Life of joy, or just another Sunday: What is your choice for Easter?

Published 2:11 am Saturday, April 20, 2019

Today is Easter Sunday, a sacred holiday celebrated by most of the 2.3 billion Christians across the globe. In fact, faith in Jesus is the top religious belief worldwide according to the Pew Research Center.

Even so, for the remaining of the world’s population, Easter Sunday is just another day. It means nothing. And for many Christians, the details can get lost. Let me tell you what happened.

Jesus dies on Friday, and the Jews have their Sabbath on Saturday. Easter Sunday begins as Mary Magdalene comes to Jesus’ tomb. She has spices to care for His body. (John 20:1, Mark 16:1)

But how does Mary know where to go?

At the crucifixion, John took Jesus’ mother home with him the very hour Jesus died—the older woman no doubt overwhelmed. (John 19:26-27) But Mary Magdalene remained behind, keeping her wits about her. For Mary, this was not the end; Jesus had to have a proper burial.

About that time, Joseph of Arimathea, a disciple and also a Pharisee, goes to Pilate and is granted permission to remove Jesus’ body. Mary Magdalene and another Mary follow and sit opposite the tomb as Jesus is placed there. It’s a small detail, but you can see the devotion—a beautiful moment in the Bible. (Matthew 27:57-61)

Scripture tells us that Jesus was crucified by noon and dies at three that afternoon as a powerful earthquake tears the veil of the Temple. It also splits rocks in two. (Matthew 27:45-51)

On Easter morning as Mary Magdalene approaches the tomb, there’s another earthquake. This one is described as “great,” so apparently it’s more fierce than the first. Just as the Friday quake announces the death of Christ, it seems this second one declares His resurrection. Again, it’s a small detail, but a powerful one.

Many believe it was that earthquake that rolled back the stone that sealed Jesus’ tomb, but that’s not so. Scripture clearly says an angel moved the stone. (Matthew 28:2)

And there were witnesses. It seems the religious leaders had gone to Pilate in a panic during their Saturday Sabbath, wanting the tomb secured with a guard. These leaders remembered how Jesus had said He would rise on the third day, and they feared the disciples would steal His body and proclaim a resurrection. (Matthew 27:62-66, 28:11-15)

Now, as Mary approaches the tomb, she finds an angel sitting upon the rock that had been rolled away. His face appears as lightning, and terrified Roman soldiers lie on the ground around him, apparently pretending to be dead. 

Once again, Mary Magdalene keeps her wits about her. Others flee such scenes in the Bible, but Mary holds her ground. (Daniel 10:5-7)

Even more challenging, what does Mary do when the angel asks her to come inside the tomb? (Matthew 28:6)

This is something John isn’t able to do when he comes to the tomb, waiting instead for Peter. But Mary goes inside. (Mark 16:5, John 20:4-8)

And that’s when it happens, Jesus comes to Mary. He gives her two of the greatest honors in Scripture—she’s first to see the risen Christ and first to proclaim His mighty resurrection. (Mark 16:9-10, John 20:11-18)  You might think that moment would go to Peter, yet Jesus chose the person who’s there—the bravest and most faithful on that Easter Sunday.

Even so, know this: God comes to each of us no matter our weakness or our past. Jesus appeared to Saul, who became Paul, despite his terrible deeds. (Acts 7:54-8:3, 9:1-9)

Yet not everyone wants Jesus. Judas Iscariot, who walked with the Son of God for years, turned away, selling Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. (Matthew 26:14-16)

The guards at the tomb felt the massive earthquake, saw the fearsome angel, and heard that heavenly host as he rolled the stone away and told Mary that Christ had risen. (Matthew 28:1-7) Yet these soldiers choose the lie instead of such an amazing God.

Easter shows us our risen Savior. The most beautiful song I’ve heard this year is “So will I,” technically by Hillsong United but more likely written by the Hand of God. It closes with these words: “He’s the One who never leaves the one behind.”

You can know the joy of walking and talking with Jesus all your life, or Easter can be just another Sunday. It’s your choice.

Copyright © 2019 R. A. Mathews   The Rev. Mathews is an attorney, faith columnist, and the author of “Reaching to God.”  She can be reached at