“Resuscitation, Resurrection, and Transformation”
Text: Mark 16: 1-8
16 When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. 2 And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. 3 They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” 4 When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. 5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. 6 But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” 8 So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.[a]
There was a man and his wife out for a drive early one Easter morning when out of nowhere a large white rabbit appeared in the road in front of the car. The husband who was driving, slammed on the brakes, but it was too late; the car struck the rabbit and the rabbit lay dead in the roadway. The man got out of the car to investigate when he noticed the rabbit had been carrying a large bag and there were colorful eggs strewn all over the roadway. “Oh no” he said to himself, “I think I have hit the Easter Bunny!” Distraught he went back to the car and told his wife about his discovery; “I feel awful” the husband said, “now all of those kids who are expecting Easter baskets won’t be seeing them; I don’t know what to do.”
“I know what to do” the wife responded and she reached for her purse in the back seat. From her purse she retrieved an aerosol spray can and proceeded to approach the dead bunny and sprayed it from head to toe. After just a few seconds, one foot began to twitch, and then another; soon the bunny opened its eyes and began to walk about. After a few minutes the Easter Bunny picked up all the strewn eggs and put them back in his bag and hopped off.
“That was amazing!” the husband said to his wife, “what is in that can that you sprayed the bunny with?”
The wife responded, “it is hair spray-see, it says right here that it brings new life to dead hair!”
There are a couple of reasons I wanted to tell this story. First of all, I always enjoy a funny story and I think this qualifies. But there is also a much more serious reason. I tell this story because I think it will help us understand the difference between resuscitation and resurrection and why that it is important.
You see, in our Easter Bunny story, the rabbit is resuscitated. It was the Easter Bunny before the car struck it, and after the amazing hair spray, it continued to be the Easter Bunny after resuscitation. When we speak of resurrection, there is a significant difference. When we speak of resurrection, I think we need to include the transformation that accompanies resurrection. In other words, the Jesus that left the tomb is not the same Jesus that entered the tomb. Transformation had taken place.
One of my favorite Easter symbols is the butterfly for this reason. The caterpillar that enters the chrysalis is a very different creature than what emerges from the chrysalis; this is resurrection.
Consider the Jesus that entered the tomb. He was a convicted criminal. He was considered a rebel and a possible threat to the political stability of the region. He worked for transformation of his faith tradition with little success. He was at odds with the religious leaders of the day. He challenged authority and called out hypocrisy. He travelled mostly on foot and impacted a relatively small geographic area. Ultimately, he failed and was executed. This was the end of the Jesus that entered the tomb.
But now consider the Jesus that left the tomb. No longer is he limited in travel or geography, for in fact he has impacted the entire world. No longer is he trying to transform his faith tradition of ancient Judaism, but rather has a new faith tradition called Christianity. No longer is he considered a convicted criminal, but rather the savior of humanity. No longer is he at odds with the religious leaders of the day, for he is the religious authority by which all other things are measured.
This is the power of resurrection. This is the transformation that takes place. This is what separates resurrection from resuscitation.
Now, for me, the remarkable aspect of this transformation isn’t so much about what happened to Jesus, but rather that it can happen to us.
Let me say this in another way. When I was describing the Jesus that went into the tomb, I spoke about all of things that Jesus experienced in his humanity. All those things went into the tomb with him. All that baggage, all those limitations, all the stigma of having been convicted and executed in the most violent of ways.; all of these things went into the tomb with Jesus. Yet, when the tomb was visited early that Easter morning, it was empty. All of the things that went in were gone.
We can participate in a similar transformation. We can put all of the things that we think are holding us back in that tomb. We can put all of the things that we are ashamed of or all of the things we no longer want to be in that tomb. If there are habits we want to overcome or addictions we want to overcome or certain character traits that we are not so proud of, they can all go into that tomb. We can pack the tomb full of everything in our past that keeps us from becoming the people we truly want to become. With the tomb full of our past mistakes and past personalities and broken relationships and the stigma of failure we can seal that tomb.
Through the power of resurrection and transformation when we revisit that tomb, we will find it empty. The old you is no longer, and only the new you shines through.
I believe this is the message of Easter. This is the message of the empty tomb. This is the message of resurrection and transformation. That, we, like Jesus, can enter into the tomb as broken and confused people. We carry into that tomb all the things that bring us down.
But then we emerge from that tomb as new beings. And all that we carried in with us has vanished, for the tomb is empty.
The caterpillar is gone and the butterfly remains.
Let the new you soar with the power of resurrection and transformation. The tomb of your past is empty. What was is no longer. Spread your wings and embrace the breeze.
May the power of re-creation, renewal, and resurrection be yours this day!