Why we need Easter

Easter week always has me thinking of Jesus’ night of anguish in the garden. I always wonder about the what ifs.

What if he had fled down the hill rather than waited for the mob to come seize him? What if he had lashed out with the sword his disciples brought with them that night?

What if his anguish and fear rather than his hope and trust had won out that night?

We know this garden scene well. We have lived it.

In the news this week, we have learned the stories of two young women who never got out of the garden of anguish and fear.

A teenage widow in Russia straps explosives to her body and blows up a commuter train.

A teenage high school student in the United States withers under relentless harassment and teasing from other teens and hangs herself in her own house.

I do not want to excuse the crimes of the first young woman or simplify the story of the second, but I read these stories – this week in particular – and think of Jesus’ night of grief and cry of despair on Good Friday.

This Easter, I am reminded that not all ears are open to hear the glad shouts of “Christ is risen!” Not even all of those in our pews. Maybe not even our own.

If every Sunday of the year is an Easter celebration – as smart people have told me it should be – then that means that the garden of anguish and the cross are always lurking as well.

We are an Easter people not because we’ve been there and done that once and for all, but because we are constantly coming to the tomb with spices, not aware of what we are about to discover. We are habitually found kneeling in the garden with sweat like blood dripping from our anxious brows. We find ourselves again and again with swords in our hands, ready to draw blood where we can. We find ourselves once more on the cross or standing close by wondering where God has gone and why God has left us so alone.

We need Easter because we know the rest of the story much too well.

Easter we have known. And Easter we need. Today, tomorrow, and forever.