Sweet Tears of Joy

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Easter Greeting from Fred Holbrook

When Laura and I were at Grace Covenant Church in Kansas, the youth and adults did the musical Celebrate Life! The narration in the musical says:

“That Sunday—three days after they buried Jesus—some of the women went to the tomb to anoint his body. When they got there…WHEN THEY GOT THERE, the TOMB was EMPTY. The stone, the huge stone was rolled away and the grave was empty! Mary Magdalene was still so wrapped up in her grief over the death of Jesus that she could only think that someone had stolen his body. Not only had they robbed her of the life of this man, now they had even robbed his grave! Tears flooded her eyes.”

Bitter tears. On Good Friday, many of us will pause and remember Jesus’ death. Were you there when they crucified our Lord? Yes, we were there. And we wept bitter tears because Jesus did nothing to deserve death. Nothing!

Maybe you’ve cried bitter tears before. I remember a time when I did. I was at the bedside of a little four-year-old girl whose life was snuffed out through a freak accident in her backyard. I knew her little soul was going to be with Jesus. I had prayer with her Mom and Dad in that intensive care unit, left the hospital parking lot, and had to pull over because I could not see through the prism of my bitter tears. It hurt so much. Tears flooded my eyes. Death carries bitter pain sometimes. Death makes no sense sometimes. Most of us know about bitter tears, especially the families of the 12,914 COVID-19 related deaths in the U.S. and 83,585 worldwide at the time of the writing of this message. Bitter tears flow.

But, with Jesus, God’s power was able to turn death into life, darkness into light, bitter tears into sweet celebration.

The Celebrate Life! narration continues:

“Tears flooded Mary’s eyes. She stumbled into the garden, sobbing. Suddenly she saw someone. ‘Mary,’ he said. She thought it must be the gardener. ‘Please! Please! If you know where they have taken his body, won’t you tell me?’ ‘Mary,’ he said again like he used to. Then she recognized him. ‘Go tell them I am alive!’”

As I read this story, I imagine Mary Magdalene leaving Jesus’ side on her way to where the disciples are hiding, jumping up and saying, “YES!!!!!” Tears flood her eyes as she runs to tell the others. But they are sweet tears, tears of joy.

God chooses a wonderful messenger to bring the good news of resurrection to the other disciples. Mary of Magdala, according to Luke’s gospel, had had seven demons driven out of her by Jesus. She had become one of his staunchest supporters. Because she is the one who brings the news of the risen Lord to the other disciples, St. Augustine in the fourth century A.D. calls her “the apostle to the apostles.”

On that first Easter morning, when she wants most of all to hug Jesus and just remain in his risen presence, he maintains physical distancing and sends Mary on a mission. Her mission is to tell others the good news. That is exactly what she did! And her message continues to this very day.

Easter is coming! It is the day of resurrection. Our tears on Sunday should be sweet tears. The bitter tears of Thursday, Friday, and Saturday will change. We have good news to declare. Jesus Christ is alive!

On behalf of the staff of the POJ, we want to THANK YOU for your inspiring creativity and compassionate connection. COVID-19 cannot erase the sweet tears of joy that come to God’s Easter people. May God bless you this Holy Week and may your celebration of the resurrection of Christ Jesus be sweet, powerful, and blessed.