“Why do you seek the living among the dead?” from Rev Rebeka Maples, PhD, Director of Spiritual Formation
Easter is over. Now what? Reorganize and put away all the items from Holy Week. Store the palms, remove the chalices and towels, the stations of the cross and the black drapes. Return the sanctuary to its usual space, and try to keep the joy of Easter alive with white paraments and a few Easter lilies. Easter is over and yet it is still with us. Easter is over and the future remains. He is risen, just as the scripture says, and yet our best efforts may not be enough. Hope remains our greatest gift and our greatest challenge. In the end, Easter does not mean that we will see the world living into the hope of Christ in our lifetime.
Mary Magdalene followed Jesus to the end, even when the others deserted him. Easter was over, and yet she continued to base her whole life on the fact that the vision of Jesus would come to fullness. She believed in him and all that he had said. She believed the great commandment was more important than all our religious celebrations: “love one another, as I have loved you.” She believed how he treated outsiders and foreigners, women and children would live on into the future, and hope would stay alive. Easter was over and she still believed in him.
The words of one of my favorite Easter songs asks the question that stays with me in the aftermath of all my Easter preparations and excitement, in my confusion and doubt, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? Christ the Messiah has risen just as he said.” Mary followed him into the darkness of the tomb, believing that the grace she had carried within her would and could not die. She had followed him in the light and now she followed him into the darkness. And in following him, she had been touched, just as the others would be touched. Easter was over but he was not dead.
All that he had lived and died for will never die, as long as one follower, one voice keeps his message alive. When Easter is over, the words of the song keep his message alive: “Go tell the world all that you’ve seen today, the tomb that is empty, the stone rolled away. Why do you seek the living among the dead?”
Easter is over, so why do I have this sinking feeling of emptiness? Where is this coming from? “Christ the Messiah has risen, just as he said.” Maybe it’s because I’m starting to return to my old habits, my old ways of thinking, that I have to face the future on my own, that I have to make things happen if anything is going to happen. I have to do this and get that ready or nothing will get done… Perhaps I am looking for hope only in what I can do. “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” Am I seeking life in what has died within me? Am I trying to make what worked before work again? Am I expecting my Easter joy to fill others?
The message of Jesus is simple but it is not always easy. The journey through Lent seemed clear, travel through the wilderness and the light will shine. Well, we traveled and we celebrated the first light around the new fire at sunrise. We sang “alleluia” after our fast, and now Easter is over. The world feels empty again, like something is missing. “Why do you seek the living among the dead?”
When we follow Jesus, the road is not always clear, because life leads us down many roads, joys and failures. Which way now? We can stay at the cross or live in the darkness of the tomb, but if that is all that Easter means to us, then we have missed the resurrection and the story of new life. Easter is not a one time event, then we go back to the way things were. New life is all around us, but we’re often too busy to notice. “He is not dead, He is risen, just as he said.” Jesus never put out the light – he is the light, and that light lives in each of us. “Go tell the world all that you’ve seen today, the tomb that is empty, the stone rolled away.”
Easter is over and the message we are given is: Do not seek the living among the dead. You will not find the light in the darkness. The light is in our hearts and the darkness will never put it out. Keep hope alive! Alleluia! Amen!