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Surprised by Easter

I’m glad Easter is late this year…or am I?

“It happened again. Easter crept up on me. The biggest celebration for followers of Christ . . . the most important one . . . and I wasn’t ready! How could I call myself a pastor?” That was my cry about ten years ago when I was a senior pastor in Northern California.

Thankfully, Easter is late this year. I can never quite understand how they set the date. For such a “Christian” celebration, the equation seems all too pagan in its origins—after the first full moon occurring on or after the vernal equinox. Nevertheless, there’s a part of me that is grateful I’ve had time to “get ready” this year.

Yet, the more I think about it, the more I wonder if it’s not better to be “surprised by Easter.”

I read the story! You can read it, too! John 12:12-19. That’s the part where Jesus comes into Jerusalem on a donkey and all the people love Him . . . He’s popular. Keep reading. It happened so fast! His closest followers weren’t ready. The first Easter crept up on them.

In John 12:16, we read one of several passages that seem to sum up the experiences of the disciples at so many points of Jesus’ ministry.

“At first His disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about Him and that they had done these things to Him.” (vs. 16)

There it is. Even though Jesus tried to tell them . . . He wasn’t here to be an earthly King. He had bigger plans—to create an eternal kingdom.

But here they are . . . caught . . . unprepared. In quick succession, Jesus would go from the hero to the hated. It all happened so fast. Even after the crucifixion, the stunned disciples hid together . . . waiting, pondering.

And then the news came. You can read it in Matthew 28:5-7:

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; He has risen, just as He said. Come and see the place where He lay. Then go quickly and tell His disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see Him.’ Now I have told you.”

It all happened so fast. Like the disciples, so often I find myself not understanding . . . not getting it . . . ‘til after the fact. When it all came together—there was Jesus . . . standing among them, encouraging them, sending them out . . . but they were still unprepared.

As a follower of Christ, I feel like that so much of the time. Yet, I wonder if that isn’t just the way God might want it. If “I” have it “all figured out”, something gets lost. All of a sudden, it’s more about me than about God. When I see God work and move . . . I want to be stunned . . . so amazed that I can’t stop talking about it.THAT WAS THEIR REACTION. They weren’t ready. It happened so fast. They were stunned! They were amazed! Then their lives became that reaction. They just could not stop talking about, living it, believing and proclaiming it.

I want my life to be like that. I don’t want to come to church out of habit. I don’t want to preach because it’s my job. I don’t want to serve because the Children’s Pastor is begging me. I don’t want any part of my relationship with God stem to from guilt or religiosity. I want to be amazed by God . . . a little confused . . . never quite ready. Then allow Him to wash over me and make my life be a response.

Read the story. Let that soak for a while.

I have another thought: Why not plan ahead for one thing. Decide to come and celebrate Easter with your church family. Consider bringing a friend. Perhaps they’ll be caught off guard and surprised by Easter, too.