long. Clearly, Jesus was not there...He had outgrown his tomb, which was too small a focus for the resurrection. The risen one had people to see and things to do. The living one’s business was among the living, to whom he appeared not one but four times in John. Every time he came to his friends they became stronger, wiser, kinder, more daring...

“Those appearances cinch the resurrection for me, not what happened in the tomb. What happened in the tomb was entirely between Jesus and God. For the rest of us, Easter began the moment the Gardener said, ‘Mary!’ and she knew who he was. That is where the miracle happened and goes on happening—not in the tomb but in the encounter with the Living Lord.

“In the end, that is the only evidence we have to offer those who ask us how we can possibly believe. Because we live, that is why. Because we have found, to our surprise, that we are not alone. Because we never know where he will turn up next. Here is one thing that helps: Never get so focused on the empty tomb that you forget to speak to the Gardener.”

Beloved, Easter means we can encounter Jesus in every circumstance, in any given moment of our lives. He is more than risen. He is alive and at work in our world. I hope you will be open to his presence, even eagerly expecting him to show up. Like a little three-year-old girl, I hope you will be joyfully excited and wonderfully surprised when he does. May you have many Easter encounters and may they transform you thoroughly. Praise God!

~Dr. Bob