As of this writing, due to the CoVid19 pandemic, the whole world’s hunkered down at home, most likely watching more Amazon Video, Hulu, and old movies than ever! And when it comes to watching movies, if you’re anything like me, you probably love a good plot twist. Those of us who are a little more “seasoned” might remember the original 1960s Planet Of The Apes, when the (plot twist!) last astronaut comes across the remnants of the Statue of Liberty, and we realize they’ve been on Earth all along. Or how about one of the most iconic lines in cinematic history, mimicked by every one of us at one time or another by cupping our hands to our mouth, and in our best (plot twist!) Darth Vader impression, boomed, “Luke, I am your father!”?
Easter is the story of the greatest “plot twist” the world has ever seen! Put yourself in Mary Magdalene’s shoes as she goes to visit Jesus’ tomb, three days after watching someone she dearly loved suffer the most excruciating death imaginable on the cross. She’s had three days to grieve the loss of the One who was supposed to save the Jewish people. Three days to process the fact that she really did witness Him take His final breath. Three days to let it sink in that He is truly… dead. And now, it’s time to pay her respects and say her final goodbye.
PLOT TWIST: The tomb was empty. In John 20, we read that when Mary arrived at the tomb that morning, while it was still dark, she saw the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. She ran to tell someone and came upon Peter and one of the other disciples. Picture Mary, breathless, exclaiming to Peter, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.” (John 20:2). And Peter, internally processing what he’s just heard, immediately runs to the tomb to find nothing but empty linens, just as Mary had told him. Verse 9 tells us that at this point, neither Mary nor the disciples knew what the Scriptures said: that Jesus would rise from the dead. When they saw that empty tomb, they were thrown into a “plot twist” they never saw coming – and they had no idea how it would turn out.
We’re living in unprecedented times right now. Much of the world is on lockdown. Scientists are scrambling to care for the sick, develop vaccines, and save lives. “Social distancing” is the emerging phrase of 2020, as across America and the world, people are self-isolating in their homes in an effort to protect those most vulnerable. It comes at a time when Christians everywhere would normally be preparing to observe the events of Holy Week, and to gather in celebration on Easter Sunday. Instead, many churches have gone online in order to comply with public gathering restrictions. To say these last few weeks have been a plot twist that we never saw coming is an understatement!
Yet here in the Easter story, we’re reminded that the biggest plot twist in human history turned out to be the biggest comeback in human history. We have an advantage the disciples didn’t: we know how the story ends. And here’s a hint… for Christ-followers, it ends in victory.
As we read on through John 20, we ultimately see Jesus reveal Himself to both Mary and His disciples later that same day. He doesn’t leave the ones He loves hanging. My friends: He hasn’t left us hanging. Not before. Not now. Not ever. The Son of God rose from the grave, defeated death, and bridged the gap between us and God, and no earthly power can ever take that away. Don’t use current circumstances as an excuse to minimize the meaning of Easter, but let current circumstances be the reason you celebrate more victoriously than ever before. Christ is risen. He is risen, indeed!